I love going to the Farmer's Market. It’s a weekly ritual that forces me out of my cave and into the sunlight. I get to stretch my legs, buy fresh produce, and meet people in the heat of personal one-to-one sales.
There are about 15-30 vendors at the two markets close to my house. They range from veggies and fruits to tamales and carrot cakes. Most f the food is organic, locally grown and the guy selling it is the guy who picked it. I feel so much closer to my food.
Okay, so I'm a little bit sentimental. But the Ralph's clerk just doesn't give a rip about what they are selling. The market vendors are intimately connected to their wares. And their attitudes and behaviors reflect that connection. I think the closeness makes the food more satisfying.
As always, there are a few lessons to learn from this weekly trek. Most of these folks are farmers and artists. They haven't been school in selling. Most of the good things they do are instinctual rather than purposeful. And many of the things they do wrong are a result of no training. But ALL the lessons can help you.
The bulk of these vendors are selling produce. Potatoes, celery, carrots, lettuce and peaches. It's all seasonal so everything changes throughout the year. Which is a bummer because I wish avocados were always "in season." I'm going to chat with God about that one.
A good half of the vendors at both markets are selling the same stuff. Different farms, different crews, identical product. It's displayed the same way, looks the same, and probably is grown the same. So, what makes me choose one vendor of the other? Proximity. That one is 5 feet closer.
There is nothing distinctive about these vendors. Not even their charisma (farmers, not performers). This is most businesses. You and ten other companies are selling the same product to the same prospect. You set up shop and hope that the guy walks closer to your stand.
Very few people are able to sell in a vacuum. The environment where you have virtually no competition. Usually, if you have that, it's because nobody wants your product. And if you do, it won't last for long.
Differentiate your product. Any of these vendors could do more to set themselves apart. Instead of putting all their products on the table in a pile, they could bundle them. Maybe create a "dinner" kit that has a variety of items for this weeks menu. They could even provide yummy recipes for the different items. Consultative selling for produce. Perfect.
Of course, they can grow organic products and charge a higher price, which some do. How about telling the story of the farm? Show pictures of the facilities and the workers. Create a stronger bond between the shopper and the creator. Give a feeling of involvement in the life of the worker.
One of the fruit vendors gives me a couple extra pieces of fruit with my purchase. I ALWAYS go to them while the place across the market is wondering why nobody is over there.
What can you do to be different from the competition? You don't need to change your product even. Just focus on changing the presentation.
Most of the vendors miss this. A few get it. The mystic of the market experience is personally connecting with the people who make your food. That's one of the reasons people enjoy shopping there.
The vendors that recognize me, acknowledge I'm a regular shopping and show appreciation get my business. If they ask (and remember) my name it's even better.
The fish guy stopped me a couple weeks ago and asked where I had been the last couple weeks. He doesn't know my name, but he knows I'm a regular. And he showed me that he notices if I'm not there. He values my business. And he gets it.
People want these personal relationships. They crave them. They want an authentic, connective buying experience in EVERY industry. What are you doing to create that environment in your business? Social media? Events? Community building? Consistent personal interactions?
As I said before most of the vendors sell exactly the same thing. They just hope that I walk by their booth first. The fish guy, the tamale man, and the juice lady have an exclusive presence. They're it.
Sure, not as many people come to the market for those items. But these folks can charge any price, get all the business.
You must develop an edge of exclusivity. If you can't change WHAT you sell, change WHERE you sell, of WHO you sell to. There are other tamale companies, but not at this market. This guy has essentially eliminated any competition by NOT selling in the traditional stores. And oh those tamales are tasty.
What if another vendor had fresh avocados or guacamole in the off-season. How about selling a unique vegetable that no one else has? What other kind of non-produce items would fit (art, groceries, etc)? How can you be exclusive?
Most of the folks there are the ones that planted the seeds and harvested the fruit. Part of your problem is you didn't make what you're selling (in most cases). Your product was made in a sweat shop in China or a hick in Alabama. You have very little connection to your product.
But pride sells. If you are proud, you'll be excited, confident and a fervent evangelist. Those attitudes are contagious. I'll go back to the tamale man. He yelled at me across the market to taste a sample (another hint). After he reeled me in, he began spinning the story of how they created these unique tamales. The ingredients are fresh, organic and pure. They are hand crafted by his mother and daughter. They are the most tasty I'll ever experience. Oh, and here's a convenient three pack.
My wife enjoyed the tamales. As far as I could tell, they were made of chicken and corn—like every other tamale around. But I really like the guy. And I need to eat. He gets my business over Ralph's.
Are you proud of your product. Can you talk about it like parent of a newborn? Do you get a twinkle in your eye when people ask questions? Do people have to tell you to STOP talking about your business? That's a good sign, by the way.
The vendors that do well, are very intentional about how they sell. The others are accidental. Sitting in their booth hoping that someone will walk by and desperately need their carrots. Guess what…they don't. You need to help reveal that need. Position your product as the only solution to that need. And make an irresistible offer.
I encourage you to find a local farmer's market. Walk around for awhile. Watch. Learn. And get some really great food. Experience a sales environment where every dollar counts. It's a fantastic experience.
by: Robert Schneider