It has been awhile since my last blog I know I know, but I’m coming back with a great one. I want to talk a little about myself and what I believe is a skill you need! I’ll also answer why I used that click-bait title. You see my background isn’t in design, it’s in warfighting, and in sales. No really I used to be a Marine Infantryman and during that time I did a stint as a Recruiter. I can honestly say becoming a Recruiter while miserable at times was one of the best decisions of my life. Because while as a Recruiter I learned about professional selling skills. Those skills are how I got a job in the gaming industry in fact, it wasn’t in design, but it was a foot in the door and it did let me learn more about the inner workings of a larger tabletop company. I’ve since moved on but that is a tale for another time. More importantly, salesmanship is a skill not only every designer needs to hone, but everyone should hone.
To Sell Is…
Author Daniel Pink wrote a book titled to Sell is Human, and in that book, he details why he thinks that selling is something natural we do only a daily basis. I happened to agree even before I read the book. You see many people may think that sales are all about lying, cheating, and tricking your way into a customers heart. After all the stereotypical car salesman persona exists for a reason. However, the reality is so far from the truth. In fact, you dear reader probably used salesmanship today and didn’t even realize it. We all sell all the time, going for a job interview? You are selling yourself and telling the employer why he/she should invest in you. Asking that girl or boy you like out on a date? You are selling them on the idea that you would work well together. Trying to convince your coworkers to adopt a new and innovative solution? Yep, that’s sales! Even getting your friend to try that new board game you love is sales. You see sales isn’t just about a professional salesman trying to get a customer to buy a product. Selling is everyday human interaction, it’s getting a return on life.
Why Designers Need Salesmanship: As a game designer, you may think well I just want to make games and not have to worry about anything else. I don’t need sales! Well, how are you going to pitch your game to an investor? How are you going to convince the crowd to Kickstart you? Here’s a secret, good ideas and products don’t sell themselves, that’s a myth. Good ideas and products disappear into the background all the time never to be seen again. Only people who are already highly successful at designing games can be “idea” guys. You and I aren’t Reiner Knizia though. No one is going to back our ideas on our name alone, nobody knows or cares who Kevin Hamrick is. That’s a reality that I’m ok with though because I can sell myself and I can sell a product. If your goal is to create your own games you need to know how to sell your product too.
Ah but Kevin you say, I just want to work for a big company like Blizzard or Fantasy Flight Games for you analog guys. Well, that’s fine too, and it’s an equally as ambitious and respectful goal as the independent route. Some people love to be apart of something bigger. However, do you imagine you are the only one who wants to do that? There are probably hundreds if not thousands of people who aspire to that same goal. What do you think is going to make you stand out, your grades, where you got your degree from, your boring resume that no one cares about? There are another few hundred applicants that have the same grades, the same degrees, from the same schools, with the same resume, and they too think it’s all they need. You know what is going to catch that employer’s eye the most though? Your cover letter, your cover letter is your ad copy. It’s where you sell yourself, it’s what I got hired on. Then come the interviews which you are again selling yourself in.
Beyond this, once you have started a company or gotten a job at a bigger studio there will be times you need to move your team, or convince someone of your vision. Your job and your life will be happier if you can get these people to see what you see, to see why your ideas are great. Otherwise, you are just clocking in and out like a drone. To sell is human, and to do it well creates satisfaction.
Conclusion: Hopefully you now see that selling is essential to any goal you choose to have in life. But what was with that click-bait title? I did promise to answer that, didn’t I? Well if you didn’t know click bait titles actually work, go ahead and google most clicked on titles and see for yourself. While you are at it, always practice your salesmanship, because practising that is practising human interaction!
Of course, if you are interested in diving right in I do recommend the aforementioned book To Sell is Human. It’s a great diving board to further your sales knowledge, I’ve provided a link below to make it easy to find.