How to Engage with Customers at a Craft Show

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You’re all set up and ready to go with your products, but have you considered practicing your etiquette? Learning how to engage with customers at a craft show is one of those things where time and experience are going to help immensely, but here are some tips to get you started.

Prior to doing shows; I had many years of experience in retail and hospitality. I learned not only how to talk with people (despite being a huge introvert), but also how to gauge their tone and body language. Understanding this is key to know when to approach and when to back off.

Avoid Pushy Sales Tactics Like the Plague

I don’t know about you, but nothing annoys me more or runs me off faster than pushy salespeople. I have a local furniture store that I love, and I will never return. Why? Because this corporation has taught their sales associates to be so pushy and intrusive that I just refuse to subject myself to it. They are in your face the second you hit the door. If you are talking to your spouse, they interrupt you.

As a general rule, you always greet a customer. How you do it will depend entirely on how they are behaving. If two people walk into your booth and they are engaged in a conversation – simply make eye contact, smile and nod to acknowledge them. Don’t interrupt them! If they stop talking to say hello, then say good morning back.

Step back and allow people to come into your space and then greet them, don’t start shouting them down as they are walking in the aisle. It’s pushy and rude. When someone comes into your home, you open the door and greet them and allow them to come in right?

You don’t run out onto the porch and start yapping at them before allowing them to make themselves comfortable for a bit.  If you are acting more like an excited dog than a hostess, you aren’t doing it right! Yet, I see crafters do this; they stand in the aisle or start talking to people before it’s appropriate.

Also, keep in mind that craft fairs are large places. Sometimes people have been greeted 50 times before they get to you and probably don’t want a sales pitch again. Instead, subtlety is the best approach here.

Say hello, if their body language suggests they are open then ask them “how are you enjoying the craft fair today?” or “Are you having a good time?” – make it about them and avoid the typical “hot today isn’t it?” etc. I know as a vendor, I really don’t need to hear 200 times what the weather is like. I’m aware. Neither do your customers. We tend to fall back on that because it’s “easy”… but it’s also lazy and your customers know it.

Once you’ve greeted your guest, then you assess the situation by their response. If they are kind of short (or worse don’t answer you) you know this is a person who doesn’t want to chat. So let them look and maybe offer a simple “Enjoy. Let me know if you need anything” and then physically move away, or turn your face etc. to let them know you are respecting their wish for space.  This lets them know you value them being there, but aren’t going to be pushy.

On the other side; never, ever, even with a crabby looking person refuse to acknowledge their presence. Smile, or say a simple “good morning” or even just “hi”… People may not want to engage in a deep, meaningful convo – but what they don’t want more is to be completely ignored!

When people look open or say something like “Oh, that’s pretty” then you can open up a bit more. “Oh, thank you – I made it with …” and tell them BRIEFLY some little selling point on your product, then turn it back to them. “Are you looking for anything specific or just browsing?”…

This is all friendly, keeps people from putting their defenses up and can be mastered with practice. You’ll learn to read body language very effectively in only a couple of shows if you are observant.

Don’t have a “script” or make your speels sound scripted. That is a big turn off. Instead, have things you say to customers, but gauge the what/how by what’s appropriate to each individual.

Nothing is more irritating than hearing a scripted speel am I right? If you walk into a booth and the artist just said the exact same thing to the person in front of you, then you know they aren’t talking “with” you but “at” you – and at that point I’m not interested in what they have to say.  If you do this enough, you’ll lose sales because people don’t want to hear it if it sounds “sales pitchy” and not genuine.

So in short:

  • Gauge customers mood & body language
  • Keep interactions brief initially
  • Avoid painfully monotonous “weather” talk
  • ASK your customers something – how are you? Are you having fun today? Make it about them, not general and not you.
  • Allow your guests to be comfortable before greeting or interrogating them ;).
  • Observe! Adjust your messages accordingly
  • Avoid “canned” speels and answers – be genuine.

As your customers leave your booth, personally hand them a card or invite them to take a card.  Let them know they can contact you easily or find you online and wish them a good day or tell them enjoy the rest of the fair!

Even guests who walk away without buying may come back if they’ve had a good experience with you.  People remember experiences for better or worse, so make the most of the psychology of your customers and you’ll have many happy returns!

Do you love the craft fair vendor tips and hints here?  Take a moment to leave a comment or suggestion – or please share this site with others!  Thank you – your support means a lot!

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Comments 8

  • I did my first craft fair this past Saturday , I did pretty much the things you said to do and I got a lot of oh that’s pretty and you are very talanted but was only able to sell one item I know it’s better than none. Does how you dress make a big difference? I wasn’t sloppy but I think I dressed too frumpy . thanks for any tips.

    • It’s hard to say what factors led to just one sale – it could be any number of things. Did you have a lot of competition, were you in a good spot? Was your price point in line with what items in that area go for etc. As for appearance, it does make an impact. If you walked into two businesses selling similar items, you’ll naturally go for the one that is the most polished and professional looking, it’s just human nature. You don’t need to dress to the nines, but one shouldn’t look like an unmade bed either. Be casual and comfortable, but look good.

  • Very good article? Thank you for the good nuggets!

  • I’m doing my first show this SATURDAY! AHHHHHHHHH!

  • Thank you endlessly for your site! I will be doing my first show in a week. Nervous, but so excited! So happy to find all the resources in one place. I appreciate how thorough and personable you are in your writing.

    • Awesome Kassie, don’t be nervous and try to have fun with it. You’ll make some mistakes, and that’s OK we all do – I still do! 🙂 The important thing is to love what you do and to let that enthusiasm shine through. If you love your craft and it’s part of who you are you’ll do well. If it’s something you aren’t all that into (some crafters do stuff they don’t enjoy that much because they think it is more popular for example) you’ll struggle more. If you’re excited that sounds to me like you love your craft and are ready to hit the ground running! 🙂 Good luck and do feel free to let me know if you have questions or ideas for future posts. I’d be glad to cover them.

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