Sports memorabilia addict and sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer believes collectors have a right to expect better from dealers. His keynote address kicked off the 2008 Premier Collectible Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.
Jeffrey Gitomer is not afraid to admit he’s an addict.
Addicted to Babe Ruth autographs, Joe DiMaggio baseball cards and anything else that catches his fancy–as long as it’s old.
“Because I’m vintage,” the New Jersey native told an audience of exhibitors at the 2008 Premier Collectible Conference and Exhibition Thursday morning.
Gitomer spends about one third of his year giving seminars to sales executives and corporate leaders. He is the author of The New York Times best sellers The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Black Book of Connections, and The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude (you can check out his books here).
His visit to Chicago, however, was special. He’s an avid collector who believes hobby dealers have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to their relationships with customers. His hour long talk opened the PCCE, a show that included a gathering of some of the sports memorabilia industry’s top auction houses, dealers and collectors.
Gitomer said he came to “challenge the way you present yourselves,” a message aimed at his own experiences attending shows across the country where dealers too often act disinterested in his visit to their show table, while simultaneously complaining about poor attendance and poor sales.
“If you spent as much time building your business as you do complaining, you’d all be millionaires,” he told an audience of about 80.
“Every show is a destination for visitors,” he said. “They come with something to sell or they come with money. If I’m taking the time to visit you, act the part of a businessman. Greet me. Don’t act busy.”
“At the core of your success is your attitude. It rules sales and service. Get to know your customers,” he explained. “Engage them. If you raise your enthusiasm you’ll raise your income.”
Gitomer believes collectors buy based on several factors including things that strike an emotional chord, cards for sets they’re striving to complete and for the perceived value of an item.
“Collectors don’t need anything,” Gitomer told the audience. “They want it and how bad they want it determines what they will pay. When someone asks ‘how much is that’, don’t say ‘it’s $200 but I’ll take $150’. If that collector really wants it, he might pay $200. And if you can convince them it fits in their collection, you don’t have to lose that $50.”
Dealers can sometimes come across as over-aggressive, but Gitomer believes it’s possible to straddle the line between persistence and pushiness.
“Ask me what I collect. If I ask about an item, don’t just quote a price. Tell me a story about it. People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. Be ready.”
He also believes dealers should arrive early and stay until the last customer has left the room because “people with money are the last to leave.”
His career has afforded him the opportunity to build an exceptional collection and Gitomer freely related he spends thousands of dollars buying from auction houses and dealers. He wishes more would keep in touch their customers–large and small–after the sale.
“The most valuable possession you can have is an e-mail list. Guard it with your life,” he instructed. “A lot of dealers complain that the show wasn’t any good, and maybe they didn’t make a lot of money that day but they never asked for an e-mail address or connected with the customers that were there.”
Gitomer’s e-zine “Sales Caffeine”, is sent to 375,000 people. It is responsible for $2 million in net earnings, despite costing only $65,000 to produce and distribute. His website, Gitomer.com, receives millions of page views each year.
Not every day may produce a major find or huge sale, but Gitomer believes dealers who are able to make their living from the sports card and memorabilia business are among a fortunate few.
“When you love what you do, they’re all holidays.”