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Going custom: Sign on the dotted line

By Tom Weishaar

Being a great salesperson is anything but a lazy man's career.
Being a great salesperson is anything but a lazy man’s career.

Editor’s Note: This is the third instalment in a six-part series on creating custom jewellery. Over the course of the year, we’ll share the processes the author’s store went through to develop custom sales. We’ll also show you the methods used to create six custom pieces.

Make your work special for your customers.
Make your work special for your customers.

Joe Karbo’s 1973 book, The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches, is about an ordinary man’s struggle to become a great salesman. In it, he dedicates his success to always trying to meet his customers’ needs. To this end, Karbo identifies the motivating factors for why people make significant purchases. Deemed the ‘4 Rs,’ they are: romance, recognition, reward, and reincarnation.

In my years as a custom bench jeweller, I have found the strongest of Karbo’s motivators to be reincarnation. Often, a reincarnation sale means I am rebuilding an older item that is being passed down through a family to be worn anew. These types of jobs are laden with emotion on the part of the client. How often has a customer come into your store with a piece of broken jewellery given to them by a relative who has passed on? I’ve heard customers say things like, “This is a very sentimental piece to me. I want it repaired no matter what the cost.”

This is just one type of reincarnation sale, what I call an ‘after-the-event’ order. The other type is the ‘before-the-event’ order. My favourite item to make is a ‘signature’ piece. The client who commissions a signature piece is looking to create a special item that will always be identified with them. Their intent is also to pass it on to a loved one down the road. When I make one of these special signature items, I always feel like I am creating a piece not only for my customer, but also for the next generation.

I mentioned in a previous column that 2012 was a very busy year for my shop; we had double the usual amount of custom jobs. In the months leading up to Christmas, I received orders for six large and expensive signature pieces. This many jobs at once is uncommon, and I’ve thought quite a bit about what may have caused this.

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