July 01, 2010
5 Selling Lessons Learned from 5th Grade Entrepreneur Day
Last week, my twin daughters held an "Entrepreneur Day" in their 5th grade classroom. Parents were invited to browse the marketplace full of interesting kid-made products and services, ranging from tie-dyed tee-shirts to zen gardens-in-a-box to origami polyhedra. One young business pro even offered to write a song based on a customer's favorite topic.
Leading up to this day, they wrote business plans, budgeted funds (in this case, the currency was dried beans), purchased materials, manufactured products, and planned packaging and storefronts.
Shopping the 5th grade emporium, I realized that best practices in sales work universally across all marketplaces, and just like in real life, best practices correlated with successful vendors.
Here's what the 5th graders can teach us about selling:
- Pay attention to packaging and display. Those 5th graders who highlighted their products neatly, on simple, yet color-coordinated displays, and who dressed well, looked pleasant, and paid lots of attention to each potential customer, attracted the most buyers and sold the most products.
- Price right, or to put it in the words of one student, "don't overprice and don't underprice". Students who priced their products very cheaply, often got questioned on why their product "is priced so low?" And often the suspicious questioner would walk away without purchasing. Students who priced extremely high also lost sales, as we all had a limited number of beans to spend and wanted to be able to purchase as many interesting products as possible.
- Clearly label products and prices. Its surprising how many sales were lost as parents passed by a desk (storefront) where it wasn't clear what the product or its price was, i.e., no signage, no price labels, products stored in unopened boxes, missing salesperson, etc. One handsome young entrepreneur was doing fabulous outreach as we walked by, telling us he would "even take orders if he ran out of the items we wanted" - trouble was, we couldn't tell what he was selling.
- Always watch for upsell opportunities. One student had made beautiful, little origami boxes for holding jewelry. She priced the boxes well, and then just as customers dug out their beans to pay her, she'd offer a cotton insert "to cushion your fragile jewelry" for a small additional charge. Of course, we all took it.
- Be willing to make a deal. As the customers ran out of beans, some students realized that the way to "sell out" (which became the goal toward the end of the marketplace) was to offer products for discount. For example, I'd look wistfully at a product, but tell the seller, I "only had 50 more beans"...smart students would deal; others would hold out, and ended up with unsold product. Who was more successful in the end?
-- Carla Gates, Director, Marketing, Glance Networks