© 1993 Valerie Rogers, Bright Star Promotions, Inc. Louisville, KY
The booth next to you is always crowded. They're raking in lots of cash. Your sales so far are the pits. You are jealous. You're hurt. You're angry!
What can you do?
What have you done?
It's time to size up your booth and yourself!
Be honest. Critique yourself, your merchandise, your display, and your behavior. Ask good questions of yourself. "Do I seem interested in my product, my customers, my appearance, and my attitude? Is my table attractive, clean, exciting, well displayed and inviting? How do I look? Would I like to come to my booth? Would I buy something from a person like me? Do I have what the customers are looking for?"
One way to determine if your booth has appeal is to photograph it. Analyze the photo for balance, color and artistic appeal. Remember the colors red, orange and yellow signal "Stop" to the customer, while green says GO! Blue is restful to the eye and inviting. Both green and blue stimulate sales. Gray is an indecisive color, uninviting and Blah!
Is the merchandise on your table jammed together? Too much for the buyer to see let alone comprehend? Less sometimes equals more. The customer will think "one-of-a-kind" instead of, "mass produced." Use boxes, baskets, and airy props to display your merchandise.
Conceal extra merchandise under the table. Display prices clearly. By not marking prices on your merchandise does force the customer to ask, however most are too shy or afraid of a sales pitch, so they move on without buying.
Use a table cover that will drape to the floor on 3 sides. Always stay within the limits agreed to on the show contract. Don't overflow your booth space or encroach on adjoining vendors. Bring all the proper supplies. Do not disturb your neighbor by frequently asking for pens, bags, staples, change, cords, tape, etc.
Design your booth so you can be seen and you can see your merchandise. It is your responsibility to keep an eye on your merchandise. Booths left un-attended invite thieves.
Often show rooms do not have bright lighting. By adding good lighting you'll attract customers to your table. Flashing, glaring, super intense, or decorative lights can be very distracting.
Do you look happy about being at the show? Excited to meet the new buyers? Enthusiastic when you see a repeat buyer? Even if you are tired, sick, or feeling "down" GET EXCITED! The energy you produce will attract people to your booth. Standing with a warm friendly smile and a happy "Hello" is an inviting visual for the customers. Sitting with your arms folded across your chest, or reading a book tells buyer "this person does not want to be bothered. I better go to the next booth where I'll feel welcome."
While demonstrating your craft be sure to look up and include the customer. If you look too busy he'll get the impression that you don't want to be disturb.
Do you look successful? Sure you feel comfortable in the old traveling clothes, but your customers are expecting you to look successful. They determine this entirely by our appearance. Since they are buying your artwork (or craft) they want to think it has been made by someone successful. They in turn can 'brag' about their item and picture it part of your success.
Buy a "show outfit" (that goes for men too!) Keep it clean and well pressed. Wear casual clothes while unloading and setting up your booth, then get cleaned up, groomed, changed and ready to please your buyers. Add jewelry, bows, or a tie. Smell good too. Smoking odors or garlic/onion breath can be a turn-off for some customers. Put that dirty 'lucky hat' under the table. Sport shoes or comfortable shoes are ok, but be sure they are clean.
Design a special phrase that welcomes conversation. Ask the same question to each customer. "Have you a collection of ---?" "How long have you been collecting?" "Tell me about your -----", instead of "How may I help you?" That statement doesn't lead to continual conversation.
Conquer fear by spending time practicing your lines so they flow smoothly and genuinely. Use a mirror and watch your body language. If you have expensive items to sell, practice quoting the price aloud and with a voice of certainty. Don't back down if a customer gasps. There'll be others who think the price is a bargain. Don't compromise your talent for a dollar.
Encourage your customer to hold an item. Point out special features or tell them something special about how the item was made. Make the customer feel special with the fact that you made it and he'd be very happy to have this item in his collection. Remember the customer is buying a piece of you. Sign your work or add an identification mark to each piece.
Direct customers to other vendors if you do not have a requested item. The customer will long remember your deed. They'll return later to buy from you. Help establish a good reputation for being helpful.
Mind your manners too. It is your responsibility to your customers and to the promoter not to carry gossip, especially during the show. When customers are in front of your booth they're there to shop, have fun, and to be entertained. If he hears unkind words, put-downs, or feels an unfriendly under current, he'll move on to the next booth where the atmosphere is friendly.
Gossip is like a whirl-wind. It seems to pick up speed and intensity. It has no purpose but to undermine the show. It makes customers feel uneasy and literally stops the buying. You are the star of the show! People want to know more about you. They listen for tidbits of information. If the chatter is friendly and happy then they are happy to be there. When it is negative and degrading, they feel very uncomfortable and wonder what they have done to create it.
When the attendance is low or you are bored, take time to be creative or develop new projects. Straighten your booth, but don't complain or talk down the show. After all the customer who's in front of your booth did come to the show and is shopping. Pay attention to your customers. Flatter them and pamper them, as they made the effort to come and have plans to buy. The customer is your financial support. It is up to you to set the stage for a profitable day.
As a courtesy to other vendors, stay in front of their booth until you have been invited to the back. Barging in behind a booth is like walking behind the cashier's counter at a store. Respect a vendor's privacy.
Your booth is set up and ready to go. There is time to shop before the show opens. But wait until other vendors are completely setup before making purchases. Do not ask for discounts or negotiate deals in front of customers. If you have something private to say be sure you are out of the customers hearing range. Even in the bathroom there is usually someone who'll hear. Find the right time to talk. If you are given information in confidence it means to "keep your mouth shut". Bragging or complaining about your sales/profits is not perceived as professional.
Have business cards or fliers/brochures printed. Give one to each customer. "Here's my card. Call me any-time to place an order." "I'll be happy to answer any questions when you call or write to me, here is my card."
Place a guest book on your table. Invite the customers to sign it. Establish a mailing list. Then next year when you return to the area send post-cards inviting the customers to the show. Keep records of the items a customer has purchased, then note it on the postcard. "How is ----- doing? Hope the ----- looks great" "Come see what I have new."
After the sale send thank you notes. Include a schedule so the customer can locate you at another show. Bottom line, when your customers are reading your mailings, you can be sure that they'll be thinking about you. Chances are, it will be you they come see first before going to your competitor.
Sign up for shows early. This allows the promoter to use your name in show publicity. Help advertise by placing an ad or sending articles to the local news papers. Ask the show promoter for fliers to distribute in your area. Tuck a flier into each order. Keep fliers in your car, purse, and leave them in stores where ever you can. Always ask the store owner prior to leaving fliers.
Accept invitations to exhibit your work or to do public speaking to organizations or clubs. This will acquaint others with your craft and excite them about collecting. Demonstrate your craft, share your knowledge, show customers the 'tricks of the trade', and include your customers in "brain storming". You'll be remembered and your sales will soar.
Keep the industry alive. Excitement, enthusiasm, and a desire to collect opens wallets and generates great sales.
Finally, the competition will always be there. Don't spend a lot of time worrying about what they are doing. Instead use the time to think about new ideas that will generate sales for YOU. After all it is YOUR business you are promoting.
Have an "abunda-wonderful" year.