If you’re a retail entrepreneur, you know you need to hustle to get your products out there, increase your brand awareness, and stay top-of-mind for potential customers.
But hitting the road every weekend and traveling around the region (or the country) to make in-person sales at fairs, festivals, events, conferences, shows, and more is downright exhausting.
Not only is the travel itself physically tiring, but feeling constant pressure to always be “on,” selling, and representing your retail business appropriately wears you down mentally, too.
If you feel like you’re starting to lag behind or you just need a refresher course on how to replenish your motivation, start here with these tips, ideas, and suggestions from hustling retailers and business owners who never stop grinding away toward their sales goals.
Start With the Right Mindset about Success, Failure, and Focus
James R. Nowlin, founder and CEO of Excel Global Partners, puts the emphasis on how you think about sales as a key part of staying motivated and energized when you need to sell all the time.
Nowlin suggests taking the time to recognize your strengths and play to them when out on the road or when setting sales goals. Knowing what you’re good at — and understanding where you may be weak — will help you create realistic targets that challenge you without setting you up for failure.
But of course, failure happens and it’s hardest to keep your motivation up immediately after a setback or bad day. Nowlin says you must stand up, brush yourself off, and keep moving.
You’ll experience plenty of rejections. Don’t dwell on them.
Instead, he advises salespeople to take an honest look at what happened and why things went wrong. That will give you useful insight on what you can do better in the future when you move on to the next event.
If you’re struggling to follow that advice about not dwelling on mistakes or failures, Nowlin says to turn your attention to remembering your successes. “Reminisce about the times you’ve succeeded in making a sale — and keep looking forward to your next successful deal,” he says.
Nowlin says you’ll feel more motivated if you can avoid distractions, too. If you set goals and stay focused on what you want to achieve in the long term, you can remind yourself why you’re grinding away when you start to feel frustrated or wonder if you should spend your time in another way.
Find a Way to Make Sales Fun for Both You and Your Buyer
Liz Theresa is the director of marketing for candy company Barrels of Yum, and frequently travels to trade shows to bring their candy to potential buyers. At the shows, they’ll meet with owners and representatives of candy stores, convenience stores, and small gift shops in addition to buyers from larger retailers.
Theresa keeps herself motivated with a simple strategy: have fun with the brand and dress the part. “One of my favorite parts of the Barrels of Yum brand is the retro-nostalgic vibe,” she explains. “You'll find me wearing bright colors, A-line dresses, and funky jewelry.”
She notes that anything fun she can add to her physical appearance makes the booth more compelling, too. In addition to handing out free samples, big statement pieces or elements of her outfit can create conversation pieces — which makes it easier to effortlessly connect with potential buyers.
Don’t Make Sales the Only Goal of an In-Person Event
Selling all the time isn’t always fun. But what about meeting new people, making friends, and establishing great relationships?
Just as Theresa seeks to create experiences for people with Barrels of Yum by offering a free piece of candy and an interesting conversation, in-person sellers can find ways to connect with buyers rather than just pushing products.
Sheena Tahilramani owns Banter & Bliss Candle Company and strives see sales events like fairs and festivals in a similar way: an opportunity to connect with customers that she just doesn’t get unless she’s there in person.
“Our soy candles are made using 100% all natural soy and coconut wax blends, made from soybeans grown by American farmers,” says Tahilramani. The candles are hand-poured in a studio in San Pedro, California, and feature phthalate-free fragrances and cotton wicks free from lead and zinc.
Communicating the value of an exceptionally high-quality candle isn’t always easy to do online or even in just one visit, because customers can’t physically interact with the product (or the full line of products available).
It takes several times for a consumer to see your product before they might take the leap and make a purchase.
Tahilramani explains: “People want to be able to smell candles and home fragrance items before they make a purchase.”
It’s important for Tahilramani to give her customers this opportunity, which means a lot of in-person sales. She and her team stay motivated by framing an event as a place to build trust with consumers where making actual sales isn’t the only goal.
“You just never know when that customer you met at a show will pull out the marketing material or free shipping code you provided them and place an order on your website or recognize your brand at a local store,” she says. “In-person selling is a part of a much larger picture.”
Stay Balanced and Seek to Connect With Others
No matter how passionate you feel about your product, hustling 24/7 will lead anyone to burnout eventually. To avoid burning out, Melanie Elam of Blue Velvet Butterfly focuses on trying staying inspired but looks for balance in her business to allow her to do more than staying disciplined.
Elam designs, makes, and sells jewelry using materials like semi-precious stones, sterling silver, and copper.
“I've been doing this for nearly two decades and have learned that all things flow better without constriction,” she shares. “Instead of motivation, I am always open to inspiration.”
That can come in a variety of forms — and from a spectrum of places. Elam found inspiration in hardware store paint chips that turned into a pair of earrings that sold quickly, and she says everything from food and art to nature and architecture provides the inspiration she craves.
When Elam needs to get motivated to do some in-person selling, though — or, as she puts it, “motivated to drag all your stuff somewhere, set up, be there for 4-8 hours, tear down, pack up, load up, and go home only to unload and put everything away” — she sticks to some simple strategies:
- She challenges herself to create new and unique booths/displays at vendor fairs and artisan markets.
- She keeps clients in mind and communicates with them about how she can meet their needs.
- She creates an experience out of each purchase, carefully gift-wrapping each piece.
- She treats herself throughout every long day, first with great coffee and then with Chinese takeout as a reward for her hard work.
Kelly Adams is another jewelry designer who echoes some of Elam’s advice about connecting with others. Adams owns Wave of Life, a lifestyle brand specializing in sea glass jewelry and beach clothing.
FURTHER READING: Make an impressions at your next fair or festival with our guide to creating a branded booth.
She says in addition to taking the time to communicate with customers at in-person sales events, retailers can take advantage of the opportunity to learn from other businesses too.
“Get to know the vendors/sellers around you,” he suggests. “You would be amazed how much faster a day goes when you feel mutual camaraderie from fellow sellers — and you often gain great insights and tips on other venues you can use in the future.”
Keep Yourself Organized
Elam notes that you need more than just the mental space that balance and inspiration can bring. She knows organization is critical to any in-person seller who wants to enjoy a successful sales event.
As soon as she completes a piece of jewelry, she places it along with a card including the piece’s name and the materials it’s made from into a silver gift box. “The boxes are part of branding and essential to my organizational process,” she explains.
Other retailers use different strategies to track and manage inventory at events. Barrels of Yum tracks inventory by weight and only provides samples at events, although buyers can place orders for future delivery. It helps keep things easier to manage and organize while on the road.
And Lillian Daniels, who created The Bali Bead, keeps herself organized by setting goals with specific targets and deadlines. She always knows what she’s working toward and why, which also motivates her to continue selling.
As for her inventory, Daniels uses a combination of her own Excel spreadsheets and Shopify’s tools to track products. “I always refer to Shopify’s ability to keep up with shopping trends within my store to stay better organized,” she explains.
Use Content and Inbound Marketing Strategies to Sell All the Time (Without the Grind)
It’s easy to let the hard work of constant selling drain your energy. But instead of putting yourself out there to pound the pavement 24/7, make sure you’re working hard and working smart.
Kit Pang founded Boston Speaks and grew his business on the belief that selling and networking happens all the time. “It’s not an event that happens in five minutes or an hour or a day,” he says.
While specific events like markets and fairs provide excellent sales opportunities, Pang points out that people buy from you most when you can stay top of mind.
If you’re a one-person shop or your whole job is in-person sales, however, there’s only so much time and energy to give. But retail businesses can leverage social media and other tools to share the workload — even while you’re resting, focusing on other important tasks within the business, or just taking a step back from the road for a period of time.
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Pang believes companies can get more customers when those consumers constantly see brands engaging on social media in an authentic way. He suggests creating content that naturally draws people in rather than always doing the work of seeking new customers.
I read on Facebook once that ‘your vibe attracts your tribe.’
He lives out that advice by consistently posting videos and other content to share information, ask questions, start conversations, and provide new ideas and tips for people interested in his industry.
Retailers can learn more about using content to attract their ideal customers and sell with less effort by checking out Shopify’s beginner’s guide to this marketing strategy.
Moving Forward With Your Motivation Strategy
How do you keep yourself going through the grind? Share your tips in the comments below.