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Ask INSTORE: June 2008

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Emboldening shy salespeople, confusing newspaper advertising rate cards, building participation in role-playing exercises, and more.

[h3]Shy salespeople can eke good information out of customers[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]Last Christmas, I hired a nice young girl as a sales assistant but I’m starting to think she’s too much of a wallflower to ever be successful. Is it worth persisting with shy people?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A.]Absolutely, says retail expert and author Rick Segel. “These shy types can become great salespeople because they want the customer to talk. That gives them more information to service and sell the customer.” Your job is to let them know that their talents and potential are much greater than all of the other attributes that make up a good sales associate. Explain that good salespeople ask short questions that generate long answers from customers. Let the customer feel important, not them, and they generally do this effortlessly. You just have to teach them to be a little more aggressive with asking customers questions. “Some of the best salespeople I have ever seen started at this point,” Segel says.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]ADVERTISING[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Rate Conundrum[/contentheading]

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[h4][b]A restaurant owner told me he pays $180 for his ad in the local paper. For the same size ad in the same weekend section, we pay $330. I was told restaurants always receive a special price. Is this true?[/b][/h4]

“Guess what? It’s not just restaurants that get different rates,” says Andrew Malis, president of advertising agency MGH. “Most major daily newspapers have as many as 20 different rate cards.” It all started years ago when newspapers had only a national rate card for larger companies such as manufacturers. In order for the local stores to compete and be able to run ads in the newspaper, they developed a retail rate card for the local businesses and the trend snowballed from there.

“It is one of the most confusing things about buying newspaper space, and it’s infuriating, too,” Malis says, advocating that if you’re not getting a sufficient return on your ads and can’t use this knowledge of preferential rates to negotiate better prices, you should probably consider taking your ad dollars elsewhere.

[componentheading]RESEARCH[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Stepping Up[/contentheading]

[h4][b]After 10 years of specializing in high-end costume jewelry, we’ve decided to move into fine jewelry. Any recommendations on how or where to begin?[/b][/h4]

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First, do an intensive study of your local market and your current inventory mix to find out your best-selling price points and use those as your guide, suggests Gary Hill, who runs the Jamul, CA-based Beyond Expectations consultancy. Basics should form the bulk of your initial purchases, Hill recommends, listing gold chains and bracelets, and diamond studs and anniversary bands from someone like Joseph Blank or Tessler & Wiess, both of which have price-point goods that can be easily restocked.

“Whatever you do, don’t make the ever so common mistake of just buying what you like,” Hill says. He also advises considering the best sellers pointed out by sales reps, but making sure you check with other retailers carrying the lines as well. “Abe Sherman of Buyers International Group and Balancetobuy.com is a great resource for putting in the basics and the vendors who would be best to use,” he says.

[componentheading]INVENTORY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Scrappy Stock[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I don’t know what to do with our dead line of omega chains. We bought them at $10.95, but we are torn about scrapping something that may one day have selling potential again. What do you think?[/b][/h4]

With a question like that, you must have guessed you’d be inviting a scolding from JewelerProfit’s David Geller, so here goes: “Stop thinking of it as a chain. It’s not, sorry. It’s money,” Geller says. “A $100 chain that sells for $250 should make $150 in profit year after year after year. Look at it this way: You buy it on Jan. 1 for $100, sell it at Christmas for $250, and make $150. You buy another one in January (a week later) and sell it in December the next year, making another $150. Do it again, and in three years a $100 investment in a chain has made you $450 (3 years times $150 profit). For a 3-year-old chain to earn the same profit it must sell for $550. All the time you’ve been paying expenses (rent, utilities, salaries, advertising, etc.) as though it would have made a $150 profit per year. Dump or scrap anything over one year old.”

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[componentheading]SALES TRAINING[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Reluctant Thespians[/contentheading]

[h4][b]The sales experts you quote often recommend role-playing exercises. But my sales staff always slinks away when I suggest them. How can I get them to play along?[/b][/h4]

That may be because the focus is negative, says Dave Richardson of Jewelry Sales Training. Make the role-playing positive and fun. First play the role of the salesperson and let your salespeople critique you. Then, when it’s your turn to play the customer, instead of saying, “Here’s what you did wrong,” start off by telling the person what you felt they did well and what you would change if you had the opportunity. Always finish on a positive, encouraging note, Richardson says.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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