This blog post got very lengthy, so I am dividing it into at least 2 parts. Part 2 will be next week.
Let's just get it out there. Criticism hurts. But when it's something you've created with your own two hands and it's something you're proud of...the criticism not only results in hurt feelings, but is a real blow to self confidence.
What to say to a customer if they take a verbal crap all over your creations? You could be rude right back. However, that only makes them angry and angry people like to talk to whoever will listen. So I recommend against that technique. If you have a plan of how to deal with criticism in advance, more than likely you will handle it professionally and without the chance of negative word of mouth testimonials.
First, assess what they are criticizing to determine how you will handle it. Today I'm going to chat about pricing criticism...especially because I got that a LOT at the last show I did. It's entirely possible my work has outgrown that particular venue.
Someone comes to your booth and complains about your pricing or maybe say they can get it cheaper at XYZ Mart of Cheap Crap. It helps to tell yourself that not everyone can or will pay for high quality handmade, and that's fine. To them a "disposable" pair of $5 earrings may be a treat. We cannot judge others for how they choose to spend their money, especially on things they don't "need". But we can educate them so hopefully they will appreciate the craftsmanship and the artistry, rather than simply stick their nose up at the price.
At my last show, a woman was admiring my chainmaille bracelet pictured below. She looked at the price and made a high pitched loud squeaking noise and dropped the bracelet back on the tray. She then (loudly) says "I wasn't expecting it to be that much!"
What I wanted to say was "Really?!? Was that necessary to be so dramatic? I thought that bracelet bit you."
However, due to my pricing self talk beforehand, I was able to calmly and professionally say "The pricing reflects the fact that every single ring in that bracelet is opened, closed, and woven into that pattern with my two hands and 2 pairs of pliers. It also takes into account the time I spend making sure every single ring is closed so perfectly you can barely find the seam. I also spent time antiquing it, polishing, then tumbling it. It also reflects the current cost of sterling silver and what I spent on the materials to create that bracelet."
At this point people are generally much more understanding about the price because they really had no clue about the lengthy process and high cost of quality materials. They can appreciate the price. This does not mean they are suddenly willing to spend their money on it. That's their choice. Expecting them to change suddenly after a quick lesson about your prices is like Mormons knocking on the door of a Baptist and expecting to suddenly convert them to their faith. People have very personal and deep beliefs about money and the value of things.
And yes, that's frustrating on a slow sales day. But maybe this person will buy something else. Or keep thinking about that piece and email you after the show. You never know. However, the right person who loves that specific piece will buy it and not bat an eye at the price. It's happened to me more times than I can count.
About saying they can get it cheaper at XYZ Mart of Cheap Crap...there are a couple problems with that. IF that's really true, and please don't be offended by what I'm about to say...but if that really is true, it's time to change your designs. The best way to make sure that doesn't happen it to use handmade components. The big box stores aren't purchasing pieces made using art components, which is what really sets someone's work apart from others.
More than likely it isn't true and the shopper is just upset they can't buy that gorgeous bangle for $5. Again, in a NON-JUDGEMENTAL tone, you explain the difference between you and the box store down the street...the difference in workmanship, that each piece was made by you and not someone in China, the difference in materials, that they can be assured your pieces do not contain lead. It's important to compare and contrast without using inflammatory words like cheap, garbage, sweatshops, etc. The fact is it is incredibly difficult to resist the lure of getting things as inexpensively as possible and every one of us is guilty. It's also impossible to not buy things made in China. So again, do not pass judgement while educating shoppers.
Next week we'll talk about what to do when people criticize the aesthetics of your work.