There was no way for me to have a retail store for my furniture. Didn't see how I could build and sell that much furniture each month to afford to pay to have a store and hire employee's to run it while I was building. Besides, when you are designing and building custom furniture and high end cabinetry, I would rather be talking to the customer myself and not relying on someone else to know what I could design and build and sell.
Even though I started off as a very shy and bashful type guy, I realized that was one of my weaknesses when it came to business so I worked very hard for years to overcome that and make selling one of my strengths.
I would like to talk about actually selling at a show, whether it be something like a large Home & Garden show or a small outdoor craft show, you need to approach each with the same professional effort if you expect to get the results you are looking for.
Now you're ready to do your first show; like I said before, make sure you pick a show that best fits your products and the customers that will attend. Make sure you have a professional way of displaying your work. If you are doing an outdoor show, make sure you prepare for all types of weather. Make sure you have a good way of securing things in your display and protecting everything from the elements,. Will you need electricity? Don't wait to the last minute to go and set up at a show. That's the best way to forget something or end up with a display that looks incomplete or unprofessional.
I would recommend that you actually set your display up at home before you ever go to the show itself. Get used to setting it up and taking it down at home first, it's easier to work out all the details of setting up at home instead of waiting the last minute at the show. Make sure you have a professional way to display your products, that you have all the sales materials you need; business cards, brochures, sales tax chart, payment methods, cash drawer and change and enough inventory to have a very successful show. It's always better to have too much inventory then run out before the show is over.
So here are a few tips to keep in mind when working a show. These simple tips can make or break a show for you and you may not even realize it.
Tip#1: It's called the 7 second rule! I mentioned it earlier. That's approximately the length of time it takes someone to walk past your booth or display. That's all the time you have to catch their eye, create interest or curiosity and give someone a reason to stop at your booth. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again; you only get one chance for a first impression and in this case about 7 seconds at the most.
How do you catch their eye, create interest or curiosity and give them a reason to stop at your booth? Whenever I do a show, I always go as early as possible to set up so I have plenty of time to critique my booth after I have it set up and before a show starts. Once my booth is set up I will always walk the isles in every direction approaching my booth to see how it looks from a customer's perspective. If it looks cluttered or something is hidden from one direction, I will try to change my display to maximize my exposure for those 7 seconds it takes to walk past my booth. Critique yourself and your booth. Make sure the prospective customer sees what you want them to see when they walk up to your booth.
Tip #2 Make sure you have a professional looking sign made for your booth or display. Most shows that have booths will supply a generic cardboard sign for each exhibitor. You should never use that sign, it automatically puts you in the same class as the other exhibitors and that's the last thing you want to do. You want to stand out, not blend.
This is the sign hanging in my shop, but it's also the sign I use at every show and I built it for that purpose. I built this sign from scrapes I had lying around the shop, so as you can see, you can make a very professional looking sign without spending a fortune. Once I had the sign built and finished, I took it to a professional sign company to have the lettering done (vinyl letters). It didn't cost that much and I would much rather have a sign like this representing my company then a generic cardboard sign that looks like everyone else. Heck, I even wired the sign for lights with a dimmer switch to create the exact look I want for it to stand out.
My sign is very professional looking; it really stands out and catches your eye. Every show I will have a number of people stop just to ask where I'm from or where my business is located: Bingo; curiosity and I just happen to have a business card or brochure to hand them with all the information on it, but more importantly, I'm now in a conversation with them. Starting a conversation with someone at a show is sometimes the hardest thing to do, especially if you're not real comfortable with sales.
Tip#3: Whatever you're selling, make sure you have professional looking displays. I know, you're getting tired of hearing professional this and professional that, but hey, if you want to have a successful show and a successful woodworking business, then you need to look and act like one. Do not take your wobbly old card table and throw a kitchen table cloth on it and call that a display. Cinder blocks and 2 x 10's are just as bad. Look, you're a woodworker, you should be able to build something special to showcase your products. That's all part of marketing! Make that first impression count!
Tip#4: Never leave your booth or display unattended. If no one is working your booth, that means you're closed, so why bother doing a show.
Tip#5: Never ever stand in your booth with your arms folded across your chest: Nothing says "I'm bored, don't bother me" faster then standing there with your arms folded. Sitting there and reading a book waiting for someone to stop by has the same affect. Remember Tip#1?
Tip#6: Cell phones; leave them turned off and out of sight. Don't flatter yourself thinking you're looking important or you're closing deals on the phone while standing in your booth. If that is the case, then you might as well go out in the parking lot and conduct business, because you're ignoring the ones that are in front of you. ( that 7 second rule)! Texting is even worse!
Tip#7: No eating in your booth or display. It's a proven fact that most people will continue walking by if they see you eating because they don't want to bother you. Nothing will destroy your first impression in less then 7 seconds then a mouth full of food, or some mayonnaise smeared on the corner of your mouth, except maybe standing there with your arms folded across your chest or reading a book, or talking on your cell phone. If you ever have any doubts about whether you should or shouldn't do something at a show, always refer back to Tip#1..................one chance to make a first impression and less then 7 seconds to get it done!
Tip #8: Never start taking your booth down before the show is over. Again; nothing will destroy your image faster then acting like you can't wait to get away from there. I've closed some great deals the last five minutes of the show or even after closing. If you're in that big of a hurry to get away, then maybe you shouldn't do a show in the first place.
The last bit of advice I would like to leave you with about shows and this also goes along with selling in general. Take the time to critique yourself after the show or after a sale (especially if you didn't get the sale).
If you had a very successful show; ask yourself why? Not every show is going to be successful, and not every bad show is your fault, but don't be afraid to ask yourself if there was something you could have done better or different that might of made a difference. You may not be able to control the weather or the time of the year the show is held, but if it's something you did or didn't do, then you can change that if you're willing to be honest with yourself.
And you shouldn't rate a show strictly by how many items you sold. Not only are you selling at a show, but you should be laying a solid foundation for future sales. How many people did you talk to? How did they respond to you and your product? Did you pass out all your business cards and brochures?
My wife could always tell how successful a show was for me by how horse my voice was when I got home from a show. The more people you talk to, the more business cards and brochures you hand out, the better chance for a sale or future sale. I've had many people call 2 years later and talk to me about a project, simply from talking to me at a show and handing them one of my business cards.
Go to a show to have fun, enjoy the crowd and get involved with the people. Selling has a lot to do with Attitude and attitude's are contagious.............Is yours one that you would want others to have?