Moving Your Sales to the Next Level

Moving Your Sales to the Next Level

A common lament of small jewelers is how hard it is to break through sales barriers. The $250,000 milestone becomes a millstone, or the half-million-dollar store that jumped off to a good start just can’t get to $600,000, let alone $750,000. Pine Bluff, Ark., jeweler Sissy Jones is familiar with this frustration, and in a remarkable speech at JCK’s recent Orlando show, she discussed how to overcome it.

I say remarkable because one just doesn’t sit passively and listen to Sissy; one becomes involved with her. The Orlando audience laughed and cried through her talk and gave her a standing ovation when she finished.

And no wonder. Her story is incredibly inspirational. She started out in 1970 in an unheated log cabin with no bathroom, selling jewelry out of shoeboxes. Today she runs what is probably the best-known jewelry store in Arkansas, a three-building complex with a staff of 32 that does millions of dollars in business each year. She attributes her success to a four-part creed:

1. Create an image and promote it. Her image is high quality and total service with everyday fair prices (no sales or discounting), and she spends 5% of her sales revenue advertising it. She sells designer jewelry and respected brands such as Lagos, Rolex, and Cartier, plus her own line, Sissy’s Collection (she employs designers, goldsmiths, and a lapidarist). She also builds on her image with special events. One of her most successful was a spectacular gala featuring jewelry and gems from around the world.

2. Treat everyone like family. She’s not kidding. A woman of enormous warmth, Sissy radiates empathy, and she makes a point of emotionally relating to her employees, her customers, and even her vendors. (“Why do retailers treat vendors like second-class citizens?” she wonders. “They’re part of your working family. Some of my fondest memories are of my suppliers.”)

3. Keep lines of communication open. Hold short meetings every morning to get organized for the day. If you have a big store, hold weekly meetings with department heads before the store opens. Have a suggestion box.

4. Offer in-house training and seminars for your staff. Gemology and diamond-grading courses are a must. Encourage employees to pursue studies of their choice, whether they’re related to their department or not. Involve both the staff and your vendors in the state jewelers’ association.

Overriding all this is a slogan Sissy repeats so much that it’s almost her mantra: The customer needs what you have to sell. Of course, as desirable, beautiful, and visible as it is, jewelry is not one of life’s necessities. What the customer actually needs is a relationship with a person she can trust, and that’s what Sissy strives unceasingly to provide. “You’re not only selling jewelry, you’re selling yourself,” she says with a convincing smile.

Actually, it would help most if you could be Sissy. I wasn’t in her presence more than two minutes when I realized, somewhat to my astonishment, this woman could sell me anything! There’s something totally winning about her, and that’s her genuine desire to relate. There’s also a strong belief in herself. At a meeting in New York not too long ago, she reported she’d increased her buying for the upcoming Christmas season by 200% over the previous year’s level. When asked how she knew she could sell that much, she replied, “Because I bought that much!”

I’d sure like to visit Sissy’s store someday, but I’m afraid of what it would do to my wallet.