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Selling Your Work2/1/15
I am having a difficult time selling my work. I freely admit that I do not consider myself a "salesman". I build cabinets because it is my passion, however, you do have to sell to keep doing what you love. In a nutshell, I feel I am spending way to much time up front estimating without even knowing if this potential customer is a good fit. I have this fear of making them feel pressured like they have just been to a used car lot and therefore maybe not being as aggressive as I should. Also, there are many occasions where I do not even get to meet the end user up front so I am relying on the GC or designer to sell me - which can be very hit-and-miss. I have considered taking some sales training classes by Sandler (www.sandler.com/). Have any of you had experience with this? What do you guys do to quickly and respectfully "weed though" your prospects? What sales tactics work for a custom cabinetmaker? Thanks!
I'm not a salesmen either but I don't have a problem with selling my work. Try building small samples of your work. Have references of projects you've done. During the first meeting let your samples do the talking of quality and timelyness. Once people find you. You will stay busy.
In our work, I am not quick to weed out anyone, as I can not predetermine who will buy from me. Try as I might, people I would think would never buy my product, often prove to be great customers. I do however, let my product offering, my services and my prices weed out many.
In my opinion, the strongest trait a craftsman should have to run a business is confidence. It affects the way you carry yourself, it relays to your clients, and the success of your sales. I've only recently realized this since I met this husband and wife artist team in our city. He is a furniture maker, his wife a painting artist. They exude confidence and know that everything they do will sell, always! She's has sold work in galleries at over $20,000 and he routinely sells small single pieces over $5,000. Recently they have had some sales where the client buys one from her and one from him. People just enjoy being around them with that positive "vibe" and they enjoy buying their work. One heck of a deal, wished I would have realized this before I retired! Luckily for me, they invited me to show at their studio once a month. It's been a blast! I've not studied how to get more confidence, likely there are tons of places that confidently sell you a way to improve yourself! Get it?
To extend Rich C's response - you don't want to sell your work, sell yourself.
If you can genuinely communicate your passion about what you do, you will put yourself on 'their' side instead of on the other side, in an adversarial contest of wills. People like to buy from passionate, positive people. They like to associate with them, become a part of what the maker does. Most people I talk to wish deeply they could spend their days with the woods, the smells, the accomplishments that I do. They can't, but they can be a part of it by buying into it.
The confidence comes with the passion. Just as you may excitedly talk about some new project with a family member or coworker, you can show similar genuine excitement about someone's project and let them know they - and their decisions - matter to you. Phrase things as "When we get started..," Not "If we get the work".
I do my part by sending them photos of work in process, having them come by the shop, handing them a sample joint to see how things go together. Then on delivery, show them where those joints are, this feature, or that detail. They will then show others, and referrals are made.
Also, the GC has different reasons for asking you to do the work than the end user. In my market, residential GC's avoid confident, passionate people since they themselves are cowed, failed business people that can't do anything else (but that is my burden....). They are intimidated by serious craft, and afraid it will cost them too much. You can address this directly by asking him what he wants from the relationship, or by-passing him to talk to the end user. You can offer him a 5% finder's fee for hooking you up.
I and my two sales guys took a Sandler class in 2012. I found that the techniques were very effective - our sales grew considerably in the next year, and we were doing OK before.
Selling is necessary for your business to survive. And, surprisingly, it has techniques just like woodworking has techniques. A well-taught Sandler course will show them to you. You can then take that knowledge and put it to work for you.
If you want to "sell" your work, you have to find the people who want to buy it, and be able to communicate with them. On the other hand, if you help people buy, then you need to identify and qualify the people you can and want to help, and communicate with them.
The best sales training involves analyzing your personality, learning the sales methods to communicate, and identifying opportunities to help prospects buy. Insincere persuasion may sell a few jobs, but it will not make a honorable profession.
Thanks for the responses! I do have a living showroom full of things we have built that people can see and feel along with lots of samples and I feel like I do a great job of exuding confidence and excitement about what I do. We are very well known and respected in our area and the outside feedback we get from designers, contractors, and the general public is extremely positive. In the end, however, it always seems to come down to price and I am never the lowest bidder out there (nor do I wan't to be). Every "pep talk" I've heard about sales says that price has nothing to do with it - it's all about value. I understand in theory what they are saying but that is not what I am experiencing as I can talk about our value all day long (and they will even agree) but at the end, it becomes an issue of price. I'm sure there is something I am missing here which is why I am not above the fact that maybe I just need some additional training. Just good honorable salesmanship - no games or manipulation - just helping people get what will benefit them the most and keep me doing what I love to do.
If it always comes down to price, then you are probably talking to the wrong people. Price isn't the deciding factor for everyone. You need to learn to qualify your customers. I think that Sandler would help you.
Thanks, Paul! I'm checking into it as we speak.