Sometimes it’s a wonder that consumers bother to buy from us at all. Shopping for fine jewelry is a frustrating, exhausting, confusing experience. People must really want to buy these things, because too often, we make them work very hard to do it!
Most salespeople’s interactions with customers lack conviction, enthusiasm, and empathy. They are full of canned phrases and devoid of genuine interest in what the shopper really needs. It doesn’t take much to differentiate yourself by offering a positive retail experience; all you need is some attention to details.
Greet the customer creatively. When you think about it, “May I help you?” is a self-defeating thing to say. Why ask a question that can be answered in one word – “no”? It allows the customer to cut you off at the knees. Customers expect you to help them, and when you have to ask if you can, they’re probably thinking, “I doubt it.” Likewise, “Are you looking for something special?” (isn’t it obvious?) doesn’t cut it.
Most customers enter a jewelry store with a defensive attitude: “I’m not gonna let these people hard-sell me something I don’t want.” They will take a protective approach to their pocketbooks unless you give them a reason to relax. What you need is a creative, positive, and natural welcome. The specific style – humor, perkiness, or stoic professionalism – is up to you.
Eight-point countdown. There are eight steps in the selling process, and if you’re conscious of the progression, you’re more likely to close your sales.
Greeting: This is when you use that creative and imaginative approach.
Building rapport: At this stage, you engage in casual conversation, the ultimate objective of which is earning trust.
Profiling: In this step, you gather information that will help you satisfy the customer’s need. It’s important to relate the need not just to an event, but also to an emotion. This is not “20 Questions”; it’s subtle information gathering, most successfully preceded by, “Tell me about….”
Presenting: By the time you get to this step – if you’ve progressed correctly through the previous three – you should have a very good idea of the emotions and dreams involved in this purchase. If all you’ve gotten is a price range and a preference for yellow metal, you aren’t ready to show any merchandise.
Trial closing: This is the part you might come back to several times, every time you show a piece or two. It’s a fine-tuning opportunity, which you should seize through questions such as “How we doing here?” “Of these two, which…?” or “What is it you like about this one?” You want to gauge how close you are to hitting the mark with a certain item, and, if something isn’t just right, investigate why.
Overcoming objections: Effective trial closings allow customer objections – which are merely hesitations – to surface in little bites that are easy to overcome. But if you don’t help your customers fine-tune their thinking, they will simply clam up and keep saying no. The prospect of handling objections raises fear in most sales associates, but if it’s taken in baby steps, this part can be easy.
Closing: When your trial closing is effective, each objection should be easily overcome and the final closing should be natural. You need to assist the customer in making a decision here. You usually have to ask for a sale. Most associates don’t. Those who do will often ask only once, but the average customer says no at least three times before saying yes.
Making the moment: At this stage, you tie the purchase back to the emotion that triggered it. Helping a customer “make the moment” is how you build clients and advocates for your business.
Most customer interactions fall flat because the sales associate doesn’t apply the entire eight-step process. Too often, we let the shopper dictate the process rather than recognizing and controlling it ourselves.
Three types of shoppers. There are three types of jewelry store shoppers: romanticists, comparison shoppers, and lookers.
Romanticists will tell you that they would like a nice piece of jewelry for an important occasion. It’s natural to chat with them a little, build some rapport, and ask questions before showing something. You easily become their adviser; you’re not on the defensive with them.
Comparison shoppers are another story. These people are on a mission and state specifically what they want. Take, for example, the guy who walks into your store and says he’s looking for a VS2 H diamond at a specific price.
This customer comes in as an adversary and derails many sales associates, who immediately go on the defensive. After a brief greeting, they jump right to presenting, skipping the rapport-building and profiling stages. Eventually, they have to admit that they don’t have exactly the same color, clarity, and size, and if they do, someone else will always be selling it for a dollar less.
When dealing with the comparison shopper, consider why he is looking to buy a diamond. Invariably, a fine-jewelry customer is attempting to satisfy an emotional need. He’s looking to buy a symbol of love, joy, commitment, status, or even apology. Most often, it’s a salesperson who has taken that emotion and turned it into a commodity. It’s safe to assume that the customer asking for a commodity has merely had his emotion supplanted by a salesperson before you.
When someone comes in with a very specific request – especially when it involves quality or price – take a deep breath and remember the process. You might actually sell this guy something if you can get him back in touch with the real reason for his purchase and get him to trust you more than all those other salespeople.
The easiest way to handle this shopper is to acknowledge his diligence, express confidence in your ability to meet his needs, and ask questions: “Sounds like you’ve really done your homework. I’m certain I have something you’ll like. In addition to what you’ve already told me, though, what are you looking for that you’ve not already seen?”
With this information, you will know what you’ve got to come up with to be better than the other salespeople. Then try this: “I can see that this is a very important purchase for you, and I’d like to help make it just perfect. Can you describe what you really want to say with your gift?” This approach will help you refocus the comparison shopper on the emotion involved in his purchase.
Lookers will immediately blurt out that they are “just looking.” But no one is ever really “just looking” in a jewelry store. There’s always an interest the customer may not even recognize until you just happen to suggest the right item. Have you ever heard the person who said “just looking” also say, “Oh, I’ve always wanted one of those”? Pay close attention as they browse your store. Help them. Entertain them. If you pay attention and let their verbal and nonverbal signals guide you, you’ll eventually lead them right to their own fantasy.
Customers go through stages, too. Like a salesperson’s eight-step selling process, a customer’s purchase decision also proceeds in stages.
The buying process starts with a simple idea in the customer’s mind. It may be triggered by advertising and may even be subliminal. Someone watching a television commercial or looking at a magazine ad might form an impression – if she has jewelry like this, she’ll look or feel a certain way. We call this idea the fantasy. Those in the business of advertising call it a trigger.
The next phase of the buying process is a period of thought. After articulating the desire to own a luxury item, most consumers have to work through a justification of sorts. They consider whether they want one item more than another and determine the level of priority for a luxury purchase.
Even before they have determined priority, they may embark on the third phase of the buying process – the hunt. For a self-purchase, this may be a solo effort. If the item is to be a gift, the hunt might be undertaken by giver and recipient together, or it might be left to the giver alone, with the fantasy communicated through hints. It might be initiated on the phone, particularly if the trigger came from a TV or magazine ad. (Here’s a good reason to use an answering machine before and after business hours and to brush up on your telephone etiquette. Many first impressions about your store are formed on the phone.) The hunt may be extensive, such as in an engagement diamond purchase, but it may also be limited to your store if you’re the one who helped identify the fantasy.
During this searching phase, the customer will consider many alternatives. If the fantasy wasn’t concrete (and many aren’t), you must realize that the customer is still open to suggestions. Until you help the shopper to articulate his observations and objections, the fantasy may remain nebulous.
The selection phase. By now, the customer is ready to settle on the item that best suits his or her purposes. But it doesn’t automatically follow that the customer will buy that item. You may have heard a shopper say something like, “Well, if I was going to get one, this would be it!” When you hear that, the message is that you haven’t done a good enough job of convincing the customer that the item indeed satisfies his or her fantasy and that this particular purchase should be elevated to a top priority.
The primary reason a customer doesn’t immediately commit to a purchase is that the salesperson hasn’t bothered to ask! The second reason a customer may not commit is that the salesperson hasn’t overcome all the objections. There are times when this is just not possible. For example, even if a customer really wants a particular item, satisfaction may not be as high for a self-purchase as it would be if the item were received as a gift from someone special.
High pressure and fast talking may result in sales but rarely result in commitment. If the customer doesn’t feel satisfied, the result is likely to be a return of the merchandise, an unhappy customer, or, worst, a customer you’ll never see again.
The feeling that a customer has at this point goes back to how successfully you have melded his or her buying process with your selling process. There are many different ways to get commitment from the customer, but one of the most effective is by thinking ahead to when the fantasy becomes reality.
You can help your customer recognize the importance of presentation to making the moment of gift-giving one that exceeds the recipient’s expectations. Spend some time linking the reality of the purchase to the fantasy. Use emotions all the way through the selling process, relating them to the triggers and considerations in the buying process. Be an adviser rather than an adversary. You will see an increase in sales, but you’ll also see your shoppers become repeat customers, your customers become clients (who may even order over the phone), and your clients become advocates – fans who tell others how wonderful you are.
Make the moment of gift-giving one that exceeds expectations. Link the reality of the purchase to the fantasy. The primary reason a customer doesn’t commit to a purchase is that the salesperson hasn’t bothered to ask.