Are you selling "person to person"?

You might want to get a cup of coffee ... this is a long post!

WHEN I WAS A KID, you had to call the operator for assistance to place a long-distance call. Among your options was a "person to person" call.

As a 12 year old, I always thought it was funny that you had to specify that the call was "person to person." What were the other options? Person to chicken? Person to keyhole?

What I like about that phrase now is that it describes the best way to sell your artisan, handcrafted jewelry. Person to person. Seller to buyer. Artist to client.

Why do I think this is the best way to sell?

Because I am convinced that part of the experience that makes buying handcrafted jewelry unique, powerful and memorable is the customer's contact with the person who made the jewelry. It elevates the buy to an "experience."

When someone buys a bracelet at the jewelry counter at JC Penney, they bought a bracelet. When they buy a bracelet from you, they are buying an experience that they will remember and have the opportunity to share with others every time they wear the bracelet. And that leads to more referrals of prospective customers to you. And more experiences. And so on. That's how your good reputation spreads.

I'll share a story that relates to this. Not too long ago I bought a print of Philadelphia's famous Boathouse Row by a local artist, Jamie Cavalier. Jamie's dad, Dan, also paints this famous scene, and both artists are well-known locally.

I bought the print because it was beautiful, and it showed Boathouse Row during the day, which is rare - more common are paintings of the scene at night. I didn't know anything about the artist, and quite honestly, it didn't matter.

The other day, I was in Southwind Studios in Narberth, PA, where I bought Jamie's print. And standing near the counter was Jamie's dad, preparing a painting of his own to be reproduced. I introduced myself and told him that I had one of Jamie's prints framed in my office.

Dan beamed - he remembered the print and we talked about how it was painted and titled. We also talked about how his style compares with Jamie's, and Dan's latest piece. The entire conversation lasted only 5 minutes. But because it was a real person-to-person experience, I remember it and probably always will.

The direct contact with Dan is now in my memory bank. He's not just a name to me anymore - he's a living person who I encountered, just briefly, in the store. But that encounter has added more details to the print that I own. I now have a story to tell to people who compliment me on Jamie's "Boathouse Row 2" in my office.

It's no longer a piece of artwork; it's a "conversation piece." I can't talk about the print with people without telling them the story of meeting Jamie's dad at Southwind Studios.

So, one aspect of the person to person experience is that it provides memories that we connect to the object that was purchased.

Another aspect is related to something more basic - the need for contact with others. We like when others notice us. We smile back when someone smiles at us - even when it's a stranger. People in small towns always seemed happier to me than people living in large cities. They are better connected, and often to more people. The loneliest people I know live in New York, the largest city in our country.

The need for contact is so great, in fact, that when you really want to punish someone, you give them the "silent treatment." You pretend they don't exist. In prison, if they want to punish a prisoner, they put him in solitary confinement. No human contact. No person to person.

Think about the "person to person" concept in relation to your own jewelry. It makes people feel important to meet the artist. It connects them to you.

It enhances the experience of buying your jewelry in a way that is completely different than buying jewelry in a store. You are a minor celebrity to them.

Take a moment to recognize the power of that person to person connection. It's a connection that you want to deepen with prospects and existing customers.

How do you deepen the connection?

1. Remind yourself that the contact with the other person, whether or not you make a sale, is something the person will remember. (I still remember buying amethyst earrings from wire legend Jim Fowler, and it happened 20 years ago.) Recognizing that will remind you that every contact is an important connection. You will remember not to take people for granted.

2. Consider the impression you want to make. Do you want to come across as warm? Professional? Knowledgeable? The old sales saw is "people buy from people they like." What about you have others told you they like? And how can you bring more of that out when you have contact with others?

3. Develop excellent listening skills. Learning how to focus on what others are saying is a primary selling skill because it's a primary "connecting" skill. Dale Carnegie's classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is an excellent resource for learning how to listen well.

4. Learn as much as you can about your prospects and customers. When learning someone's name for the first time, repeat it to yourself until you've memorized it. Make notes about the person after they leave to help you recall details, like their favorite stones, preferred colors and more. These details all form connections in our mind about that person, and help relate to them effectively at each encounter. If a customer bought a gift for a friend named Mary, the next time you see them, ask, "How did Mary like the bracelet you gave her?" It cements you in the customer's mind, and reminds her of the quality of your jewelry and how much you care.

5. Send hand-written thank-you notes for lucrative orders. Showing your thanks with a hand-written note will deepen the customer's connection to you.

If you're willing to take extra steps to focus on your connection with customers and prospects, your daily practice will soon become second nature. Improve. Learn more about how to connect with others. It will enhance your selling. It will enhance your connection to other people in your private life, as well. That's because, as mentioned above, connecting is a human need.

Focus on connecting person to person.

And everything else will improve.

Now go make something great!

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