This is part two of a three-part series on how to sell your woodworking projects; part one can be found here.
- Ask questions. Ask potential clients what they might need. Putting them on the spot forces them to come up with some kind of answer – that might be a “nothing, really, just looking” kind of answer, or it might be a “well, a new coffee table might be nice, our new puppy was biting on ours” – or some sort of response like that. I would advise you not to do the hard sell, like a used car dealer (“What’s it going to take to get you into this car today?!”) but rather point out the good things about your product – “This coffee table is all solid quarter sawn oak….you can see I use these very strong mortise and tenon joints…and the finish is four coats of poly.” You get the idea.
- Everybody loves a good story. If you can tie a story to a piece, all the better. Remember, you’re not selling some cheap mass-produced junk from China, and can use that to your advantage. Maybe you’re selling a Limbert coffee table replica; you could point out some of the characteristics of that style, how you researched the piece in old books, visited an original in a museum in Boston, and so on. A story adds value to the piece.
- Good photography – a must! Nothing ruins the chance for a sale quicker (at least online) then crappy photography. A white bed sheet as a background for your custom turned cocobolo salt and pepper grinders? Really?! The reason your photos aren’t good are becuase either A) you don’t think it’s a big deal, or B) You don’t know how to do it. Well, it IS a big deal – isn’t the piece you put hours and hours into worth taking a good photo to help sell it? If you don’t know how to take a good picture – and a lot of people don’t – consider having it either professionally done, or done by a friend that knows how to do it. If you like my photos of my products on the white background, such as this one, it was done on the cheap, by myself. The white is just a piece of sheet melamine (I believe it is melamine), 2’x4′, which is very thin and flexible. It is propped up on a table outside, under a porch, curved. The lighting is natural of course, always best. Yes, I used my expensive Nikon DSLR, but results could be just as good with an iPhone, and no, I’m not kidding (I will be doing a photography how-to in the future). Some very basic tweaking in Photoshop – just contrast and brightness, maybe a little blemish or dust removal – and that’s it. Regardless, good photography is a must.
- Gather testimonials. I usally ask my customers for a testimonial of a few sentences. Here’s an actual one from my customers: ” I’ve been looking for a source of hand-crafted mission lamps and was delighted to discover the New Mission Workshop. My new lamp is beautiful and well made, offering a warm finish and clean lines that are a perfect match with my home.” I intersperse these testimonials on my web and printed media. Testimonials are valuable in sales.
- Ask for the sale. When people don’t really need something – like a new toilet, food or gas – then they can hesitate to jump for a purchase. After your pitch, you might say something like, “Do you think you might want to see this in your home? I currently have a break between jobs, so I can get this done for you in short order” or, if it’s already a built item, “I can get this shipped out as soon as tomorrow, would FedEx be ok?” I’ve read that people that ask for the sale get it 3X more then those that don’t.
- Remove all payment barriers. This factor is often overlooked. You should be removing all barriers for people paying you (within reason, of course). The more ways people can pay you, the less chance you’ll get the “That’s the only way I can pay you” line. Some people don’t like giving you, some guy, their credit card info (and who can blame them), or they don’t like using Paypal. They just want to send you a check – even cash. With checks of course, you have to wait several days for the check to clear their bank (ask your bank about details), but let the customer know your product won’t ship until it does – they’ll understand. If you’re at a craft show, or some other remote venue, you have to be very trusting to take a check, and hand over the goods. Instead, you might want to look into a credit card service like Square, which lets you swipe credit cards right on your smart phone!
In the next installment of this series, I’ll discuss where to sell your pieces.