So you might ask "Why is it important to speak to people, won't they just buy because they like the stock rather then me and my personality?"
Well... No, not necessarily! Money's tight and people who buy hand made not only like to buy these goods because of their artisan origins but because they also like to know their provenance and who's behind the creative process. And that's where you come in!
From my many years of experience both selling at and organising market events I found that though some people were comfortable with selling their wears many more would rather just be in their studio behind their sewing machines or potters wheels and leave the selling to someone else!
But why is it important to address the "business side" of a small designer maker company? Well simply because if you want to make the rent you're going to have to learn to wear more then just the designer hat and face your deepest darkest fears! OK, maybe deepest, darkest fears is a slight exaggeration... but I've seen many a talented maker crumble as soon as a potential buyer asked them a question about their stock! But face to face selling doesn't have to be a scary monster (cue David Bowie! I know you're singing it... don't deny it!)
So who better then you to be the friendly face of your hand made brand? The answer is simple:
You are the person who made it and know everything about each product, each stitch, each hour spent making -while in fact you should have been sleeping!- and only you can convey all the magic and wonder that lead you to creating what you have!
So the fact is that you are the best person to sell what you make and no, it's not scary... because it's part of your job!
Here are a few tips and pointers that I found helpful:
- Always acknowledge people when they come to your stall. A friendly "hello" works better then a head nod!
- Provide outstanding costumer service, like being ready to answer or advise on any product or anything which can help your customer to buy from you!
- Be prepared to share your company philosophy.
- Know what makes your products different and special from everything else on the market. Share it with your shoppers without sounding cocky!
- Be truthful. Don't make claims you can't back and always provide the best product you can make.
- Use examples of happy customers who've returned after purchasing your products, any positive feedback or any other great truthful examples you can use relevant to you and your product!
- Be confident and show you know your products inside and out!
- Always thank people even if they didn't buy anything but take this opportunity to give them your business card for future purchases.
- Have a website! The nature of fairs has changed quite a lot and no longer are sales just made on the day so have an on line presence where clients can contact you or even order directly from you.
- Look into accepting other forms of payment and not just cash. Though cheques are rare some people still use them. Also a PayPal hand set or WiFi card readers can prove to be a great investment and help you make even more sales!
- Have a great looking stall. Take time to consider your display and make it enticing and gorgeous!
The reality is that you are not just competing with the "big boys" on the High Street you're also competing with lots of other great makers who not only create amazing goods but are also blessed with the gift of the gab.
I can tell you that I do know a few people who make great things and sell enough to make a living from it because more then anything else they have charm, charisma and know how to engage with their clientele without being pushy which then leads to sales.
It's not that their products are better but rather then cower behind their stalls in fear of rejection they take a positive step to engage with the consumer.
What makes these makers successful is that they genuinely believe in their products and they know how to sell it plus they are outgoing when it comes to connecting with people!
But I'm not talking about hard sell tactics or any of that "The Apprentice" style bolshy, overly spun egocentric salespeople jargon. In fact the only commonality with that is the absolute confidence you should deploy in your sales pitch!
You can't just have amazing products you also need to know how to schmooze, make people feel valued -yes, you need them. That's the truth of the matter! In order to make a living from your craft you need people to buy from you!- and to a certain degree make them want what you're selling even if they're not quite sure they want or need it yet! Though I don't mean in any way that you should "pull the wool over anyone's eyes" as it's about being genuinely engaged and proud of your work and making it something other will love too!
OK, I agree, It's not easy... but it needn't be forced or fake either. A bit of confidence and practise goes a long way in setting you on your successful journey!
As mentioned above:
Know your stuff... that's your stock, your ethos/ethics, materials and your philosophy inside out
but also know when to step back or when to go in to seal the deal!
Don't be too overly familiar but always show an interest in your customers needs.
Do ask questions but keep them relative to the products... you don't want to ask if that beautiful body moisturiser you've made is going to be used in any saucy shenanigans but you can ask them something personal like their skin type for example or if they are looking for a moisturiser for everyday use! Keep it friendly, simple but know the boundaries.
It's not enough to just have a nice looking stall or great quality products either, it's about engaging your buyers and making them feel like they are being looked after. Unlike the High street you can afford to go the extra mile and give outstanding one to one customer service.
I found that this is pretty much one of the great things that attracts people into buying hand made!
Though you will find that you will spend most of the day repeating yourself that you'll also find that it's not a bad thing! Your homing in on your interpersonal skills. With time it'll come naturally and you'll sound relaxed and sure of your company and your product. If you find it helpful write down a few cheat cards with major points that you want to convey... this way if you feel overwhelmed you'll have your notes there to help you.
I guess in a way that's part of the secret of being a good seller, knowing and believing in your product but also believing in yourself and putting your name behind your work in such a way that it becomes something people will want to be part of.
You can call it buying into a "lifestyle" if you will... I know, I know, it's a term most people are fed up with -a bit like Shabby Chic!- and I don't like it that much either but in this case it illustrates the point!
So practise, practise, practise and practise some more. Though you can use your friends and family as guinea pigs the best way to learn is to get out there and interact with complete strangers! Be friendly, approachable and confident...
and even if you get your tongue into a tangle and think you sound like a fool the chances are that you don't sound like one at all, but most of all don't forget that if people are there it's a sign that they are fans of the entire hand made movement... So remain calm, smile, treat your customers well, be genuine, be confident and work it!