I'm an incredibly shy person, I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know, I’m the person who hugs the wall at parties (pre-covid of course). That type of person.
People who are close to me are always surprised that I started a business which in many ways is essentially a sales job especially when you’re at markets & craft fair type events. It’s probably not the best thing to say but it’s true.
As you can imagine, big events like markets were quite intimidating at first. Having to put on a happy face, greet people, tell my story, and you know, try to convince people to hopefully purchase something (again terrible but true) are all things that kept me away from doing markets for a long time. Social anxiety & imposter syndrome were all at play too but I have a naturally very quiet, reserved disposition so the idea of being out & about with a bunch of people I don’t know was not appealing.
Anyways, I don’t remember exactly what got me to sign up for my first event, I think it was partly I was no longer dancing (#pandemic) and actually had time to pour into this business & needed something to work towards, but I went for and instantly got hooked. I loooove markets now!
All that to say, I figured I share my tips and experience for any other ‘shy’ small business owners out there that might feel intimidated.
- Sign up for the event, commit. I know this is probably the most obvious but after I signed up and paid my entrance fee there was no going back, I was committed. Knowing I had this event to work towards motivated me. Throw yourself into the deep end. I promise you’ll make it out.
- Practice makes perfect. The very first event I did was San Diego Made’s Winter Market last year. It’s a two-day event and the first day was a BIG learning curve. I’ve never worked retail or had a similar job so I didn’t have any of those types of people skills. I had to figure out how to greet people, who wanted to be greeted, what type of person seemed like they wanted to chat or who wanted to be left alone to browse. I’ve done 10+ events now and I feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of it, though I still need a little bit of a warm up period at the beginning.
- Be yourself. This is another semi-obvious one. I know some incredible sales people, the kind who can talk to anyone ya know? I am very much not one of those people so I had to figure out how to just be me, no pretending, no putting on another face.
- Don’t know what to say? Ask questions. Are you looking for anything in particular? Do you have an even coming up you might need a card for? Do you like stickers? Did you know about our event special? Do you follow us on Instagram? It gets people talking or it signals to you they’re good. Very helpful & my go-to.
- Have a buddy with you. This one isn’t always an option but I usually have my sister with me at events and she’s much better around people then I am. She tells me, “You were a little too bland with that person,” “Be sure to tell people about X.’ She gives me feedback that I would otherwise miss.
- Try an event by yourself. This is contrary to #5 but I get very self-conscious about what I’m saying when someone I know is around and I’ve found sometimes I’m more conversational/natural when my sister isn’t in the booth with me. So I guess experiment with each, maybe you’re better on your own.
Those are my tips! It’s all a learning curve but if you’re like me you’ll be hooked on markets after your first event. There’s nothing like being out with people, hearing feedback right from the source, meeting people who follow you on Instagram, and meeting other small business owners.
Speaking of markets, our next event is again with San Diego Made at the Forum in Carlsbad! We’ll be there both weekends and on Thursday and Friday. I would love to see you there!