When meeting a buyer it is important to remember the following points:
Smile, as soon as you enter the room. We're all shy meeting strangers, so remember the person you're meeting may be inwardly shy. A smile breaks the ice and eases the tension.
Shake hands, an old fashioned courtesy, I know, but it works. A firm, not tight, grip shows - and shares - confidence.
Appear well groomed. You don't have to wear a suit, but dress neatly and above all be well groomed. No dirty trainers or grubby sweaters. If you present yourself well, it reassures buyers that your work will be equally well thought out and presented.
Don't be hesitant or bashful about showing your work. It's what you've studied hard for, and remember, above all, that you have a talent shown by few people. Be prepared to explain the making process, without getting high-falutin' about it. Avoid high-flown expressions such as "I see my work as the movement of water in vacuum transcended by light"… all the buyer is considering is "Will it sell?"
Listen to the buyer, who will be acutely aware of market demands. S/he may like your work, but perhaps your colour range is all wrong, or the sizes may be too small or too large. If you can adapt - then do so. The market won't change to adapt to you until you're seriously rich and famous!
Make yourself aware of market trends. Visit stores and galleries regularly to find out what's selling. It's all too easy to lock yourself in your studio and lose touch with what's happening. Go to forward-looking shops, not the high street.
Never make promises you can't keep, particularly with regard to delivery. Bear in mind the domino situation: the store will have allocated a budget, will have booked shipping, arranged space in the gallery / store, and all this can collapse if you fail to deliver on time. At this stage, you are a cog in a large machine. If the buyer wants an August 15 delivery and you can't deliver until September, then say so. You will not lose the order: arrangements will simply be geared to your realistic date.
Quite often, the buyer will take your brochure away and place an order later. Make sure your literature is easy to read, easy to order from, with clear illustrations, logical price list and colours.
Follow up the meeting. Write a letter of thanks, enclosing a further brochure within a week. If you hear nothing after a couple of months, write again, enclosing details of your latest exhibition, and/or a list of stockists. Remember the dictum "Out of sight, out of mind". Make sure the buyer doesn't forget you.
Make sure you are clear about your terms. If you include packing in your prices, say so. Equally if you include delivery to the shippers. Handy terms to know are:
Ex-works: Goods just as they are. The buyer bears all the costs of packing, transport etc.
Ex-works including packing.
F.O.B. "Free on Board": In other words, you've included in your price the cost of packing, documentation and transport to the shippers.
C.I.F. "Carriage, Insurance and Freight": i.e. all costs covered by you until the goods reach the store.
(Don't worry FOB and CIF are mainly quoted by larger companies, not crafts people.)
If you are not used to packing, especially for overseas, then don't attempt it: the goods arrive broken and you’ll bear the financial responsibility. Contact professional packers, or quite often the buyer will arrange this for you.
Now go out and sell. There is nothing to compare with the thrill of getting (and delivering!) your first order.
Anne Beddow, Merchandise Retailer, 2002