If you need a boost in your direct sales business (and who wouldn’t want that), the best thing to do besides talking to your current customers is to start selling at vendor events! Vendor events are excellent places to meet new customers, book parties, and even sign up new recruits. Below are our top tips for vendor events, including how to find, prepare for, and rock out vendor events for your direct sales business!
Why should direct sellers do vendor events?
If you’re part of a party plan company, the typical path in direct sales is to have a launch party, schedule bookings from that party, and repeat. After that, you focus on recruiting new consultants at those parties to start growing your team.
But what happens when you hit a dry spell or don’t have enough bookings on your calendar?
What happens when you have too many parties without bookings, and your bookings calendar starts looking a little sparse?
Or what about if you’re just starting in direct sales and don’t have any bookings? (Here’s a great article on getting bookings if this is you).
This is where vendor events shine! You get out in front of potential customers, hosts, and team members, and sometimes you can find some that don’t cost much.
Seriously, how many times in your business do you have people walking up to you and asking about what you do? Probably not too often, I’d have to guess. And that is precisely what happens at a vendor event!
How to find vendor events near me?
First, how do you find the best vendor events for direct sales? If you don’t have any events on your calendar yet or are interested in finding more, head over to our article listing the top 12 ways to find vendor events near me article right here!
What’s your objective?
Before you can prepare for your event, you need to decide what your main objective is. For example, are you going to the event to generate sales? Are you low on home parties and trying to get bookings?
If your objective is for sales, you’ll need to bring more inventory. Focus on your best sellers and consumables (things your customers will need to buy again). Some bigger ticket items can help turn a slow day into a better one with just a few sales.
If your objective is for bookings, you’ll spend more time talking about the benefits of booking and less on each product. Mary at Savvy Selling would always have bookings as her goal as she knew she would make more with bookings than sales. We’ve found success with starting the conversation on sales and nurturing those new customers with a 2-2-2 follow-up campaign. Some would become lifetime customers, some hosts, and some team members!
Either way, make sure you’ve got a system in place to get contact information from prospective customers. More on that below.
How to prepare for a vendor event?
Let’s start with the basics. If you need power for your product or display, speak with the event organizer and make sure your space has it readily available. Next, some shows provide free tables while others rent them to you. If you’re making vendor shows part of your marketing strategy, it may be worth buying a couple of tables (remember, those are tax write-offs!) and bringing your own with you. Next, make sure you have a nice, clean tablecloth for each table. It makes your space look polished and professional.
Look for ways to build your display vertically to get your product’s eye level with your prospects. For example, wooden crates turned sideways look nice and can be stacked.
Have plenty of professional-looking signage at your table. Highlight your company name, your top sellers, and your product bundles.
If it’s an outdoor vendor event, always have a tent with you if possible. Those hot, sunny days are great at the beach, but not so much for you standing there all day long. Let’s not even talk about rain, ugh. It also can be an inviting place for potential customers. Have your signage nice and high if you have a tent so your customers can easily find you.
Arrange your table or tables so you can move freely in your space, preferably in front of your tables to greet new customers.
Don’t fill your tables with clutter. Too many things to look at gets distracting, and a distracted mind moves on instead of buying.
Instead of just handing out your business cards, consider printing a flyer showing your top items, the ways they can be purchased from you, and your hosting options in case your customers “want it all!”
Our top tips for vendor events
Don’t wait for customers to come to you
I’ve seen many consultants sitting behind their tables, waiting for customers to walk up to them. Don’t! Stand in front of your tables and greet new customers as they walk by. Be excited to meet them! This will bring more traffic to your booth.
Never sit behind your tables
If possible, be in front of your tables so you can easily talk to your customers without speaking over something. Of course, there are times when this may not be possible, depending on the size of the booth, but if you can, be out front with a smile on your face! Create your own traffic (link maybe from spreadsheet).
Make it easy for your customers to pay you!
Bring cash, your Square reader, and maybe even have a Venmo account ready for your events.
Split large, expensive vendor events with a team member
Have a plan for how you’ll handle inventory and profits BEFORE getting to the event. Make sure both of you agree on how you will split your costs, leads, inventory, and prizes and that you are both happy with your plan.
Don’t be on your electronics.
As Pretty Chic nails says, “There is nothing that will make a potential customer glide right past a booth more than a vendor that seems totally disinterested in their own product…” How awkward is it to have to interrupt someone to ask them about their product? Not going to happen!
Make getting leads a priority by offering a ballot raffle
Have one “big” prize and smaller discount prizes. I love how Million $ Party Girl suggests “Everyone is a winner” when following up with your leads! After you’ve had a chance to speak with your potential customer and know they may be interested in your product, ask them if they’d like to fill out your ballot. This way, you’re getting quality leads and not just hundreds of names looking for free stuff. Once they fill out your ballot, continue to talk about your top sellers, asking qualifying questions to figure out where to take the conversation.
Always, always, always have a follow-up system in place for after your vendor event (really, that’s how important it is)
Do this right away after the event. I love how Mary at Savvy Selling says, “If you’re not going to follow up with every person who is willing to give you their contact info, don’t do the event. You’re better off flushing your money down the toilet.” Wow, that’s powerful!
Misty Kearns at Direct Selling CEO lists follow-up as “the #1 rule to make your vendor event successful.”
With some minor changes, your standard 2+2+2 follow-up system works great for anyone that purchased from you. You can change the 2-week email to ask your new customer if they’ve tried your product yet. Getting your customers to use your products is key to them becoming customers for life.
You can tweak it more to work for your raffle entrants as well. The 2-day call is thanking them for filling out your ballot and letting the winner know they’ve one. You can tell the others that they didn’t win the grand prize, but they did win a discounted item or something else smaller that gets them using your products. If they’re not interested, that’s OK; not everyone will be. If they take you up on your offer, the two-week email is your standard email to ensure they received and tried your product.
Following up and providing value leads to long-term customers. Not doing so leads to one quick sale, and that’s it. What do you want? Do this every time!
Make a special product bundle or bundles for the event and focus on selling it
You won’t have time to talk about all of your products as there will be too many people there. Instead, bundle some of your best sellers and use your company’s promotions. If you’re at a holiday event, wrap your bundles in a ribbon or special packaging to make them easier to see as gifts.
Tell your current customers when you’re doing events
You’ll be surprised how many will stop by to say “hi” and pick something up from you. Especially since they can save the shipping fee and maybe tax they’d have to pay if they ordered online.
Don’t forget to bring your calendar with you!
If you’ve got someone ready to book a party right then and there, make sure you’re prepared for it.
Accounting for vendor events
Accounting for vendor events is a cinch! First, deposit your cash into your bank account. That is income. The automatic deposit from your Square transactions is also income. Your tax-deductible expenses include everything you spent money on to make that event happen.
- The entry fee.
- Display décor, tables, tablecloths, etc.
- Mileage to drive to the event and back.
- Any other travel expenses. Did you fly? Stay in a hotel? Those costs are tax-deductible.
- Your food and drink while at the event.
- Samples or other giveaways.
Using Direct Sidekick for your accounting will make tracking this a breeze! Direct Sidekick automatically imports and categorizes your income and expenses for you! No need to remember to add them to your tax spreadsheet or accounting program.
Regarding the inventory you sold at the event, if you didn’t bring stock for sale to the vendor event but instead placed orders and shipped directly to your customers, you don’t need to do anything special, just record income and expenses as above.
If you sold products out of your “personal business inventory” (cash and carry), you’ll need to remove the items from your inventory and add their costs to cost of goods sold (COGS). With Direct Sidekick, you’ll just invoice out the products sold, and their costs are automatically added to COGS for you. Nothing more to do here!
Pro tip: I recommend adding the vendor event name as a contact in your CRM. Invoice the event for the items and add notes about the event in the note section. Then, the following year when you’re considering doing the event again, you can look up the contact and see how it went. I’m not sure about you, but a year later, I’ll definitely forget how it went.
What do you think? Do you have any great tips for doing vendor events? Add them in the comments below, and we’ll be happy to add them to the article and link back to you!