selling at shows

How to increase your sales at craft shows

Everyone wants to have a good show but what makes a “good show” can be different for everyone.  Some see a good show in financial respects only.   Others judge a show based on sales and the conversations they have with their customers, or the ideas they got while being at the show, and the friendships they made with their fellow vendors.  No matter how much you add to your “success” story, each person wants to see the show as a financial success.

As an organizer, we do so much to make each show successful.  We spend hours contacting the press, blogs, fans, listings, finding new places to advertise, and physically flyering and postering around town — making sure that as many people as possible know about our shows.  Of course, there are always factors that are simply beyond our control such as the weather, construction, what’s going on around town at the same time, etc.  But for those elements within our reach, we really go all out.

But getting customers through the doors is only half the battle.  As a seller, I also consider how my own personality shines through when I engage with my customers, and how that affects my sales.  If I am tired, my energy will be low, so I try to get a good night’s sleep the night before the big show. If that can’t happen, a good cup of coffee can at least help!  In an article I recently read, I found this statement to be very true: “The best strategy for any sales situation is to search out what the shopper wants. Not what you need to sell them.”  It made me think about UCU, and what our shoppers want.

Our shoppers support UCU and its vendors for several reasons:

  • They can talk face-to-face with the designer/creator
  • They can feel good because they are shopping handmade
  • They are supporting their local economy
  • They can find interesting/creative work that you won’t be able to find at Target
  • They are there because they WANT to be there, but it now becomes your responsibility to make the sale.

Some things to consider in doing so:

  1. Do you have a good price range, so there is something for everyone?
  2. Do you have a target market, and are you catering to them?
  3. Do you have something unique to offer?
  4. Are you friendly and engaging with your customers without being too aggressive or cheesy?
  5. Are you helping to create an environment at the show that is supportive and fun for yourself, your fellow vendors and the customer?

1) Do you have a good price range, so there is something for everyone?  

Let’s face it, the summer show has less of a frantic feeling of “must buy!” than the winter holiday show.  Many customers actually like the summer shows more because they can really have a quality conversation with the makers, rather than having to fight for attention.  They enjoy the elbow room and the pace.  BUT they also aren’t necessarily buying 20 gifts for their family and closest friends.  This can work for you, and against you.  Some people may have more money to spend on something expensive for themselves because they’re not shopping for a dozen other people.  Others want to do more browsing and don’t feel as much pressure to buy, unless something really stands out to them.

Having a wide range of prices may be just the ticket.  If someone isn’t able to make a big purchase now, they may enjoy still buying something, and if you can make any kind of sale, the likelihood of them becoming a repeat customer is much higher.  This does not imply that you should dumb down your product in any way, but consider how you could broaden your customer base so that you build more relationships.

2) Do you have a target market and are you catering to them?

Who are your customers?  What kind of customers do you want to have?  Who are UCU’s customers?  Keep to your vision but make sure it’s a realistic one.

3) Do you have something unique to offer?

When we jury, one of our top priorities is to make sure there is plenty at the show for everyone, and we feel like we do a good job of showing a wide gamut of awesome.  As a vendor, are you offering a unique product that stands out from the rest?  If you are a repeat vendor, are you making sure that you have new products at each show?  Are you keeping things fresh and looking new?  The worst mistake you can make is to rely on the success of the previous show.

4) Are you friendly and engaging with your customers without being too aggressive or cheesy?

How do you like to be approached at shops and galleries?  I have found that many of my loyal customers at my store are loyal because they want to see ME succeed.  At our shows, they feel a loyalty to you as vendors, because they enjoy talking with you and learning about you and your story.  If you are unapproachable or look sad or depressed at your booth, people will continue along their way.

At the same time, if you are too aggressive, it can really turn people off, including your fellow vendors.  (I.e., don’t try to take away a fellow vendor’s customer by calling them over when they were clearly making their way to a specific booth!)  Wait, be patient, and be friendly to your neighbors.  In the end, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

5) Are you helping to create an environment at the show that is supportive and fun for yourself, your fellow vendors and the customer?

Let’s face it, no one likes the bad seed, but the bad seed can be powerful!  Walking around discussing how much you did or did not make is not cool.  Discussing these things post-show with your friends is understandable, but doing it at the show is just tacky.

There can be a wide range of selling experiences at a given show, and even if you are selling like gangbusters, your neighbor might not be.  Talking to other vendors about how much money you are making can be a fast and slippery slope to making them feel self-conscious, worried, or insecure.

Likewise, if you’re having a disappointing show, complaining about how little you have made to other vendors or customers is simply uncomfortable.  It makes people either feel like they are obligated to make a purchase from you, or that you are lamenting about things they can not control.  Basically, it’s just negative energy, and no one really likes to be around it.  As Sara Lanzillotta said “I feel like it’s my job as a vendor to have a good attitude even if I am sick or tired or disappointed with my sales, not only for myself but for the other vendors.”  You said it Sara!

If you are having fun (even if you are just acting like it), customers will see this, will appreciate your attitude, and will feel like you are more approachable.  Reel them in and make those sales!

Here are some book suggestions to help you think more about this side of your business:

  • The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line by Kari Chapin
  • The Psychology of Selling: How to Sell More, Easier, and Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy
  • How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
  • Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker