A couple weeks ago we talked about ways for woodworkers to sell without selling. I suggested ways to get your name and products known without being a pushy aggressive sales person. One way of getting your custom woodworking business mentioned and referred by others is through professional affiliations and networking.

Many of the designers we work with are members of the American Society of Interior Designers, or the National Kitchen and Bath Association. NKBA and ASID are always looking to educate their members. Volunteer to talk at the local chapter about your specialty. The members will appreciate your efforts and will see you as an expert in your craft.

Another gesture  trade associations appreciate is help with the awards they hand out to their honored members. Consider offering a greatly reduced price on a small table or bookcase with their name on it as an award. The uniqueness of that award would be much more appreciated than another plaque to hang on the wall. Remember that on everything you make you should have your company name permanently attached. The customer may forget your name over time and you want them to be able to find you when they need you.

In the woodworking industry in particular, there are many professional associations. The Architectural Woodworking Institute (AWI) is one very important example.

When we joined AWI, I looked at the local board. Several people that ran the meetings and associations were actually suppliers, not woodworkers. Plywood distributors, Machinery reps and Hardware companies made up many of the officers. Why? They understand the value of being in their customer’s professional space.

One rep told me that in a single AWI meeting he talks with 30 of the top woodworking companies in his market. It would take him a month of sales travel to match the amount of contacts he has in one evening. He never sells at these meetings, but obviously, he is often consulted on problems during the meetings and makes several appointments each time.

AWI also understands the need to be in their customer’s professional space. Our local chapter will be having a booth at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter meeting this month. I will be volunteering to spend time at the booth so that I can be in two of my customer’s spaces at the same time, the woodworkers running the booth and the architects that specify our products.

The way to build your sales without selling is to expose your company and its products everywhere your customers live. Show your company as a positive influence on their professional and personal lives, not as an intrusion. The more you are in their space; the more they will be showing up in yours.

Editor's note: 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 reps in the woodworking industry. He can be reached through his website OnPointSales.com.


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