|The Psychology of Sales at a Craft Show|
|Written by Patrice Lewis|
The obvious stuff
All of this is pretty standard stuff. Yet if you still have trouble selling your wares, then it’s time to look deeper into the psychology of selling at a craft fair.
The not-so-obvious stuff
Many years ago I taught an adult education class on how to turn a craft hobby into a business. The subject of sales techniques came up. I explained how customers don’t like to feel pressured when they enter a booth. They don’t want to be backed into a corner in order to have the merits of the product explained to them. Very few people will purchase a product under these circumstances, unless it’s just to escape the craftsperson.
My students understood this concept…I thought. Yet after the class was finished, one woman came up to me, almost literally backed me into a corner, and started telling how her husband sells a gizmo that increases the gas mileage on cars, and if I buy one right now she’ll take 25 percent off the price, and she accepts both Visa and MasterCard, and how many gizmos did I want?
Okay, so she didn’t get it. She didn’t get my concept, and she sure as heck didn’t get my sale.
Take a lesson from used car lots
You know all those old stereotypical jokes about the used car salesman following you around the lot, talking continuously and trying to force a sale? What do you do when that happens? You start to walk more quickly. You want to get away. You don’t take the time to look at the cars thoroughly because you hate having the person dogging your steps.
Used car salesmen do sell cars. They must, or they’d be out of business. But there’s a difference between a car lot and a crafts fair. People go to car lots specifically to buy a car, and they’ll put up with the salesman because they want a car. People do not (usually) go to a crafts fair specifically to buy your product. That’s a critical distinction.
Do not—ever—become the craftperson’s equivalent of a used car salesman, or you will find your booth empty of customers. Treat your customers respectfully.
Did you know that most people will decide whether they like you or not within ten seconds of meeting you? That’s why first impressions are so important, and never more than when you’re trying to get someone to part with money. Believe me, if a customer likes your product but doesn’t like you, they won’t buy the product.
To talk or not to talk
Come up with a line that can get across critical sales points in very few words. For example, we make hardwood drinking tankards. For some reason, a common reaction when customers first see one is to assume it’s merely decorative, not functional. So rather than launching into a long-winded explanation, I’ll say something half-joking like, “Those make great coffee cups!” In five words, I’ve explained two critical concepts: 1) the tankards are usable; and 2) they will hold hot as well as cold beverages.
Customers like humor because it’s relaxing. When a customer picks up one of our crooked tankards, we’ll explain it’s our public service tankard because when it appears straight, they’ve had too much. Lame, yes, but everyone gets a chuckle, and the customer can look with greater interest at the mug as a result. And now they feel more comfortable asking questions about the product without feeling pressure.
My husband (who has an uncanny ability to mimic foreign accents) will adopt an Irish brogue or a Scottish burr or a German accent (depending on if we’re at a Renaissance Faire, an Oktoberfest, or whatever) when explaining things to customers. He gets a huge reaction to this. On the other hand, I know my own limits (meaning I stink at accents) so I have to take a different sales approach.
Learn your venue
You must also find the techniques that work with your particular personality. My friend who does a quasi-vaudeville act is a hilarious sit-down comic (he’s in a wheelchair) and can come up with witty one-liners at the drop of a hat…which has the added advantage of putting people at ease around his wheelchair. Other people adopt a droll, straight-faced style of humor (think of Bob Newhart) that can work wonders. Yet others avoid humor altogether because they know they can’t pull it off.
Through experience, you will learn what works for you. Learn from customers’ reactions. If they smile uneasily and look for a hasty reason to leave when you launch into your spiel, then that should tell you something. If customers give you funny looks and don’t laugh when you try to crack a joke, back down from the attempts at humor. And—most of all—if customers seem to like product but don’t buy anything after meeting you, then you could have a lot to learn.
Naturally you’ll be available to answer specific questions about your product, but answer in such a way that does not imply you now expect them to buy something (“That nig-nog is made out of solid walnut…so, can I wrap it up for you?”). Don’t talk too much—customers generally want to be left alone to make up their minds.
It’s a fine balance. Being friendly with your customers improves your chances of selling something, but trying to make them your best friend by nagging them will damage your sales—and your reputation.
And, of course, most people will walk into a booth, and then walk out again. Most won’t buy anything—at least, not yet. It’s up to you to make their brief browsing experience so pleasant and unpressured they’ll feel free to come back later and buy.TCR
Patrice Lewis is cofounder of Don Lewis Designs. She and her husband have been in business for 14 years. The Lewis family lives on 40 acres in north Idaho with their two homeschooled children, assorted livestock, and a shop which overflows into the house with depressing regularity.