You’ve just spent 45 minutes with a customer, and you know he’s going to buy. But at the last minute he hands you an excuse, and before you know it, he’s heading for the exit.
There’s no need to watch the door click shut behind him—there’s a response to every excuse and a way to make that sale. In fact, says Marlene Cordry, president of retail consultancy The Friedman Group in Lenexa, Kan., most excuses are just that.
“Ninety percent of the time these excuses are not true,” Cordry says. “Customers are stalling and trying to get out of your store, and you don’t know why.”
Generally, she says, the first step to any objection should be empathy—letting customers know you understand why they don’t want to buy. However, she adds, always save something to pull out at the end, such as the fact that your store will offer free cleaning for the rest of the customer’s life. “He’s at the tipping point and that might just tip him over on the side of buying,” she says.
Brad Huisken, owner of IAS Training in Lakewood, Colo., advises casually asking, “Before you go, can I ask you a quick question?” This turn of phrase lets a customer feel he’s off the hook, he says, but it’s a great chance to capture a sale. “I ask, ‘Did you love the piece?’?” he says. “If he says no, I can show him other things; if he says yes, I need to review with him the reasons he initially said he wanted to buy it.”
JCK looks at six common excuses for not buying, and ways you can counter them:
“I need to think about it.”
When faced with this excuse, Mark Czarnecki, general manager of Diamonds Direct’s flagship location in Charlotte, N.C., gets back into sales mode with more questions. These might include: “?‘Is the diamond big enough?’ ‘Do you love the shape?’ So I’m starting to get extra details from them,” he says.
“Overcoming an objection is about educating the customer, and if you do a thorough job of that you’ll still make that sale because you’ve educated him and gained his trust,” Czarnecki says.
Michael Lebowitz, director of jewelry sourcing for White Pine Trading in New York City, has worked in the jewelry industry for 45 years, mostly on the retail side. He also uses the “think about it” objection to provide customers with details—provided they’re true—such as: “?‘I saw your eyes light up when you saw this piece,’ so they realize they really do like it,” he says.
“I’ve only just started shopping.”
When hearing this, Lebowitz asks customers if he may tell them more about the piece of jewelry. “The more time you have with the customer, the closer you are to closing the sale because you have more time to build trust,” he says.
Shawn Woodruff Bigby, sales manager at Crocker’s Jewelers in Texarkana, Texas, tells customers, “Great! You came to the best place first!” Then she restates all the positive things about the store—that it’s family-owned, that it offers warranties, that it has a jeweler on staff. She also takes the opportunity to connect with male shoppers, telling them she knows men hate shopping around so they’re in good hands at Crocker’s.
“I’ve seen something similar elsewhere.”
This can be a valuable opportunity because you can learn about what a customer has seen and what he or she loved about it, Czarnecki says. “The more details the customer can give, the better,” he says. “Now we can re-create something as nice or nicer, and the sale ends up here.”
When Robin Smith, co-owner of Meridian Jewelers in Aspen, Colo., hears this excuse, she asks for a picture of the item, if possible. Then she offers a similar jewel. “I introduce something so they can compare apples to apples and figure out why they’re hesitating to buy from the other store,” Smith says. This gives her an advantage because she can see exactly what a customer likes and bring out one or two comparable pieces, rather than overwhelming the client with too many options.
“Do you love it?” Even if a customer has to “think about it,” that simple question can work wonders with an unsure shopper.
“I’d like to look online.”
Eric Robertson, marketing director for Green Lake Jewelry Works, a custom jewelry store in Seattle, reminds customers wanting to check the Internet that he’s looking to solve their problems, he says. “We tell them we get to know the jewelry’s recipient as a person so we’re designing for the whole person rather than just what she likes in jewelry.”
He also explains that if they buy from Green Lake, the store will cover any shipping costs, educate them, and offer them the best diamond available. “We remind them that we’re not going to get them the cheapest, but we will get them a fabulous diamond,” Robertson says. “We don’t want to be the cheapest retailer out there, but we want to offer the most personal service.”
At Crocker’s, Bigby has a quick way to shut down the online objection. “I tell customers I never buy sight unseen from online and neither should they,” she says. She often uses an analogy, telling customers that her husband weighs 185 pounds, has dark hair, and is 6 feet 1 inch tall. “Does that tell you if you’d like to go to dinner with him? No, you have to meet and know him, and it’s the same thing with diamonds.”
At this point, Lebowitz turns to technology. He uses his tablet to browse sites customers have used and explains the difference between true value and perceived value. “I ask customers to pick out something they like online, then I show them a stone of equal or better value,” he says. “They can see exactly what they are getting from me.”
He also reminds them that shopping online is the one time when a picture is not worth a thousand words, “and jewelry is something you should have pride in gifting.”
Finally, Lebowitz gently explains to shoppers that while they may pay a little more through his store, they’ll get some education, service, and free cleanings since they’re now part of the store’s family.
“I’m not sure my wife/mother/husband will like it.”
If possible, Sean Dunn, vice president of JR Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point, Fla., recommends that unsure customers text a photograph of a piece of jewelry to its intended recipient or a trusted adviser, and he’ll arrange the tray to make it look appealing. Sometimes, he’ll have an employee wear the item to show it off.
“When customers text, they have a good chance of response,” he says. “You’ve got to embrace technology and make it quick. If they don’t have a smartphone, I’ll offer to take a photo for them.”
Robertson also uses technology. “We rely heavily on Pinterest and can use it to check a customer’s wife’s preferred styles,” he says, “and nine times out of 10 we can find it.” This way, he says, he can reassure his customer that the recipient will truly like a selected item.
He also solicits a second opinion from another employee, which helps move things forward, especially if a female employee weighs in on a purchase for a woman. “It validates some of the decisions.”
Smith tries to find out as much information about the gift recipient as possible—her looks, her lifestyle, her job, her hobbies. “Basically we’re walking the -customer through the fact that this style is perfect for his recipient.”
Czarnecki wants customers to feel confident in their gift giving and lets them know all merchandise is exchangeable or refundable. “That gains a lot of trust for future business,” he says. “There’s no reason not to buy.”
“I’m not sure I can afford it.”
Crocker’s Jewelers suggests customers postdate a check if they can’t afford a piece at the moment, but the store offers other financing options as well. Bigby says “talking monthly numbers seems much more doable than looking at the big picture and total price.”
The Friedman Group’s Cordry explains the issue often is not price but value, so retailers can offer more—warranties, cleanings, and so forth—to improve the value.
When customers tell Czarnecki that something is too expensive, he asks what their budget is. “Then we can tell them what they can get for that,” he says. “I always reiterate that whatever their budget is, that’s a great budget. That makes customers feel comfortable, and you’ll make the sale.”
WHAT NOT TO SAY
When a customer offers an excuse for not making a purchase, avoid these tactics:
• Never agree or sympathize with a customer. Instead empathize and give the client reasons to buy, says Diamonds Direct’s Mark Czarnecki.
• Don’t argue with the customer, says IAS Training’s Brad Huisken.
• Don’t devalue the customer if his or her budget is low. Instead, say “We can certainly take care of you in that price range, too,” Huisken says.
• Don’t bad-mouth another retailer, says Meridian Jewelers’ Robin Smith.
• Don’t let a customer realize you are making a sale. Instead, focus on the emotional value of the jewelry, Huisken says. Remind the client how many compliments they’ll get on the jewel. “Pay attention to what’s in the head and the heart, and you’ll get what’s in the wallet.” —AB