Amazing business lessons for Planet Comicon


Yesterday I attened the Kansas City ComicCon: Planet Comicon. I’m a total geek, this is well established. Right now my top passion is Doctor Who whom influenced the naming of the company and about half my wardrobe right now. If you haven’t been to a Comicon, I highly recommend it. You pay $35 to essentially buy the right to purchase other things from vendors or wait in line and pay for celebrity autographs and pictures. It’s a gold mine, but that’s not the lesson here. The lesson was about one particular vendor.

As I was walking through this shopping mall I was looking at gifts not just for myself, but other computer nerds colleagues. A key suggestions I recommend for any of these events is to walk the entire floor of the show and don’t buy anything on first pass. You might find something better later on and these vendors will sometimes match another’s price. It’s important to be patient. I noted items of interest and came back.

I was deciding on a gift for a friend and colleague and came back to a booth with artistic rednerings of Star Trek characters. This colleague of mine was too young to have watched the original series and never quite got into Deep Space Nine but was a big fan of Star Trek the Next Generation. Captain Sisko is my favorite captain but I know my colleague a Picard fan. While looking at these drawings I stumbled upon an entire ST:TNG cast pictures and a drawing of just Picard. These weren’t originals of the drawings, but prints. Still nice of course, but it’s not like they were that expensive to produce: just ink and paper. When you sell something like that though, it’s all the back end costs involved such as marketing, buying the booth, travel expenses, etc. The actual product though costs very little.

During peak times a Con can be packed, but at this booth it was quiet. I texted this friend and asked him an ambiguous question of whether he’d prefer something with the whole cast or just Picard. I explained to the artist at the booth what I was doing. He agreed it was a tough choice as they were both excellent. Of course he was biased! Then the “hustle” began and the reason I wrote this.

The artist commented on how nice it was for me to buy for a friend. I’m just that kinda guy I explained. I know the product was unique and he’d enjoy it. My phone buzzed apparently but I wasn’t paying attention. He asked me if I was a fan and thus, I could simply keep the one my friend didn’t like. I explained that I was but showed him the bags of other stuff I bought myself. He then said “Hey, you seem like a really nice guy. How about I make it easy for you. The prints are $20 a piece but how about $25 for both so your decision is easier.”
SOLD. I pulled out my credit card and he said “Hey, if you can put that away that would make my job easier”. I wasn’t offended, although I can be persnickety about that and gave him $25.00

As I was walking away I realized how brilliant this was! Here I was, a live interested customer. Although I’m an easy prospect per se (I paid for the privilege of buying items there), I’m still not a guaranteed sale and definitely not for multiple quantities. I communicated to this vendor I was interested in the product but already showing some hesitation based on budget (his inquiry about why I wasn’t buying both). I also created a barrier to the sale: waiting for the friend to respond. He could have convinced me via text not to buy it, and I might have listened. Or I might have walked away waiting for the text and got distracted, changed my mind, overspent, etc. If he didn’t act now, he risked the sale. Remember that these are prints of the original so the actual cost per item is extremely low. He then removed the barrier to sale by offering me both for $25. Instead of having a problem, I was delighted about getting the deal and he was able to instantly close not just the sale, but get an upsell. The bonus was since he was doing me a favor with the lower price, I was willing to do him a favor by not using my credit card

Brilliant! Key lessons from this were

1) Engage the customer — you never know what you may learn

2) Find the objections to sale — if you do #1 right this will be obvious and natural

3) Remove the barrier to sale using a win win strategy — make me feel special by doing so. I got a lower price and he got not just an upsell but a savings by me not using my credit card.

Totally deducting the cost of the ticket for the amazing business lesson I learned here.

PS: A quick story about another vendor who did just the opposite. This vendor was selling silk-screened T-shirts. Again, a product easy to product and low materials costs. When I was checking out and gave my credit card, had me sign and ask for ID. Merchant agreements prevent such requests, but I complied. He then asked for me write my name on a blank piece of paper and my phone number. I declined and he held my T-shirts back explaining that due to a problem with chargebacks he must ask for that info. I called shenanigans on that and he threatened to refund me my money and deny me my T-shirts. Dumb move. It was a showdown and I didn’t budge and he eventually gave me the shirts without my contact info. I however, contacted the card issuer and let them know as well as the Attorney General as it’s illegal in many states to ask for additional information such as zip code. Whether it was for marketing or truly for the chargeback, arguing with a customer after the sale over a small purchase is never a good deal and ironically, could result in something much worse than a chargeback.

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