Online or In-Store, Sales Training Pays

Jewelry retailers are quick to update their websites, their inventories, even the lightbulbs in their stock room. But getting staffers up to speed on the latest selling techniques is a responsibility many retailers tend to shirk.

“Owners simply can’t afford the time,” says Pat Henneberry, president and founder of, a new online training resource. “They’re doing it all—the marketing, the business side. And all of a sudden, there’s a new jewelry brand in their case, the salespeople have no ­knowledge of it, and there’s no one there to train them.”

It’s easy to forget that the diligent folks selling your merchandise require more maintenance than your store’s Facebook page. And owners who aren’t involved in day-to-day selling may not even realize the degree to which an employee’s sales skills are lacking. 

There are a handful of respected trainers and consultants in the ­jewelry industry—and the education they provide, for many, is worth the (often considerable) cost of hosting them.

Wilsonville, Ore.–based Leonard Zell, who has spent more than 30 years boosting the skills of jewelry sales associates, has a simple philosophy: “Show by example.” Zell uses the oft-dreaded role-playing technique—but in a way that doesn’t humiliate students. “You play the salesperson and they play the customer,” he explains. “It’s not them playing the salesperson and having to come up with [responses]. Then have them role-play to each other in small groups, and never in front of everyone.”

By contrast, David Richardson, founder of ­Jewelry Sales Training ­International in Scottsdale, Ariz., asks “lots and lots of questions” when working with staffers. “We have small group discussions where we talk about how to turn over the sale,” he says. “Then we come up front and discuss what we talked about.” Key to Richardson’s method: Employees come up with the ideas, because “people are more likely to learn when it’s their idea, not yours.”

For many jewelry retailers, however, professional sales trainers fall outside their financial reach. Fortunately, high-quality, Web-based training resources are becoming more common.

Henneberry calls “the Netflix of sales training for the jewelry industry.” Among its growing library of video offerings: “The Managers Playbook,” a monthly meeting covering certain aspects of selling; “Rookie Camp,” designed for employees who are new to the industry; and a holiday ramp-up series “to ready salespeople personally and professionally” for the hairiest time of the year. Subscription rates for the site, which debuts in September, begin at $595 annually.

Says Henneberry, who still works as an in-store trainer: “I wanted to develop something that a retailer could afford and tap into daily.”

Of course, retailers certainly can go it alone on the training front. But Zell suggests that, when teaching techniques, owners personally demonstrate them.

“Many owners lecture their staff,” Zell says. “They will tell them they have to close more sales, but they don’t tell them how. Owners need to say, ‘Let me show you a particular technique, and tell you why it makes sense to use it.’?”

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