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  #1  
Old 01-23-2005, 10:51 PM
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TexasJack TexasJack is offline
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Rant about Knife Sellers

Went to a local gun and knife show this weekend. There were probably 15 or more custom knife sellers that I saw. (And 50 vendors with Chinese-prisoner-made-3-for-$5 knives.)

Two - just 2 - of the custom knife sellers actually spoke to me. They were the only two that looked at me! Most of them just had their knives laid out straight across the table, then sat behind the table, staring at the floor. Did you sell many?? My guess would be: No!

I realize that this was probably not the highest concentration of buyers that you could get. I have no doubt that it gets boring pitching your quality knives and then watching some moron buying a $8 sword from the import dealer across the aisle. But you can't catch fish without bait - and without casting the bait into the water!!

1. You need knives that are attractive. Fishing lures aren't painted bright colors to catch fish, but rather to catch buyers.
2. You need an attractive display. Even the junk import dealers have them mounted so they can be seen.
3. Look at the customers - in the eye! Talk to them. SMILE!
4. Whether they buy or not, be polite. They could return.
5. If someone rejects your knives - even rudely - remember that this person must be a jerk. If someone you respect gets on you, take it seriously. If someone you DON'T respect gets on you, take it as a compliment!!
6. PUT THE D****ed CELL PHONE AWAY! You wouldn't buy ANYTHING from someone who ignored you to talk on the phone, would you?
7. If possible, demonstrate why your knives are superior. I watched a young kid selling some quirky knife sharpener. He must have cut up 10 Sears catalogs during the day to show how sharp he could get knives. AND he managed to get paid $3 per knife to sharpen them for passers-by. (Come to think of it, ever consider making a couple bucks sharpening knives while you're sitting there doing nothing?) There was a LINE at his booth. (He told me his day job was in a feed store.)
8. Put up a sign. Have business cards. Look professional!

If you are unwilling to do at least 6 of the 8, just stay home.

End of my rant.


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  #2  
Old 01-24-2005, 08:04 AM
george tichbour george tichbour is offline
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It can be hard to keep yourself up at shows where sales are slow but being on your feet and smiling is critical to sales.

Don't get carried away with the displays however, too fancy a display can cause potential buyers to miss something, I had it happen a lot when I started out and used very decorative displays.

Demonstrations can work against you if you are working alone. If you only have one item to sell like sharpener it is not a problem but if you are at one end of the table demonstrating something this focuses the attention there and the rest of the table gets ignored or worse something gets stolen.

Keep in mind that shows are just that, an opportunity to show your product to as many people as possible and sell the idea of owning one of these knives. Business cards and flyers are necessary for people to be able to find you after the show and make their purchases.

Now a note to show visitors....in order for the knifemaker to meet and greet the public you should not take up all of his time chatting, neither should you take offense if the maker breaks off your conversation to say hello to newcomers from time to time. It is his job to greet as many people as possible who pass by the table.


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  #3  
Old 01-24-2005, 08:51 AM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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Over the years I have come to the conclusion that knife shows are not always about selling knives......... sometimes it's about selling yourself! If your not standing up, with your hand extended, and a smile or kind word on your lips, then your not doing a very good job of selling yourself.
Gun shows are their own unique environment. Genernally the customer base that attends "gun" shows are looking only for "bargins", while those attending true knife shows are there for the quality.
Gun type shows are where many knifemakers get started trying to sell their product. Most of them have no idea what they should be doing, or how they should be acting. They look around at everyone else, and figure they should be just like the rest.

It can be a tough "learn as you go" situation, and many don't make it to the second show. I think back to the first few times I attended gun shows...... I was green as a gourd. I was scared to talk to anyone, and was just hoping that someone would say something nice about my work. Thankfully I sought out more established makers, and learned from them, adding my own ideas along the way.

Some of the most important things I feel a maker MUST do at a show....

1. Stand up!
2. Smile
3. Speak to anyone who walks by your table
4. When someone stops to look, introduce yourself, and offer a hardy handshake
5. NEVER! NEVER! Dismiss or ignore anyone! Many years ago I watched a then, very famos maker ignore someone, who turned out to be a major collector and writer for a major knife publication. That knifemaker is no longer in business. (no I'm not going to say exactly who it was)
6. Dress the part! Look as professional as possible. I personally don't like to wear a tie, but you can bet when I show up at Reno later this week, I'll have a tie and jacket on!
7. And finally, be yourself! More people come to a show to meet "The Maker" than to buy. The impression you leave on people will tranfer into your knives. (good or bad)

When I walk through the gun shows, I always stop to look at the work of the "young" makers. After talking for a while, many will ask how they should be presenting themselves and their knives.......those are the ones who have the desire necessary to continue in knifemkaing. Those who sit there like a bump on a log, I simply leave alone.


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  #4  
Old 01-24-2005, 08:59 AM
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All points well taken, George.

I have no problem with the seller greeting other folks. But I saw sellers who greeted nobody, and others who did nothing but chat on the phone. If they were giving away diamonds they wouldn't have had a customer. I think a lot of knifemakers - or any artisans - are introverts; They speak to the world through their work. Selling requires direct interface to the customer.

I don't know of many sellers who pay the money and commit the time for a show only so they can display their wares. If you want to show a profit, you gotta sell!

There are people at these events selling things that have no earthly value whatsoever! But they are pitching their products! And they go home with cash in their pockets. Here you have guys making a quality product (and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that), but can't be bothered to pitch it! They go home unhappy. (An old boss of mine used to say, "This would be a great business if it wasn't for those d***ed customers.")

When you are making a knife, you have to pay attention to what you are doing. When you are working with power tools, you have to pay attention to safety. When you are selling, you have to pay attention to your customers.


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Old 01-24-2005, 09:27 AM
AwP AwP is offline
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You're right, I've noticed that myself from some makers when I go to knife shows. I also notice some people doing the opposite, virtual P.T Barnums chatting up everyone telling them about their knives or damascus or whatever. Maybe the people who aren't people persons should get a dealer to sell their stuff for them. They'd get alot more sold, they'd be happier being out making knives instead of trying to sell them, and the customers would be happy getting good knives instead of getting ignored.


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  #6  
Old 01-24-2005, 10:24 AM
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TexasJack TexasJack is offline
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Excellent input, George, Ed, and AwP!


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  #7  
Old 01-24-2005, 10:57 AM
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Robert Dark Robert Dark is offline
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Last June at the Blade Show in Atlanta, I noticed how many tables were "un-manned". Many just had business cards laying out. This was on a Saturday morning, and the place was packed.

Later, I noticed many of the makers were at other maker's tables just chatting.

On the other hand, many makers extended a handshake and acted like they had known me all my life. They were eager to tell me all about their products. Those guys made an impression.

One older gentleman, whom I won't name, sold two knives while we were discussing grinding techniques.

There is more to selling your knives than just making a pretty blade...........

Robert
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  #8  
Old 01-24-2005, 01:07 PM
Ron Claiborne Ron Claiborne is offline
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All that has been said is good advice and if your going to go to a show to present your work

present it as though you have pride in what you do and that you humbled and happy that people have stopped to see your work that they are important to you and be censer you have spent a lot to be there wright what would it cost you to visit each one that stops at your table to go to their homes business and if you did take the time to do how would you like to be treated ? they have spent a lot to come to see you and some thing to consider .
Some other thing need to be said in show etiquette and to keep from offending anyone ill say it where people like Ed and other show people would never say is the( walk way understanding .)
I go to shows to see friends, a lot of us do to see what they are doing now and to rekindle friendships it?s the club the reason that you do see other makers at others table .
Never coat a maker to lose a chance to talk to other people that stops at his table by talking with him over a how to mount a gaurd or just knife talk he?s there to sell knives and himself he want tell you to step away you should be aware of every body around you as you talk and when other approach his table tell him you will get back with him later and let him do what hes there for I know I spend a lot of time talking to friends when im at a knife show . I hope I have never cost a maker a sale ,
If you see your good friend that you have met in the forums and his table is full come back when they is a down time but this needs to be said and i don?t show my knives so im only saying this in that regard to be considerate to you knifemaking buddies

I hope I have not embarrassed any body or offended any I just think it needed said

Bowie


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Last edited by Ron Claiborne; 01-24-2005 at 01:20 PM.
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  #9  
Old 01-24-2005, 03:30 PM
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Offended?! No, well said!


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  #10  
Old 01-25-2005, 04:55 PM
george tichbour george tichbour is offline
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The part about dressing the part of a businessman that Ed talked about makes a difference. When I started wearing a suit and tie to the shows instead of blue jeans and a cowboy hat there was a change in attitude by the visitors to the show for the better.

When I went to the Blade show two years ago I realized that I had made a mistake, the show would have been more fun if I didn't have a table to tend. I only got around to seeing about a quarter of the knifemakers that I would have liked to talk with.

The notion that shows are the place to sell has never panned out for me, I sell to people who have met me at shows and had a chance to look at my knives but these sales can take place weeks, months or years later. A lot of customers like to meet the maker before buying if at all possible.


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Old 02-22-2005, 03:13 PM
AcridSaint AcridSaint is offline
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I'm a little late here, but I'd like to add to this a little. We don't get a lot of shows near here, and I don't get a lot of time to go out of town for recreation... nor do I get a lot of money. We had a gun and knife show here about 6 months ago and there was one custom knife maker there. His name was Dave Vail.

I don't know if his display attracted me or if it's just that I love knives and had to stop. What I do know is that he made some very attractice knives and was very personable. We talked for a good 15 minutes, I told him I was very new but into knife making, we discussed steels and materials, techniques and other makers. Even after I told him I couldn't afford one of his knives at the moment we still talked, he gave me a card, and even wrote the address of one of his suppliers on the back. I believe there was even an offer to give me pointers if I ever had the urge to call.

Not only do I respect his work, but I also respect him. As such, if I wanted to buy a custom knife locally, or knew someone else who wanted to, Dave's name would definately come to mind. Of course you need to have a product that someone likes, but you also need to get in touch with people. If he hadn't spent that time talking to me, or gave me his card I would have probably forgotten I'd ever met a local smith. People who buy customs usually love knives, and want to talk about them, especially with the guy who made one they're interested in.


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Old 02-22-2005, 03:41 PM
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Jaegar Jaegar is offline
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Hi,
I'm new to making, just finished my second, but I look forward to the day that I could have a table at a show. a comment previously made was that he switched from jeans and a cowboy hat to a suit...what about a suit and a cowboy hat?? or loose the whole 'rancher' look? I was just wondering, as I personally enjoy dressing up in the cowboy style, and have seen many pictures of makers at shows dressed up much the same. Just a question I thought of, albeit a moot point.
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  #13  
Old 02-22-2005, 04:12 PM
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Ed Caffrey Ed Caffrey is offline
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Brian,

Depending on the the show, I often times wear a jacket and tie......but I ALWAYS wear my cowboy hat! People have come to know me with the hat on, and several years ago when I switched from my old brown hat to a "silverbelly", everyone noticed, and commented that they would have to get used to recognizing me in the new hat. I have attended a couple of very low key shows where I wore a baseball style cap, and folks commented that they didn't know me without the cowboy hat.

It just goes to show that the public comes to recognize certain features about a maker, and it's usually in the makers best interest to keep up the image they present to the public.


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Old 02-24-2005, 10:27 PM
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Don Halter Don Halter is offline
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The first custom knife I bought was from Craig Stek. It was a small damascus skinner. I had been at the Houston Gun show a few weeks earlier and tried to talk to several of the knifemakers present. I was ignored as well as cut off mid sentence from the first four I tried asking questions of. I was 18 at the time and I got the impression I was being ignored partially due to my age and how I was dressed. I guess I didn't fit the "big spender" profile. Their loss...I ended up buying an AR-15 match HBar and a Win 300M. Amazingly enough, when I walked back by the tables holding a high $ amount of weaponry, everyone seemed to want to be my friend. I went to a PKA show in Dallas later that Fall and was shocked at the friendliness there. Craig was one that stood out from the others and I ended up buying a knife from him (His knives were really great as well as his attitude ). The other show, as well as a few other run-ins with custom makers that year at smaller shows, ticked me off enough I wrote a letter to Knives Illustrated and had it published.

Please don't judge your buyers based on age and looks. The kid blown off today may be the collector of tommorow!


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  #15  
Old 02-25-2005, 03:38 PM
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Les Robertson Les Robertson is offline
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There have been some excellent points made in this post. I always find it interesting to read or hear what makers have to say about "selling". I find this interesting because many makers dislike working with dealers as it appears they do nothing to earn a discount. After all, they only "sell" knives.

Like making a knife, selling also requires a certain skill set. The best way to acquire this skill set is to "practice" in front of a live audience.

Regarding "your look" I always find this interesting as well. First time I saw George he was wearing a Suit and Tennis Shoes. I figured that was just a Canadian thing.

My understanding is that the cowboy hat was developed for cowboys working "outdoors" to keep the wind, sun and different types of precipitation off of your head/face/neck. Additionally growing up I was taught to take your hat off when you went inside. While I have some pretty good friends in the ABS who always seem to have a cowboy hat on. I find myself smiling to myself when I see all of those guys walking around in the Tex/Arkansas ABS Mafia Uniform. Cowboy hat, sport coat, jeans and usually cowboy boots. To their credit and as Ed brought up people do seem to look for this and find it odd when your not in uniform.

I have found that most men could care less what you are wearing. Since it is going to be a long 2-3 days, wear something nice and comfortable. In the winter I wear pants in the summer I wear shorts. The people who come to my table seem to be more interested in the knives then what I am wearing. Truth be told I get 100 times more comments on my Rolex Sea Dweller than I do on my clothes.

Here is my short list:

1) Get off your ass, put down the book, hang up the cell phone.

2) Get excited about your knives. If you don't no one else will.

3) Treat every person with respect and view them as a potential client. At a knife show, every person who comes into that room is a potential client...to include other makers.

4) Tell your fellow makers (or worse yet "Wannabe" makers) to talk shop with you after the show.

5) Try to avoide the mistake of playing "hard to get" with dealers....as you will be successful. You may not know this, but just like makers talk about dealers. Dealers talk about makers, this helps us save time and money.

I have been setting up at shows for over 20 years in the US and Canada, to the point I can't tell you how many hundreds of shows I have set up at. What I have learned through all of this that. I doesn't matter where your table is located, it doesn't matter what you are wearing or not wearing, it doesn't matter if you have a world class table display (or not).

What does matter is that you are personable, knowledgeable about the product you are selling, sincere, tell the truth and possibly the most important thing (and hardest to do for most knife makers) is have the knife priced for what it is and what your position in the market is.

Boys and Girls, like it or not value for the money and a knife's ability to compete in the aftermarket. Are becoming more and more important. A hundred times a show...at every show I get asked questions like:

What do you think of this makers work?

How does his work fair in the aftermarket?

Do you think this maker will be here 5 years from now?

Currently the most asked question is:

This guy has only been making knives for a few years. Why is he charging so much.

The answer is simple. However, I always recommend they go and ask the maker that question . This gives the maker, (a unique opportunity for many) to justify the cost of their knife to a potential customer. This can be quite the eye openining experience for a maker. Especially when a very knowlegeable collector brings other more established, better known makers who's knives fair better in the after market, who's knives sell for the same or less into the conversation.

When I am considering working with a new maker I ask them questions similar to this. Well over 90% do not have an answer, save for "that is what I have to get" or words to that effect. Not very in depth is it.

As the saying goes some people can sell ice makers to Eskimo's and other couldn't sell an air conditioner in Hell. Selling takes practice. However, if you believe in the product your selling, selling is easy.


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