About three-fourths of the way through the show I realized the audience had really connected to what I had been sharing about my songs. They were intently listening for the various ideas and themes I had described as they listened. It was kind of like I was teaching the audience how to listen to my music -- giving them "homework" of what to listen for in each song. Now, you do have to keep in mind this was coffeehouse show, so it was a pretty intimate setting that allowed me to interact and talk directly to the audience and actually hear some of their feedback, for which I often ask during performances.
I recognized that over the course of a couple of hours I had built a relationship with this audience, of which none, save for two people there, had ever seen me perform before.
At the end of the night, as I stuck around, as I usually do, to chat personally with the audience. I ended up selling more merchandise than I had in a long time at a show. I firmly believe that the merch. moved because over the course of the evening I helped foster a deeper relationship with my audience than if I had simply played my songs for them without giving them insight into my intentions for the songs. This allowed the audience to get to know me. Plus, sticking around after the show to get to know my audience is also a crucial step.
So if you're looking for ways to sell more at shows, then build better relationships with your audience. Then continue to nurture that relationship online after the show (with email and social networking).