In our consumer society it is easy to imagine that sales just happen. But is that true? Actually most sales rely on a relationship between you (as the consumer) and the company (as the seller). When I was growing up in Castlegar, BC, I would go to West’s Department store. The prices were similar to Stedman’s prices but I preferred West’s. The stores felt different to me, and I was treated different between the two stores. So with West’s I had a better relationship and that is where I shopped. The foundation of those early sales in my life was relationship.
What are your sales built on?
It is that time of year again. Early November. The snow has fallen and everything is white and beautiful. Yup. It is time for the Christmas Craft shows. This is when people are searching for just the right gift for just the right person. Why?
This is Christmas and that’s what you do. But the reason for the season and looking for that special gift is relationship. The Christmas story is about a baby, come to earth, to restore relationships. This baby was born in a manger, visited by shepherds and kings. The lowest and the highest came to see him. Rejoice and goodwill among men. If you have goodwill you have a relationship. This season is about family and others. Spending time together and creating memories. The focus is on relationships. That is relationship forms the foundation.
Watch the Christmas ads and see how relationships are included even though the focus is on the product. You might even see ads with no product but just relationships and caring. As you are selling at your craft fairs, or any other time of year, it is a relationship that you want to build. Take the time to know your customer.
Selling is about relationship
Relate to your customers as they come to your booth. Is the product they are buying suitable for what they want it for? Have they picked up a display bowl and think it would work as a salad bowl? Are they having success with their shopping or are they tired and just need one more present before they can go home? Not every person who visits your booth is going to make a purchase. That’s life. However, each person can still have a relationship with you.
A long-time reader of the Turning for Profit newsletter said that all sales are based on relationship. I thought about that and realized that this is generally true. Even my local grocery store is full of relationships. There is a reason that I’m comfortable shopping there. Does my mechanic need to be a personal friend? No. But there needs to be trust and that is what is built with relationship. So you need a foundation of relationships with your customers.
When selling higher priced items it may take longer to build that relationship. We called it dating to reflect the customer coming to the booth multiple times. They search and find the right product. Then they leave and think about it. Or they might shop at a different place in your booth and return several times to that higher priced item. Given enough time to form a relationship we often saw a sale. On some three day events the customer would visit the booth every day and make the final purchase at the end of the event. Dating sure sounds like building a relationship.
How do you build relationships?
You build through stories. It can be theirs or yours. Stories are how we connect. Simple stories like “How’s your day going?” Stories about how you got interested in turning. What do they like to do? What wood did you use for this piece? What was the story of its idea and then creation? The more stories the more you will build relationships. The more a relationship is built the more likely you have a strong foundation with your customer.
Just like a cottage or house needs a good foundation so does your business. The relationship between you and your customers is the foundation that can support and build your business. It takes time to build a good foundation. Like me in this cottage, I had to go through the floor to improve the foundation, you can always improve the relationships your business is based on.
The stories should be real but they don’t have to be long. Did a wind storm or hurricane provide a lot of turning wood? That is a story. That wood has an event that everyone can relate to. It provides connection and that leads to relationship. Was the wood imported ethically? That’s another story. Was it a challenge to turn the product or get the right finish? Did you have a local celebrity buy one of your bowls? All these are stories you can use to make your products come alive and establish a relationship with your customers.
It all comes together when you are in your booth, the lights are on, and the doors open to another Craft Fair. Remember to build a strong foundation. When it is established that’s when you see customers as friends and they get excited to see you year after year at the craft fairs.
What else do you need to consider?
Lots. Here are some additional resources to help you.
- What will sell? You can’t make everything, so make what you like to turn. Then see what else will complement your products.
- Competitive edge. As an artisan you bring your history, values, and talents to your turning. Be yourself and you will be surprised how many people like who you are.
- Craft Fair Success. Here are 6 steps to follow that will help you be more successful at your craft fairs.
- Where’s the tape?! How not to forget the little things. Evaluate what you need at a show then use the downloadable checklist to make sure it all comes with you.
- What not to do! While craft sales present many challenges here are 7 mistakes that are so easy to do and they will cost you sales. Are you making any of these mistakes?
- Does it work for you? After the event make sure that each craft fair still fits you and your products. All events change over time so an annual review is good to make sure you are still going to the right events. Use the downloadable evaluation form to help you make better decisions.
You also need some seasonal turnings for your booth as well. These projects are quick and easy spindle turning projects. Enjoy.
- Turn a Christmas tree. Let your imagination go and turn a forest of Christmas trees.
- Turn a wooden Icicle. These ones don’t melt. They only take a small piece of wood or even a pen blank will do. Have fun.
Turning For Profit
If you have any questions about turning, the business of turning, or relationships as the foundation of sales, please leave me a comment at the bottom of the page.
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I love wood turning and sharing with you. You can me and your fellow turners in Woodturning Entrepreneur, a free Facebook group. Thank you for joining me on this woodturning journey. Have fun and remember to turn safely.