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7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show Welcome from Robin

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January 16, 2012 by Robindl 13 Comments

Another season of Christmas Fairs is over. Did you go? Were you selling? Craft shows
are a great opportunity to connect with customers. It is a thrill to see the determined
stride of a familiar face that recognizes your booth and is incoming for a purchase. It is
easy to do the same thing year after year make the same items and set up in the same
style. But consider other booths and vendors. Did you see things you liked or actions
Grab my e-book. Youll get my
that turned you away? Here are 7 deadly mistakes for selling at fairs. (Circumstances
newsletter, too
have been altered to prevent the identification of the guilty.) Are you making any of
these mistakes? E-Mail Address GO

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1. Having a Closed Attitude

I was there. I saw them across the aisle from me. Husband and wife are sitting in low
chairs behind a table piled high with textiles. Knitted dish cloths, stacks of towels,
napkins, and other kitch create a mountain between the customer and the seller. As the
day wears on the arms are comfortably crossed over their chests. Smiles turn to frowns.
Any customer visiting the booth now encounters the attitude.

The presentation of items in the booth, the low chairs, and the physical posture
communicates to the customer dont bother me. This is a bad fair. Im not selling as
much as I want to. Im in a bad mood. This works very well for sending the customers
on their way. Piles of products are an actual physical barrier while the crossed arms are
an implied barrier. Both of these need to be taken down. Dont make these mistakes in Page 2 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

your booth.

You can do better:

Open up your presentation. Dont sit behind the table, instead stand beside your table
and invite customers into your space. Your posture and the physical condition of your
booth need to be welcoming and inviting to your customers. No matter how your day
has gone the next customer needs to feel as important to you as your first customer.
Uncross your arms, smile, and make eye contact.

2. Operating in the Dark

The venue has brilliant halogen
lighting whose glare reaches all
vendors as you set up your booth. It
seems bright enough so you dont
bring any lights. As you are setting
up you see student lamps, LEDs and
Elliot Teskey of Moments of Reflection uses track
mini fluorescent lights being
lighting to highlight his nature photographs.
attached to other booths. Then
shortly after the event begins the
lights are turned down to create ambiance for the shoppers. Lighted booths look warm
and inviting. Those without lights recede into the wall space.

One of our first Christmas Fairs caught me off guard on this one. Located at the turn of
the outside aisle, I thought we had a good location for attracting customers. While in the
booth I could see people a long way straight ahead and to the right. The place was
packed with shoppers. My wife left during a quiet moment and I reflected on why so
few people were stopping to see our lovely products. When she returned she said
Weve disappeared! At her suggestion I walked away from the booth and returned.
She was right, nothing was standing out about our average looking, dusky corner of the

You can do better:

Turn on the lights! Without lights in our booth to highlight and sparkle our wares, we
became the same consistency as the back ground. Nothing stood out or attracted the
customer to our booth. We now use lighting at all indoor fairs. It is amazing how we
stand out especially when others are still in the dark.

3. Making the Most of My Time

The artist had beautiful vibrant acrylics that attracted people into her booth. No
lighting, but the colors on the paintings jumped off the canvases so it was a minor flaw
in booth design. She sat behind a table, shoulders bent and head down over a book,
The Emotionally Abusive Relationship. And she sat there for two days. She made a
few small sales of post cards and a she sold a couple of paintings. There wasnt a lot of
conversation going on, but she did finish reading her book.

From the customers perspective what do they see? They see a vendor with her head Page 3 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

inclined to a book, moving her head slowly from left to right as she moves methodically
through the pages. There is no recognition or eye contact until the customer connects
with the vendor. The customer has to make the first move. In the selling game the
customer usually quits and there is no game, these are challenging mistakes.

You can do better:

This time is for the customers. No reading allowed. If there is no one in the booth,
rearrange your display and act engaged. Connect with the customer even before they
enter your booth. Make eye contact. Ask a question that cant be answered by yes or
no. Thats a lovely sweater that you are wearing. Where did you get it? Standing,
or sitting on a stool, puts you at the same level as the customer. They are usually not
looking down or up at you. Keeping your arms at your side gives you an open stance to
your posture. And if you absolutely must read then please pick the cover of your
book carefully!

4. Shadowing the Customer

Weve all been there. Enter the clothing store because a sweater in the window caught
the eye. Immediately the sales clerk makes walks purposefully toward you. You avert
your eyes, knowing whats coming, and hoping to be left alone to browse. Can I help
you? the guy asks? No, thanks, just looking is the standard reply. We all know the
script well. So now you know youre being watched. You touch a few suit jackets and
decide theres nothing really special in that store and move on.

Same thing happens at the craft show, but this time you are the sales person. As the
customer enters the booth you watch them, maybe make eye contact. Now you know
you need to say something, but somehow cant bring yourself to start the script that is
always answered with, No thanks. Are you silent until the customer initiates the
conversation. They arent going to.

Did you read #3? If the customer has to talk first theyve probably moved on to the next
vendor. So lets not be silent. Ask the first question.

You can do better:

Now what question do you ask? Do you have any questions? Seems reasonable, you Page 4 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

are the vendor and you know your product. Youve just put the ball back in their court
with a yes/no question. A quick no leaves you as the silent shadow again. Try to
avoid asking questions that are answered with a quick yes or no. By the way Im
still working at this one, its one of the hardest mistakes to avoid.

Ask questions that open a discussion or introduce a special aspect of the product that
they are looking at. If you recognize the person you could mention that you remember
them from before and ask how are they doing this year? Engaging the customer
increases your ability to suggest ways that your products meet their needs or solve a
problem that they have. And when products solve problems they are more likely to be

5. Customer Hide and Seek

The vendor is a fiber artist with tall walls that display her work. She sits behind the
walls on a chair and chats to her customers and other vendors, while peeking out from
the back of the booth. But after the first two hours of the show opening, shes gone. She
walks around visiting with all her old friends and leaves her booth to fate. While shes
visiting with the other vendors she glances back to see if anyone is looking for her. Not
seeing anyone in the booth, she keeps up the banter across the aisle. The other vendors
hear about her grand children, the problem her son had with bullies at school, or the
high price of hydro this year. Since she is on Etsy and Facebook, she has a following
and has good sales, in spite of her games.

You can do better:

Be available. While the customer would rather not be pressured, they feel very
uncomfortable alone in a booth. They need to know you are there and that they can talk
to you if needed. If you are talking to vendors nearby, and you can see the customer,
they may not see you or know that you are connected with the booth. Head back to
your booth. It is a real balancing act to judge the distance that is comfortable for both
vendor and customer.

6. Hiding the Merchandise

The woman sells table runners, place mats, napkins, and tea towels. To save money she
takes the smallest vendor space available, a 10 x 8 space. Within the space are two tables
and a clothing display rack. The table runners are on hangers and stuffed onto the
display rack. There are three piles of place mats stacked about 30 high and numerous
columns of napkins. She maximizes the available space. Tables are piled high with
items for sale (see #1). Racks of table runners are packed so tight that three fall off when
her customer takes one off the rack. There are lots of options and color choices for all
customers to see and appreciate. A full booth or table will mean the customer is going to
find what they want here. However, it may take hours to look through everything. The
customer may become overwhelmed with the glut of choice. Overwhelming the
customer is one of the most common mistakes.

You can do better:

Making your customers work to find the right item is counter productive. You need to Page 5 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

strike a balance between product availability and choices. This year we had a fair where
we were able to expand into more area to fill the space out. I thought that it might be too
sparse because Im always trying to squeeze more items out and on display. My
customers indicated that they appreciated the extra space in order to examine the
products that attracted them and they werent crowded out by other shoppers. This is
definitely a challenge in a 10 by 10 booth space. Sometimes samples on the table with
more in bins underneath works to satisfy both presentation and selection.

Even when you are cramped for space take an item or two off the table and make it look
like some items have already sold. If the display looks perfect the customer doesnt
276want to wreck it. Usually no one will take the last item. No one wants to seem greedy.
So restock as the day goes on.

205 7. Grunge Dressing

Greeting your customers in a t-shirt and jeans might
48 work at an outdoor market especially if you are selling
vegetables, but it wont impress them at a Christmas
Fair. You dont need to wear a tuxedo either. Be
reasonable, pressed, clean, and presentable. Even if
you feel like the grinch, you dont need to look like

You can do better:

Dress to suit your product. My friend, Rene sells
maple syrup from his family farm in Quebec. He
dresses the part of a French Woodsman in a red Sandy Jo, from Potter Bees in
checked Wool flannel shirt and jeans, with a finger Grand Forks, BC, dressed well
woven sash around his waist. His costume suits his for the show
product and adds to the ambience of his booth. While
potter, Sandy-Jo from Potterbees in Grand Forks, BC dresses the part of a business
woman at the show. Your appearance has a significant impact on your sales.

These 7 mistakes can kill your sales but with a little fore thought you can avoid them. It
is hard work to sell your products. You need to be presentable and available to your
customers. You should be knowledgeable about what you are selling and excited to
share your information with them. While it may seem that I am exaggerating, Ive seen
all of them at fairs and made a few of these mistakes myself when I was starting out. I
hope that by reading this you can avoid these mistakes and improve your sales at the
next show.

Over to you
What have you done to improve your sales at craft fairs? What mistakes have you made
that I didnt mention? How did you do better at the next show? Leave a comment. Page 6 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

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Filed Under: Profit Tagged With: craft shows, customer relations, display at craft shows,
lighting for craft shows, merchandizing, selling crafts, Setting up for shows

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About Robindl
I am a wood turner, an artisan, and a shepherd. I'm also an accountant, an
administrator, and a retired financial planner with 20 years experience
teaching professionals about business, financial decision making, and the
nuts and bolts of setting up a business. I earned my MBA from Simon Fraser University, and
my CGA-CPA and CFP from the organizations that award those things. And now I am
doing what I love, living on 140 acres in the wilds of BC, taking care of sheep and goats,
playing with wood and wool, and thinking deeply about what it takes to live respectfully,
sustainably, with joy on this Earth, while honouring God and the gifts that He gives us
daily. Gifts like the wood from fallen trees, the wool on the back of my sheep, or the friends
that enrich my day. I hope you'll stop by and visit for a while, and let me help you turn your
hobby into a profit making venture.


Vicki Green says:

January 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

Youve definitely hit on many of the major deadly sins that Ive seen vendors
at shows commit. Another common one Ive seen is having a negative attitude. People
with a negative attitude arent friendly or smiling to the customers or other vendors. They
are too busy moaning about how they arent getting sales. The other one is leaving early
before the end of the show. (which is often another thing done by sellers with a negative
attitude) Ive learned that many times people coming to a show are on a budget of how
much they want to spend and want to look at everything before they decide what they
want to buy. I cant tell you how many times Ive made numerous sales in the last 10-15
minutes before the end when people return to buy something they saw earlier.

Reply Page 7 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

Robindl says:
January 23, 2016 at 10:31 pm

Thank you for your extensive comment. It can be a challenge going to shows
and a positive attitude is a must.


Jennifer Hasan says:

September 1, 2016 at 8:43 am

What kind of lights do you recommend? I bought some LED lights but they
werent bright enough.


Robindl says:
September 1, 2016 at 11:16 pm

To bad that those lights didnt work for you. You might use them for
ambiance lighting. I used desk lamps that clamped to shelving with 60 watt bulbs. I
would try to find LED lights that are brighter. I hope you do well at your events.


Leigh says:
November 27, 2016 at 5:05 am

Have looked into a couple of fairs that would be ideal for me as a novice.
However they only offer booths with electricity to established traders/businesses.
The artists booths are smaller, in a separate less travelled area and you cant choose
where you end up. Will be looking for some battery operate lighting but any
additional hints on how to stand out would be gratefully appreciated.


Robindl says:
December 12, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Hi Leigh. I would go for some battery powered LEDs. Might need to be

creative on that one to make it work. Then I would make sure I have my product
at different heights. Finally make sure the booth is welcoming. Many fairs that I
went to the vendors sat with the table between them and the customer. Try to
make the customer feel welcome in your booth. Let me know how it goes.


Craig Schmidt says:

December 11, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Great tips! Ive worked many trade shows over the years, and your pointers
are spot-on! Page 8 of 10
7 Mistakes that Kill Sales at the Show - Turning for Profit 2/8/17, 10)03 AM

At several venues in our area, they provide a table and two chairs in each booth. I always
told them to keep the chairs. In my mind, Im there to work, not to sit.
One of the things I tried was to have one of my customers as a co-worker in the booth. Of
course, it has to be the right fit: personality wise, the type of show, the product youre
selling and the market youre trying to reach. But I did find it advantageous to have one
of my fans working with me as a salesperson. Just an idea.


Robindl says:
December 12, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Thank you for your comment. Having a second set of eyes in the booth is a
great help. Especially if it is a raving fan! Definitely a very personal decision but a very
interesting idea.



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December 8, 2015 at 1:02 pm

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Heres seven mistakes to avoid, and six ways to be successful. Check out the
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The nuts and bolts of pricing your work - Turning for Profit says:
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Reply Page 9 of 10
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