While a lot of business is done online these days, sometimes it’s good to get down and dirty and try doing things the old fashioned way. I discovered this myself not so long ago when I sold off some of my old junk at a car boot sale, and found that I learned an awful lot more from those few hours than I have done from any number of business courses or books. Of course the best way for you to learn these lessons yourself is to try a car boot sale of your own, but in the meantime I’ll impart a few of them here for you to learn vicariously…
The Benefit of Being the Underdog
When I first started selling I found that I had a lot of luck and that things started flying off the shelves (okay the painting table…) long before I had even set them up. I attributed this to beginner’s luck, and proceeded to try and set out my table as neatly as I possibly could making sure that the front of every book and DVD was clearly displayed, and giving the whole thing a professional feel.
To my dismay though, I quickly found that making my table more organized actually damaged my sales. Contrary to my assumptions, it seems people preferred to buy from a table that looked as unprofessional as possible. So what was going on? Well the first phenomenon at work was that people were assuming that my objects would be cheaper when I looked less savvy. When I played the underdog, people assumed they could get a better deal.
The other way I benefited from an untidy presentation was in the way it encouraged people to ‘rummage’. When there was a pile of DVDs people had to flick through them to find what they wanted and this meant they were more likely to stumble on something they liked. Combine this with the fact that people felt more obligated to buy once they started rummaging, and you have a promising system in place. I messed everything back up and lo and behold my sales increased again.
Another surprise for me was the type of thing that sold – and the two biggest money makers were my old Kung Fu DVDs and a set of history books. I had lots of new DVDs and lots of high tech gadgets that were there for a great price but people didn’t want those. Why? Because you don’t go to a carboot sale to buy the latest films and gadgets – you go because you want to find ‘hidden gems’ or because you have a hobby or interest that isn’t catered to by major stores.
Receptivity (http://book.personalmba.com/receptivity/) means not just knowing your audience, but it also means knowing when people are going to be more receptive to what you have to offer. A DVD sells better on eBay, a Thomas the Tank Engine figurine sells better at a car boot sale.
Barriers to Sale
A barrier to sale is something that prevents a potential customer from making a purchase even though they want to. It may be that they don’t have time to queue, it might be that they don’t like spending, or it may be that they don’t want to have to talk to you and haggle. In my case at the car boot sale I found it was the latter, and I quickly discovered that a lot of people felt awkward asking how much something was. Some people loved to haggle, but for others it was very off putting. To encourage maximum sales then I put price tags on the items and I found that lots of ‘quiet types’ started buying who hadn’t been before. They could just hand over the money and the item then leave – which is the way many of us are used to handling transactions. There are many other barriers to sale, and it’s worth thinking about what yours might be and how you can deal with them: http://www.ehow.com/how_2317785_remove-sales-barriers.html.
People buy items because they’re good value and because they want them, but what might surprise you is that they also buy because they like the person or the organization. If you want to encourage your items to sell then talking to someone or making yourself in any way more likeable can help a great deal. I was selling with my girlfriend and I found we had a lot of old ladies come over and comment on how we seemed to be having a good time. Likewise just asking people if they were having a nice day, chatting and being friendly could work wonders in getting people to stop browsing and to actually make a purchase. Because we’d established more of a relationship they immediately felt more inclined to buy from me – I quickly realised that for many people this was as much of a social endeavour as anything else.
So there you have it, a few powerful lessons I took from a recent car boot sale. The most valuable lesson of all though was just recognizing the potential of the car boot in the first place. Try setting up a stall then iterating your business approach and seeing what works best. All of it can be extrapolated and scaled up to help make you your millions.
Tom Carter is a business lawyer by profession and works at Steinepreis Paganin. Apart from being one of the Steinpag corporate lawyers, he has keen interest in writing on business development and the various skills you need to be a great businessman.