Thursday, April 26, 2012

Simple and FREE method for Selling More at Art Shows

As I was loading up my truck to set up for a show I'm doing tomorrow, I was thinking about the last time I did this particular show a few years ago. Several of my booth neighbors complained so much about not selling much. Blah Blah Blah.(I don't tolerate complaining very well. From anyone. Myself included).

Necklace Glass Addictions by Jennifer Cameron
Necklace and lampwork designed by Jennifer Cameron, resin pendant by Jade Scott.

Artisans who do shows spend so much time building inventory, planning their booths, getting their business cards/banners/brochures designed and printed, and everything looks so wonderful and professional. Why wouldn't someone buy from them? 

necklace by linda larsen objects and elements
Necklace designed by Linda Larsen

I'll tell you why. If you do shows or want to start doing shows, this secret I'm about to share with you makes all the difference in the world. And it costs exactly $0 to implement. Pay very close attention. Take notes to help you remember.

Aladdin's Lamp Sari Silk and Lampwork Glass Earrings Kristi Bowman
Aladdin's Lamp earrings designed by Kristi Bowman.

The biggest thing you can do at shows to help sales is to stand up (I stand the entire day unless there is NO ONE around), SMILE at people who walk into your booth, or even the graze the opening of your booth. Then GREET them. Say hello, ask how they are liking the "xyz" show so far (you may get valuable info just from this casual question). If they commit to coming in and looking at my jewelry, I will tell them I make all the glass beads in my pieces using a torch and a rod of glass.

If it's a woman and maybe she's wearing a gorgeous scarf or something, complement it. Complementing accessories, hair, whatever, will tell the potential customer you recognize they are more than just a body hopefully carrying a wad of money to buy your stuff. It will also help you remember them if they come back to your booth later. 

Copper Ring with Wire Wrapped Flame Glass Bead Melinda Orr Orrtec
Copper ring designed by Melinda Orr
If it's a man, they often like to hear technical details about your products. If a man touches one of my chainmaille pieces, I will explain briefly that I open and close all those links by hand and weave them into that pattern.

I have been to too many artist booths where the artist is sitting, practically hiding from view or maybe in view, but practically scowling. If an artist stares at me without smiling or chatting, I'm outta there. I don't care what they are selling. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly ornery, I will look at everything, touch everything, try stuff on, just to see if they respond to very clear interest in their product. The answer, sadly, is no. They just sit there. Not cool. 

Mystic Raven Necklace Karen Totten
Mystic Raven Necklace by Karen Totten

Is there a certain amount of acting involved with the constant standing, smiling, small talk, etc? You betcha! I get tired just like anyone else. However, it doesn't matter if I am exhausted or not. I maintain that same level of pep, friendliness, and customer service until it is time to pack up and leave.

Alexis Necklace Barbara Lewis painting with fire
Alexis Necklace by Barbara Lewis

Next week I will discuss how to handle criticism gracefully while selling at art shows.  


  1. Thanks for all the advice! I can't wait for your next post!

  2. That is good advice! Mom and I are almost always on our feet, which is not fun with both of us having feet issues :) We always explain that everything is handmade and how we do it - explain how the copper enameled pendants or bowls are created or we make our own lampwork beads and if we use someone else polymer clay beads we make sure we let the customer know. We almost always have customers pay more attention to the pieces after our explanations.
    Thanks for the input - is great to see how other vendors do at their shows!

  3. Excellent advice! I've never sold at a show but I can tell you I have left some booths at shows where the seller just sits and stares at the customers.

  4. This is very good info! I haven't sold at any shows (yet... I hope) but I've been to a few and seen just what you describe. I even walked out of a major jewelry store in our mall once because, in spite of obvious and clear interest in their product, they all looked at me like I couldn't POSSIBLY have the money to buy. Needless to say, I spent said money in another store. You have the art of "customer service" down and I hope the others who may not realize they're doing themselves in listen to you. Excellent, excellent advice!

  5. You are so right! It's about drawing them in and showing you are interested in them! great post.

  6. And what about those vendors who are chatting on their phones? I had one glare at me when I walked into her booth. Obviously, her phone call was more important. :)

    1. I could probably write a month's worth of posts about how uncool it is to be talking, texting, surfing the net while doing shows. Or anytime you are trying to present yourself as a professional. Ugh.

  7. Jen, I agree with all that you say. I do the talking, the complimenting, I was at Pitt and talked to students about their year and their major etc. But I watched girls sell what I personally felt was not in keeping with a particular show's theme of handmade yacking to each other or on the phone and ignoring people looking at their work and they sold bunches of stuff. WTH?????

  8. Great advice! I don't have loads of jewelry booth experience, but I do have loads of experience trying to get people to come to booths for informational purposes. I've collected stats to back it up. The people on our team who stood IN FRONT OF the table/booth and greeted people, made eye-contact, spoke, got MANY more people to come over to the booth for whatever was happening there. People who sat behind the table, eyes averted, had virtually no stats.

    From personal experience, I've also been the customer at some booths where I felt like the booth owner was just watching me to see if I was going to steal something. I've watched as they especially treat younger people that way. That makes me uncomfortable and I quickly move on. That behavior likely cuts down on theft AND SALES!

    Nicely written! Can't wait to read the next installment!

  9. Nice!!!!! Thanks for the advice!!!

  10. Jennifer~ Thank you, this advice is great & 100% true. I have only been doing shows for about a year but like you I try to get people engaged. I try to have a few 'funny' lines, trying to earn a smile, talk about anything they touch & if that doesn't work I will talk about the weather. I am actually pretty shy so I have to FORCE myself to do this, but it makes a difference.
    My daughter helped me once at a show and at the end of the day she said "Mom, why do you talk about the weather over and over?..." LOL
    I also try not to eat, drink or check my phone when anyone is near.

  11. Hello Jennifer~ great advice & 100% spot on! I have only been doing shows for about a year and I am actually quite shy, but I force myself to make conversation& SMILE. I have a few 'funny' lines I try to use in attempt to gain a smile from them, I will talk about anything they touch and worse case I will talk about the weather. It really helps to engage people and make them feel welcome. My daughter helped me at a show last year and at the end of the day she said "Mom, why do you talk about the weather so much?" LOL
    I also try not to eat, drink or use the phone if people are anywhere near me.

  12. I totally agree, I had a bead show last weekend and so many of the vendors were sitting down playing games on their phones. I mentioned in a recent post the importance of telling people that I have made all the beads on the table. It has actually stopped people in their tracks. The same thing goes for jewelry designers out there that make an investment in handmade artisan components, point out to your customers the handmade beads, this makes your jewelry truly unique.

  13. This is soooo true. People buy handmade things because they have a connection to a human being and come with a story and a bit of the maker's heart. If the seller is distant and preoccupied, buyers might just as well shop at a dept. store where there is no connection to the maker.

  14. Great advice, especially about the standing. You need to be standing when the customer comes into your shop. If you stand up after they enter you can appear too assertive / aggressive and make the customer feel unease.

    When a customer asks "how's the show going?" always answer with some sort of positive remark. Never talk about how "no one is buying today", it just encourages that same type of behavior. Reply with a purchase prompt in mind such as "Great, I think many people are picking up Mother's Day gifts today." (or graduation gifts, or color for their spring garden, or wedding gifts,or fall decorations, or what ever fits your theme)

    Thanks for the reminders - Elaine

  15. Being a wallflower myself this was very helpful since I want to do my first show at the end of the summer. That being said as a quiet person there is a line between great info about the seller's product and overwhelming the potential customer and forcing them to listen because they can't get a word in to politely leave. I really look forward to the next installment because that is the reason I've not already begun showing my work.

  16. Great words of wisdom! But more importantly, affirmation that no matter where in the world you are doing your shows, the mind set is the same! Artisans are pretty much united in how they carry out their business and how they want others to perceive them and the goods they create! Thanks again for the great advice - Liz

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  18. You have to have the energy around you that you are happy to be there, love what you are doing and enjoying the event!

    I also have artisan friends that will be creating while sitting there at shows, esp when it is a little slow... it helps for people to see what you are making, that you make it and does break the ice for some people... and trust me I have seen lots of sales come about because of this!

    One show I had to sit down, I was so busy with purchases, I bet I sat for two hours straight! It was awesome! I hated that I couldn't talk to everyone that came in my booth, but hey, would take a show like that every time!! and this was the first two hours of a three day show!

    Also real important...... you have to present you wares and design your booth so that it has a good feel, wheelchair and stroller friendly too. You want people to be drawn in, not turned off. Make sure everything can be seen with out it being TOO busy! A good flow helps for good sales too!

  19. Great Advice! Exemplary customer service is the best way to establish a meaningful connection with your customer!

  20. Great advice! Exemplary customer service is the best way to establish a meaningful connection with your customer! Cheers, Karen

  21. Agreed! I have been exhibiting at shows and festivals for years and while it seems self evident so many people do ignore the customers and expect money to be thrown at them... But let's take it one step further.. I am an artist, professionally trained and all that. I AM my brand. I am the first impression that people have of my business. You take time with your display items- and what you wear is equally important. Yes you have to be practical - weather appropriate, reliable shoes, ease of movement for packing, unpacking.. And I know I am preaching to the choir here- of course we wear our own designs... I have a colleague I see once a year at a show. She always wears old baggy pleated shorts, oversized tee shirts, her hair looks like it wasn't brushed. ( she's a potter) she looks a slob. And she chain smokes in her tent in a sculpture garden that doesn't really allow smoking. A veritable train wreck.

  22. I completely agree...that's how I sell my creations...local festivals and shows....I am rarely sitting...engaging with so important...I also explain how the beads etc. I use are handmade and how they are put together using the best quality components etc....I see so many other people just sitting there feeding there faces...can't even say hello.....thanks for sharing you tips with everyone...

  23. Excellent advice! On show days, I'm "on"! I like to converse with people who are stopping by my booth about my work but it also helps pass the day. And, when possible I'll actually be working or demonstrating. It always draws a good crowd.

  24. Great post and right on the money. A show is akin to a performance. I agree completely an artisan must interact with people! Thanks for a great post.


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