As many market vendors will attest, the old adage “if you build it, they will come,” does not always mean “… and they will buy something once they get here.” Even though the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market attracts thousands of visitors weekly, it is up to each of us to figure out how to convert those visitors into paying customers. There ARE ways you can boost sales, if you diligently and consistently apply the following:
#1. IMPROVE YOUR BOOTH’S “CURB APPEAL.”
Just like selling a house, a prospective customer forms an initial, and sometimes indelible, impression of you and your product(s) by the appearance of your booth.
– The first and perhaps most important thing you can do is have a well-lit booth. Like moths drawn to an outdoor porchlight, the human eye is also programmed to look where there is light. Boost your lighting (especially during the dark winter months) and you will attract the attention of far more customers than if your booth is dimly-lit or completely unlit.
– The second thing you can do to boost your curb appeal is to always keep your booth well-stocked and meticulously organised. If you are selling something in a container (i.e., preserves, cosmetics, oils, etc), ensure ALL labels (including those going all the way to the back of your display) are facing forward, and that the first row of product is smack-dab at the front of the shelf (known as the “leading edge” in retail terms). Furthermore, always check the status of your display. For reasons which defy explanation, the vast majority of customers who pick up a product never put it back in its proper place. So your job is to be ever-vigilant about keeping your display neat and tidy.
#2. BUILD RAPPORT.
Nothing is more important than making your customers feel welcome and appreciated. Here’s how:
– When a customer approaches your booth, be standing, smile, and extend a simple greeting such as “good morning.” If the customer’s body language seems open to further introductions, follow up with “If I can answer any questions, please let me know.” Whatever you do, don’t hover or stare. As your customer peruses your products, your job is to simply be there to help if called on. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. Having said that, do develop people skills such that if a customer “wants” to have a conversation, by all means, go with the flow. But the most important thing is that initial encounter: standing, smile, and extend a friendly greeting… then let the customer dictate the level of contact. Some people like to be waited on hand-and-foot (they’ll let you know), whereas others prefer to browse privately. Learn how to read body language to know how much contact your customer seems comfortable with.
– After the customer has had a few seconds to look over your produce or merchandise, pipe in with a short explanation: “By the way, these vegetables all come from our family garden.” Or “I forgot to mention: our family makes these products from the yarn we spin from our sheep.” This engages the customer in the unique, quality nature of your products – available only in a farmers’ market setting.
– Wear a nametag, it is a very easy way to subtly start an informal, short-term relationship. Your customer can say: “Jane, please tell me about this product” or “Thanks for your help, Jane, I’ll be back.”
– Get to know the names of your regular customers (I keep an index card discreetly tucked under the cash register with little memory joggers like “George – tall fellow with sideburns”). Get to know a little about them (without being intrusive). This way, you can say: “Good morning, Mrs. Jones, how are you today?” or “Hi, Mrs. Jones, how was your vacation in Scotland?” This is a sure-fire way to develop loyal, repeat customers. This is also a unique aspect of farmers’ markets – customers get to know the producers/artisans, and producers/artisans get to know their customers. We truly become an extended family.
#3. UP-SELL (aka Add-Ons).
An up-sell is a psychological strategy of getting the customer to purchase additional items beyond what he/she normally would. For example, you are a jeweller, and a customer is in the process of purchasing a pair of earrings, you might say: “Oh my, this necklace would look SO good with those earrings!” Boom. You’ve now just doubled or tripled your original sale. Or, you are a prepared food vendor and your customer has purchased your victuals. A simple “Would you like salad with that today?” and/or “Can I get you something to drink?” will add a buck here, a buck there. All good for the bottom line. Another example: you sell produce and a customer is purchasing a bunch of fresh carrots. You ask: “Have you ever tried oven-roasted carrots and parsnips together?” (And be prepared to recite a short recipe). There, now you’ve sold both carrots AND parsnips.
– For long-term vendors, lease a portable credit card machine. They generally cost about $80 a month and there are swipe and transaction fees, but the mere visual sight of a credit/debit machine will significantly boost sales (guaranteed!), and it won’t take long for your machine to pay for itself many times over. (Also, some companies will let you sign short-term contracts if you are a seasonal vendor… but you have to ask, as that’s not the norm.)
Start with the above ideas and let me know if any of them pay dividends for you. Happy sales! – Dave Belt, Seafoam Lavender
*Seafoam Lavender Farm, Ltd. was one of 10 regional winners at the 2016 Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards and was the 2015 winner of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award