Pricing handmade jewelry is one of the most common frustrations I encounter when working with jewelers. It is common for a customer to respond that a price is simply too high when starting negotiations on a piece. The customer might not mean it, but it is an easy and convenient response. And as a maker, it can be deflating to hear.
As the seller, it is your job to discover if the price is indeed too high or if there is another issue at hand, as well as to communicate the value of your piece. This is not always easy, but with experience and by truly listening to your potential customer, you will start to feel more comfortable when this situation arises.
Below are 12 strategies for dealing with a customer who is questioning the price of a handmade piece of jewelry
1. Ask questions.
The first thing you need to do is determine if it is the price that is truly the issue. Start by asking questions such as, “Is this a piece of jewelry you want to purchase?” or “What is a price you would be willing to accept?” If the customer’s response is “maybe,” or if she has trouble giving you specifics about what she would be willing to pay, the price is probably not her primary concern.
If this is the case, you need to ask more in-depth questions to find out what the customer really wants. If there is an issue with something other than the price, find out what it is. How can you alleviate the concern? Is there a reasonable solution so both parties are happy? If you just accept the response that your price is to high, you’ll never know.
Often when a customer says your price is too high, she is really asking for permission to purchase the piece. It is your job to give her permission. Ask questions, listen, and overcome her objections.
If a customer truly wants a price that is way below what you’re asking, you probably won’t be able to help her—and that’s okay. You aren’t competing with cheap mass-manufactured jewelry; don’t try to. Handmade, high-quality jewelry is a luxury and should be priced accordingly. You and your customer both know this. Always position your jewelry as the high-quality work it is, even if it means not making a sale.
2. Know your price and have confidence in it.
Before you sell a single piece of jewelry, you should know everything about the price of the piece and how you arrived at it. You should also be able to answer any question that arises when talking to a buyer who may want a variation, such as making the same ring but with a different gemstone or a different karat of gold or making it four sizes larger.
3. Sell your story.
You’re selling jewelry, but you’re also selling your story, your skills and your creativity. Most jewelry has a story behind it; what is yours? What was the inspiration? What are the special materials you used in it?
If you ask the person standing behind you in line at the grocery store about a piece of jewelry she has on, she will, 99 percent of the time, tell you a story. Her response won’t be, “Oh, I got it on sale.” Jewelry is personal. It is a statement of who the wearer is, who gave it to her, or when she got it. Incorporate your jewelry’s unique story when you’re talking about a piece.
4. Sell your professional skills.
One of my favorite pricing stories is about a designer at a show. A buyer approached him about a specific ring and asked how long it took to make it. The designer responded that it took 35 years. That was the amount of time he had been honing his metalsmithing skills and becoming an exceptional goldsmith. The buyer bought the ring. No more questions. It’s okay to let your customers know your background. This goes back to communicating the quality of your work and the craftsmanship that goes into each piece.
5. Avoid the “Is that the best you can do?” trap.
This also exists under the guise of, “Is that your best price?” I got this question a lot at shows. I learned to smile and say “No, but I can raise the price. That would be my best price.” The customer would always smile. And then I would add, “I guess the answer depends on which side of the display cases you are standing on.” I don’t think I ever offended anyone, and I got my point across.
6. Decide when you’re willing to negotiate (and when you’re not).
Under what circumstances are you willing to discount a piece? Some customers seem to feel that negotiating is just a part of the buying game. It doesn’t have to be. In all the years I did both retail and industry shows, I rarely gave discounts. That being said, there were times when I did. If I had experienced a dreadful show and just wanted to make the cost of my booth, I might consider a discount, particularly if it was near the end of the show. Or if someone was going to buy more than a couple pieces. Or if I really wanted to get rid of a specific piece I knew was no longer going to be in our collections. Spend some time thinking about the situations in which you’re willing to give discounts. Then stick to them. Knowing when you’re willing to say yes will make it easy to say no.
7. Know your differentiator.
When selling a piece or quoting a price, you must know what makes your jewelry different from the designer down the aisle at a craft show or across town at another store. Is it the quality of your pearls or your metalsmithing skills or the fact that you have a well-known name in the market? Know what your differentiator is and make sure to let the customer know it as well.
8. Be nice.
Really. Whether the person buys the piece or not. “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. And … all things not being equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” This is a quote from Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness by Jeffrey Gitomer, which is a MUST for anyone selling anything. The statement is true. People want to buy from people they like. Why would anyone give their hard-earned bucks to someone who is difficult or unpleasant? If you want to have fewer questions about your price and more sales, be pleasant! Smile! Listen!
9. Follow the two-sentence rule.
Okay, this is not an official rule anywhere except in the Marlene Richey School of Jewelry Business. When you give a price, without hesitating, follow it with two sentences. This helps prevent sticker shock. Example: “This ring is $2,000.” (Do not stop here!) “Look at the quality of the pearl. Do you see its amazing luster? And the ring is handcrafted from 18k yellow gold.” Okay, that’s three sentences. But you get the idea.
10. Offer add-on services.
What are the extra services you offer with your jewelry? Free sizing? Cleaning once a year? A periodic prong check? Sell the service along with the piece.
11. Don’t get too specific.
While you should be able to explain the quality of the materials you are using, you don’t need to get into the specifics how much you paid for the gold, the weight of a piece or the gemstone price.
12. Be honest with yourself.
How many people are telling you that your price is too high? If you periodically get someone saying your prices are too high, that is okay. If you never get anyone saying your prices are too high, then your prices are too low. If you frequently get comments that your prices are too high, then I would seriously look at your pricing structure, your materials, your labor costs and what similar work is selling for. Are you priced too high?
Pricing and defending your prices is one of the most difficult things to do in a business, particularly one dealing in handmade items. I can promise that you will get more confident about your prices as time goes on, but you will still periodically second guess yourself. This is something we all have in common.
Marlene Richey started a jewelry design firm with no prior business experience. During the 35 years since, Marlene has run a wholesale business and a retail gallery, participated in hundreds of craft and trade shows, and traveled across America selling jewelry. She has served on the boards of SNAG, CJDG, Maine Craft Association, Metalwerx and WJA. Marlene consults with artists, teaches workshops and was a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Maine College of Art. She is also a contributor to various jewelry and craft publications and wrote Profiting by Design, an award-winning book on running a jewelry business.