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 book) 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?"

If you would rather email the inquiry, the emails 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 handmade 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.

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

Read more of Rick Hill's blogs.

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