JCK asked 10 leading industry experts the following critical question: What is the single most important tip you can offer jewelry salespeople for selling diamonds at retail? Those who were queried included highly regarded current and former retailers, manufacturers, sales trainers, business consultants and executives from major trade organizations – all with decades of experience selling diamonds and training sales associates.
While each expert had their own unique perspective on the question, several universal themes emerged from their answers. One common tip was to focus sales presentations on the romance, beauty and benefits of diamonds, with less emphasis on price and technical features. Another often-mentioned tip was to get to know customers better and make a personal connection with them through friendliness and asking them questions designed to uncover their needs. Still another key tip was to emphasize the integrity, experience, expertise and professionalism of your store and your staff to set yourself apart from the competition.
Diamond Council of America
Terry Chandler is president and chief executive officer of the Diamond Council of America, a Nashville, Tenn.-based non-profit organization that serves as the industry’s “community college system” in providing basic courses and certification in diamonds and colored gemstones. Prior to his involvement with DCA, Chandler worked in jewelry retail for 20 years. He is active in many industry organizations.
1 “Retailers are selling a stunning array of branded product today. But the brand that starts and makes the diamond sale is the store brand. Salespeople must sell the brand of their store – its longevity, training, experience, professionalism, quality, integrity, service, etc. If they’re not doing this, they won’t make that permanent relationship with the customer that leads to many sales. It’s not really about a piece of paper (diamond certification). Whichever document my jeweler presents to me is the one I want, because I trust the jeweler. People rely on their jeweler. They made a decision to buy a diamond from that jeweler because they had a good experience with him and trust him, and they’ll go back to him to repeat that experience in the future.
Hight & Randall Ltd. Personal Jeweler
Barbara Hight-Randall is president and co-owner of Hight & Randall Ltd. Personal Jeweler, a leading retail jewelry store based in Rochester, Minn. Hight-Randall is a former Diamond Promotion Service trainer and instructor for the Gemological Institute of America.
2 “Beauty is everything. Your clients aren’t buying a piece of paper (diamond certificate) or an alphabet soup (quality grades). All those things are fundamental and support the sale, but at the end of the day, if it’s not a beautiful diamond in the eyes of the client, they won’t buy it. Online diamond buyers purchase 'numbers.’ Jewelry stores must sell beauty – it’s the one thing the Internet can’t do. In our store, we sell cut. It’s what speaks to the client, what gives each diamond its own unique, incredible sparkle. You have to appeal to the client on an emotional level, and show them how beautiful the diamond is.”
Brad Huisken is the owner and founder of IAS Training in Lakewood, Calif. Huisken has been involved in sales since 1971 and specializes in sales/management training and consulting.
3 “The key is to sell diamonds based on the reasons the customer wants to buy as opposed to the reasons the salesperson wants to sell. As a salesperson, you have to find out what’s important to the customer in selecting a diamond. This means asking questions that will allow you to make a needs assessment and base your sales presentation on that. Too often, we get tied down on product knowledge or technical information. In some cases, the customer needs it; in other cases they don’t. If they say they’re not sure what they want, they’re looking for your knowledge and expertise.
Retail Jewelry Consultants
David Norman is the president/owner of Retail Jewelry Consultants, a Hollywood, Fla.-based firm that provides merchandising, marketing and sales consulting services to the jewelry industry. Norman most recently was vice president of sales and marketing for diamond retail solutions software provider eDiamondselect. He is considered one of the industry’s premier marketing and merchandising executives and has decades of executive-level experience with jewelry chains large and small, luxury retailers and e-commerce companies.
4 “My key tip for salespeople is this: Don’t ever let the customer walk. You have to make sure that if you don’t have what the customer wants, you get it, and make sure you have it in a timely manner. They have so many places to shop. Also, turnovers are so important. If you’re not getting anywhere with the customer, turn them over to another associate; they may have a better idea. Nobody should walk out of your store without at least two people talking to them.”
Kate Peterson is the president and co-founder of Performance Concepts, a Canton, Ohio-based firm dedicated to providing innovative solutions to retailers and manufacturers in organizational design and development, operations, human resources, management, sales and consumer behavior and staff training/education. Peterson is a former training executive for several jewelry chains.
5 “It’s not about what you say, but what you hear. You’ve got to be able to listen to the customer. Salespeople have gotten so used to the idea that 'This is what I have, and the more I tell you about it, the more you will buy.’ This strategy no longer works, especially in this difficult economy. Customers will only buy what they want, not what you want to sell. Your job is to find out what they want and make your product 'fit’ their needs. This means that salespeople have to ask the right questions.”
David W. Richardson
Richardson Resource Group
David W. Richardson is chief executive officer of Richardson Resource Group, a Phoenix-based consulting firm. Richardson has more than 25 years of sales and management experience and specializes in sales/management training, speech coaching and business presentations.
6 “If a guy comes into a jewelry store and says he is looking for an anniversary gift, I say: 'What have you surprised your wife with in the past?’ He may have bought her a necklace, and she really loved it. So you learn that you don’t really have to 'sell’ the diamond, just replicate the experience. If he’s there to buy an engagement ring, ask him: 'How do you plan to propose?’ Then, share your favorite proposals with him. Everyone is trying to sell a diamond. But your customers want to buy a diamond for a reason. If you can help them with that reason, and show you have an interest in helping them, you’ve set yourself apart from the Internet and the jeweler down the street. The key is to see what your competitors are doing and try to do it differently.”
Hearts On Fire
Glenn Rothman is founder and chief executive officer of the Hearts On Fire Company, a Boston-based business that manufactures, markets and distributes Hearts On Fire diamonds. Established in 1996, Hearts On Fire has become one of the industry’s fastest-growing companies and most distinctive brands – and is known for the high quality of its diamonds and the extensive marketing, sales and training support programs it offers retail partners.
7 “Establish a relationship with customers as quickly and honestly as you possibly can. You’re in the relationship/love business. When people walk into your store, it’s your obligation as a sales professional to give them a gift of positive energy and love, just like if they walked into your home. Everybody who leaves your store should feel better whether they bought something or not. People who sell on price think that’s what drives a transaction. But for people who buy diamonds, emotion drives their experience. If you try to sell by price, you will lose them to the Internet.”
Bernie Robbins Jewelers
Harvey Rovinsky is president/owner of Bernie Robbins Jewelers, a Somers Point, N.J.-based retail chain of 10 stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The company is considered one of the region’s leading luxury jewelers and has been in business for more than 40 years.
8 “We teach our people to focus on conveying quality to our clients – from the sales experience to the product. In my mind, this is the one thing that separates what I do as a bricks & mortar store from the Internet. You really can’t see a diamond on the Internet. We convey to our clients that not every 1 ct., G color, VS stone is the same, and what you see on the Internet is often vastly different from what the actual stone looks like. We show clients the difference. We teach our people to focus on the phenomenal quality of our cut, and we do it effectively with knowledge and training and conviction. We talk about our commitment to the product and to giving our clients the best quality and value.”
Red Jewel Inc.
Caroline Stanley is president/owner of Red Jewel Inc., a Redondo Beach, Calif.-based firm that provides marketing, communications and consulting to the jewelry industry. Stanley spent 10 years in retail jewelry sales and store management, has held high-level positions with Platinum Guild International, Jewelers of America and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, and was a co-founder and developer of JA’s Jewelry 101 educational program for sales associates.
9 “Salespeople need to break down the stranger barrier and get to know their customers. You need to have a conversation with your customers, not an interrogation. Get to know them a little; find out what’s really important to them. Open a dialogue. This is the key to earning their trust and confidence in buying a diamond from you.”
Professional Jewelry Sales Training
Leonard Zell is one of the industry’s leading authorities in the area of jewelry sales training. Based in Portland, Ore., Zell has more than 35 years’ experience in fine jewelry retailing and specializes in creative selling.
10 “The most important thing for salespeople is to have an outstanding smile and enthusiasm. A diamond, like all jewelry, is a highly emotional buy. Salespeople work in the store for so long, it becomes a commodity to them. To the customer, diamonds symbolize 'forever,’ but they don’t really know what that means. You’re selling a memory, something to be cherished forever – and you have to connect with the customer’s emotions. They are coming in with a lot of enthusiasm and good feelings, and if they don’t get that same enthusiasm from the salesperson, it will kill the sale. My experience is that the person with the most outstanding smile and enthusiasm outsells all other salespeople regardless of experience or product knowledge.”