Tuesday, November 20, 2012

California to South Carolina

Over the years I've designed, built and delivered furniture and cabinetry to a number of states; in fact 13 different states so far.  Most have been along the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Florida.

I've had a web-site for a number of years now and it has slowly been getting more leads from all over. A lot of inquires are looking to see if we have a show room or do we produce a certain line of furniture, but every now and then I will get a request for a price on a custom piece.  Personally, I've found it hard to sell directly from the site since everything I do is custom and NOT CHEAP! 

So how do you sell a $5,000 to $10,000 piece of furniture or a $20,000 to $30,000 set of kitchen cabinets to someone on line when they've never met you or seen your work in person.  First, I try to keep a good variety of pictures of some of my work on my web-site.  Second, once someone e-mails me regarding a project or price, I make sure I respond immediately.  I try to give them some basic information and ask for more information from them.  I try to keep it simple and professional, but making sure to show a lot of interest in what they are inquiring about.

About 2 years ago I received an e-mail from a prospective customer in California asking about custom made kitchen cabinets for their Condo.  My first thought; how the hell do I deliver a complete set of kitchen cabinets to California?  But as I read on, I found out they own a Condo in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, which is not far from Myrtle Beach where my shop was.

They had been working with a design center in Myrtle Beach a couple years before that, but had to put the project on hold and when they decided to start again, the original design center was no longer in business.  They found my web-site, liked what they saw and decided to contact me to see if I would be interested in quoting a price on their kitchen. 

We e-mailed back a forth a number of times.  They sent a copy of the original design and a few pictures of the style cabinets, style doors and drawer fronts and also they would want them painted a custom color.

Something I've never done before, but decided to chance it on this proposal and that was to quote a rough price on the job without visiting the job site first.  I explained it was a very rough proposal, but wanted to see if this was in their budget before we proceeded further.  At the same time, I sent them a list of Customer References and asked them to take the time to contact each one to see what they thought of my work, was I on time, did I do what I said I was going to do, how I worked when in their home and how satisfied they were with the finished project?   I picked 6 different customers; each one I had done more then one project for over the years. ( I found out later, she had contacted all six and I'm glad she did).

I realized the wife was running the show ( her husband was a TV producer and left the project totally up to her).  She thought the pricing was fair and pleased that I sent the customer referral list at the very beginning.   I learned years ago that a customer really needs to feel comfortable with you if they are going to part with thousands of dollars to a stranger and in this case not being able to meet you in person.

We made arrangements for me to get keys to their condo in Pawlys Island and take a look at the job site, take all the measurements and see what was going to be involved.  She also hired a contractor to put in new sheet rock, new ceiling, new electrical and new flooring, so I had to coordinate with him on schedules and who was going to do what so we could get a final proposal back to her.

As always, I refuse to work "for" a contractor as a sub, so my proposal was totally separate from the contractor.  I never knew what he charged for his portion of the work and he never knew what I charged.  I like it that way.  I work strictly for the customer, not the contractor.

We did all the final design and finalized on the final quote, sending her drawings and prices thru e-mails.  I got a signed contract and deposit to start the job and never met the customer. Actually, the first time we finally met face to face was at my shop and her kitchen was better then half built.  She had flown in from California to finalize on some of the things for the condo. (flooring, granite, tile for back splash and lighting fixtures).

She really enjoyed stopping by the shop and actually getting to see her kitchen cabinets being built.  That's one thing I've always enjoyed; letting customers come by so they can see how everything is built.  I have nothing to hide and they really appreciate what goes into making a quality product.

The second time she saw her kitchen cabinets, I was doing the installation.  She flew in again to see the overall progress of the total project and pick out some final things for the kitchen.  She had to go home before it was totally installed, but she was thrilled with what she saw and told me to just send her the final bill when I was finished with my part and she would send me a check.

I finished my part about a week later, sent her a final bill along with a bunch of pictures.  She never hesitated to send me a check for the final payment and she never saw the kitchen again until almost six months later.  When they came to the East coast , she brought her husband by my shop so we could meet and he was able to see the shop.  They invited the contractor and myself to stop by so we could all celebrate and enjoy a Margareta. ( did I mention this was a beach front condo?)  Some jobs are just better then others!

I know I have some pictures of the project so I will post a few on my next post. The very last project I did before I retired and move to Delaware was doing a couple vanities for the same customer.  I never got to see them on that project, but sent lots of pictures and again they were thrilled!

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