Craft Fair Secrets – What to say to potential customers?

Using a set selling technique may seem overly rigid and formal and perhaps against the whole nature and informality of a craft fair, but if you can reach the right balance between a hard sell and hiding behind your stall then you will find that people will be more likely to buy or at the least take a card or sign up for your mailing list. They will also remember you and your shop in a fond and positive way, making them even more likely to tell their friends about you.

The first thing to think about is where you will be and whether you will sit or stand, in front of or behind your stall. The nature of your stall may dictate this to some extent but it is a good idea to consider the body language signals you are sending to people. You need to feel and look (even if you aren’t) relaxed, approachable and confident in your products. This article on ‘how to look approachable’ may help, just don’t get carried away or you could find yourself with a few phone numbers! If you are a naturally confident person you may find you need to tone it down a little so as not to frighten off potential customers from even approaching your stall.

A little rehearsal at home will help you think of a few icebreakers to enable you to begin actively selling your products in a natural conversation.

I always smile and say hello to anyone who so much as looks at my stall. Some people who may have been going to pass on actually come over and look closer because they see a friendly face. I don’t over do the chit chat but if someone is paying particular attention to any one item I might tell them a little more about it, the thoughts behind the idea and the techniques used. You can gauge how interested a person actually is so it’s not always the case that a conversation will ensue. I always stand at fairs. I never lurk behind my stall reading a book or knitting. I feel that I am there to serve and customers should be made to feel welcome. Aileen Clarke – Aileen Clarke Crafts

Practise with a few of your products – place them on the table in front of you and think about what a buyer doesn’t know about it just from looking. Avoid stating what’s already visible and find details that they can’t already see. The materials and method used in making the object, the feel, weight or even the scent. Ideally you want the buyer to take hold of the item, so pick it up and offer it to them whilst you talk about it. Having the object for you to both focus on will help the natural flow of conversation. You will be able to see from how the potential customer interacts with the object whether they are interested or not.

We can be our own worst enemies sometimes and imagine that no one would want to talk to us or that they just want to browse in silence but when I go round galleries and shops the experience is made richer by talking to people, so coming to Craft Fairs should be a nice experience. You can tell those that don’t want to engage in conversation so you let them browse in peace but at least give people the opportunity to chat if they want.

It pays to take an interest in people and to be nice. I don’t try and sell my work to people either. I do point out some aspects of particular pieces but you don’t want to come across as pushy or a know all. Just be friendly. If people like you and your stuff they will buy. You don’t want to be so engaged in conversation with one person that you ignore others but you can be attentive to more than one at a time and often you can get a few customers at once listening to an explanation about your work.
Aileen Clarke – Aileen Clarke Crafts

As Aileen says, part of the experience of buying handmade items is meeting the person that made the item. By engaging with customers you are adding even more value to your products. Try not to think of it as ‘selling’ like a cold caller but as an artist offering an explanation of the thoughts and processes that have moulded your designs. Mary, expands on this point, showing how she puts her whole personality into her interactions with customers, selling herself as much as her products.

I have always found myself getting into many lovely conversations with potential customers, building up a relationship/rapport first, before the “big sell” and they more often than not don’t leave the table without buying something. I was on the BBC last year appearing on the popular show, ‘Bargain Hunt’ and this is always a good starting point when talking to customers. I think buyers can spot a “sell sell sell ” person a mile off, I know I can and to be honest it is very off putting. Even if the items they are selling are outstanding, if the person who is selling them is giving off the big sales pitch I am afraid I walk past. I think getting the balance is key. Not only does my stock have to be appealing, but I think I as a seller, have to be as well, if that makes sense. Mary – Polka Dots and Posies

Not all of us are as confident as Mary but confidence in your products will show through when you are talking to customers. Closing a sale is often perceived as the trickiest part of selling. So when is it appropriate to talk about the money? Do you have a ‘bottom line’ for all the items of your stock so you are able to tempt people with an on the spot discount? We’d love to know your experiences with this aspect of a sale. Please share your hints and tips about selling and particularly ‘closing a sale’  by leaving a comment below.

This article is one of a series of articles from Folksy featuring tips and advice on how to sell at craft fairs – the images used are taken from items for sale at www.folksy.com Click images for more details. Email hilary@folksy.co.uk if you have an idea for a future article.
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17 Comments

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Deb

    Very good stuff, Hilary. Lots of sound advice – I shall try to put some of it into practice at my next fair!

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Victoria

    Great post, I think its important to consider not just your own body language but that of your buyers too!

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Hilary

    yes, I think it’s important to try and guage how the customer feels, so you can put them at their ease, but it’s not always easy to know what people are thinking – if only it were!

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Astrid

    Thanks Hilary – this is all really useful stuff. I’m quite a shy person and find craft fairs quite stressful so I’ll try and put all the ideas mentioned in practise!

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Amanda Robins

    As a buyer at craft fairs I don’t want to have to listen to a crafter’s sales talk, so as a seller at craft fairs I try not to engage too much with people. I leave them in peace to browse after saying ‘Feel free to browse and try anything on, and I’m here if you need any help’. Some are then happy to converse while others stay stony silent. I have found in the past that I have spent 10-15 minutes telling someone about my items and not made a sale, while possibly missing the chance to talk to another potential buyer. I actually find that it makes no difference whether I talk to them or not when it comes to making a sale.

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Hilary

    That’s interesting Amanda, and I agree that some buyers prefer to browse without feeling under pressure to comment on everything or engage in any way with the seller in case the seller tries to sell them something. Although I think that once you are talking to a customer you are able to explain further the features of a product – or possibly even find pieces for them based on what they’re telling you, so I think it’s more about when to back off rather than always holding back. If someone is browsing at your stall you could simply ask if they were looking for a gift for someone in particular – I’ve sold quite a few items this way as I’m able to explain to them about the ‘Kawaii’ aspect of my purses and that they aren’t just for little girls but teens and adults are really into them too – they’d have just walked away otherwise under the assumption they were too babyish. I’m also able to demonstrate by passing them a wristlet with a mobile phone in and show them all the extra features, pockets linings etc.
    Although as you say some people seem to just pick things up and say – I’ll have this one with no selling needed at all (unless they were they the ones listening in when you were talking to another customer?!)

  • I’m with Amanda – as a buyer, I hate those people who pounce the minute you come within feet of their stall. I like to have a good look without anyone saying ‘Are you looking for anything special?’. As a seller, I smile, say hello, maybe comment on the weather, but other than that I leave it to the customer to indicate whether they want to chat.

    I always stand up, and I take work with me which I can do at my stall. It brings people over, initiates conversation and leads to showing off other items on the stall. And it means I’m not wasting my time when it’s not busy.

    I think you need to be a bit of a psychologist and try to read what your customer wants in terms of chat. I’ve no idea if I’m doing it right, I just do as I like to be done to!

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Hilary

    Yes, I agree I think pouncing on people immediately is not good but if someone has been browsing for a little while – going back and forth over the pieces on your table or in the stall you can make the first move (so to speak!) without seeming overly desperate, just an icebreaker of some sort – otherwise they may just walk away with nothing – not even a card.

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Fiona Stolze

    I’ve been reading this thread with interest. I’m just about to add a new blog post reporting on my experience this past weekend. I like to smile and say hello, too, to anyone who comes near my stall. And if it feels appropriate I just spontaneously involve myself in a conversation with them. I allow myself to be led by what they want. Customers do let you see if they are interested or not. As soon as they make a comment, you can step in and chat. One really useful one for me is to ask if they have any idea how silk painting is done and if they’d like me to share the process with them. Mostly they are delighted and off we go….

    At the weekend I had an extra table and was demonstrating silk painting using the microwave. It was fun and there were many instances when I looked over and saw people digging money out of their purse for something they had chosen from my stand without me having said a word to them or been near them. I think engaging potential customers is a skill you further hone with every craft fair or show you do. It’s a bit like driving your car. At some point you realise you’ve become unconsciously competent.

  • Reply June 14, 2010

    Rosey

    The worst I have ever overheard was at a recent craft fair. When asked what a bracelet cost, the seller answered “erm…that one is, erm…five pounds, I think”. Gods sake lady, dont you know what your products cost?
    The potential buyer said “Thats expensive”, to which she replied “Well, they take a really long time to make, it takes me ages”.
    They were lovely items, but with that attitude she wont get very far !

  • Reply June 15, 2010

    Aileen Clarke Crafts

    Thanks for including my tuppence worth Hilary : ) It’s all about finding a balance between being open and friendly without being over exuberant. For those that are shy a simple smile and hello to your customers is a good start. I never buy from stall holders that simply ignore me. It has happened and I have been disappointed as their products have looked nice. Same goes for shops. I was in a beautiful shop on holiday and the lady behind the counter never looked up or even acknowledged us. Next time we visited that town I didn’t even bother going in the shop even though it sold lovely stuff.

  • Reply June 15, 2010

    amyorangejuice

    I have run an experiment last 2 craft fairs and standing up not doing craft and smiling alot makes you much more money than sitting down doing craft!
    Still loving the new style blog, really great! How do I get to write something???

  • Reply June 15, 2010

    Esme Dodsworth

    I have done a couple of craft fairs in my local town at christmas time , with my parents, I stand at all times and look as though i could help at any moment, normally by giving a smile. As a buyer I like to look and not be disturbed but if I have a question I like to know that the seller is available to answer. I felt by standing by my work and smiling I was able to give the approachable look.
    I think some of it is down to product too, nobody really needed to ask much about my jewellery, but my dad does wood turning, he had lots and lots of questions and he is very good at talking to people about his work.

  • […] hints and tips on selling you can read the article here read the comments section too as there is some interesting back and forth amongst commentators as […]

  • totally agree about not sitting down with a book – and I’d advise against having a phone glued to your ear. I stood for ages once with money in my hand while the stallholder kept chatting on her phone – we made eye contact, but in the end I walked away without buying.

  • […] find yourself with a growing amount of stock and designs, and a desire to get out there and start selling face to face! The feeling of making your first sale at a craft show, carefully wrapping the sold item and […]

  • Reply July 26, 2011

    Tina

    This post is really interesting and i’ve read through everyones comments making sure i take note. I recently had a stall at my first craft fair and the whole time i was wondering what i should do. Should i try and chat, stand, sit, leave the customer alone. I wasnt sure, so i tried to noticed what others were doing and everyone selling was doing something different. As a buyer i like to be left alone and given the space to look at everything without the seller asking me if im ok or looking for something in particular but from reading everyones comments, i shouldnt base what i do as a seller on my own experience since everyone is different. some people like a chat and some dont. i think standing up and being there if the buyer needs to ask a question is good and maybe saying hello. I think i agree with Pretty Things Jewellery about making yourself available to chat if they want to.

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