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Commentary: The Business

Daniel Spirer: The Longest Close

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Good things come to those who … make good things


I’ve had a retail store for over 30 years now. About 25 years ago we began an advertising campaign in the Boston Globe, still the largest newspaper in our area. At the time the advertisements were remarkably successful. The first year of running them bi-weekly was a complete throwaway. But in the next three to four years we had customers come into our shop every single day we were open because of those ads.

So it seems that about 20 years ago, a gentleman who lived in the area cut out one of our advertisements with a picture of one of our rings in it. He carried it around with him for about 10 years before finally contacting us on the phone because he had by that time left the area. Now I don’t remember the details of our phone conversation, but apparently we talked enough about what he was looking for that I sent him one of our Lazare Diamond brochures along with some information about some diamonds we had. That was in early 2005.

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I didn’t hear another word from him until about three weeks ago when he called again. He told me of our past conversations and said he was ready to get the ring. He even still had the ad and sent a scan via email of it to me so I could see which ring he was interested in. I spent a good two hours on the phone with him one day and then another hour and a half the next before he finally (remember this is 20 years!) committed to an $11,000 diamond ring order. That’s a good sized order in my book, especially since my margins are well above average on my Lazare Diamonds, and I was thrilled to get it — but let’s look at what we can take out of this transaction:

1 If you have a handmade, timeless product, it doesn’t matter how long you make it for, you’re still going to sell it (actually, I have designs I still sell that I first made up more than 30 years ago). If you’re only catering to what’s hot this year, these kinds of things won’t happen.

2 It works out to about only $575 a year if you think about the 20 years it took to sell him, which doesn’t really make him a good repeat customer.

3 If you’re only a fly-by-night operation and you keep moving around, you’ll never get a chance to make a sale like this.

4 Apparently I’m not such a good closer. I probably should have been able to do it 10 years ago. But then I’ve always taken a very low-key approach to closing, and it’s probably one of the reasons I’m still in business with a lot of satisfied customers.

5 If any of my current customers think I can wait 20 years for them to place a big order, I’m probably going to be dead by the time they get around to it!

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Daniel Spirer owns Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers in Cambridge, MA.

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