sell more pens

Want to Sell More Pens (or Crafts)? Then Just Shut Up


I recently watched an old episode of Shark Tank and learned a valuable lesson about selling products or services. If you want to sell more pens, crafts, or whatever, then just shut up.

For those who have never seen Shark Tank, I highly encourage you to check it out. The show’s about 5 entrepreneur/venture capitalists who listen to pitches from new inventors or new business start-ups. The goal is to convince at least one of the Shark Tank entrepreneurs to invest in your product/service or idea.

On one particular episode, a gentleman was trying to sell a service and during his pitch he made the comment that he was the best salesman on earth (or something like that). This, of course, didn’t impress the Shark Tank panel. Mark Cuban couldn’t resist; he interrupted the man and handed him a pen. He asked the guy to sell him the pen.

Immediately the “greatest salesman on earth” went into all the features of the pen to convince Mark to buy it. The guy was imposing on Mark what he thought, not what Mark was thinking.

In a word–fail!

No, what he should have done was ask Mark what he looked for in a pen and then–just shut up and listen.

This all caught my attention because I do occasionally (and literally) sell pens. Handmade wooden pens, to be exact. But I also sell other crafts, and I try to promote my website and its value to the how-to and DIY community. I learned a lot from that Shark Tank episode. The episode also reminded me of a huge nugget of advice I mined from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In that book, Covey talks about habit 5: Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

So how have I applied this new-found knowledge? I do a lot more listening and observing. I try to understand why someone wants (or needs) to buy my craft or service. Perhaps they need a unique gift for a special occasion. Could there be something about my product that strums their heart strings? Sometimes my product makes them look good or provides a way to impress their friends. It makes a statement about them. Not me.

Why would someone shell over good money to buy a handmade item, when mass-produced ones are much cheaper? I ask myself that question a lot.

Another question I visit a lot—how can my website offer value? Maybe someone is retired and they are looking for ways to get plugged into a new hobby. Anyone who’s new to a hobby needs great instructions and tutorials. Maybe someone is looking for content to share on their blog.

Also, I like to stalk a few online forums. And on those forums I try not to spam or flippantly share advice. I probably spend more time reading and trying to discover what people are asking or searching for. Forums can give me valuable information on what the needs are and what kind of articles I should be writing and/or sharing.

On DIY sites I pay a lot of attention to comments. What are people commenting about? This often holds clues as to how a particular how-to article brought the reader value.

I also poll my audience from time to time. I ask them what they’d like to see more of and what products they like. And the question behind the question—why do they like it? So learn how to ask key questions, then sit back and listen. I bet you’ll be more successful and sell more. Good luck!

I hope this article was a big help to you on your journey to help others and provide a useful product or service. Please leave a comment below. Maybe you have additional war stories or tips and advice.


2 comments on “Want to Sell More Pens (or Crafts)? Then Just Shut Up

  1. Duane

    I find this very true. I was at a show several years back and had no luck selling my crafts. Four hours into day two I asked my wife to watch my tent and product. I pulled out my scroll saw and a small generator and began making more items for the craft show that would be the following weekend. About two hours later I noticed that I had several people standing around watching me apply my craft to each item I was making. My wife came to me a few hours later and asked me to assembly the small doll bed I was working on. I didn’t know why and asked her to explain why. She said with a smile that I didn’t have another one and the customer wanted it. When I took a minute to look around after the lady walked away with her doll bed I noticed that my tent was bear of product and turned to look in my trailer for more items to replace on my tables and saw nothing left to sell. My wife told me that a few minutes after I shut my mouth and began to make more items everyone who took time to watch me bought something. Needless to say, I didn’t have enough to complete the weekend. I now take twice as much and when business is slow, I shut my mouth, cut some wood and let my wife sell while the on lookers watch me work. Business is good and my new boss gets all the credit for not talking and taking in all the money while I work.

    1. Scott Johnson

      Thanks for the comment Duane! It also sounds like you were selling yourself as a craftsman, and I think that’s part of the appeal with people buying crafts. They are buying things handmade, for whatever reason, but they are also forming a relationship with the maker. Hopefully they will come back again just to see what Duane’s making. What’s it going to be they keep thinking or what’s it going to look like. I’ve got to have it.