Being a tiny company of one means I wear many hats during a workweek. This weekend I’m off to the first craft show of the summer season and it’s time for me to put on my Salesperson hat. Being a salesperson doesn’t come naturally for me, I would much rather just chat and hang out with people than give them a hard sell. As a customer I hate when a clerk is “salespersony”, pushy and with one of those scary all-teeth fake smiles. As an artist (artisan, crafter, maker, whatever you are comfortable calling yourself) it is important that we are genuine in our approach, after all, we are part of what we are selling. Yet at the same time as being ourselves, we do have to sell our work, it’s a balancing act.
A trick to finding the balance is to pretend that we are working in someone else’s booth. If you were standing in a friends booth how would you treat the customer? Or try this, if you hire someone to work in your booth, how would you expect them to treat the customer?
Here’s some of my pointers to being a good artistic salesperson. They’re what I would want someone to do should I ever hire someone. They’re what I try to do when wearing the Sales hat. (ooooh, maybe I should buy myself a new hat this weekend!)
Standing is a much better vantage point for engaging customers. When standing you’re at eye level and it shows that you’re ready to talk. It’s a long day and sometimes you will need to sit so use a tall chair (Ikea has great bar stools) and put it out in the booth, rather than behind a table. You can sit later when you are off work.
Even if you are grumpy, hungry, disappointed in sales and/or tired, make sure to smile. A very large company spent a humongous amount of money on marketing and came up with the slogan “Smiles are free”. You know what? It works.
3. Engage people.
No one like to be ignored although not everyone wants to be your best friend. Start with a greeting and see how they respond. By beginning a conversation it is up to them if they want to continue it.
4. Sell to the customers.
Whenever customers enter your booth, stop chatting with your helper or friends, you can chat with them later. If a customer can’t interact with you they can’t give you money.
5. You are not a cashier in a big box store, you are an artist.
Don’t ask, “May I help you?” or something similar. You aren’t selling underwear at the Bay, you are selling your handmade work. Come up with a good greeting that fits your personality and your style. I use something along the lines of “Hi there!” or “Welcome to my world”. It fits me and people seemed to respond well. It sets the tone and often leads to more conversation. Remember, you are selling yourself too. People shop at craft shows because they want to meet the artist, they want a piece of the magic. Be professional, knowledgeable, friendly & helpful.
6. Share your work.
When you see customers engaging with your goods, tell them a little about the process and/or materials, especially it involves something special or uses materials they might not recognize. For example, I make lampwork (handmade glass beads) jewelry, when I see people picking up my beads I tell them I make the beads, I don’t wait until they ask. I also have photos and a sign that explain the process. Don’t be too pushy though, let it drop if they clearly aren’t interested.
7. Do NOT read in your booth.
Seriously, did you spend money on a booth to read? No, you spent money for the opportunity to sell your work and connect with your customers. Same goes for talking on the phone and listening to your iPod.
8. No gossiping, complaining or whinging.
While we can’t always be Suzy Sunshine it’s important to put on our happy face when dealing with people. If you are negative in your words or body language your work will be coloured with this bad feeling. Find something nice to say. Even if there’s no customers in your booth except your friend, don’t whine, voices carry and someone walking past may hear. I also never allow friends or colleagues to gripe in my booth. Keep it a happy place.
9. Dress well.
Look like your work. Ripped jeans and a grubby shirt are appropriate for cleaning the basement, not for selling jewelry. If you sell expensive high-end jewelry wear really nice clothes. If you sell demure pearl earrings, leave the tie-dye shirt at home. If you sell jewelry, wear it (really, I’ve met jewelry designers who wear other people jewelry in their booth.) Wear clothing that showcases the jewelry, not competes with it, plain colours work well.
10. Most important, have fun.
Even though selling may not be your favourite part of your little business, it’s absolutely necessary. So find something about it you can enjoy and let that show. If you’re smiling and having fun you’ll attract people. People are customers, they give you money. And that’s fun!