I decided autumn was a great time to clean out the garage. Thought, while I was at it, to get rid of the things that had been replaced or whose time had come. The answer was clear—sell it at my first ever yard sale.

Here’s what I learned and how I think we can all apply some of the lessons to other parts of our lives.

Set a goal. A client asked me if I had set a goal for the sale. Before I could answer, she started laughing, “of course you did.” She was right and I’ll tell you how wrong I was at the end of the article. *I’ll say it again, if you don’t know where you want to end, you might end up where you don’t want to end.
Check out their marketing. It was clear most sellers knew nothing about reaching customers. I knew I had the upper hand if I played it right. *Do you monitor your competitor’s conversations with your customers?
Advertise yourself in a big way. I took out a box ad. It cost $10 more and guaranteed me great placement. *You have to spend money to make money. Some people invest more time reducing costs than doing it right. It rarely pays.
Be helpful. Most ads listed the street address first, assuming readers knew the area. I started with the town and then gave more details. *Does your business card tell people what they need to know in the order they want to know it? Who cares about a FAX number?
Talk to your ideal customer. My headline, “High style, low prices, no junk” attracted exactly the buyer I wanted—dealers plus the experienced yard salers. *Does the headline on your resume speak to the hiring manager?
Be first. Others started at 9 am. I wanted shoppers to come to me before they ran out of money or energy. I opened at 8 am. Rather than turning away the early birds (as some ads warned), I welcomed the 7:30ers because they’re the serious, full-price buyers. *Those who respond first are seen. Don’t let perfection paralyses, or lack of grit, hold you back.
Make it easy to find you. It amazes me that other yard salers think anyone can read a piece of paper written on with pen, nailed to a tree, at 35 mph. A customer told me our fluorescent, hand cut, bold letters on black, oak tag, “Could be read a half block away!” Dah. *Do you stand out in the line, the pile, or on the field?
Encourage people to stay. I served coffee. Why? It kept people on site, got them in a buying mood, and made them feel welcomed. A lot of bang for ten bucks. *How can you use customer service to increase your sales?
Give people choices. Two hours into the sale, I started to run out of merchandise. Knew if the tables didn’t look full people would believe only the dregs were left. I did a quick run through the house, found more items. Sales picked up. *When managing people, they must believe there’s opportunities to succeed. Are you providing this for your people?
Hire helpers. Can’t tell you how much easier everything was because I had two 13 year olds assisting. Their presence allowed me to manage the situation, greet people, and not make change. *If you’re doing all the daily tasks, you’re wasting your talents and energy.
Engage troublemakers. We phoned our neighbor about the pending sale. Thought it might prevent her from calling the police when people started parking on her lawn. As an afterthought, we invited her to put items in the sale. She comes marching up the driveway with furniture! Soon, this decidedly cool and rigid woman was calling me “chum.” *It’s so much easier to involve people early than to battle after the damage has been done.
Tell them a story. Because I was selling items, I knew intimately I was able to share the history. “This plate was given to me by a good friend many years ago. She has good karma and so does this plate.” Sold. *If you can’t tell a story, they won’t want or remember yours.
Have fun. I had a great time and so did Arthur. Talked to people we hadn’t seen in years and met neighbors we had never spoken with. Took away some nice compliments on my garden. *If you can’t have a good time selling your stuff, then maybe it really is junk.
The total. Goal $1,200. Actual $2,973. Moral—don’t underestimate you or your treasures.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.