Learning from Losing A Sale

Over the weekend, my youngest brother made a comment to my Mom about how I’m lying to them about money. He told her he knows that I’m making $3,000 sales and that I’m just not telling them. His proof is my voice mail message. He said that it says, “Hi, you’ve reached Sara from S2 Stationery and Design…” and so he knows that I’m lying.

When I heard this, I laughed at him and told him I wish this were the case and explained that I was not rolling in the dough and was in fact, waiting to hear about an order, but that it wouldn’t be anything close to $3,000, but it would get me close to another wedding invitation order and I was excited.

And then not even an hour later,  it happened. I received an email notifying that I was losing that sale.

Courtesy of Billy Ben

Just for the record nothing was in stone- there was no contract, but there was interest and planning discussions.  Needless to say, it is not the biggest loss ever, but still there is a loss and it left me wondering.

When I responded to the email, I kept it up beat and light-hearted; I offered her enthusiasm and encouragement and wished her well on her order. Completely heart-felt. No bad feeling at all, I promise.

Some of you, especially newer entrepreneur’s will wonder how is this possible.  How am I not upset, hurt, or even angry.

The answer is simple. As I read her email, I realized that everything was about price. I had an instructor once tell me that the people obsessed with price are people you don’t want as customers. He’s absolutely correct. When a potential client balks at cost, unless they are your best friend and they later go on to order many items from you and don’t complain at the price, you have to consider whether or not they are worthy of your time, skill, and product.

In the case of this customer,  the email said it all. She got an offer from a client who also has a print shop and was offering her an amazing deal. They offered her 50% off normal pricing. She was able to view their website and their products and ordered from them immediately. Where as with me, we discussed paper and potential ideas. She didn’t see anything and say, “I want this!”.  For that, I can not begrudge her.  As I told her, when opportunity knocks you have to jump at it.

The more I thought about it though, the more I put my business into perspective. 2012 is a year of growth (hopefully) and discovery. When I started over two years ago, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was simply following my dream.  Over the years, and especially last year, I learned a lot about customers and money and pricing and what I am and am not willing to tolerate. What I discovered is that I am in this business of providing a unique product and a service. Of course, I get satisfaction from doing what I love, but seeing the satisfaction from my customers means even more.   I have always enjoyed attending an event I did the invitations for and seeing how the initial conversation that included color ties in with the actual day and event.

See, I’m in the business to bring amazing quality to your special day. For some that comes in the form of a reception site or the meal. For others, it is in the dress and the small details, like invitations. For many others, it will come in an area that is above all of the details, but is the greatest detail of them all, the ceremony.  I am not here to judge, I’m simply here to make sure I listen and then provide the service both you and I expect.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was super excited about this order and I am bummed at losing it.  It came as a referral from a past customer and we had such a great relationship and experience. I was  so excited that I even offered a discount (I know!), because of said relationship.  Yet, it backfired. It backfired much like the order from last fall, where I was told that I didn’t have enough photos or options on my website.

Both times, I experienced that moment of, “huh”? What do you mean I don’t offer enough options? I offer plenty of options. As a matter of fact, I offer options you’ve never seen because they are unique to you.

Yet, because of these experiences, I am more aware of me, my product, and my service than ever before.  As a matter of fact, yesterday, after I responded, I realized a bit more about my target market, about the kind of client I want and am willing to seek and work with/for – the confident consumer.

You are probably wondering what I mean by the “confident consumer”, and it is really simple. It’s the consumer who walks in and may not know exactly what she/he wants to a T, but knows that they will not be swayed from what they want. They are even willing to trust not only their instinct, but me as a designer.

Or better yet, let me put it this way, they are the customers who walk into any shop knowing that they are looking for one certain thing and are willing to spend the money on it, as opposed to customers who walk into a store without any idea clueless and then find themselves prey to sales and smooth talkers because they aren’t focused. I suppose in some way, I am looking for customers who are a bit more weathered, who have gone through the days of racking up debt to have trendy items and instant gratification and are now focused on quality, products that have meaning.

I know those customers are out there, I just have to find them and create relationships with them. After all, I’ve created work for customers like them before.

Yesterday afternoon offered a learning lesson, but also another reminder of who is my ideal customer. I was grateful and could not be too sad or disappointed.

I knew going into 2012 that I needed more avenues for revenue, or as I prefer “design challenges”.  My creation of my look book focuses on this by offering custom, but not too custom, stylish, eco-friendly, and evolved invitations and products that are accessible to customers from all backgrounds and price points.  They are also less intensive for me and won’t require the same amount of time that a full-on custom design would. I have been preparing.

At the same time, my love is for custom invitations and I intend to make that basis of my business. The only way that is going to happen is with every continued rejection email, or sale loss. And so I thank my customers when they say no, and I’ve learned to appreciate the learning lesson from the experience. I’ve also learned to take that idea I thought of and write it down and even create it so that I have it as an option for future “design challenges”.

As every entrepreneur knows, sometimes you have to fail to succeed and this case is no different. Every lost sale is a success in its own way. I now know that I need to get my look book together even more quickly and I am a bit closer in getting my marketing plan for the second half of 2012 pieced together. All I can say is thank you, customer, thank you.

I am totally interested in hearing how handle situations like these. Please share in the comments!


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S2 Stationery & Design

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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