Confession time: I'm an introvert. Selling products online? Piece of cake. Promoting on social media? You'd think I was a butterfly with how social I can be. But actually going to a market and vending? In person? Where people can see me? And I have to talk to them? I need a lie down in a quiet place just thinking about it. But in order to maximize my opportunities and grow my business, I had to get out of my comfort zone and start vending in-person at craft fairs and markets. If you, like me, are introverted, have social anxiety, or are just plain awkward and have fully embraced it, vending in person can be overwhelming. While the marketplace atmosphere may seem challenging, hope is not lost! There are plenty of strategies that you can use to succeed and feel comfortable while showcasing your awesome products. Here are some tips that I've found to be helpful in dealing with my own introvertedness.
1. Plan and Prepare in Advance
Take the time to thoroughly plan and prepare for your market appearance. This includes organizing your booth layout and designing clear signage. By having a well-thought-out plan in place, you can alleviate anxiety and deal with any potential hiccups quickly and easily. You should also practice your greetings and product highlights ahead of time, thus avoiding any verbal mishaps that you'll never forget. My husband will never let me live down the time a customer asked me if the Flower Hair Ties we were selling were hibiscus flowers (meaning the shape) and I responded with "no, they're fabric". Rehearse ahead of time and you'll be able to feel more confident in your interactions.
2. Create a Welcoming Environment
Craft a booth setup that fosters a welcoming and comfortable environment for both you and potential customers. Think about your branding on your website or social media and see if you can flow that into your setup (is it a lot of bright colors or more of a neutral, boho vibe?). Make it fun place for you and it'll attract like-minded folks to your booth!
3. Focus on Quality Connections
Introverts often excel in building deeper connections through meaningful conversations. Rather than trying to engage with every passerby, focus on quality over quantity. Oftentimes, I can sense who wants to just browse in silence, so after a greeting and a "let me know if you need any info about my products!" I give them space. Not everyone wants a full-blown conversation and, let's be honest, it's better that way, especially if social interactions is an energy drainer for you.
4. Embrace Active Listening
One of the strengths of introverts is their ability to listen attentively. Use this skill to your advantage at the markets. Show a genuine interest in customers' stories, concerns, and preferences. While most people are happy to browse in silence, there are some who are looking for a second opinion, or help choosing a gift for a friend. So be open to helping them make their selections. It's a lot easier to talk to people who want to talk with you instead of forcing a conversation with someone, so stay alert and ready to ask questions and offer insight.
5. Offer Product Knowledge
Introverts often thrive in environments where they can showcase their expertise and knowledge. Leverage this strength by becoming an expert on your products or services, which should be a breeze because you're the one putting the work into making or offering them! Be well-versed in the features, benefits, and unique selling points of what you're offering. Providing valuable insights and information can build trust and establish you as a credible source.
6. Incorporate Written Communication
If verbal communication feels draining, consider integrating written communication into your market strategy. Use clear signage, brochures, or product descriptions that highlight key information. This allows potential customers to gather information at their own pace and approach you with specific questions. And while signs like this can get overlooked, you can still refer to it if your verbal communication is not as strong as your written. If I'm overwhelmed or tired, sometimes I don't know prices off the top of my head, so having the signs readily available for me to glance at prevents an awkward moment of stumbling over my words as I frantically scroll through my POS system.
7. Take Breaks and Recharge
Recognize the importance of self-care and rejuvenation as an introverted vendor. Markets often have ebbs and flows with the crowd, so take advantage of slow periods and take a break. Use this time to gather your thoughts, reflect on your progress, and regroup for the next wave of interactions. Eat a snack, drink some water. If you have a friend, family member, or spouse that's willing to join you for a market, bring them along. Having someone that can share the weight of social interactions can be priceless.
While the thought of selling in-person can seem awful, I can say from experience that the good very much outweighs the awful. I've always survived every market I've attended (so far). After a while, it can become an enjoyable process. You get to see people react to your products in person (whether good or bad, all can be entertaining), sell somethings and make some money, and create connections with customers and fellow vendors. If you're struggling with the thought of in-person vending, I recommend trying it out for a month before deciding against it. Focus on your strengths - if you're prepared, have an attractive setup, and clear signage, it helps lessen awkward interactions that make vending seem so hard in the first place. Will every interaction go seamlessly? Is every market perfect? No. But focus on the positives, and you'll find you have a little community who supports each other and makes the market days more fun.