Attentive Selling Equals Good Security

Not long ago, I met a former armed robber at a jewelry convention in the United Kingdom. During a lecture about the techniques he used to steal from fine-jewelry stores, he observed that it was often so easy nobody was aware of it until after he’d left. For me, this was a chance of a lifetime to have him role-play me through a sale and see where I was vulnerable to being robbed.

It turned out the sales techniques I routinely teach are also good security techniques. By being attentive, I created too much risk for the robber. These techniques, outlined below, will help you avoid being an easy target.

  1. Greet the customer as soon as he or she enters the store. Make eye contact. If the customer says he’s just browsing, don’t follow him—that could intimidate a real customer—but don’t allow yourself to be brushed off. A thief wants privacy to operate, and simple, friendly conversation (e.g., “You must be looking for something special”) won’t impinge on the privacy of a real customer, but it will give pause to a thief who is looking to be left completely alone.

  2. Introduce yourself to the customer. Otherwise you cease to be a real person and become a robot showing jewelry, and eventually the thief will be able to distract you.

  3. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Rushing a sales associate is a common ploy of thieves. A rushed sales associate is more apt to be careless and make a big mistake—forget to lock a case, leave a window open, or leave jewelry on the counter—that will give a thief an opportunity to steal.
    If the customer is in a hurry, acknowledge his time constraint by saying you’ll show him what he’s pointed to right away. But still take the time to get out a counter pad and polishing cloth. This signals to the thief that you cannot be rushed.

  4. Use that counter pad and polishing cloth. Using these tools shows both the thief and the legitimate customer that you’re treating the jewelry with respect. For a customer, it shows off the piece to its best advantage. In the case of a thief, it puts another roadblock in his way.

  5. When showing a woman’s ring to a man, always put it on a ring stick. Don’t simply hand it over. The stick allows a legitimate customer to see the ring as it’s meant to be worn; it also stops a thief from being able to palm it. As the U.K. former thief said, “I am better than any magician at making things disappear. If a magician fails, he simply goes on to the next trick. If I fail, I go to prison.”

  6. Before showing the customer another piece, put the first one back. A salesperson may be reluctant to ask for the piece back and keep taking more jewelry out of the case. But it’s hard to keep track of more than two or three pieces at a time and easy for a thief to distract a salesperson and palm one or more pieces. The salesperson might not realize the items are gone until much later, and without witnessing the theft, he or she may be reluctant to accuse him, especially if he’s friendly, well dressed, and well groomed. You’ll be more at ease—and less at risk—with fewer pieces out in the open. A customer who wants to compare two pieces will ask to do so.

  7. Stay out front and be watchful and ready to assist. Typically, once one sales associate has begun working with a customer, the others tend to congregate in the back of the store or leave the floor altogether. Don’t do this. Remaining discreetly alert and attentive cuts down on the opportunities a thief has to distract and grab.

  8. Smile and keep your attention focused on the customer’s face. A legitimate customer will take it as friendly; a thief will wonder if you’re studying his face to identify him later.

  9. If a thief is armed, don’t reach for the alarm button while he’s in the store. If you’re grabbed and told to reset the alarm, don’t put in a false code, because if a robber panics or hears police sirens approaching, he might shoot or take you as a hostage. Instead, hit the alarm button after the thief has left, and always open and close your store with an associate watching from a safe distance away. If you are robbed, the associate can call police, tell them a robbery is in progress, and ask them to approach with sirens off.

  10. Review these procedures periodically. Don’t succumb to carelessness and don’t allow your sales associates to become lax. Set a good example, and if you notice an employee not following these guidelines, issue a firm reminder. Review the guidelines with your people quarterly or even monthly and make sure security is always a high priority.

In my 25 years of training, I’ve encountered many jewelers who have been robbed, and all had one thing in common: They didn’t follow any of the procedures outlined here. It’s difficult to spot a professional thief, because in many cases he’ll be dressed better than you and your customers, and he knows how to act like he belongs in the store. But attentive selling practices are also secure selling practices and can significantly reduce your chances of being robbed.