Selling is a lot like woodworking. Certain steps must be taken before anything can be created. The wood must be measured, cut and sanded before assembly.

A similar process happens when selling. A list of “Suspects” must be created, culled and qualified before selling.
The first step is to gather the list of Suspects. Suspects are unqualified potential users of your products. Suspects may be end users or people who specify products. Anyone that influences the purchase of your product is a Suspect.

For example, if the end product is cabinets, the Suspect list would contain names of people with building permits, contractors, architects, kitchen designers, remodelers, closet organizers, office interior designers, home theatre designers, wine room consultants and even personal gym trainers. Anyone who has any influence on cabinetry purchases is a Suspect.

The list is not hard to assemble. Start with the local people first. Google provides lots of ways to search for local kitchen designers. In addition, the old standby Yellow Pages (online and in the printed directory) is an excellent source of local companies that make great Suspects. In 30 minutes of online research, you will have a plethora of potential customers in your hands.

The next step is to qualify these Suspects into Prospects. Prospects contain people that are actually looking for, or use your products.

To qualify your Suspects, the simplest way is to call them. “Hi, this is Joe from Contemporary Woodworking. We make cabinets. Who would I talk to at your company about showing my cabinets?”

Harvesting E-mails
If you would rather e-mail the inquiry, the e-mails of your Suspects are often on the company web sites.

When contacting a residence, think about mailing a small brochure or picture of your work prior to the call. Then when you call you have a valid reason to follow up. “Hi, this is Joe from Contemporary Woodworking. We sent you a brochure last week on our custom kitchen cabinets. Did you get it? Are you looking for any cabinets in the near future? If not thanks for your time, and if you know of anyone that could use our cabinets, we send a coupon for a free dinner for two for any referral that buys a cabinet.”

Try this for 10 calls, three days a week. It will only take 45 minutes and could change your business from slow to steady.

Secretly a Cabinetmaker

Ed has a lot of cabinet work. His company has continued
to grow through these rough times. As we talked about
our line of cabinet accessories, he brought up unique
cabinet designs he created.
• For a very small apartment kitchen Ed created a
U-shaped kitchen with a connecting island on wheels.
At dinner time, it disconnects and rolls against the wall
to become the table.
• For a cabinet in a small bathroom. Ed put drawer fronts
in the wall with the drawer space coming out of the attic
behind the bathroom wall.
As word of Ed’s creativity spreads, he has been busy
enough to add several people to his shop. Ed says he
always shares a better solution with customer, asking
“What if?” not just quoting.
One thing about Ed — he doesn’t run a cabinet shop;
he outsources all woodwork. He’s a plumber.

Using Reps to Help
Using third parties to spread the word also can help grow sales. This lets the local market for custom woodworking projects or architectural millwork hear from reliable sources other than you, about your company’s strengths.

Many woodworkers try to spread this information by advertising on billboards, in newspapers or Craigslist, or in direct prospecting described above. Another avenue is a local independent rep. These individuals sell, sometimes for multiple non-competing for companies, on a commission. They usually only charge when they make a sale. Independents are also industry specific. So they make a specialty of calling on the market you want to target.

To find independent reps who can sell for the woodworking industry, check out, or start asking your customer base who is calling on them. They will usually know the best reps in the market. Using independent reps who already have established relationships of trust within a particular industry can bring these relationships to the table in selling for you.

Rick Hill is a consultant specializing in woodworking companies that need to find new markets and more sales. He is also an independent sales rep and founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent woodworking industry reps. Reach him through

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