This article covers the three best ways to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture and the two following articles in this series will explain how to price commissioned furniture and how to create a quote for refinishing furniture.
What is commissioned furniture?
Maybe you’ve been looking for another way to make money by refinishing furniture. Are you frustrated that your pieces take a while to sell and you run out of storage space? Give commissioned furniture a try!
Commissioned furniture is furniture that someone commissions or requests you refinish. The sales lead provides you with the furniture or the type of furniture they want (you may have inventory or source the furniture for them) and asks you to custom design that furniture for them.
Coming up, in addition to the best ways to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture, we will look at a few pitfalls and concerns to watch for, concerns like getting the pricing and quote right and avoiding wasting your time with cold sales leads.
Why commissioned furniture
Offering custom-refinished commissioned furniture services is a great way to make money by flipping furniture. Instead of painting or refinishing a piece to find the right buyer, the right buyer comes to you! You will have less furniture inventory and have a guaranteed sale, a win-win.
Generally, commissioned furniture refinishers have more experience than beginning refinishers. If you haven’t done many pieces and are still learning, you must tell your clients this – do not charge experienced rates for beginner skills. The reason is that you are working on their property – if you damage it or don’t provide them with the expected quality, this can lead to more significant problems like bad reviews and possibly legal or financial consequences.
To learn the skills needed to refinish furniture professionally, check out the Furniture Flipping 101 program, starting with the Introductory Course.
What are Sales Leads?
What does it mean to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture? What are sales leads? Interested customers are called sales leads – they may lead to a sale. Once you generate sales leads, you can send them a quote, and if they like the quote, the customer then commissions you to refinish their furniture. Woo hoo!
Sales leads are often referred to as hot, warm, or cold. It can take some experience to recognize which type of sales leads you have generated and which ones deserve the most attention or effort.
The Three Best Ways to Generate Sales Leads for Commissioned Furniture
There are three best methods to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture.
1. good ole paid advertising
We are all familiar with advertising; we see it on social media or television. Advertising is so integrated into our daily lives that we hardly think about how many ads we see daily. There are even subliminal advertisements we don’t even register sprinkled in the movies we watch. I don’t expect you to run an ad in the next blockbuster, but you can use paid advertising to find sales leads for commissioned pieces. And there is a reason paid advertising is so popular. It works*!
*Caveat – IF your branding is on point – you need to nail your messaging and know your target audience. There is a reason companies spend big dollars on a marketing budget and ad managers. (Hint, I teach this and more in the Business Management course).
Don’t be afraid of advertising – I see many furniture flippers talk about slow sales on Facebook Marketplace or they can’t find customers. Try advertising. Do you have a local print newspaper? Find out how much a colour or classified ad costs and see if it is within your budget. You will likely find several sales leads for commissioned furniture. Make it into a coupon or use a scissors border to encourage people to cut the ad out and save it – paper ads can be more potent than electronic ones that are here and then gone. And remember that many print papers have digital versions with the option to advertise online.
Take note branding is 185% stronger in print advertising vs. digital advertising, and digital ads are less recalled than print ads. Still, they are more effective than print ads at converting engaged readers into action-takers (sales leads to prospects, in the case of commissioned furniture).
Whether you use social media ads and promotions, search engines, or run old-fashioned print ads, you can usually generate a lot of requests for quotes. These leads are often relatively cold, resulting in much interest in getting a quote, but many are looky-Lous out tire-kicking to see what you charge.
Creating quotes for looky-Lous is a waste of time – BUT you just don’t know; they might be sincere! Develop methods to weed out the looky-Lous. Require pictures and measurements, photos of the room it will go in and inspiration pieces before you provide a quote. If it is too much effort to provide this needed information, they will likely not follow through on the quote.
Ask the sales lead what their budget is before you send the quote – if they say $300 and you know it will be at least $600, you can tell them that your services are likely going to be more than they’ve budgeted. However! Don’t be drawn into the attempts to get a ballpark estimate without photos and measurements – doing so can paint yourself into a corner (so to speak) – they may come back and say, you said it would be X amount when your quote says Y.
And, as another disadvantage, ads cost your business money. The upside of advertising is that it exposes you to more potential sales leads for commissioned furniture.
Target your market with your branding
You must choose your advertising medium carefully depending on your budget and target market. If you don’t know how to determine your target market (or create a sales and marketing strategy), check out the Business Management course in the Furniture Flipping 101 program.
Use advertising wisely – it can get very expensive quickly, increasing your business’s overhead costs. Watch this video on calculating your break-even point and maximum profit to see how fixed costs affect your profit margin.
Ideally, you will keep track of the advertising cost and how many viable leads each ad generates. If the return on investment balances out and your advertising brings in more work and drives up your profits, it makes good business sense to use advertising as part of your business strategies. Besides the advertising medium and the number of sales leads for commissioned furniture you generate, note which ads performed better than others. Use the data you gain to focus your ad campaigns.
You can advertise for free on social media or your website, but you will need to use other strategies to get your posts in front of people.
2. Free Advertising
Sometimes when you post pre-finished pieces for sale on your website, the Facebook marketplace or other buy-and-sell sites for free, you generate sales leads for commissioned furniture. Additionally, your social media pages can generate these leads: the more people who follow you and like your posts, the more people who see your work and ask for quotes. Think of these sites as a portfolio of your work.
Generally, unsolicited sales leads are warmer than paid advertising sales leads since the unsolicited sales lead is actively looking for someone to refinish furniture – you are a solution to their problem.
That isn’t to say paid ads don’t provide solutions to those with problems – paid ads can find more sales leads faster, in fact. But someone finding your business and seeking you out means they have developed a sense of you and your business and will trust you more. Customer psychology and why they buy is covered in depth in the Business Management course.
*If the leads are through social media followers, ensure the people are local before providing a quote, or you can ship the custom piece to them.
Social media can be a blessing and a curse – you generate a lot of interest the more you post, but it can be draining to be constantly on the lookout for content. If you are getting more business through your website and ads or from Facebook Marketplace, rather than posting to social media, consider focusing your efforts there. Remember your time is valuable too – so free advertising may not be ‘free’.
3. Word-of-Mouth (Also free!)
By far the best way to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture, word of mouth generates the hottest sales leads. When someone recommends your services, the person they recommend you to is more likely to follow through on that contact than with someone they spotted advertising or posting. This result is due to increased buyer confidence – using reviews on your website or getting positive buyer feedback on Marketplace has a similar effect by building trust. And best of all, this method is also a free way to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture.
Remember that negative reviews can have a more significant impact than positive ones. While an interesting study by Dartmouth College found that negative reviews boosted sales significantly more than positive reviews, I believe there needs to be strong brand loyalty for that to take effect.
Many can relate to reading negative reviews on places like Amazon marketplace or Google Maps. We might take our business elsewhere if we see a poor overall rating. If you get negative feedback, use it to improve your business. Take the given criticism and fix the issues raised. Strive for good customer relationships through a strong sales strategy. Don’t lash out at negative Nellies or Nelsons, but rather provide a measured response – acknowledge any issues and offer solutions. One bad review mixed with good reviews allows the sales lead to weigh the concern against your response and the other positive reviews. Everyone knows that you can’t please everyone all of the time.
I am reminded of a sale I made. I had a custom-painted table and chairs set; the woman came by, loved them, and requested my delivery services. My husband and son delivered and set up the table, and she was thrilled with the set and super friendly, only to leave me a three-star review, driving down my five-star rating to 4.5. Unfortunately, I had no idea why or any way to counter the review.
If the customer leaves a written review rather than a star rating, the quality of the review will also affect whether or not customers feel it was a valid review. Often, people troll businesses in the hope it will drive down their sales. You will likely encounter this on social media as well. And the more five star ratings you have compared to lower ratings, the easier it is for sales leads to see bad reviews as one-offs.
Once you have been in business for a while, you will hopefully gain repeat customers for commissioned furniture – basically referring themselves back to you!
**These leads are hot and worth cultivating for positive reviews and repeat business. Always ask your clients for reviews and after photos to use on your social media. The more reviews from happy customers, the more likely you are to generate sales leads for commissioned furniture.
Up Next: How to price custom refinished furniture: 6 key steps