We like to help our traders…so here’s a piece to help you improve your experience, especially if you’re new to markets. And if you’re a customer, please comment at the end of the article about what makes you want to stop and buy from a stall. By Catherine Stokes, Market Organiser.
You’ve booked in at The Bath Artisan Market – hooray! Now for the hard work. You spend all your time working away at your art, perfecting your product and ensuring you have enough to sell. The night before you remember everything – your chair, table, float, some snacks to keep you going.
But there’s another vital tool that can sometimes be overlooked – how you’re going to sell, which is a daunting prospect when you’re selling your own work/produce especially if you haven’t had much experience of selling to the public face-to-face. I’ve run many markets and have spoken to lots of traders who all have different experiences, such as Claire MacDonald from Oh My Lovely, who I’ve spoken to for this article and who has been trading at the market every month since it started. And in doing so I’ve noticed some common factors that help some to do very well, plus I have experience selling direct to the public myself when I used to sell vintage china at festivals and events. I hope you’ll find the following insights useful when and to improve your own sales and confidence.
1. Stand up!
Yes I know it sounds radical – having to be on your feet for six hours. But there’s nothing more off-putting for a customer than approaching a stall where the trader is sitting down. That’s because it gives the impression that the seller is bored or disinterested in talking. It’s better to stand up so you can give the browser some space, plus it will make you look energetic and approachable if they want to ask a question. You need to give off the air that you’re happy if someone does buy, but if they don’t that’s ok too so that they don’t feel under pressure.
Claire MacDonald thinks sitting down is fine “if you are working on a project (eg knitting or drawing) because it will bring out the curious and inquisitive nature we all have – reading the paper though is a no-no, even if it’s tempting after a busy week.” So if you must park your posterior make sure you are involved in work of some kind that will engage the customer and prompt them to ask you what you are doing or stop and watch – thereby creating an opportunity to talk more about your work – and sell. Remember too, that at the Bath Artisan Market we don’t provide chairs anyway.
2. Learn how to break the ice
Just because you’re a creative type doesn’t mean you are a sales type too, but the harsh reality is that when you’re running your own business you need to be, especially in the early days. One of key tips for success is very simple and everyone can do it, even if you’re shy. Smile. And if you’re braver, say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning/afternoon’. Graduate onto ‘How are you?’ and maintain eye contact (although not too long to become starry). “Ask them how they heard about the market,” suggests Claire, “or talk to them about Bath.”
Everyone likes to meet new people, so if you’re not naturally comfortable with strangers pre-prepare some topics. What about the weather – cheesy but something everyone can talk about eg: ‘Sunny today isn’t it?’ or ‘at least we’re not in the rain’ or ‘wish I’d put my thermals on!’ Or you can talk about the next big holiday – Valentines’, Easter, Christmas or something neutral in the news like a sporting event or national celebration. Smile and say something when you catch your customer’s eye then leave them to browse – at least you will have made them feel at ease and you’re there if they need you.
Visitors to The Bath Artisan Market appreciate getting to know friendly traders and if you make a good impression they’ll remember you and tell their friends. Similarly if they think you rude or unresponsive they’ll pass you by next time.
3. Big yourself up
This is tricky for most of us Brits who’ve been brought up to be modest. But believe me – you are instantly interesting to customers because you are an artisan who is both running your their own business and producing their own work, Honest! Practise by telling friends and family how you work and identify some nuggets of information you can tell potential buyers. For example, do you use surprising materials for your work, where you get your inspiration from? When did you start making food/sewing/ceramics – did you start off at home or do you still work at home? Do you have another job? Did you give up a job to do this? What are your plans for five years time? The Bath Artisan Market encourages customers to ‘Meet the Makers’ and most visitors are very encouraging of people who are talented and making their own way in life. They want you to share your story with them.
Claire MacDonald also emphasises how important it is that your stall is well-presented: “It can be hard to think of yourself as a brand, but that’s what you are which is why the presentation of your stall, products and stallholder is really important – you are selling a lifestyle not just a product. When setting up your stall, think about what draws you to a shop window. Maximum sales are achieved in shops at eye level so bear that in mind.”
4. Be bold about prices
Have a good idea of what you will charge before the day starts and work out what you are prepared to negotiate down to (if in fact you are – remember you do want to make a profit so include your materials in your cost price as a bare minimum).
To price or not to price? That’s the question every trader debates, as you worry that if prices are labelled too high people will walk on by, when you would have been prepared to give a discount if they asked – or at least explain the reason behind your charge (skills, time, materials etc). And if you don’t list your prices it gives customers a reason to talk to you – ie to ask how much so you can then start talking to them.
“But,” continues Claire, “it can be awkward not having a price/price list on show.” A happy medium is to have a range of prices on show covering all budgets – an entry-level price up to your Rolls Royce price and then work at engaging with customers. When they buy a smaller priced item be friendly and start chatting – thank them and then point out some of your other products too. Or as them if they found everything they were looking for. Know your stock well and really try to help the customer by coming up with solutions for what they need.
If you are unsure what to charge, adding a minimum of 50-75% profit is the norm although in some cases as much as 100% can be put on smaller items, but play around and work out what you think is fair. For example, if your cost price is £5.55, 100% mark up will be £5.55 so the sales price would be £11.10 – which sounds odd, so why not make it £10.99.
6. Dress Up
It can be difficult on early mornings (especially in winter) to make yourself look good when you wake up at 5am and all you want to do is wrap up in a puffa jacket and drown in cappuccino. But come 11am, the customers are in front of you wanting to buy and if you’re feeling drab you’ll come across as dowdy too. So learn to put on a front, to make sure your hair is tidy, clothes are neat and clean as are your nails and brush your teeth! It will help you feel better if you know you look great and give you more confidence to sell. Some traders even have specific trading clothes that they only wear for markets – it’s their uniform if you like that gets them in the right mindset to meet the public.
Adds Claire MacDonald, “think of the market as theatre, to the traders it’s a normal way of life but if you look at the market from the visitor’s point of view, it’s an event, a point of interest in the month. Just like the circus, we roll into town once a month with all the different stalls, colours and entertainment, so be prepared to play a role for the day.”
7. Stay positive and relax
Of course you want to make money at the market. But some days are better than others. In fact some hours are better than others, so it’s important to come with a positive attitude. It can be hard standing beside your work when everyone seems to walk past, or visit the stall opposite you. But the most important thing to do in this situation is the hardest – relax and stay positive! There are many other benefits to being part of The Bath Artisan Market, such as networking with other traders, picking up commissions and promoting yourself – so remember to have cards and/or flyers with you because more often than not, traders receive internet orders and enquiries for work after the event. “Don’t despair about lack of sales,” reassures Claire, “think of each event as advertising yourself – it’s a lot cheaper than placing an ad and it gives you the unique opportunity to present your product and promote it and be in total control of how it’s presented. Sales will come, it just takes time and confidence, fine-tuning of your product, prices and presentation, but you will find your style and niche. And if all else fails talk to other traders to learn from their experiences and laugh to release tension – it can be spotted in the body and face a mile off and is off-putting whereas customers find a smiling face far more attractive.”
You also want to project a positive, upbeat energy. I’m not talking about being so hyper that you scare people off but I’ve noticed that those who do well are generally happy and smiley and are just automatically more pleasant to be around. This aura is something you can’t see but something that seems to work.
I hope that these tips have inspired you. Of course they might seem super-obvious, especially if you are experienced. Do leave your comments below, trader or customer as I’d love to hear what you think and if you have any more to add. Happy trading!
For more information about Claire MacDonald go to her website Oh My Lovely, follow her on Twitter or see her on the second Sunday of every month at the Bath Artisan Market on the walkway, just by the square.