Walking out of a store the other day and was approached by two girls who asked me, “If I would like to buy some Girl Scout cookies.” Now, of course, I don’t necessarily need another $5 box of cookies in our house, but was I really going to say no to these girls who were trying to raise money for their troop and provide me with some delicious sugary goodness?
So I smiled and approached the table. It was at that point another slightly older girl (apparently the master closer) smiled and asked me not if I wanted to purchase some cookies, but how many boxes I would like to buy? Now because I only had a $20 bill in my wallet, and I may have a bit of a problem when it comes to Thin Mints, I ended up buying four boxes.
Well technically, only 3 1/2 boxes actually made it home.
This experience reminded me of a conversation I recently had with one of our email subscribers about how so many of us creative types seem to hate asking people to do something. Whether it’s to buy our book, purchase our painting, or even subscribe to our podcast or email list—almost all of us will find an excuse not to ask.
Most of us hate directly asking people to do things, especially when it comes to our creative work.
Now, of course, we all want to be noticed, and we want people to buy our stuff, but we really, really, really, don’t want to have to ask them to do it. We may secretly try to use our imaginary Jedi powers to make them do what we want, but when it comes to actually asking them to do something, we freeze up.
Most of us, including myself, would prefer that our work “stand on its own” (i.e., sell itself) We tell ourselves that if our creative work is good enough, or the right fit for that person, they will simply start throwing cash at us without having to say a word.
Unfortunately, unless your name is James Patterson of Shepard Fairey, that’s probably not going to happen. However, there are still a few things we can do to get people to notice our work and potentially get the sale.
The most important step in the entire process is often the most difficult because you have to ask the other person to do what you want them to do.
If you want a local restaurant to display your paintings or photographs, you’re going to have to ask the owner. If you want your favorite coffeeshop to play your CD, or have your local bookstore stock your book—you’re going to have to have to approach them and specifically ask for what you want because chances are they aren’t going to ask you.
Let’s be honest. If the Girl Scouts who were selling those cookies had stood silently at their table, I could have probably kept my head down and avoided buying an additional 5,000 calories I certainly don’t need. However, the moment they came up to me and asked, I had a feeling I would be taking home a big sack of cookies with me.
Anyone who has ever worked in sales will tell you that it’s ultimately a numbers game.
The more people you ask, the better your chances of success. Whether you are asking someone to check out your creative work or if you simply want them to subscribe to your email newsletter—the more people you ask, the more people you will potentially get to say yes.
You not only may have to ask a lot of people, but you may have to ask them more than once.
Let’s face it. Sometimes the timing is just not right.
Maybe they stumbled across your website while they were waiting in line at the grocery store, or maybe they saw your Facebook post when they were walking out the door.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I’ll tell myself that eventually, I’ll go back and read that interesting blog post or news article later. Unfortunately, I rarely do because I will inevitably get distracted by the next shiny object competing for my attention online.
However, if I happen to run across that same website or blog post, later on, I’ve found that I am more likely to read it because I remember that it caught my attention the first time around.
This is the reason you’ll see the same Geico commercial playing over and over and over again until eventually, it worms its way into your subconscious. They know that familiarity comes from repetition, and the more times you see their commercial, the more likely you are to remember it.
The same idea is also true for you and me when we promote ourselves and our creative work on a (hopefully) less annoying scale.
This is not about hounding people over and over again about buying your creative work. It’s about developing a relationship with individuals over time and providing them with something of value along the way.
Sometimes this can be useful content or the latest news in your field. However, it can just be about creating a meaningful connection with that person, which is also worthwhile in our online world that can often be isolating.
These days it seems that everyone has an opinion on pretty much everything from the movies they watch, the food they eat, to the blog posts they (mostly) read. They submit reviews, leave comments, and post their thoughts to social media.
As much as I would like to believe otherwise, I’ve learned that not everyone is going to love everything that I do, which sucks, but it’s just the way life works.
This type of rejection took me a long time to understand.
Don’t get me wrong. It still hurts when someone criticizes something that you spent months, if not years, pouring your heart and soul into, but at the same time, you do manage to gain a certain amount of perspective over time.
You have to remember that everyone has their own reasons and motivations for doing what they do. Sometimes the timing may not be right, or sometimes your work just isn’t the right fit for that person, but that’s okay. We all have our preferences, and these too, can change over time. Either way, you can’t take it personally or view it as a reflection on the overall quality of your work.
What is the hardest part for you when it comes to asking people to view or buy your creative work?
When has taking the risk of asking someone to do something paid off for you, or perhaps tell us about a time that it all went hilariously wrong?
Please take a moment and share your story with us in the comment section below :)
Drew is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist creative community. You can also find him online at OutmatchFitness.com where he writes about fitness, nutrition, and his continuing battle with father time.