Selling Candles

Over the weekend I went to a craft fair with my wife.  (I know, guys, I’m jeopardizing my man card by going to one of those things, but in my search for blog material I was willing to take one for the team.) I’ve noticed that most of the exhibitors at these things are either eating, talking to their neighbors, or working on their particular craft so the customers are pretty much on their own.

One of the things my bride was looking for was candles.  After the Thanksgiving candle/bathroom fire incident, she only buys candles that come in jars.  She has a particular favorite that always exhibits at craft fairs, but not this time.  So, she was a "hot" prospect for a new candle supplier.

We walked past about a thousand candle booths but nothing caught her eye.  Just when it seemed that we would go home candleless we passed yet another candle booth.  We slowed down a bit and the man behind the counter asked "Do you burn soy candles?"  This was the first time anyone had made any effort to speak to us unless we had actually stopped and handled their merchandise.  My wife said "yes".  (She didn’t mention that we also burn wallpaper and artificial plants.)

His next question was brilliant.  "Can you use your soy candles as skin conditioner?"  What???  As you might imagine, that stopped my bride in her tracks.  He had a candle sitting on one of those warming gadgets that you use to keep your coffee hot so it was liquefied.  He grabbed her hand and rubbed some candle on it.  "How does that feel?"  Naturally, he knew the answer.

He went on to explain that he doesn’t use dye in his candles (obvious from the fact that they were all the same color), so the only ingredient was soy, a natural moisturizer.  It’s a hand cream.  It’s a candle.  Amazing!  To make a long story short, we walked away with two candles ($32.00!), one soft hand, and an instruction sheet on how to burn your candle (with an order form for additional candles on the back).

So, what happened here?  Why, in a veritable sea of candle sellers, did this guy get our money?  First, with so much competition, not just from other candle sellers, but from every other decorative doo-dad seller competing for the consumer’s dollar, he stood out.  He made contact.  He wasn’t eating, or socializing, or reading, or crocheting.  He was talking to potential customers.  That’s job one for anyone selling anything.  People buy from people, not from merchandise stacked on a table (or in a store). 

Second, he didn’t just initiate a conversation.  He could have said, "Hey, lady!  Wanna buy a candle?"  Instead, he had a story to tell.  Candles as cosmetics.  Something we’d never heard before.  Then, he didn’t just put the product in my wife’s hand, he put it into her hand.  She could touch it, feel it, smell it.  He involved every sense except taste. 

He didn’t stop there.  He also told an environmental story and a decorating story.  Because his candles were all white in color, you don’t have to worry about your favorite flavor clashing with your decorating scheme.  (They’re also cheaper to make and he doesn’t have to carry as many sku’s.)  Finally, he offered the extra benefit of the instruction/care sheet.  Even I know how to operate a candle, but he made it seem like a big deal.  Plus, as long as she keeps the instruction sheet, she also has his order form.

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