If You’re Selling Something, Say Something!

Customer Service
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I participated in a crafts market one recent weekend. I was selling prints of my fashion illustrations and I’d chosen the fair because it was in a very affluent neighborhood in a beautiful setting at Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island. I felt I’d chosen wisely…gone where the money is, so to speak.

Ruthanne Terrero

I found out very quickly, however, that standing at a table with your work splayed in front of you can be a challenge. What do you a to the person who stops to look? Do you break their concentration by saying hello? Do you ask them if you can help them? It was apparent I had not mastered this skill that weekend. My solution was to smile and nod at them, then look at my phone so I wouldn’t be too intrusive as they perused my work. Definitely not in the Selling 101 book.

Two tables away was a natural sales person. A woman was selling rocks with inspiring statements written on them. Crowds were drawn to her as she stood next to her table and greeted everyone who came around. She spoke of how she’d reached the depths of despair at certain times in her life and really felt that if she had had something like these rocks around her she’d have been a lot happier (I’m paraphrasing here). She definitely made the occasional sale. I was envious.

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The following day at the fair I took out my sketchbook and began to draw, since I had a fair amount of down time to fill. As soon as I did that, another vendor walked over to me and asked me if all the drawings on the table were mine. As I said, “Yes,” I was thinking, “Why on earth would I be sitting here on a Sunday morning if these drawings were not mine? Duh.”

Suddenly, it all became clear. No one knew my story, that I was the artist, and I certainly wasn’t doing a good job of telling it. In their minds, I was probably just vending a product, like the guy selling pickles from a barrel in the tent outside, or the woman promoting shoe inserts right next to him.

I had assumed that people could tell exactly what was going on inside my head, despite my reticence to tell them about myself. 

I continued to sketch, which drew people over and I smiled and spoke to each person who stopped by. I didn’t scare them off; in fact, they seemed to feel more comfortable chatting as they sorted through my drawings of chic fashionistas.

Tying it back in to the business of selling travel, I wonder if sometimes travel advisors accidentally conceal their knowledge and skill by being too quiet about it. Of course you’re experts on travel, why else would you be working at a travel agency?

But what’s to keep a consumer from thinking you’re just a merchant who is reselling someone else’s goods? A vendor in the simplest terms? That won’t happen if you’re enthusiastically conveying why you got in to the travel business and how much you know about all the hotels and destinations in the world and what perks you can provide because you belong to an amazing network. It’s very unlikely then that you’ll be seen as a sales rep trying to sell some random product.

Benefit from what I learned at that crafts market. Share some of the wondrous thoughts that are going on inside your mind with the people who have come to see what you have to sell, and you’ll dramatically increase your odds of making a sale. 

I’ll be honest — my new technique didn’t break the bank that day, but I ended up making back my table (yeah, that’s vendor talk, I learned that phrase over that weekend). Next time I’ll be sure to show up at the party with the story of me in full regalia so others won’t have to wonder why I’m there.

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