More Doom and Gloom—How Lucky Are We?

Watching CNN recently I heard the latest report on retail sales for March 2008. They were off significantly. The Gap reported a loss of 18 percent, Target was off 9 percent, and Linens · N · Things filed for Chapter 11 in early May. CNN said the latter would probably close stores and eliminate up to 17,000 jobs.

Upon hearing this news, I thought how lucky we in the jewelry industry are. We’ve developed professional jewelry sales organizations, so we don’t have to depend on retail clerks to make or break our companies. All of my clients and most who read this article are sales-driven organizations with salespeople who are hired to turn shoppers into buyers. On the other hand, I remember asking a store owner how many salespeople he had. He said, jokingly (I think), “None, but I have 12 employees.” That’s scary!

I was with an independent store last week that’s running up 18 percent for the year. Another store is having its best year ever. Other stores are breaking even, and some are facing serious sales loses. Among the chains, some stores are up, others are breaking even, and some are showing losses.

What makes the difference? In many cases it boils down to the sales staff and the management of the staff. When I was a district manager it never ceased to amaze me how a store that was doing poorly would explode after changing managers. Were the manager and sales staff trained to be finely tuned sales professionals? I will be the first to admit that way back then I probably was the one lacking in my training on how to be an effective sales manager. Back then I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Many sales managers and salespeople are in the same position now.

Here are some warning signs that your sales manager and sales staff need help: They’re still saying to customers, “Can I help you?” and “Will that be all?” They take in repairs without showing merchandise. They fail to capture names, addresses, phone numbers, and permission for follow-up phone calls or e-mails. They haven’t developed a strong turnover program. They sell based on why they want to sell instead of the reasons a customer wants to buy. They don’t increase trust through selling the store. They don’t understand that value is a perception, so they’re unable to increase a customer’s perception of value. They don’t make it a quest to develop personal trade with every customer, don’t ask for referrals, don’t establish value before mentioning price, don’t ask add-on questions, and don’t focus on the emotional side of the purchase.

A sales manager’s job is to provide the leadership, knowledge, training, incentives, and consequences in order to recruit, hire, develop, and maintain a successful sales staff. A salesperson’s job is to cause the exchange of ownership of a product or service—with integrity—based on the customer’s wants and needs.

Whose job is it to make sure the sales staff is fully trained in order to guarantee the store’s success in the area of sales and profits? Frankly, the owner or the sales manager. As long as you have competition in your area, you have an opportunity for a sales increase. I hope in five years you aren’t thought of the same way as Woolworth’s and the many others who have followed.

Your Job, Their Job

Sales manager’s job
Provide leadership, knowledge, training, incentives, and consequences.
Salesperson’s job
Cause the exchange of ownership of a product or service based on customer’s wants and needs.