JCK Invitational Speakers Discuss Salesmanship, Security, and Hugs

Service, emotional appeals, and product knowledge will bring Internet customers into your jewelry store, sales trainer and consultant Shane Decker said during a keynote presentation at the JCK Invitational show in February.

Decker said people buy on the Internet because it provides low prices and convenience. But jewelry retailers provide service, product knowledge, integrity, and an opportunity to see and compare the product. “A lab report will not make a diamond dance,” Decker said. “Light does.”

Many customers come into a store after they look at diamonds on the Internet, which gives retailers an excellent opportunity to deal with price objections. “When a customer comes to your store after looking on an Internet site, they are giving you the chance to make the sale,” Decker said. “They are looking for a place or a person they can buy something from. They are looking for someone they can trust.”

Decker said that instead of knocking the Internet—and possibly insulting a customer—salespersons should compliment customers on their research and knowledge. Then the salesperson needs to establish trust through service, product knowledge, the quality of the product and service, and emotional appeal. “You have to establish value by romancing the product,” he said. “The Internet does not do that.”

Decker also talked about poor closing rates among retail jewelers. He said 75 percent of shoppers buy the day they shop, yet average closing rates are 10 percent at mall jewelers, 23 to 27 percent at downtown independent jewelers, and 33 to 45 percent at freestanding jewelry retailers. “That tells you right there that there are jewelers not doing their job,” he said.

One of the most important ways to establish integrity and improve closing rates is to hire great salespersons and constantly train them. “Your integrity is only as good as the people you have,” Decker said. “You are only going to make as much as your people allow you to.”

He continued, “Price is not the issue. The Internet is not the issue. The customer experience is the issue. We have a salesmanship problem, a product knowledge problem, a closing problem.”

During another panel discussion, a group of security experts offered advice on deterring crime.

  • Michael Chapman, vice president of operations and security for Tourneau, noted that good salesmanship, like handling and storing merchandise properly in the showroom, can prevent robberies.

  • Several panelists recommended bullet-resistant glass—which has an acrylic sheet between glass sheets that stays in place after the glass has shattered—for display cases. This makes “smash-and-grab” robberies more difficult.

  • Marc Green, vice chairman, Lux Bond & Green, said his company invites local law enforcement officers to train staff. John Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance, noted “the police are delighted to do this.”

  • All the experts say guns have no place in the store. Daniel McCaffrey, FBI special agent, noted that FBI agents undergo intense training, and it’s unlikely that a store employee or owner has the same type of training. “Don’t have guns in the store,” McCaffrey said. “The bottom line is the FBI takes them very seriously.”

  • UL-registered alarm companies offer two types of certified service, said David Sexton, vice president of loss prevention, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. The best is a system that provides a central-station certificate, which gives the alarm company 12 to 24 hours to respond to a system failure. Often, they’re required to provide a guard while the system is down.

In a presentation on customer service, Jack Mitchell, owner of three luxury clothing stores, discussed his philosophy of exceptional customer service through hugging, literally and metaphorically. Hug your customers and employees, and fun and profit will follow, said Mitchell, the chief executive officer of Mitchells, Westport, Conn.; Richards, Greenwich, Conn.; and the recently acquired Marsh’s, Long Island, N.Y.

Hugs are given by store owners and employees in a number of ways, he said. They include gift wrapping, personal phone calls, and knowing as much as possible about your customers.

“A hug is a metaphor for any caring single act or deed that makes a customer say ‘Wow,’ he said. “It’s a way to show the customer that you care about them as a real person.”

Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers, told a story about a client in banking who called a Mitchells sales associate in a panic because he desperately needed formal business suits for a quickly scheduled trip to Switzerland. The sales associate looked up his personal preferences and had suits, shirts, jackets, and slacks ready for him when he arrived at the store. He bought them on sight, and the tailor, who also personally knew the client and how he liked his clothes, did the tailoring on the spot.

In Switzerland, during a board meeting, the banker told his associates how Mitchells was able to meet his needs so quickly. At the end of his story, he opened his jacket to show the Mitchells label. He felt something inside the pocket, pulled it out, and found a card wishing him a happy birthday. “That,” Mitchell said, “is a hug.”

He also talked about how he tries to memorize all the information he can on his top 100, 200, even 500 customers.

“It’s not about transactions, he said. “It’s about personalized relationships. … In our store, we’re in the people business.”

Mitchell noted that a big part of providing extraordinary service is to hire the right people, pay them well for their performance, and treat them well. “Hug your huggers,” he said. “Appreciate them every day.”

In response to questions, he said his most effective marketing is one-on-one, mostly through calls to customers, direct mail, and, more recently, e-mails. He also is involved in print advertising vehicles such as brochures. He and many of his associates personally know some of the world’s best designers, and he likes to use brochures to tout those relationships.