Selling the Job

My first advice about trying to sell a job to an upholstery client is,

"Stop That!" Stop trying to sell the client anything. "Trying to sell" is actually "trying to manipulate a client" to do what you want. It's all about you and your wants. That attitude will not bring clients to you, no will it make them want to buy your product.

Instead, Look at it from the client's perspective. Think about how you can make the client's time with you a pleasant time, which at the same time, gently teaching them about whatever they ask or that they might need to know. 

Why did they come to you? What do they need? How can you serve them? 

Ask the client questions to find out what they are trying to accomplish

Is the price low enough to get the job?

I have been doing upholstery since 1966, when I began working in my dad's upholstery shop (Which he had just began at that same time. He was learning as I was learning) When I got out on my own many years later, I was very concerned about trying to beat the price of new furniture. Many times I would beat myself down on the price before I would even give the client a price. There were times when we were so short of money that I would knock price way down just to get the work. And the client would often say, "I'll think about it" as they walked out the door. Then, sometimes, after I had a lot of work, they would come back and want me to do it for that low price that I had quoted. Those were some very tight years, which included creditors calling, not enough money to pay the bills, etc. During those years I hated dealing with clients (which led to work for decorators for a few years) Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was too stubborn or too dumb to quit. I just kept plugging on. Eventually things got better. I understand that whole process of trying be cheaper than new furniture and how it didn't work for me or for my potential clients.  

Focusing on Quality, not on having a cheap price

With time I began to focus more and more upon doing quality work. With that decision came the putting aside of trying to be cheaper than new furniture.

Acknowledging My Failings

I don't ever blame the client. Most of the failings that I have had with clients have been of my own making. That's also the good news, because if it is my fault, then that gives me the power to fix it. I invite you to read some of the articles (and stories of personal experiences) that I have written about Customer relations. You can see them here: http://www.upholsteryresource.com/node/121   

The Furniture

The type of customers that I serve are those who have furniture that:
1. fits a specific purpose (i.e. fits between those two bookcases, etc.)
2. is sentemental.
3. antiques
4. is high quality and well work recovering
5. they really like their furniture
6. and maybe another type or two that I just can't think of right now.

Showing Fabric

Like most upholsterers, I have the typic fabric samples in my shop, that the client can check out. In addition to that, I've set up a page on my website where the client can start their online search for fabrics. You can find that page here: Our Fabric Suppliers

My Upholstery Website

I have my website for my upholstery business set up with dozens of pages to answer almost an question that the client can think of. And any time a client asks me a question that isn't on the website often write out a detailed reply to the customer. Then, in many cases, I take that reply, rewrite it a little, and use the information to put up another page on my website.

Teach them

When a client comes into my shop I never try to close the deal. I spend time teaching them about quality form versus cheap foam (I have a very simple foam quality demonstration test that I do for the client) That immediately teaches them the difference.

Treating Them As Friends

While they are in my shop I treat them as friends. We talk about life, family, hobbies, etc. all while I'm getting the information about their furniture. When I give them the estimate, I tell them that they don't need to make up their minds right then. They can take their time. Even so, many of them say that they are ready for me to write up the work order. So, to summarize, I put the client at ease by not trying to pressure them into anything, but just being their to answer their questions, and to teach them about whatever they need to know to make a decision, whenever that is right for them.

What is Best for the Client

Although we as upholsterers are trying to support ourselves and our families, we are also in business to fulfill a need of our clients. Our main focus should be to help them clarify what their needs are and to help them find a solution.

Connecting with Another Human Being

When a client contacts us it can be easy to look upon them as a pocketbook to pay our bills. We should never lose sight of the idea that our clients are human beings. They have needs and desires the same as we do. We should look beyond our own needs and wants and seek to treat them as beings of great value. Who are they as people? When they come to us, what are they looking for?

Lighting Their Passion

The Client has a reason to call an upholsterer. Part of  our privilege is to listen to the client and help them to birth their passion into a flame. I don't have to try to sell them anything. All I have to do is to help them connect with their reason for being here. I spend most of the time they are here connecting with them as people who just want to be heard. During their time here they get a sense of who I am and my role has helping them achieve their dream.

Sometimes they like the idea of just renewing Great Aunt Jane's favorite rocker. They may want to have me restore as close to what it was when it was new. Sometimes I present the idea connecting their memories of their special relative with their own current lives, making the rocker into a show piece that is in keeping with their own lives and furniture. In other words, making the rocker truly theirs as a fully functioning part of their lives nowadays

Showing them what I do

I also take step by step pictures of each job that I do. This is almost like having the client right by my side watching everything that I do. This choice has prompted me not to cut corners, but to do a much higher quality of work. Many of my pictures go onto my online web photo album, which you can see here: http://pgallery.winterssewing.com Clients can go to that photo album and go through the process and see exactly what I do.

Give them an estimate

Most of my estimates I give by email. They send me pictures and I send them an estimate back. Even when they come into the shop to look at fabrics, most of them don't want to hang around waiting for me to make out an estimate. If I have time while their are here, I make out the estimate and give them a copy before they leave. But most of the time I offer to email the estimate to them. I take them to an example of my estimate that I have posted on the wall and explain how it work. In the estimate I give them price options, which you can read about here: http://www.upholsteryresource.com/node/356