I’ve vended at craft fairs for 10 years, and I have one consistent observation: 90% of vendors are not engaged with their public. What do I mean? I observe vendors seated; seated and talking or playing games on their mobiles; or talking with another vendor. I observe vendors who are tired, not present, and in a grumble mood because the fair is not well attended, or sales are low or non-existent. You see the emerging visual to customers?
The solution? As much as you can advertise or promote an event, it’s the main responsibility of the organizer to do this. So what is your responsibility once you are at the event? Three things: a) love your product; b) engage anyone who approaches your table; c) demonstrate what’s unique or different about your product.
I noticed that when I adhere to these three things, two things happen: I sell more than the other vendors; and the other vendors buy from or want to barter with me.
Why? Because you exude an energy when you love your product, and I don’t mean that you need to be dramatic or overbearing. But you do need to find a way to draw customers to you, if not to purchase then and there, then a) to return after they’ve made the rounds of the fair; b) to ask where you will be next; or c) to consider purchasing online, if you sell there.
There’s another secret weapon to selling successfully and that’s standing on your feet. I know – it’s tiring, but there are tools: supportive shoes and inserts; standing on a piece of material that elevates the front of your feet; or floor materials that cushion your tread.
There’s another secret weapon – words. What do you say to draw people in? Mine are: “Would you like to take a crayon for a test drive?”
I place two disparate things together that give the listener pause. The kids love it because it represents something they aspire to – driving. Kids and adults love it because it represents something they know – a crayon. Everyone has had a childhood experience with crayons.
Body language is important, and you will reach a critical point as a vendor when you become a near expert at reading it. And sometimes you have to take a chance and risk an introduction because – well, people are adept at hiding their feelings.
I notice something else – when I venture forth with “Would you like to take a crayon for a test drive?” I am able to draw to my product someone whose body language initially communicates no interest. Once I demonstrate what my crayon does, I have their undivided attention. I notice that about 50% of those I initially peg as uninterested OR who don’t understand what the product is or does, eventually purchase one or more crayons.
Something else – even though I have a banner behind my table that says “Artisan Crayons” – even though there are signs on all boxes and displays that clearly say “crayon” – still, people ask what is it? Once I made the mistake to throw up my hands in exasperation and point to the banner; I never did that again.
Instead, when I see a look on a face that says “What is this?” – I play and have a little fun. “Tell me what you think it is.” That invitation always brings interesting and usually creative responses – and it’s the “creative” that I want to encourage and then riff on.
Once I have their attention on my product and what it can do, there are cries of delight and wonder. I’ve done my job to navigate with my words, with my understanding of body language, and with my ability to engage a customer – and I create sales.
I love my crayon. I love what it represents. And I tell the story whenever anyone asks me how I came to create it: Two things conspired: 1) When I was a girl living in my mother’s house and I created art, she’d make me walk it out to the trash; I was determined to recapture what was taken. 2) 30 years later I was in Arizona’s Painted Desert on Einstein’s birthday – the inspiration came from the painted rocks, and from Uncle Albert. Eventually, I forgave my mother and moved beyond the devastating childhood experience of my art on the trash heap. I created a colorful phoenix that rose from the ashes.
So – love your product. Engage your customers. Be creative and innovative in how you engage AND how you display your product. And change your display. Play with it. Wondrous things happen when you play.
Barbara J Genovese is a Writer, Editor, ESL Teacher, and Master Crayon Maker. www.kolorwacks.com