Part IV of a VI Part Series
You have found the show, figured out your stand, packed up your car and got dressed, now you're at the show . . .
AT THE SHOW
1. In the morning, make sure you get up in time to do your normal routine and have a few minutes to double check that you have everything. I keep my file folder (see part III) with all the show information in an easily accessible place because the information in it will be necessary first and you may need the phone number, directions, and etc. that are in the folder.
2. Make sure you know where you are going, where you should unload your car when you get there and the procedure for moving your car and who is in charge. When you get to the show, follow the directions. You will have to find someone in charge to give you your stand location unless they have already given you that information. Introduce yourself and check in.
3. Unload your car quickly before starting to set up. I know, that is probably a no-brainer, but people don’t always think about it. Once you have unloaded your car, move it to the designated parking area. Make sure you keep an eye on your cash box the entire time – I like to keep it in the car and keep the car locked in between trips. I bring the box with me after I park the car. Better yet, get a dolly or wagon to bring everything in at one time. Even better yet, bring a helper!
4. Often times I have a helper or 2 with me. Usually I send my boyfriend to move the car because I really like to be in control of setting up the stand and I like to get it started. If you took photos of your stand set up, get them out and start setting up. Make sure to stay only in your allotted area even when you are setting up because your neighbor will eventually show up and need to be in his or her space. If you stuff is there you will have to take time to move everything again. I don’t like doing things twice that I don’t need to.
5. My first show took me about 3 hours to set up. Seriously. I set up (and my stand is more complicated and much nicer!) in about 30-45 minutes now, depending on my sleepiness and how much I have changed my stand and if I have helpers. You get used to doing it after a while if you are going to do a lot of shows. For your first show you should make sure to allow yourself plenty of extra time to set up in time for when the shoppers arrive. You probably should arrive as early as you are allowed for your first show.
6. I know that many of you are probably control freaks like me. I have really learned to not be such a control freak by doing shows with my boyfriend. He helps me set up now and does as much of the work as I do. But, the first few shows I did with him I had to tell him that I needed to set up by myself. It was always the most nerve-wracking part for me. If you are going to have a helper for the day and you fear you may freak out if they try to help and you would really like to set up by yourself, there are things that you can do to alleviate this stress. First, you can talk to the person before the event and let them know how you feel. My mom helped me at one of my first shows and I just told her that setting up is stressful for me and I need to do it myself and please don’t try to help me, even though I really appreciate it. She crocheted while I set up. And it was fine.
You can also send your helper to move the car and then to get coffee or do other little tasks, but I think it is important to be honest about your control issue before the show. Or maybe I am just a super control freak!
7. Set up your stand using your photo directory, or from memory and also make sure you put out your promotional materials. Then set up your checkout area so you are ready for the customers!
DURING THE SHOW
WHAT DO I SAY?
What am I supposed to say or do when the customers show up? (a/k/a should I ignore them or stare them down?)
Now you have everything set up just the way you like, let out a deep breath before the customers show up. Perhaps even take a moment away from the stand if you have time.
When the customers show up, how are you supposed to act? I have read a lot of feedback from folks on the Etsy forums and I definitely have a ton of experience with this as well. I try not to sit during the show, or at least while there are customers milling around. If the show is slow, I will sit and work on a project, but I definitely greet each person who walks into my stand. You will come across every kind of person imaginable. We will discuss a few scenarios here.
Even if you aren’t great at reading people and how to react to them, you will quickly glean this skill doing shows. I want to add that even though I am going to give you some helpful pointers, I always think you should be yourself and if you do not feel comfortable acting or reacting in a certain way, you should not. Just remember to say positive, smile, and be genuine and that will get you through the day.
#1 Person who doesn’t want to be bothered or who is really shy.
One type of customer is really introverted and doesn’t want to talk at all. You will figure this out quickly because you may greet them with a “hello” or “how are you?” and they might just completely ignore you or barely answer. I have also found some people are extremely focused on what they are doing and don’t even notice you if they are looking at your stand. This is good! You want them to be into your products!
My suggestion is to say “hello” or greet them in a light-hearted friendly way and gage their answer as to how you are going to respond. If they are quiet, let them look. You could even let them know that you are there if they have any questions.
I also suggest not staring at them like they are going to steal your entire stand. You can casually watch them without staring them down. Working on a project while working your stand can really help with this, too, if you aren’t comfortable just sitting there. Make sure you greet the person and they know that you are available for questions, and then return to your project so you aren’t staring at them, but be very aware of when they need your assistance.
#2 The person who hasn’t talked to someone in a really long time and won’t let you alone.
I usually get at least one person who seems lonely and needs to talk to someone and who eventually gets in my way of working at most shows. I don’t mind talking to people and I am very friendly and I think this is why I find myself in these situations. As long as it isn’t distracting me from other customers or things I need to be taking care of in my stand, I really don’t mind. I will talk to the person. However, when other customers have questions, I simply say, “excuse me a moment” and do whatever it is – answer a question, help a customer try a bracelet on, etc. Sometimes the chatty person will realize you are busy and walk away. Sometimes they won’t.
If you are frustrated with the person, there are nice ways to let them know it is time to move on. If I have no other customers, I will just go on with what I would be doing – straightening my stand, working on a project, etc. I have also just nicely told them I hope that they have a nice day and hope that this indicates they should move on.
You get the idea. I am never rude to anyone. Ever. That also means I cannot ignore other customers in my stand, either.
#3 The person who could do what you do better; sister does this; blatantly tells you they are going to steal your ideas.
These people are frustrating to anyone. I plaster on the smile and just try my best to be nice. “Oh how nice, you make jewelry, too? Are you wearing any?” Then either I will have conversation with a fellow artisan. Or perhaps you ask if their aunt/sister/whoever does shows or sells online, etc. Sometimes people will be talking amongst themselves and not to you. I typically pretend not to hear these conversations. I don’t think that they are a big deal.
What really does upset me is when people blatantly are trying to copy your designs. I have actually had people say specifically that they are going to steal my idea or “thanks for a great idea.” I have a really hard time dealing with this, but now my approach is to nicely suggest that they should find their own inspiration and make their own designs. I have a much more difficult time when people want to copy my stand. I guess I should have the same reaction with that. Plus, if everyone made the same designs and had stands that looked alike, none of us will stand out. It’s not helpful to them.
I also think it is best not to dwell on these interactions. They happen, you react in the best most positive way you can and then try to move on. If you make jewelry this will happen very frequently. I am sure it happens with other products as well.
#4 “Wow your prices are high”
I usually don’t get this comment because (1) my prices are reasonable and (2) I do shows where customers appreciate the value of handmade items. Occasionally, however, I do get this comment on some of my pricier items. In that case, I show them why it costs what it does. I give them the run-down of what it takes to make one of my charm bracelets and how long it takes or how hard to find certain components are to find, etc. Usually they think it’s a deal, then. I also show them less expensive items for sale, too.
I will also tell them I take credit cards. That helps, too.
#5 “Who would wear this?”
This is a quote from this past weekend’s show. I actually laughed when the remark was made because I was wearing a similar piece at that very moment. She was obviously not the person who would wear it and I really didn’t want to try to talk her into it. (And it wouldn’t have worked anyway!) I just simply said different people have different tastes and I have a variety of pieces for sale. She ended buying 3 pairs of earrings, and I was astonished.
My point is this: don’t take what people say personally. I doubt that she even meant her comment in a negative way, even though it certainly came out that way. I can’t analyze her brain or how it formulated this question. However, I can choose how I react and how it affects me. I chose humor and to remain positive and it worked in this situation. Maybe it won’t work next time. I still will remain positive.
#6 Other people.
Most people will be in between the chatty or the shy person and most people will not try to steal ideas or be super negative. Just come up with a system that generally works for you. Be sincere and be yourself. Typically I tell everyone who comes into my stand “hello” “good afternoon” or something similar. If I love someone’s shirt, I tell him or her. If they have a cute baby, I dote over her for a while. I pet their dog. I do all of this because it is my personality anyway. If you are super-shy, you will quickly get over it doing shows. Just start by trying to say hi to everyone who approaches your stand and go from there. I know that this is something that comes with time because I was very shy at shows to begin with.
I usually talk to other vendors around me, but only if I have time. I also stay away from negative people. I like to keep my business – and myself – as positive as possible. I steer clear from people who are complaining about the show, the weather, etc. because I don’t want any negativity associated with my business. Yes, shows will be slow and sometimes it rains, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. If the show is slow, it is the perfect time to work on the project you brought along or design your next product. Rain hasn’t really affected my stand too much at this point. In fact, it usually helps me a little because others pack up and I stay so the customers buy from me. Get your items out of the rain and carry on. If you have sides for your tent, put them up.
Usually my neighbors at shows are wonderful and I learn a lot from them. Sometimes I help them if they are new. Sometimes I get a tip on an upcoming show or even just a cool place I would like to attend. If the talk starts to turn negative, I refuse to turn negative with it. Usually either the person will stop being negative or walk away. Really, it’s not hard to be positive once you have made the decision to be. Plus, making jewelry is my passion and I want it to be a very positive and happy situation.
I have a table behind my stand that I use for checking people out. It is easier when everything is right at your fingertips. I have my cashbox, receipt book, calculator, knuckle buster, bags and tissue paper out on the table. When someone is ready to checkout I record the item and price of each item on the receipt book, figure out the sales tax and give them their total. I then package up their items. I always ask if they want a bag because many times people do not want to waste bags and have a canvas bag with them. Many of my items will fit easily into a purse. Sometimes they would prefer to wear their jewelry purchase. It is more rare that the purchaser wants a bag at my stand. (Not only is it good for the environment to save bags, it also saves you money.)
I usually will give the customer a business card and the carbon copy of the receipt. It is important for you keep track of your sales and sales tax charged because you will need to know this information when you file your sales tax returns each quarter (or however often you need to file, it is different depending where you are from and each business is different.)
I got personalized receipts from http://purplehug.etsy.com and I love them.
I take checks at shows and I also take credit cards. I always get the phone number for the customer for either of these payments because I don’t process them on the spot and I need a way to get a hold of the customer if it doesn’t go through. I haven’t had an issue with either so far.
Sincerely thank each customer when they purchase something from you. They are the reason you are in business and you couldn’t continue without them.
Next Tip will be After The Show, Part V