6 Hours ago I posted a question concerning the interest of members for a tutorial on selling your work. So far I have had 132 reads and six direct comments showing interest so I am posting the first of my series which is mostly an introduction. I will post a blog daily giving a specific lesson in all major categories of the sales cycle.
Hope you enjoy. And of course, critiques, comments and criticism is welcome as well as suggestions to making it a better blog.
I believe that selling is not hard. Surprisingly as it might seem, that is a minority opinion. There are a great number of so called sales experts that will say that selling is a complex art of utilizing extreme levels of persuasion and manipulation in getting the prospect to do what you want them to do, namely buy your woodwork, services, artistic piece etc. Whatever your product is from full sets of kitchen cabinets, handcrafted furniture or small arts and crafts products like small boxes or wood turnings, or even components to other woodworkers or finishing services for unfinished furniture or refinishing antiques, there is a market for handcrafted work. The key to successfully selling your product lies in being able to sell yourself to your prospect. Let me rephrase that: You must be able to sell yourself to your prospect.
One common misconception that I have heard from various woodworkers is that they do not have any sales skills at all and don’t need to try to sell their work because their work sells itself. While I have high regard for quality and believe that quality work is very important, relying on your work selling itself will result in a great deal of missed opportunities and lost sales. For example, look at all the project posts on this site alone. Every single project I see is made with quality and is a showpiece worthy to be displayed in some of the finest art galleries in the world. Most are worthy to be spotlighted in various wood working magazines, however; as some are, most are not. What is the difference between the work that is printed in magazines and those on this site that aren’t? Opportunity. Those that have had their work published recognized an opportunity and submitted their work for publication or by some means were noticed and approached by the publisher. Does that mean that the piece that was built with great care and precision but is not featured in any type of published print is not worthy of the recognition? Of course not, it simply means that the opportunity hasn’t arrived or been presented. Personally I would rather create the opportunity than wait for it to come knocking on my door.
Let me put it into a sports context. Several years ago when I was a child, the heavy weight boxing champion was Muhammad Ali. He was well known for his slogan that he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Several of my grade school buddies and I got into a discussion of Ali and his fighting ability. One friend made the comment that Muhammad Ali was the greatest fighter that ever was and ever will be. My father who overheard our conversation interjected a lesson I have remembered all my life. His words of wisdom were simply that there was probably a man in every county throughout America who had the ability to beat Ali in a fight. However all those men out there capable were not recognized because they were not in the professional boxing circuit.
My point is your work will sell itself to a certain extent, but without actively selling yourself, how do you get recognized from the competition? What will make your work stand out from all the others to entice a person to buy from you rather than the next guy offering a similar product?
In this tutorial series I will show techniques that have worked for me over the years. These same techniques can be used and employed for any type of woodwork you may be trying to sell. I have used the techniques that I will show you to sell to private individuals, small companies, large companies, and even fortune 500 companies.
Back to the original topic. What is the art of selling? I would define it as a process of finding out what people do, how they do it, why they do it, who do they do it for, and trying to make their job easier by buying from me. I don’t use pressure or gimmicks; I simply convince a prospect that it is good business to do business with me.
When I first went into business for myself, I rented a shop, set up my equipment, hung a sign on my door and purchased a yellow page add as well as a add in the local newspaper and sat eagerly waiting for the phone to ring. These were the days before the internet so web page design was not existent. I sat ,,and sat, and sat,, and guess what? The phone didn’t ring. I soon realized that if I planned to be in business very long, I needed to learn to sell my products and services and I needed to learn it fast because before long the rent was going to be due again and I needed some sales to survive. I started reading books and magazines and anything I could get my hands on concerning selling. What I found was all of the books out there had essentially the same message. The emphasis would vary from book to book but the central idea was the same. Each book stressed outside research, in person probing, and then giving a presentation geared toward closing the sale. And each book would give specific techniques to employ and scripts to use all to “entice the person to buy”.
Now looking back after several years and being successful at selling my work I feel that most of the methods that are in the books on selling that are commonplace in how to sell are the exact reasons why people in general cringe when a sales man approaches them.
Selling is not a gimmick, or a way to persuade, and if you follow the techniques I will outline throughout this series, you will find that the art of selling is not hard, and you will actually have people asking to do business with you.
-- Michael Mills, North Carolina, http://www.scicaskets.com