Monday, June 13, 2011

A Stranger is Just a Friend I've Never Met

"A stranger is just a friend I've never met." Will Rogers, American writer and humorist

We had a great time this weekend showing our wares at the St. Johns Community Marketplace and really felt like seasoned pros with our spiffy new canopy.  The weather started out overcast (as is typical for a Portland June morning), but by about 11 a.m. the clouds had burned off and turned into the perfect sunny summer day, the kind of day that causes first-time visitors to Portland to want to move here permanently.  Friends later showed up, stuck around and ate at the food carts, and it ended up feeling like a really great company picnic. 

We were able to meander around a bit at times, look at other vendors' goods, and have some nice chats.  Our neighbor to the left side was a gentleman from Denmark who hand carved and hand painted small and large wooden animals, sea serpents, Vikings, and other fun and fanciful characters.  Just like his figurines, he was absolutely delightful, and we were able to strike up a friendship.  As you might guess, his shop had a steady stream of customers throughout the day, and whether they bought or not, they left with a smile on their face.  Cari and I spent a lot of time reaching out to people as well, saying hello, welcoming them to the shop, talking about our products, but most of all I think just spreading the good cheer and happiness we felt about being out in the sunshine, meeting people, and sharing our products that we enjoy making.  We made a few sales, as did our friend from Denmark, but mostly enjoyed just hanging out with each other and our friends.

Our neighbors to the right were a mother-and-daughter team with quite lovely jewelry.  They were a little distant upon arrival, but we just chalked that up to the fact they were busy getting set up.  After awhile, we chatted with them some, but they didn't encourage much conversation after that.  For the rest of the day, they sat more or less immobile (including their faces) and there was a certain amount of gloom and doom surrounding them and their shop.  We never once saw them greet people or chat much with those who did stop to look.  They seemed to take the customers for granted.  A little black cloud settled over their heads when their sales expectations were not met, and they packed up and left early. 

Cari (my partner in crime) and I talked about the difference in vendors a lot during our actual time at the marketplace, and I thought about it some more yesterday and this morning.  You never know how a show is going to turn out; in fact, it's a pretty unpredictable business, but sellers are responsible for not only making a pleasant experience for customers (whether they buy or not), but also so responsible for their own happiness as a seller.  There are a lot of rules I could write out here as a series of bullet points.  I'm sure most of what Cari and I are learning are things that more seasoned sellers already know.  Mostly, however, I think the easiest way to sum it up is in the simply profound statement by Will Rogers, "A stranger is just a friend I've never met."  Give it a try.  It can make your selling experience a joy.  Sell without it and I can almost guarantee your selling experience will be miserable.

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