We could learn a lot from the humble barrow boy…

Festivals, Expos, Shows and even a simple market stall are not just about taking a stand and hoping that people come to it. It’s all about making a real impact, engaging with your customers and even a little about fashion.

We often know what we should be doing but in practice it may not happen, and yes, financial budgets may play a part, but if you have invested even your time and effort in lugging everything to the pitch and you and some staff will be away from your business, you need to make it all pay.

The classic principles of the cheeky barrow boy are actually very powerful and cleverly psychological, and what’s the betting he doesn’t have a degree in marketing or sales?

So what has that instantly conjured in your mind? A loud livewire bellowing out about his apples and pears, calling everyone ‘Darlin’ ‘ and giving them a little wink and a broad grin? Are you thinking that this approach doesn’t apply to your business, or that you’re just not that type of person? Well, there’s more to it than that and plenty of it is what you need to do.

Where does the barrow boy stand?  – Infront of (not behind) his immaculately displayed stall. He’s proud of it, he’s constantly rearranging it when he’s sold something. Everything is labelled, easy to see, and he’s fully equipped with bags … he keeps one in his hand at all times ready for action and he never sits down.

He’s all about communication – He doesn’t stop scanning the passing crowd, making astute assessments as to who might be a customer that can make a quick decision on his wares. If you’re in a suit, you may just want a juicy shiny apple to eat on the run, if you have designer shopping bags you might want some shallots, wild mushrooms or more exotic fruits. If you’ve got the kids and a jute carrier, his quality organic greens could be for you.

And he lets you know it, he singles you out for special attention. He gives you eye contact and springs into action with a hook designed to flick your switch, ‘Have those kids healthy and strong with a few gorgeous green beans my dear, make a change from peas and just as quick’. ‘Romantic dinner for 2 tonight luv? Just buy enough asparagus for no waste and you’ll be on a promise’. ‘Add a gourmet touch to supper tonight Sir, wild mushrooms will make a real difference in your risotto’. ‘Our apples are better that chocolate at your desk this afternoon’.

He’s overcome any objections already, created a desire and it’s an easy buying decision for you.

And what’s more he smiled. When he caught your eye, he lit up, he got straight to the point, gave you the goods and made you feel good. Suddenly your whole menu’s changed around this purchase.

He looked the part, casual, approachable, maybe a little bit trendy, clean and comfortable and he even has a sense of humour. You know he’s going to go out and have a good time later because he had a good day, but that doesn’t matter because he earned it. You’re even glad you were a part of his success.

Oh yes, he knows his stuff, this guy. He’s passionate about it, he’s confident about it, he knows exactly what he’s got there today and why you need it. He’s prepared and he’s got a plan.  He’ll be promoting all his most profitable items, letting you know when things are running low and making sure he capitalises on certain parts of the day. What’s more, we bet he always tries to upsell you something else and he’ll remember you the next time he sees you.

Hmm, suddenly this sounds more like you or how you’d like to be. The difference is, he’s delivering on every aspect, closing at every opportunity and will be developing regular customers every day, plus they’ll know where to find him.

So what can we take away from this?

We know you’re not a barrow boy, but you do need to:

  • Be out-going, proactive, presentable and have good communication skills.
  • Your stand needs to be attractive, eye catching and fully prepped – wouldn’t it be brilliant if yours became a landmark at the site because it stands out so much.
  • Know your products and services and be able to identify potential customers with targeted messages for them, and something to take away even if it’s just some literature.
  • Ask for the business, upsell and make sure you’re memorable for all the right reasons.
  • Remember your customers by having some sort of data capture avenue, even if it’s just obtaining their social media handles so you can connect afterwards, and for B2B a business card and email is ideal.

Yes, it’s hard work, yes you need to put on a show and if this is not you then man your stand with people who will do it well for you.

And the next time you hear a cheeky barrow boy, watch and learn. We bet he won’t be taking much back to the van.