Learning Business From TV Shows

Okay, while I’ve never been a huge TV watcher, I have to admit that I’ve recently been sucked in by a few shows. Most recently I’ve gotten a bit hooked on American Pickers.

This show features two guys with a company called Antique Archaeology who travel around the country buying random, often rusty, antiques people have collected. Then they resell the items later for a profit through their store in Iowa.

It’s fascinating to see the “junk” that has real resale value. And it’s even more fascinating to hear the stories behind the antiques they see and buy. But in addition to that, there is a huge sales lesson to be learned from watching how these guys operate.

You see, while sometimes they have a hot lead, often they’re doing cold calls. They just pull up to a house with a ton of random stuff in the yard (you know, rusting cars or tractors, old signs, hubcaps, you name it). Then they knock on the door and hand the owner a list of the sorts of things they’re interested in.

If they have what the American Picker guys are looking for, the “junk collectors” are typically thrilled to show off their collections and share their stories with a couple of interested and knowledgeable fellow “pickers” like Mike and Frank. So you get a glimpse inside history as they unveil garages packed with old cars, bikes, signs, pottery and who knows what else.

The real lesson for us entrepreneurs though, comes when you watch the guys try to make their first purchase. Because, the amazing characters they meet aren’t always willing to let go of their treasures (any more than your clients want to part with their dollars)!

Whether it’s for sentimental reasons or simply because they are hoarders by nature, it’s often hard to break the ice and get them to part with that first item in exchange for cold, hard cash. So while the guys on American Pickers might be buying instead of selling, you can learn a lot by emulating what they do.

1) They don’t try to buy right away. Mike and Frank don’t just walk into someone’s shed and make an offer. First they work to develop a real relationship and connection to the person. They make it clear they share the collector’s passion for antiques. And that creates that know, like and trust factor that’s oh so important.

This works equally well in any business. Get to know your clients, then let them get to know you, and it’s much easier to make a sale down the road.

2) They start small. Rarely do the guys throw out an offer for a big-ticket item (a car, or motorcycle) right off the bat. Instead they try to break the ice with something that’s less consequential (oil cans, a small sign). Once they get the first yes, it’s much easier to get the next one, and the one after that.

You can do the same by offering options at a variety of price points. Then start by trying to sell something at the low-end. Once you get the first sale follow up immediately with a second offer at the same price or higher. And stay in touch with more offers down the road.

3) They don’t give up easily. I’ve watched those guys get no after no before finally finding an item the collector is willing to part with. But they don’t let those first few no’s stop them. They just keep making different offers on different items until they get a yes.

If you want to make sales you have to do the same.

4) They make sure it’s a win-win. While Mike and Frank are clearly trying to make a buck on the resale of the items they buy, they never try to screw the other person to make that buck.

They understand that if the other person doesn’t feel there is value in the deal—and they’ve been treated with respect—they won’t be able to buy anything else. This is always true whether you’re on the buying or the selling side of the deal.

5) They know they’ve done a great job when they get asked back to a place to pick it again. You know you’ve done a great job when people come back for more. 

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