The Aggressive Salesman.
This past weekend I exhibited at Rhode Island Comic Con. I had a good time. My table neighbors were very nice, the people I met were very kind and interested in STAR POWER, I got recognized as the host of ConnectiCon’s Death Match a few times, I saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in months, and I got to have good food in the city of Providence. Overall, it was a good time.
But there was one glaring negative to my weekend. A stain on an otherwise nice time that soured my mood. Seated across the aisle from me, at the head of our Artist Alley row, was an aggressive salesman.
The aggressive salesman at conventions is the type of exhibitor who goes out of their way to catch the attention of anyone walking by, regardless of the passing interest in their table. The aggressive salesman starts hollering and/or pitching whether or not you’re looking in their direction. You just have to be in their line of sight. This results in one of two things: the attendee will either linger and engage to avoid seeming rude, or they’ll walk by faster and likely never return to that particular section. Needless to say, I have no love for the aggressive salesman type.
All weekend, this aggressive salesman would pitch at anyone taking two or three steps into our aisle, sniping the attention of passing attendees before they could look at anything else. More than once I had a few folks peering curiously at our STAR POWER banner, only to have their attention snatched away by the loud voice of the exhibitor across the aisle before I could even say “hello.”
You may say all’s fair in love and war, or in this case conventions and comics. You may say you should do whatever you can to make a sale. To an extent, that may be true. Sure, grabbing someone’s attention by the sheer volume of your voice and the aggression of your pitch may score you a quick sale, but it may not result in returning customers. Some folks will buy something from the aggressive salesman just so they can be left alone. At their best, people don’t want to be rude, and not everyone has the focus to stroll right by a barking salesman. The aggressive salesman not only takes advantage of the goodness in people, but they sabotage every exhibitor around them. Those attendees who did have the focus to keep moving never returned to our aisle. The exhibitors with tables right next to the aggressive salesman never had a chance to show off their art, either because of a sniped sale or a fleeing attendee.
I, and many other artists who are not assholes, prefer to get your attention based on the strength of our work, not the volume of our pitch. If you linger at my convention table as you’re strolling by, I’m going to say “hello there” or “please feel free to browse our books if they look interesting to you.” I will then shut up and let the work do the talking for me. That method may not guarantee a sale, but it’s kind to the attendee and (perhaps more importantly) kind to the exhibitors around us. Selling merch is important, but so is being courteous to the artists and exhibitors you’re spending an entire weekend with. That’s how I met Garth years ago, and look how that turned out!
The pro-wrestler Scott Hall once said, “In this business, you can make friends or you can make money.” If you’re the type of person who’s more interested in making money than being friendly, it’s going to show to your peers and to your customers. In my experience, acting with courtesy and kindness has been far more valuable than doing anything to make a sale.
If you’re the aggressive salesman type, I urge you to shut your mouth and let your work do the talking. Play this game on Hard Mode like the rest of us, and then you can brag to me about your high score.