Step It Up or You May Have to Step Aside!

Last June, right after The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of spending three weeks in a jewelry store. Running the sales floor took me back to my time as a sales manager working every day on a retail sales floor. Not much has changed. Customers still say, “I’m just looking,” “I’ll be back,” and “This is the first place I’ve shopped.” Salespeople still say, “Will that be all?” or “Here’s my card, come back when you’re ready.”

During the three-week period, we did about $35,000 in sales the first week, over $70,000 the second week, and over $120,000 the third week. I don’t say this to brag. I say it to emphasize that there is no better place for coaching and training than the sales floor. You can’t learn to ride a bike, ski, drive, or fly an airplane by watching a DVD, reading a book, or attending a seminar. Selling is the same. The practical and continuous application of the material being taught, through role playing and live situations, instills knowledge and provides the opportunity to gain experience.

The sales manager (or whatever title you give to the position) can have a dramatic effect on sales and profits. Without a strong leader, people tend to revert to their safe zone or level of competence (or incompetence). In sports, coaching makes the difference between a championship season and an average season. The same is true in a retail jewelry store—coaching on the floor will make the difference between a store that’s flourishing and one that’s just getting by.

Most jewelry stores still close about 20 percent of the people who come in, and most still average about 5 percent in add-on sales. Most take in repairs without attempting to sell additional merchandise, and most have no turnover program, or a weak one. Most jewelry salespeople wait for customers to come in instead of driving traffic to the store, and most don’t ask customers for referrals. In other words, a huge sales increase is available to most jewelry stores.

A business that always does the same things won’t get different results. Some industry organizations say 30 percent of independent jewelry stores will be out of business in the next five years. Many of the chain stores aren’t doing much better. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer lies in the people serving our customers. The jewelry industry must put more emphasis on training, knowledge, positive reinforcement, on-the-floor coaching, and incentives. We must give our people the help they need to maximize every potential selling opportunity.

Our salespeople should create their own opportunities and think of themselves as running their own business within the larger business. The sales manager is the one person who will make the biggest difference. When he or she is on the sales floor interacting with staff and customers, we’re on our way to positive results. I have seen a struggling store bring in a new manager and the store explode in sales. If the manager only makes the schedule, answers discounting questions, deposits the daily receipts, and answers repair and special-order questions, then the store is in trouble.

I recently heard an advertising guru say retailers need to cut back on their staffs, because traffic may drop as much as 25 percent in the coming year. Don’t cut your staff. Cut the unproductive, yes, but add sales-driven individuals who will produce results, and give them the leadership they need to be successful.

If you’re not a proactive sales manager/trainer and you don’t have someone who is, you need to hire or develop one from within. Before it’s too late.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is president of IAS Training and the author of the books I’m a Salesman! Not a Ph.D. and Munchies for Salespeople: Sales Tips You Can Sink Your Teeth Into! He developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, and The Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series, as well as aptitude tests and proficiency exams for new hires, current sales staff, and sales managers. Huisken and his staff of trained professionals conduct in-house training and consulting all over North America on an ongoing basis. He also publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight.” For a free subscription or more information, contact IAS Training at (800) 248-7703, fax (303) 936-9581, e-mail:, or visit