Customers shopping for a diamond are riding an emotional high that fuels their desire to buy. Effective sales associates know how to harness that feeling and give customers a compelling incentive to purchase right then and there. A skillful presentation can make the difference between spurring or thwarting that emotional rush, between closing a sale or giving the customer reason to shop around.
Too often, though, sales associates neglect the inciting emotion and instead turn the encounter into a commodity transaction devoid of sentiment. They inundate customers with a flood of diamond expertise. They come at them with confusing acronyms, diagrams, charts, light-beam demonstrations, comparison worksheets. They display the product in plastic, paper, or fancy gadgets that the customer finds awkward to handle. Worse yet, many retailers play disingenuous pricing games, maximizing immediate gain at the expense of the long-term trust that generates repeat business.
Maybe it’s time for a different approach. Consider every diamond purchase from the perspective of a customer wishing to celebrate an emotion. With the right presentation, you can give customers a reason to get off the comparison-shopping merry-go-round – so they can begin celebrating their happy occasion sooner rather than later.
Don’t overwhelm customers. An effective salesperson takes the time to find out what a customer already knows about diamonds and, just as important, what he or she wants to know. Don’t let your urge to educate sub-vert the emotions at the heart of the encounter.
Consider, for example, a customer seeking a diamond for an engagement ring. You might ask a few questions to narrow the field, perhaps about size or shape, then launch right into your presentation. Yet, how many versions of the four Cs has this customer already heard? What makes your version any better than others?
Some salespeople respond to a customer’s inquiry with an automatic “What quality do you want?” – as if the customer knew – and then rifle through the store’s supply to find something that might work. Others respond by pulling out something that fits the customer’s general description and then launching into the four Cs. Either way, the customer will equate the experience with previous ones, tune out, and wait for an opportunity to say, “Thanks, I’ll be back.”
Before you go through a rote recitation, stop, ask, and listen. Determine where your customer is in the buying process. If he’s well into the looking phase, there’s no need to go through a standard presentation, because he’s heard it several times already. Find out why he hasn’t bought a diamond elsewhere. Tailor your presentation to suit the customer’s agenda rather than your own. You may be the salesperson who finally satisfies his needs and perhaps even exceeds his expectations.
If your customer has just started looking, however, you might be the first to provide a detailed explanation of quality. Keep it simple. In subtle ways, the customer will convey to you the amount of in-
formation he needs. Always remember the emotion. Everything you say about a diamond’s quality should relate back to his reason for wanting it in the first place. Instead of simply saying, “This is a G color,” say something like, “This is a G color – as you can see, very high up on the scale – which means that it’s beautifully pure and bright.”
If you use charts or diagrams, they should look professional. Tattered photocopies with coffee spots, ink marks, or dog ears will not impress. Many quality presentation tools, such as charts and countertop models, are available. But if you prefer the one you’ve always used, have someone in your store produce a fresh copy for presentation and have it laminated. If you use a supplier’s brochure, laminate your presentation copy or plan to use a fresh one with each customer.
If you provide diamond quality reports or certificates, set up a system so that they’re organized, protected, and easily accessible. Emphasize that your certificates are valuable and credible. Consider using three-ring binders with transparent sleeves to hold them. Arrange the certificates in order of size with clearly marked index tabs separating either the cutting styles or the different labs.
Does everyone behind your diamond counter know how to read each of the laboratory reports you use and how to present the information honestly and accurately? These days, educated consumers themselves often know how to read a report. Use reports or certificates to confirm the particulars of a diamond’s quality, and explain those characteristics clearly and honestly. This will foster trust. Also, the customer will be less likely to fall prey to the occasional unscrupulous competitor who misrepresents a report to serve his purposes.
Polish your presentations. Present the diamond in a way that enhances your credibility and sets the customer at ease. Sales associates should practice their presentation skills until they become second nature. A customer expects you to know what you’re doing and to be comfortable with your products and tools.
Our industry favors two methods of storing unmounted diamonds – the traditional folded diamond papers (see page 167) and the drilled card stock that slides into a plastic sleeve.
Plastic card holders let you see your inventory more readily than diamond papers do. In addition, they allow you to hand a diamond to a customer in a protective holder. Yet at the same time, they conceal a great deal of beauty. It’s a disservice to customers to have them view the diamond through plastic. So practice removing the diamonds by squeezing the plastic sleeves gently from the sides and lifting the plastic away from the diamond as you slide the card out. This will curb the tendency for the diamond to morph into a jumping bean the moment it’s free of the plastic. Always work over a counter pad – just in case.
Don’t assume plastic sleeves keep a diamond clean. Plastic is made from oil, which even in minute quantities adheres to diamond. Before showing any diamond, always clean it with a gem cloth. Showing respect and care for a product that has emotional significance will enhance the shopping experience.
Make it easy. Once you remove a diamond from storage, your customer is faced with the task of handling and examining this very expensive, symbolic little bauble. Make the job as easy as you can. Use locking tweezers. Be sure the diamond is straight and secure in the tweezers before handing it to the customer. Be especially careful with fancy shapes, which may sit unsteadily in the lock, and don’t push the lock too tight on a diamond.
An alternative to tweezers for showing round diamonds is a three-pronged stone-holding plunger. They’re available in sizes small enough to fold right into diamond papers, so when you open the paper you can simply hand the plunger to the customer. Since the plunger is cylindrical, the customer naturally will start rotating the diamond, examining it at its most attractive angles.
Don’t be cavalier when handling a diamond. For example, if you hold it in tweezers and flail your arms as you explain proportions and brilliance, the customer will hear little of what you say and focus nervously instead on the precarious diamond.
Clean up your act. Imagine a customer listening to a detailed explanation of sparkle and beauty as she stares at a diamond so dirty it looks like a moonstone. The customer asks the salesperson to wipe it off, but the associate can’t find a cloth. When he finally locates one, it’s filthy, looking more likely to besmirch than to clean.
In contrast, picture this scenario: A customer asks to see a piece of diamond jewelry. Before the sales associate pulls any merchandise out of the case, he first reaches under the counter, lifts out a counter pad, unfolds it, and finds a cleaned-and-pressed polishing cloth ready for use. He opens the cloth, taking care not to touch the cleaning side, and holds it ready in his left hand as he reaches into the showcase with his right to remove an item. Before the customer sees anything, the product is caressed and cleaned.
Your jewelry, particularly your diamonds, must always remain clean. Steam-clean your products regularly. Keep alcohol near your earrings and make a minor show of cleaning them before and after anyone tries them on. Customers will appreciate your commitment to hygiene.
Encourage your customers to keep their jewelry clean, too. Make a habit of offering to clean jewelry for shoppers. When you get them accustomed to having clean jewelry, they’ll visit you more often for that service. It will keep them in the store longer and send a message that you think their jewelry deserves attention. Keep bottles of oil or cream throughout the store, too; you can use them to ease off tight rings.
Help customers get a close-up look. Keep your tools and equipment clean and functional. Look at the eyepieces on your microscope. Would you use them? How about the focus knobs? Also check out the screen on your video or computer monitor. We get so used to our surroundings, we don’t stop to realize how grimy things can get.
Take the time to show customers how to use the microscope. It’s not easy to see clearly at first – especially for someone unaccustomed to looking through two eyepieces at once. Use a diamond holder that mounts on the microscope so you can set the approximate focus for the customer. Then demonstrate the use of the focus-adjustment knobs. If you offer a loupe, explain how to hold it, how to position it near the eye, where to hold the diamond in relation to the loupe, and what to look for.
There’s been a recent proliferation of video devices for demonstrating diamonds. These can also be helpful at the repair-and-appraisal take-in counter. If your store has one, make sure everyone knows how to use it properly.
Don’t bash the competition. Denigrating the competition – even in subtle ways – gives a customer the sense that you’re desperate and dishonest. In some stores, salespeople have a healthy respect for their competitors and understand that there’s enough business for everyone, but they might have to work hard to get it. In others, the customer hears comments such as, “Well, most jewelers do switch diamonds or sell under-karated gold. But we don’t.”
Slamming others triggers a backlash. Customers don’t want to hear why they should not buy from your competitors. They’re looking for you to give them a reason why they should purchase from you.
Let the celebration begin. Throughout your diamond presentation, try to bring customers back to the emotion that brought them into your store in the first place. They’d rather spend less time shopping and more time enjoying their new diamonds. Some may feel compelled to shop around before buying, but you can limit that search by keeping the emotional focus of the purchase in the forefront. For most customers, the diamond-buying decision has little to do with price. It has more to do with appreciating a shopping experience that is, in essence, a celebration.
Janice Mack Talcott and Kate B. Peterson are the principals of Performance Concepts, a company that trains specialty retailers.
The pricing game
Few retailers use a single pricing system for diamonds anymore. Most show at least two prices, even three or four. Some show one price that magically changes depending on the customer’s reaction. To explain multi-tiered pricing, sales associates often say the higher figure is what others charge and that their particular store operates in a way that allows for lower prices. They may claim that buying directly from overseas distributors allows them to eliminate the middleman and offer the best price in town. The word “retail” is spoken as if it’s a dirty word.
But what about comparison shoppers who’ve already visited several other stores and witnessed the same pricing game? How do they decide whom to trust? And how do you explain the fact that other items in your store – pearls, for instance – are marked with just one price? These are the pitfalls of the pricing game.
The problem may lie not in the way you mark your diamonds but in the way you present the price. Your associates must be clear, credible, and consistent in describing your pricing. Avoid the trap of quoting a price before you have shown the diamond. In fact, the salesperson should never be the first to bring up price. You can bet the customer will eventually ask. When this happens, be prepared with a succinct explanation of your business philosophy and your pricing practices.
It doesn’t take much to see through the pricing game. In a business in which trust is a key to success, you need to maintain integrity in the way you mark and explain your prices.
Diamond papers aren’t origami
What is it about the folds of a standard diamond paper that’s so hard for many of us to figure out? It’s not as if it’s origami. A diamond is nestled in the second fold from the bottom, like an envelope. When it’s tucked in there, the sides fold in, the bottom folds up, and the top folds over. It’s that simple.
Yet it’s funny how the folding process often ends up resembling making cinnamon rolls. The filling goes onto the flat surface and then that surface is rolled several times. Not knowing what to do with those little side folds after the rest of the paper is rolled up, we just tuck them in. But they don’t stay that way, and the diamond tends to escape.
Practice working with diamond papers. When you open them, keep the inner liner as free of grease and dust as possible. Don’t lay the paper flat and rest your palm in the middle of it as you chase the diamond around it with tweezers. Instead, reach into the fold of the paper with tweezers and remove the diamond. Fold the paper back up and put it aside as you show the diamond.