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Art Fairs, Craft Shows, Music Festivals, and More
Festival Network Online Newsletter Commercial/Food Vendor Edition -  June 2008
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A note from the editor

Hello FNO Exhibitors and Food Vendors,

This article is going out to the artists and craftspeople this month but I also thought it would benefit all types of exhibitors because everyone can take some tips to turn a show around!  Enjoy.

Food vendors, be sure to check out our Partner Mobile Catering and Food Concession Business.  Remember, if you learn of helpful resources for food vendors, send them my way!  This month's Food Vendor of the Month is Bayou Billy.

If you have a website, let's swap links!  If you want to appear on FNO's Member's Links page, all you have to do is link to FNO on your website.  If you're interested, email Carrie and put "Member's Links" in the subject line.

Best wishes!
Julie Cochrane
FNO Marketing
Festival Network Online

« Newsletter Archive - To view previous newsletters, check out our archives!

Five Things You Can Do To Turn a Show Around—Fast by Quinn McDonald

Festivals and FairsThe show’s a little slow--sales aren’t where they should be. Your work is good, and the prices fair, so what’s missing? A decision.

If you decide that this isn’t your show, and go check out your opinion with other artists, you are making a move in the wrong direction. If you decide to duck behind your booth to work on some projects so you can at least make some money at this dog of a show, you are making another mistake.

When sales aren’t rolling in, there are at least five things you can do to make a difference. They don’t cost you any money, don’t need a lot of preparation time, and you can see the results happen quickly.

1. Eye Contact Starts a Sale

Make eye contact with the people walking by. Eye contact is the fastest way to establish a relationship that leads to sales. Don’t look at hairdos, skirt lengths or shoes. Look people in the eye. You don’t need to stare, but make sure you get good eye contact—that people are looking back at your face. That’s eye contact, and it begins a relationship. What comes next comes naturally.

2. Smile. Welcome People to Your Booth

It doesn’t have to be a big, toothy grin. A regular smile is best. If you think “smile” at the same time, you will smile with your eyes as well. Watch for a reaction—a recognition, a return smile, a hesitation in walking. That’s the person to focus on.

3. Be First to Start a Conversation

Nod to them, or if they are close enough, say “Hi.” Asking a brief question is better, it helps slow them down. “Having a good time?” or “Is it still raining?” [or windy, sunny, snowing, depending on conditions] gives the person a reason to respond that is not too committal. If the weather is bad, thank them for coming out in this weather.

If the person looks away, walks away or immediately speaks to someone with them, your chances of making contact diminish. If the show is crowded or the aisles are narrow, smile at the next person. You are not looking for a life-long commitment, this is an attempt at contact. With a little luck, a person you speak to will slow down and step into your booth. This is just the beginning, you aren’t done yet.

There are many ways to strike up a conversation, the one that feels most comfortable is the one you are most likely to make successful. Many artists feel uncomfortable qualifying clients immediately. You don’t have to ask, “Are you shopping for yourself or someone else? Are you looking for a gift? or What are you looking for?” While those questions can lead to a sale, many people are at shows simply to look at things and don’t have an answer to those questions. You can scare them off before you’ve said much.

True, if a person is not interested in your work, you don’t have a big chance of selling them anything, but someone who has stepped into your booth needs a few seconds to adjust to seeing your work. Let them have that time.

4. Talk About What You Know—Your Work

Matthew Naftzger, owner of Works of Man, and a jeweler who works in various metals, says, “I like to talk about my work. It’s easy for me to be enthusiastic, and it helps them concentrate on the pieces in front of them.” Matt lets people look over his work, and if he notices interest in one piece, he’ll say something about how he made the piece or the metals used. If the person nods and doesn’t say anything, Matt gives it another chance.

“I might say something about the shape of the piece; or what inspired its creation,” he says, “but if I don’t get a response, I’ll let it go. Conversation is a two-way effort.” Matt will let someone who shows no interest look in silence. Some people simply take more time to understand what they are looking at.

Jenna Pynn, owner of Calico & Old Lace, who makes clothing, embellished with free-form figurative quilting, says, “It takes a while for people to see that the quilting on the vest looks like running horses or like a Japanese crane. I get better reactions if people find it for themselves, so being quiet is a way of communicating.” Jenna also knows that one person in the booth looking at your work often attracts others. “I’m not quick to chase out someone who’s not buying if she’s attracting more people into the booth. Much of my work is custom, so it’s important for people to have time to look and think things through before they try anything on.”

Once there are people in the booth, it’s time for the last step.

5. Qualify Your Client

“Qualifying” means separating the browsers from the buyers and helping the buyers through the choosing and paying process, while keeping an eye on the browsers, but not engaging them further until the sales process is complete.

Jenna says, “It’s great to chat with people, have them try things on and tell me about their likes and dislikes. If it leads to a sale, it’s even better.” So what to do when a client is clearly ‘just looking?’ If you have time, and no one else is in the booth, you can certainly give them some attention.

“But if I have a sale working and someone who is just looking wants to chat, I’ll keep my answers short and friendly but keep a lot of eye contact going with the customer,” says Jenna.

Matt has a similar reaction. “If one person is just browsing and another person is ready to make a purchase, the customer gets most of my attention.” Sometimes the person making a sale will inspire the person browsing to follow suit. Sometimes the browser will leave. Instead of feeling guilty that the browser left, recognize that it was not a sale and be glad you didn’t lose the buyer’s interest.

If a browser is more demanding of attention, it’s fine to say, “I’ll be right back to you as soon as I finish helping this customer.” When a browser has been chatty and getting a lot of your attention, you’ll feel guilty paying attention to another client, but a buyer gets more attention than someone who is just looking.

That doesn’t mean you get to be rude, but it does mean that you get to interrupt your conversation, cut into the browser’s long story, or say, “I’ll answer that in a second, just let me help this person.”

While anyone can be a potential buyer, a browser who walks away is not costing you a sale. If you are polite, but turn your attention to a buyer, the browser will frequently wander off in search of another conversation. That’s great for both you and the browser.

There are a few actions that keep people who may want to stop at your booth right on walking. Be careful to avoid actions that don’t invite people into your booth.

Too Busy to Sell

If a show is slow, it is tempting to spend your time chatting with other artists. But you won’t sell a thing if you aren’t in your booth, so stick around and start making eye contact.

Beware, too, of fellow artists who are in a bad mood and come into your booth to bad mouth the show, promoter, or attendees. People who are browsing have great hearing, and when they hear something negative, they will leave your booth. Even if your fellow artist is talking about another show, the casual observer doesn’t know. Negative words cause negative reactions.

Make a rule of “no negative energy in my booth,” and fellow artists will not feel personally insulted.

Stand Up and Sell

Studies have shown that if you are busy in your booth—dusting, labeling, arranging inventory—you have a better chance of someone coming into your booth. But, there are different ways to be busy.

Eating scares people off. They don’t want to interrupt you. Sure, you have to eat, but keep it simple. If you have help with you, each of you should leave the booth to eat. If you are alone, eat things that aren’t messy and don’t require a lot of work. You can take a bite of a sandwich and arrange your inventory. Don’t hurry and take huge bites. Small bites are better for your health, and if someone one comes in, you can indicate you will be with them shortly—then chew and swallow without choking.

And of course, no reading or becoming so absorbed in some activity that you don’t notice people who do come in. Anyone can be a client, and there is no reason that the clients shouldn’t come into your booth to shop instead of passing you by.

Smile and start selling. It works!

(c) 2007 All rights reserved.  Quinn McDonald is an artist and a certified creativity coach. She can be reached at

FNO Featured Food Vendor - Bayou Billy
Bayou BillyTwo FNO Members operate festival food vending businesses using Bayou Billy's ingenious homemade soda pop and the one and only collectible tin mug. 

Chuck Schwartz of C & A Catering out of Winchester, TN and Douglas Mundy of Rajun Cajun in Dave, FL sell Bayou Billy's products, a unique line of Southern and Cajun recipes, homemade soda pop, snow cream, and 1/2 gallon jugs.

There are 17 Bayou Billy Mobile Stores in 22 States.  In the photo above is Bayou Billy.  Check out his cool story.  Visit a Bayou Billy cart at an event near you!  2008 schedule

Bayou Billy

Email Julie Cochrane if you are interested in appearing here. 
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