(This is a great guest post from Jana Botkin. Jana is an incredible artist. Check out her work and her blog at CabinArt.net)
As an artist, I am particularly aware of the fact that luxury items are not in great demand these days. Lately I’ve been ruminating upon how to turn conversations into actual jobs, an exercise that is even more important in a shaky economy.
What are some of the things that can send a potential customer back out the door empty-handed? If your business offers custom products, have you considered the intimidation factor? When someone walks through your door needing your product or service, chances are he is uncomfortable and maybe even a little embarrassed because he is unfamiliar with the process. A customer comes to me, let’s call him Bob. I want to help Bob, but if he feels like an idiot, chances are he will just go “think about it” rather than start the process. “Thinking” is polite-speak for, “Forget it. I changed my mind because I feel too stupid or overwhelmed.”
Putting someone at ease by being friendly is obvious, but have you considered teaching a bit of the lingo of your particular business? For example, as an artist, I often hear people use the word “consignment” when they really mean “commission.” If Bob says he wants me to do a “consignment” job for him, I feel pretty certain he isn’t asking me to sell something on his behalf. If I teach him what “commission” means in my business, he feels more confident discussing his idea. And if I’m lucky, he might do a bit of bragging to his friends about the artist he just commissioned!
After Bob gets comfortable with the lingo, it is important to establish some trust. Commission work is about more than just making a sale; it is a short-term business partnership. You have to be able to trust your partners! (Ooh, ever notice how people who say “trust me” are often the least trustworthy?) The best way to establish trust with Bob is to return his phone calls and emails. If I skip this part, I’m sending the message that I might also skip town with his deposit!
Clear communication on both our parts is vital, nay, it is everything. Do I know exactly what Bob is expecting of me? Does he know how the process works? Lucky for me, as an artist, I can draw him a picture! Can you clearly explain or even draw a picture of the process? (You can always hire me!)
Another way that you give your potential customer clues about your trustworthiness is your ability to find stuff – answers, papers, photos, records. If I am being a fumblety-mumblety (where is that thing?), Bob might decide I am too disorganized and may even wonder if I’ll misplace his job before finishing the work! Being a loser in the true sense of the word will not help your credibility. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.)
Have you ever wanted to buy a custom product but felt like an idiot about the process? What made you go home to “think about it”? Hit the comments below and let us know.