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Vending at a show? Some advice for dealers

Military trader offers up some great advice to dealers when at the show.

A recent Military Trader article included “Remember Your Manners.” It was good advice for visitors to a military show. Here's some similar advice for sellers...

10 Tips for Sellers:

1. Whether the customer spends $1 on a patch, $5 on a book, or $400 on a helmet, thank them for the sale, and mean it. Almost all collectors start out small, and while $5 may seem small to you, it may not be small to them.

2. Before you arrive at the show, make a commitment to yourself to take care of your customers. Too often a customer walks by and the dealer has his head down, in a huddle with his pals, and a buyer’s questions don’t get answered. Look up when a customer stops by, and greet them. Don’t make the customer interrupt you. Yes, a show can be like a club with all your friends as members, but the customers may have traveled far to get there, and paid an admission to get in.

3. Bring your business cards. If you are out of cards, cut up slips of paper with your phone number, website, and email address so that the customer can follow up with you.

4. If you say you will get back to a customer, do it. There’s nothing more frustrating for a collector than hearing “I think I have one of what you are looking for back at the shop,” and then never hearing back from the dealer.

5. Be patient with stupid questions, and don’t talk down to the customer. This may be their first show, and they’ve come because they inherited a pocketful of things from a grandfather. It may be common stuff to you, but it’s new, interesting, and historical to the customer.

6. If you don’t want the customer to touch anything, put a sign on your table that says so. A sign that says “Ask before handling” is very helpful, too.

7. Stay until the end of the show. There’s nothing more frustrating for a collector than driving 40 miles to a show and paying an admission fee, only to find that a third of the tables are empty by 1 p.m. on Sunday. If you don’t like the scheduled hours because you need to fly home, tell the show organizer.

8. If you are willing to negotiate, take the initiative. Don’t leave it to the customer. You are comfortable negotiating because you do it all the time. Many collectors, especially younger ones, are reluctant to make an offer — it’s just not something that they are comfortable with. And if your prices aren’t negotiable, consider writing “firm” on the tag.

9. If you wander away from your table to visit other tables, leave your phone number, or deputize someone else to cover your table. It’s discouraging for a collector to find something they are interested in, but they can’t buy it because the dealer is absent.

10. Do you have a website where you sell things? Do you have a place in an antique mall — near or far? Do you sell regularly on eBay? Is there another show coming up soon? Tell the customer, so that they can follow you.

Many dealers are passionate about militaria. Unfortunately, that may mean that they run it like a hobby, instead of like a business. And a couple of bad experiences by someone new to the hobby may turn them off — for good. 

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