To a farmers’ market customer, sometimes the biggest difference between any two items is the farmer himself. If the customer is ignored, not greeted or simply has a cold experience, they will happily take their business to the next tent.
But not every farmer is a born salesman, nor should they be expected to be. Farming is difficult enough as it is—getting the vegetables to grow, let alone make it to market looking like they grew right there on the table, is a feat in and of itself. That’s why we’ve collected these eight tips to help any farmer, from the naturally charming to the quiet and reserved, become a successful salesperson. Some tips may seem obvious, and some may seem difficult, but all have the potential to leave an impression on the customer that will keep them coming back for more.
A nice, genuine smile will put any potential customer at ease and draw them into your table. In fact, according to Pick the Brain, some psychologists have found that smiling can boost your mood, relieve stress, and even—to prove the cliché—be contagious. Smiling lets the customer know you are friendly and trustworthy. Also, if you’ve had a hard week on the farm, smiling may put you in a better mood to be selling your goods.
2. Greet Everyone
You would be surprised by how many sales come from simply saying “How’s it going,” or “Good morning,” to a passerby. It’s simple, invites conversation and breaks the ice for the both of you. Perhaps a market-goer is eyeing something on your table but can’t decide if she’s curious enough to engage you. By initiating the conversation, you’ve made that decision easy.
3. Be Sincere and Honest
The customer is no fool and knows you have preferences just like they do. If they ask you about something you’re selling that you don’t particularly like, it’s OK to be honest without being negative. For example, if someone asks how you feel about eggplant, but you aren’t a big fan of it, say something to the effect of, “I’ll be honest, I don’t eat a lot of eggplant, but if I didn’t grow this particular variety, I’d have a lot of angry customers.” Answer people’s questions honestly and, even if they don’t like the answer, their trust for you will grow.
4. Be Adaptive
In 2013, Forbes reported that the people who get the best sales results “are those who can flex between introverted and extroverted behavior.” In other words, your ability to adjust to the behavior of the customer will help to improve your sales. If you find the person you are speaking with is louder and more animated, feel free to raise your voice slightly and engage them on his or her level. On the flip side, if someone is quieter and more reserved, even if you are louder by nature, adjust your voice and posture accordingly, and you will often find a positive reaction.
5. Be Polite and Nonjudgmental
Always remember that there are no stupid questions. If someone picks up an ear of corn or a blue egg, and asks you what it is, how to cook it or how it tastes, leave your pretensions at the farm and answer their questions as simply and politely as you can. Nothing will lose you a customer faster than making them feel embarrassed or disrespected.
6. Remember Names, Faces and Preferences
This can be a challenge. You don’t want to call people by the wrong names or remember them by the wrong preferences, but every market has regular customers and getting to know their names—even if it takes keeping a notebook where you maintain a list—will impress them. When you learn their name, use it often throughout the conversation to help yourself remember it and to make them feel comfortable with you. Remembering the customer’s name or preferences—maybe even asking them how they liked an item they bought the previous week—is a great way to show them they are important to you.
7. Don’t Be Pushy
Because this is a relationship business, where customers may see you dozens of times in a season, it’s important to make a good impression, keep it up, and build that relationship. Pushing a customer too hard to buy something might encourage them to avoid your table in the future. Of course, you will occasionally run into a customer who enjoys haggling, which is a good time to consider the fourth rule—be adaptive—and the last rule:
8. Have Fun
Don’t have so much fun that the customer doesn’t feel like they can join in, but smile, be conversational and inviting, and enjoy your time at the market, never forgetting that feeding people good food—food you grew yourself—is the point of this business. Take pride in that and have fun with it.