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Swede Bengtson-Salesman Extraordinaire

By Donna Zibley



Okay, admit it, you say you make all these wood projects just for fun and to give away, but deep down, you’d really like to make a bit of money off your many hours of work.  Some of you have taken that extra step and actually set up a table at craft shows where you attempted to sell … but with what results?  Having spent time in Swede Bengtson’s sales booth, I’ve seen first-hand that this guy really knows what he’s doing when it comes to bringing in customers who not only buy once but call him later to buy again.


Swede treated us to a fun and fabulous presentation on what’s needed for successful selling:

·         You’ve got to aim at “selling to the browsers who have no intention of buying.”

·         Catch their attention: by how you dress, by standing stand up front, by holding up one of your best pieces…this is what brings in the impulsive buyers.

·         Swede says, “Selling is like Grandma’s apple pie, so many wonderful, tasty ingredients, and it LOOKS really good and inviting. Then, just like you top off the pie with an irresistible scoop of ice cream, you top your product off with your irresistible selling techniques.”

  • Smile and make eye contact.
  • Wear a nametag with your company’s name and your name.
  • Get out in front of your booth. Don’t just sit at the back wall with your arms folded and watch the people walk by.
  • Dress up your table/booth with nice cloth, sign, and an attractive display area.
  • Sometimes, GIVE something away or throw in something for nothing, and you will gain customers.

·         If you can, demonstrate your skills (live scrolling or carving) but do NOT ignore the customer that is standing there!

  • Always have one of your creations in hand to show folks, to hand to them to look at while you explain what it’s made of, etc.
  • If folks pause and are looking – step up and work with them – engage them
  • BS a little. Chat it up with folks. Tell fun stories, etc.
  • Label the back of your project with your business card, your signature and a list of the wood species you’ve used in your project.
  • To prove you’ve created the products yourself, display a picture of yourself at your saw, or put up a sign that says “handcrafted,” etc.
  • If nothing else, distribute your well-designed, informational business card. You never know when someone will call you based on your card. It happens to Swede.

·         Be creative about how you display your work!

  • Do NOT have a cluttered booth.  It’s always better to have less displayed than to have so much stuff out that there’s too much to look at.
  • You can keep additional pieces in boxes under your table and fill in as you sell.
  • Always have some cheaper, fun things on hand, things that attract children for instance.  Parents or Grandparents will often give in and buy things for the kids if they are not expensive.
  • Display some awards, such as blue ribbons that you’ve earned, instantly increasing the value of your product to the consumer.
  • If it works with your project, offer something special. Tell them you will take it home and engrave their name on it. That’s an example of the ice cream on that pie.
  • Have one big attention getter up front, like Swede’s John Wayne piece.
  • Have a handful of small attention getters up front. Pick something so unique that people pick it up and want to know what it is or how that was made, like Swede’s trapped golf ball pieces.  Those “how did you do that” type of items cause a give and take of conversation and interaction that can be priceless to you.
  • It is okay to diversify and have odd, fun, cheap items on hand that aren’t at all like the rest of your work.
  • If your product allows it, show the ACTION it can make.


  • Have a dish of candy out for the kids
  • Have attractive and informative displays
  • Have some creative signs, especially one that shows a bargain, like crossing out 6 for $5 and making it 10 for $5.


  • Don’t become discouraged if you don’t make the sale.
  • Assess the reasons WHY you didn’t sell, and decide to be different next time.


Swede finished his presentation with his favorite saying: "Shoot for the moon and if you miss, you will still be among the stars". Swede’s presentation, as is Swede, was a delight and so very, very informative. Some salesmen are born; others have to work a little harder and smarter, using the tips mentioned above.   That’s Swede’s gift to all of us–right off his successful salesman tool belt.