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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 tips to sell your pens like a pro

A big part of fountain pens is the buying, selling, and trading aspect. It's a great deal of fun, and selling/trading your pens is a good way to obtain new ones at low cost.

But maybe you've had trouble selling your pens before. Often times it can be difficult to achieve a sale, even when your pen is priced correctly. Here I will share my best tips for getting your pen sold. These tips are not a "get rich quick" kind of thing. These are honest ideas to improve your sales, the right way. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Be honest and trustworthy
If you're tempted to skip this tip, stop! This is without doubt the most important thing on my tips list. Whether you've never sold something before, or you have a not-so-good track record from the past, now is the time change that! Here are some things to remember, to help you build a foundation of trust with your buyers:
  • Honesty sells. People love honesty. Don't you? I would rather buy a broken pen knowing that it will be broken, than buy a pen that works "OK" when I was told it would be perfect. If the pen has a defect, lay it out, in the open, for everyone to see. People will catch on to this, and they'll love you for it. If people can trust you, you've knocked off half of your selling problems right there.
  • Give your opinions, but not too liberally. If you want to rant about how smooth the nib is on this pen, go ahead and do it! But keep it within reason. If you let your opinions extend beyond fact, you'll run into serious problems. Saying "this is one of the smoothest nibs I've ever used" is much better than shouting "this is without doubt the smoothest nib ever manufactured!". Even if you are enthusiastic about a pen, and you love that pen, you can't give people the wrong impression. If they're expecting the smoothest nib in the world, and your pen doesn't deliver, you've lost a customer's trust.
  • Keep building for the long run. Each sale you make that is trustworthy and honest earns you another "reputation point". At first, it may seem unimportant, "because I'm just selling this one pen", but it really pays off. If you've built a 3 year track record of excellent sales, the next time you need to sell a pen fast (to afford that new one perhaps), you won't have a problem doing so.

Tip #2: A picture is worth a thousand words, and a few thousand dollars
This is a very tough point for many of us. When we want to sell something, we want to "list it now!" It's very, very important to provide good quality, clear photographs of the pen you're trying to sell. No phone-snapshots allowed! Think about it this way: you can spend 15 minutes taking pictures now, or you can spend three weeks trying to sell your pen with crummy pictures later. Which do you prefer? Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Always photograph "areas of concern". If there is anything "questionable" or wrong with the pen you're selling, it's important to photograph it clearly. People need to see what they're dealing with before they make a purchase. Though it may seem like not showing a defect is an acceptable shortcut, it could potentially cripple your sale.
  • For more on pen photography, and how to get good photos for cheap, read this article here.
  • Take your time. If you're in a rush to sell your pen, people won't be in a rush to buy it. That's just how it works. The more time you put into selling your pen, the more time buyers will put into looking at it. Think of it as an investment.
  • You don't need an expensive camera! Don't let anyone tell you that you need a $1500.00 Nikon to sell your pens. I take all my photographs with a $30.00 camera bought off eBay! Now that's cheap! For more on pen photography, and how to get good photos for cheap, read this article here.

Tip #3: Spare me the details, give me the facts
This is something that I have a tendency to do wrong. I like to talk up my pens a lot, but this is not always good. We as sellers must walk a very fine line between being over descriptive, and secretive. Here's my advice:
  • Use descriptions sparingly. If you say "greatest" and "best" for every square inch of the pen, people won't believe you. Use you descriptions sparingly, and only for when a feature really stands out.
  • Make sure that the pens strongest selling points are easily scanned and read.
  • Keep it scan-able. Let's just be honest here - When you go onto a sales page, what do you do? You first look at the pictures - always, every time. Then you go and look at the price. Then, if you're really interested, you'll do a quick scan through the description. That's how it is, isn't it? We need to keep this in mind when we're selling a pen. Always make the price of the pen stand out, but don't be outrageous with it. A simple underline, and boldface will do. Just big enough to be easily seen, but not "in your face". Make sure that the pens strongest selling points are easily scanned and read. This is crucial. If someone wants to know what type of pen it is, you can help by showing them all the strong points, using simple text formatting. Once again, making use of boldface, and underlining can help potential buyers make a quicker decision.
  • Keep important info in one place. When I say "important info", I am talking the basics that we all need to know: Size, color, model, nib size/type, etc. Try to keep it one quick bulleted list. You can repeat this information throughout your description, but it's also good to have it in one place, for easy scanning. If I'm trying to find out what nib size a pen has, I don't want to have to read three paragraphs of text to find it.

Tip #4 and 4.5: The free shipping technique & Pricing
These are very important principles as well. Take a look at this for a moment:

Which one would you be more prone to choose?

From my experience in marketing, I personally think that people can often be intimidated by extra numbers like .99. People like rounded off, dollar amounts. Though it is popular in the marketing world to sneak a few extra dollars by adding in that .99 cents, and putting that tiny little + shipping in there, I have found it to be otherwise. If you're looking to be honest, and treat your customers as you would like to be treated, I suggest you use the following techniques:
  • Offer free shipping. It is a HUGE selling point. When I'm right about to purchase something, and I'm suddenly hit with a $7.69 shipping fee, I'll often times leave immediately, and go search elsewhere. Make it clearly stated that shipping is already factored into the price. This will give people a peace of mind, knowing that there is no secret charge hiding and waiting for the unexpected. Even though it seems like you'll be losing money by offering free shipping, it will pay off in super-fast sales, and happy customers. It's worth it, believe me.
  • Make your pricing simple. Factor in all fees, shipping, and if necessary tax, and make your price a single rounded dollar amount. This makes it easier for everyone, from balancing the checkbook, to remembering how much your latest pen-purchase costed, a rounded number price is always better.
  • Charge what's fair, and keep it safe. If you're pen has problems, or it has a defect, price it accordingly. When you do, you will be very surprised at how many people are willing to buy it. I can safely say that my busted-up user-grade pens always sell the fastest. With these poor little user-grade pens, I often give them a personality, and a story. It helps! Give the pen a sob-story that your buyers won't be able to resist! It's funny, cute, and people love it.

Tip #5: Make it easy on your buyers
This is my last tip, and this is one that can really make or break a sale. If you're hard to get a hold of (via email or phone), you only accept an extremely limited amount of payment types, and you only ship to certain areas, you can really put off a potential buyer. Here are my recommendations for keeping a customer around to make the final sale:
  • Offer international shipping at cost. I have found that international customers are extremely open to paying the extra to have a pen shipped to them. Just let people know that they're welcome to buy the pen from overseas, as long as they're willing to pay the extra. You will be surprised at how many people don't care about the cost of shipping. They just want the pen! I personally will usually offer to split the shipping cost, just because I like to treat customers extra nice, but this is purely up to you.
  • Respond fast! If someone emails you about buying your pen up for sale, do NOT ignore that email. Drop what you're doing, and answer them, lest you forget and lose them. I can't emphasis this point enough. Good communication is key to making a sale.
  • Keep up with your listings. I am guilty of not doing this as well as I know I should. When a pen is sold, you must remember to edit the listing. I have had to apologize, more than once before, to customers who inquired about a sold pen, because I hadn't edited the listing yet. It was a dumb mistake...

Conclusion: Well, there you go! That's my 3 years experience of buying and selling pens, all compiled into on  semi-complete list. I have sold many pens before, and these are all the discoveries I've personally made. Techniques for selling can, and should be constantly perfected, but this should give you a good ground to start from.

I hope you've enjoyed this article. Please, leave me a comment below and tell me what you think. Give me your thoughts, and suggestions. If you have something to add, go ahead and let us know! If you've never left me a comment before, now would be a great time to start. Commenting is beneficial for all of us. It encourages me, and it adds to the discussion for everyone else. 

Lastly, don't forget to subscribe to the blog for more tips and tricks like this!

Tyler Dahl

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