The Art of Selling Homestead Products

Make sure you’re earning back the value of your products with solid sales and display strategies, no matter what you’re selling.

| December 2019 / January 2020

Selling, whether products or services, in person or online, requires a level of promotion that many farmers are uncomfortable with, and a level of interaction that’s challenging for individuals inclined toward being alone. But the truth is that farming is as much about selling as it is about growing, unless you sell all of your crop as a commodity to one buyer.

The image of the farmer as taciturn or introverted just doesn’t fit with the successful farmers I know, all of whom are good at marketing themselves, chatting with customers, and generally being charming and charismatic. If that seems like a high bar, remember that they aren’t like that all the time. As with many people, they have a limited supply of extroversion, which they recharge by being alone.

Peter-Reich
Photo by Peter Reich

Making an Impression

I work alone basically every day throughout the year, with the exception of Christmas tree season, and even then, I’m alone (or with my crew) on weekdays. On weekends, I chat and laugh with customers for eight hours straight each day, and I come home tired from socializing. I need the quiet at the beginning and end of the day to balance out the rest, but when I’m on, I’m on, and if you do direct sales, you’ll need to figure out how to develop this skill too. People know when you’re disengaged, grumpy, impatient, or desperate for a sale. You’ll need to cultivate an easy cheerfulness, not only because this will draw customers to you, but also because it’ll keep you happiest in the long run. I don’t fake my sociability, but rather refill my well by making sure I have time alone.



Remember that selling is about serving someone else’s needs. If what you’re selling is excellent and fairly priced, people will be drawn to you. It’s much more fun to ask people how you can help them than it is to try to convince them to buy. If you’re at a farmers market, be willing to act goofy as a means of breaking the ice. Wear a Hawaiian shirt. Wear one of those fake noses with the eyeglasses and mustache. If people come to your farm, make a playlist of songs to set the mood. I listen to all kinds of music when customers aren’t around, but when they are, I find the absolute best kind of music isn’t Christmas carols (which we’ve all heard too many times before), but a carefully curated list of Motown and soul classics. Put on Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin, and watch people start to smile and sing along. Because I don’t have electricity at the Christmas tree grove on the farm, I use my phone or an iPod plugged into a portable speaker.

The power of music to set the mood isn’t a new idea. Al Pieropan, my former landlord and mentor, used to park his truck down at the You-Cut grove, open both doors, and tune the radio to classical music. The doors did a good job of projecting the sound up the hillside, and people still reminisce about how lovely it was to trudge through the trees in the snow with opera wafting up from below. Al used this same technique to listen to music while he worked in his sections of the grove in the early years of us taking over the farm, and I had to go jump his truck on several occasions when he accidentally drained his battery.






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