The Heart Of The Business

Selling is what makesthe engine hum, what gets the juices flowing. Here, in time for the Christmas selling season, are scores of hints and suggestions which will help turn a good sales staff into a squadron of high performers

Selling is the heart of any retail business and the care and feeding of salespeople one of the prime tasks of managers. That’s why this edition of The JCK Management Study Center focuses on many aspects of sales, offering tips ranging from role playing as a training tool to handling dismissals and from measuring performance to boosting add-ons. The advice gathered here is condensed from seminars presented during the conference program preceding The 1995 JCK International Jewelry Show, held in June in Las Vegas, Nev.

The JCK Management Study Center is sponsored by JCK and the Jewelers Education Foundation of the American Gem Society. This report was prepared by George Holmes, JCK editor in chief, with reporting by Ren Miller, copy editor, and William George Shuster, senior editor.

SIMPLY ASK

Sixty percent of all sales presentations have no close simply because salespeople don’t ask for it, says Shane Decker, a gemologist and sales consultant from Green Mountain Falls, Colo.

Decker cites a study that found four major reasons why customers don’t buy:

The sales associate doesn’t ask the customer to buy at any point in the sales presentation. (Customers want assurance from sales associates that an item is worth the cost and will look good on them.)

The customer thinks the piece is too expensive. (The sales associate doesn’t prove its worth, romance it or create a desire for it.)

The sales associate can’t handle objections. (An objection always shows interest, so probe whether it involves price, integrity or indecisiveness, and then resell and close.)

The store doesn’t have what the customer wants, and the sales associate doesn’t offer to order it.

In control: Sales associates are directly in control of five areas that affect the close, says Decker. Here’s how to use them to your advantage:

  • Smile. It breaks the ice, relaxes the customer and eliminates some objections before they start.

  • Make eye contact. Don’t stare, but look at the customer with a sincere gaze. It shows you are trustworthy, allows you to control the sale and shows you are not intimidated.

  • Watch your body language. Don’t slouch. Use your head, hands and shoulders when you speak to express yourself enthusiastically.

  • Control your voice. The excitement in your voice can hold a customer’s attention. Vary your volume from high to low, your speed from fast to slow, etc. This will indicate you’re not giving the much-dreaded canned speech.

  • Develop your communication skills. In a nutshell, this involves your ability to speak, be understood and understand others.

Add-ons: Economic studies show you can boost business 20% annually with add-ons without spending anything more on advertising, says Decker. But, he notes, most salespeople miss the chance by not recognizing how easy add-on sales can be. After all, the customer is already in a spending mood.

After you sell the first item, write the customer’s name on the ticket and list the item. But don’t add the tax and final price right away – just put the pen on the ticket and slide it to the side. Without saying a word, you’ve told the customer, “We’re not finished yet.”

There are five possibilities for add-on sales:

Matching. If someone buys ruby earrings, show a ruby bracelet. (There is one rule to add-ons you should never break: if you just sold an engagement set, don’t diminish its value by selling a more expensive add-on.)

Step up. A customer came in to spend $1,500 and you bumped him up to $3,000 with an add-on of equal value. (You can usually double the amount the customer says he wants to spend.)

Service counters. Take 10 or 15 minutes to change a battery that would normally take a minute. This gives you the chance to show the customer a high-ticket item. Other tactics to keep the customer in the store longer include offering a beverage or offering to clean a piece of jewelry he or she is wearing.

Referral. If a customer isn’t interested in the 1-ct. diamond you’ve just shown him, ask if he knows someone who might be. This is the best advertising because it’s free and because people will trust a friend’s advice.

Non-matching. This is the hardest add-on sale to make, but don’t miss a chance to try it.

One last tip: show all customers some high-ticket merchandise. It makes the customer feel important, plants seeds of desire and identifies you as a source for this type of merchandise. In addition, the customer may find the piece is affordable after all.

10 SELLING COMMANDMENTS

Selling jewelry involves more than learning 13 ways to overcome price objections, says Larry Helms, president of Western Training Systems in Medford, Ore. Instead, think of it as a consulting job. “You’ve got to remember you are dealing with esoteric and exotic things that most people don’t understand,” he says. By understanding people, jewelry and what happens during the sales process, says Helms, you can become a high-performance salesperson.

He offers these 10 commandments:

1. Don’t be discouraged if your first efforts are not successful.

2. Always be courteous, even if your client is not.

3. Avoid controversial subjects. “Religion, politics and clients do not mix,” says Helms. “Your business is not to proselytize; it is to satisfy their needs with your products.”

4. Service goes a long, long way. Be prepared to help without an immediate financial reward. Can you clean a ring without charging?

5. Keep personal problems to yourself.

6. Never say anything negative about the competition. Let the marketplace take care of that. When you bad-mouth the competition, people think less of you.

7. Respect your clients’ business expertise. Don’t tell them how to run their businesses.

8. Have a good knowledge of your product/service. Show that you believe in it.

9. Be considerate of your clients’ privacy. At some point, walk away and let your customers discuss the purchase privately (without compromising security).

10. Sell your clients what they need, not something they can’t use just to move your inventory. Sell up when you can, cross-sell when you can, but set a moral barrier that you won’t cross.

To apply these commandments effectively, you need to understand the differences in what motivates consumers to buy, says Helms. Age plays a big role. He divides the population into four groups:

Pre-baby boomers (age 50 and up) – They lived through World War II and were raised to believe hard work would secure a better future. Their key motivators are stability and security, and their top values include loyalty and respect. Jewelers are comfortable with this market, so it is a primary one for them. But it’s not the only one.

Baby Boomers (middle 30s to early 50s) – Reared in a period of prosperity, Boomers want it all and have gone into debt to get it. But they are being squeezed by the sheer size of their generation and the fact they are most affected by corporate layoffs (“They are going to the poorhouse, but they’re going in a Beamer,” Helms quips). Their key motivators are respect and success, and their top values are social consciousness, credentials, involvement in decision-making and feeling appreciated for their hard work. The sales techniques that worked with this generation during the conspicuous consumption of the 1980s won’t work in the value-oriented 1990s.

Baby Busters (mid-20s to mid-30s) – Members of this generation also were raised in prosperity. High-tech is second nature to them, and they are activists on self-interest issues. They want enjoyable experiences, are more self-indulgent and less competitive than Boomers, have less loyalty to institutions, are not as involved in global issues and feel they are entitled to have a good life. “This is who you’ll have to depend on as customers in coming years,” cautions Helms.

Baby Boomlet (under mid-20s) – Prosperity is less certain for members of this generation, but they are just as high-tech-oriented as the Busters. Their key motivators and values remain to be seen.

Given this range, how will you sell jewelry to these people? Helms offers the following advice:

  • Determine customers’ needs.

  • Relate the benefits of what you wish to sell to their needs. (Tell them how nice they’ll look wearing the ruby.)

  • Relate the features of what you wish to sell to them. (Tell them how durable and valuable a ruby is.)

  • “People do not buy products,” says Helms. “They buy how a product will make them feel. They buy an adequate solution, a trusted consultant, value-added service.”

His parting thoughts:

  • Learn all the technical data you can about your products and services.

  • Maintain integrity.

  • Be persistent. A study by Herb True, a professor at Notre Dame University, found that 46% of salespeople asked for the sale once then quit, 24% asked twice, 14% asked three times and 12% asked four times. But the same study found that 60% of completed sales occur on the fifth attempt to close.

MAXIMUM CONTACT,MAXIMUM SALES

Maximizing sales begins with maximizing your contact with every person who comes to your store.

“I always start with just a greeting,” says Linda Abell of Crescent-Westwood Jewelers Inc. in Westwood, Cal. “They’ll always greet you back, and may even tell you what they came in for. If they don’t, then I’m forced to add, ‘How may I help you?'” That usually requires more of an answer than just “May I help you?”

If the customer says “just looking,” pause for a few seconds to see if she’ll say what she’s actually looking for. If she does, Abell says, point her in the right direction, walk with her and start a conversation. Ask the normal questions covering such things as price range, style and who it’s for. “If she really wants to be left alone, you’ll know at that point and you should leave her alone,” Abell adds. “It’s OK to let customers browse because you want to whet their appetites. But remember, you won’t make a sale if you’re at one end of the store and the customer is at the other.”

It’s important to keep a conversation going with customers, even those who are “just looking.” Show them something new or exciting. For example, one day a woman came to Abell’s store on lunch break and said she liked to look at the jewelry. But it was clear she had no intention of buying. Abell welcomed her and asked if she had seen the store’s collection of champagne diamond jewelry. As they walked to that case, Abell explained what champagne diamonds are and where they come from. She noticed as the woman looked at the case that her eyes paused at the rings, so she took one out and handed it to her. “Try this on,” she told her. “It’s a new design and I just love the way the white diamonds accentuate the color of the champagne diamonds. And that soft velvety matte finish makes those diamond just sparkle at you.” The woman admired the ring and then handed it back – but Abell didn’t take it.

“Why don’t you get it?” she asked the woman.

“I have no business spending $1,250 on a piece of jewelry,” was the response.

“Why not? When’s the last time you treated yourself to something really special?”

The woman put the ring back on her finger and bought it. “I never expected her to buy that ring,” says Abell. “All I was doing was planting a seed. I made a suggestion that she treat herself, and she did it.”

Make a friend: Jewelry stores spend thousands of dollars in advertising each year. “That’s important because we’ve got to keep our name and our image out there,” Abell says. “But it’s not often that someone calls and asks you to send the $10,000 necklace you advertised.” Once advertising gets someone into your store, that’s when you put your advertising dollars to work by turning that person into a friend. Introduce the person to your merchandise, your services and your store’s personality. “You’re cementing a bond for future relationships,” she says.

One day, for example, Abell was chatting with a woman who needed a watch battery and found out that she and her husband were going to Australia to buy opals on vacation. “I wanted to make a friend,” she says, “because she may buy an opal necklace in Australia and then come back here and decide she needs matching earrings.”

Abell offered to explain about different kinds of opals so the woman would be more educated about them when she got to Australia. “It wasn’t threatening; I wasn’t trying to sell her anything,” she says. During their conversation, Abell asked how long the woman had been married, what kind of work she did, what kind of work her husband did – “all the things you talk about with a new friend.” Then she wished the woman a good trip and said she’d like to hear about it afterward. As soon as the woman left, Abell called the woman’s husband, introduced herself and told him about an opal ring his wife had admired. “Wouldn’t it be a great way to start your vacation to surprise her with this ring on the plane on the way to Australia?” she asked the husband. “He bought the ring because I planted a seed about how he was going to give the gift.”

Other tips: Here are some other ideas for engaging the interest of customers:

  • Colored gems are a good launching pad because of their relative affordability and their lore. Use these factors to show customers how easy and interesting it is to own colored gems. Once you’ve sold the colored gem, says Abell, suggest diamond accents. They don’t sound as expensive to customers when you mention the cost of each diamond, she notes, but when added together they can create a substantial sale.

  • Always imagine what more you can do for each client and how you can use one sale as a springboard to a bigger one. “If you don’t make suggestions or ask what more you can do, the client won’t tell you,” she says.

  • The telephone is just as important a sales tool as the sales counter. Use it to keep in touch with your regular clients, remind them about special events and clue them in about new merchandise that might interest them. And when calling a spouse to remind him or her about an upcoming anniversary or event, always have a specific suggestion culled from the other spouse’s “wish list.”

If no special occasion is coming up soon, call the spouse to suggest giving a gift “just because I love you.” And don’t forget to call when a very special opportunity arises; Abell once called a client when she heard about a diamond once owned by the wife of millionaire recluse Howard Hughes. He agreed to buy it even though he had recently bought a diamond of similar quality and shape that was even bigger.

Add-ons are an opportunity in waiting. Once the initial sale is made, says Abell, the customer is relaxed and the defenses are down. “This is the ideal time to suggest a matching or complementary piece,” she says.

If you can’t persuade the client to buy something to match the piece now, at least ask if you may call later with a reminder about the next occasion.

“Remember that you’re doing your clients a favor by helping them select an item that will be cherished for years to come.”

UNSPOKEN LANGUAGE

Careful observation of how a customer moves and looks about the store can offer critical help in making a sale, says Bill Farmer of Farmer’s Jewelry in Lexington, Ky.

If a customer touches his or her face or leans forward while looking at the jewelry, for example, these are good indications that a buying decision is about to be made. If the two body language signs come at the same time, it’s very positive. Other good signals include nodding in agreement with something the salesperson says, picking up and putting on the piece of jewelry and asking questions. Lack of objections also is a good sign.

Farmer suggests matching your own body language with the customer’s. If the customer stands straight, so should you. The same is true if the customer slouches. Also match the rate of speech. If the customer speaks quickly, so should you. If the customer speaks slowly and deliberately, match the pace.

Eye contact is vital, Farmer says. His rule: give 10% more eye contact than you receive. Moreover, being aware of where the customer’s eyes are moving can be a real help to the salesperson. In Farmer’s book, people who:

  • Look up and to the left are visual people – they like what they see.

  • Look down and to the left are feeling people – sentiment is their key.

  • Look back and forth – like comparisons and are sensitive to price and size.

  • Look up and to the right are order people – they like an orderly setting and presentation.

  • Look down and to the right are stressed or distracted people – reflecting that for them the occasion is forced and the price level is wrong.

MEASURING PERFORMANCE

Goals that you want your sales staff to reach are merely wish lists or dreams if you don’t write them down, says Laura Laaman of Executive Training Consultants in Rochester, N.Y. Always have measurable objectives, she says. Do not use vague targets.

Also, if you are going to set goals, start with yourself. You cannot cultivate goal setters until you personally are a good goal-setter, says Laaman. And when it comes to rewards for achieving goals, don’t forget yourself, if it means no more than promising yourself a nice dinner or tickets to a play.

Desire is a critical factor. “If you don’t really want the goal, you won’t pay the price of accomplishing it,” she says. One help is to visualize yourself achieving a goal – something that leads to what Laaman calls “the law of expectation.” This means:

  • People who envision themselves as lucky are luckier.

  • People who feel they are accident-prone are.

  • People who feel successful are more successful.

Not only must goals be specific and written, says Laaman. So must your evaluations of your sales staff. She suggests an evaluation that rates a salesperson as poor, fair, good or excellent (see chart, above). The employee and manager should sign off on the completed evaluation.

PAY & DISMISSALS

There are two laws of performance, says Sam Arnstein, a management training specialist in Mercer Island, Wash.

First, people perform better when they know what’s expected of them, and those expectations must be job-related, measurable and communicated to them.

Second, people perform better when they’re told how they are doing.

Performance reviews, therefore, should:

  • Be performed at regular intervals, not haphazardly or infrequently.

  • Be objective.

  • Cover only communicated expectations.

  • Be a dialog.

  • Be 100% positive.

  • Incorporate a plan for growth.

  • Preferably not be a compensation review.

Don’t expect maximum productivity for minimum pay. Likewise, don’t assume high compensation will guarantee high productivity.

Remember that your compensation package competes with all industries, not just your own. And remember an important legal issue: there always should be equal pay for equal responsibility or job requirements, without regard for sex, race, religion, etc.

Dismissals: There are basically five steps, up to and including dismissal, for dealing with employees who aren’t fulfilling your expectations.

  • Tell the employee he or she is not meeting expectations.

  • Set up a plan to get the employee “back on line” with checkpoints and a deadline.

  • Provide training and counseling where appropriate.

  • Document in writing the steps mentioned above.

  • If the deadline arrives and the employee still is not performing up to expectations, cut the cord.

Remember, it’s important when terminating someone’s employment that they understand fully why, and that they understand the why is job-related, in terms of expectations and results.

PEOPLE MANAGEMENT

Jewelry stores spend far too little time on people management, says Thomas S. Tivol, president of Tivol Jewels, Kansas City, Mo. That’s because it’s harder to do than such support functions as merchandising, marketing, inventory control or finance.

Some points to consider when training staff people:

Orientation of new employees is important. “The first day is vital,” says Tivol. “Capitalize on the new person’s enthusiasm. Set up a breakfast meeting with the manager. Make the employee feel that he or she is the most important person in the organization.”

Many jewelers neglect good, on-going sales training. “The jewelry industry is a ‘buying’ industry, not a training one,” says Tivol, “so most jewelers train for a limited time and stop.” In addition, “jewelers generally have mediocre expectations of what salespeople can learn.”

Tivol’s business has a detailed, on-going training program for employees “with books and assignments like a university, and [training] techniques like role-playing.” Topics cover such matters as product knowledge, sales techniques, customer dossiers, use of the telephone and insurance replacement.

“The most important problem jewelers have [is letting] salespeople do non-sales functions, such as gift wrap or using the charge card machine,” says Tivol. “In effect, that tells salespeople that it’s OK not to stay on the floor with the customer. That is an outrageous breach of salesmanship because it loses [the opportunity for] extra add-on sales.”

Tivol acknowledges the staffs of many small stores often must handle many functions. But if at all possible, he says, “non-sales functions should be done by non-salespeople, so the salespeople can stay on the sales floor.”

A clearly-written policy on staff discipline should be included in the employee handbook and explained during employee orientation. (“Discharge should never be a surprise in a well-run jewelry store,” Tivol stresses.)

Discipline should be progressive (warnings, reprimands, temporary suspension, etc.) with the “same disciplines for the same offenses.” And discipline should be imposed only “after the manager has identified the cause.”

TRAINING PROGRAM ABCs

One of the most difficult aspects of in-store training often is getting started, says training professional Carney Chavis of Rogers Ltd., Middletown, Ohio.

“Why don’t we train more?” he asks. No time. Who ever has extra time to do the training? The truth is, he says, you can’t afford not to train. To be successful, you must hire the best people and train the daylights out of them. All associates need sales training to give excellent customer service.

Where to start if you are new to the idea (or need a refresher)?

1. Determine the training needs.

2. Prioritize the order in which you will conduct the training.

3. Schedule the training sessions.

4. Follow up each session with coaching.

The most important thing to do is set a training schedule and then stick to it, says Chavis. The schedule should be written and published in advance, giving people time to prepare. In some cases, there could be some homework to do between sessions.

There are many ways to set training schedules, Chavis says. Among them:

  • Establish one-hour sessions before or after store hours, weekly or bi-weekly.

  • Hold 10-minute meetings before the daily opening and then review material immediately after the store closes.

  • Do quick one-on-one sessions during business hours when the opportunity presents itself (the key here is to have formal training material available and follow the agenda).

Chavis offers a number of other suggestions on how to implement and succeed with a training program. Four on his agenda:

1. Use more experienced staff members to do the training in areas where they excel.

2. Use the buddy system; match more experienced sales associates with less-experienced ones. This benefits all of those involved.

3. Use sales training charts to monitor progress.

4. Issue certificates or give rewards to those who complete each training session.

To help build an effective training course, Chavis recommends using material available from many industry organizations. His list includes:

From the World Gold Council, (212) 688-0005:

  • Gold Jewelry Product Knowledge and Manufacturing Techniques. These two videos (12 and 81/2 minutes) are part of a series designed to help you sell karat gold jewelry with greater confidence and skill. Good for a one-hour session

  • The Gold Wardrobe. An 81/2-minute video that focuses on button earrings, hoops, bracelets, necklaces and add-ons for a quick change of look. Good for a half-hour session. The staff should leave the session with an action plan on how to use the information.

From the Diamond Promotion Service, (800) 370-6789:

  • Diamond Rules II. This five-session self-study program covers over-the-counter knowledge and selling skills, including understanding the product, the customer and making the match between them. Allow 15 hours to complete the training.

  • The Case for the Two Months’ Salary Guideline. The objective of this in-store training package is to sell high-priced engagement rings. The package includes a video showing how to use two months of the client’s salary as a starting point for setting a price range. Use for a single one-hour session or three 20- to 30-minute sessions

  • Selling $1,000+ Diamond Jewelry. The focus is on the customer of the ’90s and helping a sales associate sell to this individual. Material for two one-hour sessions.

From the Gemological Institute of America, (800) 421-7250:

  • Diamonds Course #22. This learn-at-home course is available in text or on audio. There are 22 assignments; 12 include questionnaires to answer and return. The course takes up to 24 months to complete. After a supervised final exam, successful candidates receive the GIA Diamond Certificate.

  • Colored Stones Course #27. This learn-at-home course comes with a video and 40 written assignments, 19 with questionnaires that need answers. It takes up to 24 months to complete. After a supervised final exam, successful candidates receive the GIA Colored Stone Certificate.

From the Platinum Guild International USA Jewelry, (714) 760-8279:

  • Selling Platinum Jewelry. This video discusses why jewelers should get involved with platinum and includes product information for salespeople.

  • A Consumer Focus Group Exploratory. This video offers hidden-camera views of consumers discussing what they like about platinum.

  • Platinum Past, Present and Future. This video includes information on the history and mining of platinum.

  • Platinum Anthology. This video shows consumers and jewelry manufacturers/designers voicing positive views on platinum.

PGI also offers comprehensive technical data and market information in printed form.

ROLE-PLAYING: ‘KEY’ TO SUCCESSFUL JEWELRY SALES

“Preparation is the key to success in the jewelry store business, and role playing is indispensable in achieving that,” says Mark Moeller of R.F. Moeller Jeweler, St. Paul, Minn. He should know: the company has increased sales volume 70% at its two stores since adding role-playing to its sales training three years ago.

The start was difficult. There was “tremendous” opposition from staffers initially, Moeller admits. But today, “it’s one of the most fun things and effective things we do in the store” to boost business.

Moeller offers these basic steps in making role-playing an effective training tool:

Use a team approach. Involve everyone in the store. “Maintain a comfort level” that encourages group participation – it should be fun as well as instructive – and fosters improvement in each person’s sales performance. The point, after all, is to “learn and practice techniques that will make you a better salesperson,” says Moeller.

Pick a group leader. The leader keeps the group’s focus on the specific topic being studied, watches the time, ensures that everyone takes part and stays “in character.” Choose a different group leader each time.

Pick a specific topic. “The goal of the role-play is to identify areas in your performance which can be improved by practice, drilling and rehearsing,” says Moeller. Focus on specific, precisely defined problems, sales situations or topics. For example, break the sales presentation into small, workable segments and master one at a time.

Tackle tough sales situations in role-playing, preferably some taken from actual staff experiences. “Each member of the sales team can address specific problems and master techniques to solve them,” he says. “[Specific topics] also avoid the trap of aimless wandering, which often develops in a typical role-play situation.”

Participation. Everyone must take part, even if it means no more than repeating the previous person’s response. “The act of verbalizing that response reinforces the learning process,” says Moeller.

Stay in character during the role-play situation. “The very premise of role-play depends on everyone’s focus and concentration remaining on the subject,” he says. “When mistakes are made [in the role-play scenario], and they will be, you must address them as you would when dealing with a client.”

Emphasize PDR (practice, drill ing and rehearsing). “There is no such thing as a natural-born salesperson,” says Moeller. “Success comes from hard work and determination. So success – plus confidence and speed – on the sales floor will come from following this simple acronym” in regularly scheduled role-playing sessions.

Critiques. “You learn by making mistakes,” says Moeller. “The primary purpose of role-play is to learn to be prepared for the eventual challenges that arise in sales presentations and to have practiced responses ready for them.” So staff members should be encouraged to critique each other. While the goal is to achieve some uniformity in dealing with sales challenges, there aren’t necessarily correct or incorrect responses during the role-play itself.

SELLING UPSCALE

The three steps to any successful retail business are finding, marketing and selling to a target market. But when that market makes over $100,000 annually or has net worth of $1 million or more, the stakes are high and so are the demands on the retailer.

“You have to educate yourself and position yourself as an upscale store,” says Nelson Holdo, owner of the upscale Asanti Fine Jewelers in San Marino, Cal.

You have to meet the wealthy on their turf, he says. The first step is to find and court the fashion leaders in your town. In addition to trade journals to keep up with industry issues, read national consumer media and local publications so you can converse with the wealthy on whatever subject interests them – even subjects as seemingly unimportant as their favorite vacation spots.

Once you’ve engaged the fashion leaders, he says, become their friend and confidant. “There’s a fine line between my friends and my clients,” he says. And here’s where marketing begins. Everything you do should convey quality, from the design of your store to the merchandise you offer, your letterhead and promotional materials and the way your salespeople look and act. (Holdo has been known to buy clothing for new sales associates who couldn’t afford it at first.) Even his packaging conveys quality, with presentation boxes that cost him $8 to $25 each.

Asanti Fine Jewelers also supports about 40 charitable causes favored by clients and runs several promotions throughout the year. Some examples:

  • A catered Christmas party for 400 people in a tent behind the store. He asks his best clients to bring a few friends. “At $30-$40 a head, you’re making a good investment in prospective clients,” he says.

  • A promotion featuring an African safari for the winners.

  • A smoker, based on a resurgent interest in cigar smoking. He invites 300 top clients to the Ritz Carlton, offers them top-quality cigars, hires models to wear his jewelry and offers coupon savings for anything sold that night. “It’s the single biggest sales event we do,” he says.

(Promotions, which include support in charity program books, cost Asanti about $100,000 in 1994.)

Holdo also cautions that a marketing program should reflect your own basic principles and vision. Asanti Fine Jewelers doesn’t sell men’s diamond jewelry and soft-pedals the designer aspect of designer jewelry. “We do tell customers about the designers,” he says. “But with all due respect to the many wonderful designers, I’m more concerned with establishing the identity of Asanti than the identity of the designers.”

Other marketing tips include gaining expertise (“Are you a GG, a CGA? You wouldn’t go to a lawyer who didn’t pass the bar exam, would you?”), reading books such as Marketing to the Affluent and Selling to the Affluent by Dr. Thomas Stanley, taking advantage of sales training videotapes and being as visible as possible at events where the wealthy congregate.

Once you find the wealthy and your marketing program attracts them to your store, it’s time to sell. Here are some of his tips:

  • Be hospitable.

  • Love gems and show it.

  • Create a mystery about your store. “I always have a major piece (typically on memo) in the safe,” he says. “Who do I bring it out for? Everybody who walks in the store.” It makes them feel special.

  • While you create mystery about your store, take the mystery out of buying. For example, keep a record of what a woman likes so you can suggest a gift that her husband knows he won’t have to return.

  • Let trusted customers take pieces home on approval.

  • Use the words “significant” and “substantial” when describing a piece of jewelry.

  • Attitude. “If you’re committed to making a multimillion-dollar store, every living, breathing moment has to be devoted to what you love: selling.”

Holdo recognizes that some of his methods are unconventional. But they work for him. He opened the store just four years ago and expects to reach $2 million in sales this year, with an average ticket of $1,500-$2,000 on a keystone markup.

CUSTOMER FOCUS BUILDS BUSINESS

“There are two types of salespeople – the product-focused and the customer-focused,” says Robert Kotler, a sales representative with Simon Golub & Sons of Seattle, Wash. “Customer-focused salespeople are the ones you want; they build sales that last a lifetime.”

Among the points Kotler makes:

Everything a salesperson does from the moment a customer enters a store adds to, or detracts from, a sale. “Sales are won or lost in the first few moments, no matter how much time you spend with a customer,” he says. “Remember, there are no second chances for first impressions.”

Treat every customer like your first customer of the day. “Everything else can wait – phone calls, inventory, whatever,” he says. “But never keep a customer waiting.”

Guard against making assumptions or snap conclusions based on a customer’s age, apparel, skin color or ethnic origin. Have you ever given preferred treatment to a well-dressed businessperson who bought only a watch battery while ignoring two teenagers with spiked hair who paid $150 for a pair of diamond earrings?

“The only thing that makes a customer purchase is when the value offered outweighs the money being asked – if it doesn’t, the customer walks,” he says. “Your job is to pile on the value of the product.”

Have every customer who comes in – even the businessman buying that watch battery – try on a piece of jewelry. “We’re just running a museum if we don’t get the jewelry out of those showcases and onto the customers,” says Kotler.

“Appeal to the emotions and make what you’re selling special to your customer.”

Listen to what the customer says and answer only the questions asked. “Listening is the most important skill most people never learn,” Kotler says. “The essence of selling and improved customer relations is, ‘Speak with conviction and listen with understanding.'”

SELLING DESIGNER JEWELRY

Passion is the major requirement for retailers who want to sell designer jewelry. “If you don’t have a passion for it, you’re not going to be happy selling designer jewelry,” says Jim Terzian of Terzian International Group, a strategic marketing consulting company in Forest City, Cal.

The reasons are many. You have to know more about designer jewelry than just what materials it contains. Customers want to know about the designer and the history of a piece.

You have to allow more time to sell it. Customers want to establish a connection with the piece and with the designer, and you’re their only source to do that.

And you have to market and promote it differently than other jewelry. But first, you must understand how it differs from other jewelry. Terzian offers the following elements that help to categorize designer jewelry:

  • Original work.

  • Most often signed by the artist.

  • Involved artist (in other words, the person whose name is on the jewelry really had something to do with it).

  • Higher quality than that available across the market in general.

  • More technically difficult work.

  • Hallmarked.

  • Recognizably distinct.

  • Offers customization options.

  • While not necessarily one-of-a-kind, production is limited compared with mass-market jewelry.

At the counter: You should stock six to 12 designer lines, with at least 12 pieces per line so you have a range of merchandise to show customers, says Terzian. And you should offer a range of price points. “Designer jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive,” he notes.

But you need more than a broad range of designer merchandise to entice customers. You must tell them the story behind it. “Get to know your designers so you can answer customers’ questions about them,” he says. A photograph of the designer and an identifying plaque in the display case will help you to engage a customer in conversation.

If a designer piece has limited availability, don’t be afraid to say so. “I can get only six pieces of this. If you don’t buy now, I can’t guarantee it will be here later,” he suggests telling customers. Of course, you must speak with a genuine, helpful – not admonishing – tone in your voice.

And even more than with other types of jewelry, put designer jewelry on customers. “Let them play with it so they can start to establish that connection they’re seeking,” says Terzian. Some jewelers even let trusted customers take designer jewelry home for a week on approval.

Promotion: Selling designer jewelry actually begins with the promotional efforts you make to attract customers. Terzian says advertisements for designer jewelry should have three main purposes:

  • Connect you to the customer.

  • Get across a simple message about the personal statement designer jewelry makes.

  • Do credit to your organization. High-dollar and well-designed advertising is often very simple, showing just one or two pieces with little copy. “Even if the customer isn’t interested in the piece pictured,” says Terzian, “the ad establishes a good image of the store.”

In addition, use designers’ own literature where possible – sometimes on walls, sometimes in display cases, always in direct mail. “Designers put a lot of money into these to promote their jewelry,” says Terzian. “You should take advantage of that.”

Some jewelers fear such promotions will win loyalty for the designer but not necessarily the retailer. Terzian disagrees. “To a certain degree, the customer is buying the designer regardless of which store the jewelry comes from,” he says. “What you need to do is to build a strong identification linking the line, your store and the customer. You want to strengthen your relationship with the customer, the customer’s relationship with the designer and your relationship with the designer.”

Back to basics: Some nuts and bolts of jewelry retailing apply even more with designer jewelry because customers associate it with high quality. So don’t forget such basics as well-dressed, well-spoken and friendly sales associates. Do they smile? Do they joke? Do they remember customers’ names and put them at ease? Can they answer customers’ questions about the merchandise? Do they answer the telephone professionally without putting callers on hold?

Do customers remember your advertising? Does your catalog look like a coffee table jewelry book? Is your packaging beautiful – even your regular boxes and bags? Do you send personalized letters on elegant stationery?

Terzian says the cohesiveness of high-quality designer merchandise, staffing and marketing will fuel your passion for selling designer jewelry and ignite customers’ enthusiasm for it.

SELLING MORE WATCHES

Susan Binney of Swiss Time Corp. suggests five steps a jeweler should follow to sell watches successfully.

1. Identify the store’s customers and target every effort to meet those customers’ needs. This should include an assessment of usual demographics as well as checking with customers on their general shopping and magazine reading habits to find out which other products and product advertising they like.

2. Determine how much space to commit to watches, which brands to stock and how many different lines to display in each case. Do you want to project a single image or many with your choice of brands?

3. Check with as many watch lines as possible before making a final choice. Among the issues to consider: quality, price, customer “fit,” delivery times, the investment needed to carry a line, how often sales representatives call, how often new models are introduced, packaging, and markup and profitability. Binney urges retailers to tell potential suppliers their wish list. She says most suppliers are flexible in dealing with good accounts.

4. Take all the information you gather and share it with your salespeople. Make a final decision on new lines only after getting their input.

5. Market your watches aggressively, internally through case and window displays and by having salespeople wear them; externally through advertising, promotions and store catalogs.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE SALESPEOPLE

1. Maintain relationships with the client after the sale.

2. Establish a trust relationship.

3. Understand the customer’s needs.

4. Show enthusiasm.

5. Consider selling to be an art form – the art of asking questions and keeping their mouths shut.

6. Maintain high personal

integrity.

Source: Forum Corp. study

DIAMOND JEWELER’S SALES ASSOCIATE EVALUATION

Poor Good Fair Excellent
Salesperson has an excellent, professional image
Salesperson greets customers quickly, professionally and enthusiastically
Salesperson extensively qualifies the customer with open-ended questions
Salesperson verbally explains the value of the products to the customer
Salesperson uses positive and enthusiastic body language
Salesperson is prepared and able to overcome objections
Salesperson responds to objections positively, not defensively Salesperson attempts to close the sale by responding to buying signals
Salesperson stays in touch with customer regarding future purchases
Salesperson continuously exceeds customer’s expectations
Salesperson contributes to team atmosphere
Salesperson maintains an excellent attitude on and off the sales floor

Source: Executive Training Consultants