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Ask INSTORE: September 2006

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Building your sales confidence, pros and cons of hiring older workers, how to apologize, and more.

[h3]Salesperson’s confidence can seal the deal[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]I recently started working as a sales associate. My problem is I can’t get over my self-consciousness. My presentations feel transparent and I worry my customers see straight through me. Is there anything I can do?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A]It is true the first thing a salesperson has to sell is herself. If you’re not confident, your customer is not going to feel confident about the goods you’re trying to sell. One good way to feel and look more self-assured is to stop wondering about what the customer thinks of you or your presentation and instead focus intently on finding out what is the best piece of jewelry for them. This simple shift of focus helps turn insecurity into curiosity, and suddenly you’ll find there are scores of earnest inquiries you can make to help the customer, or stories you can tell to help the sale.[/dropcap]

So, forget the sizzle and concentrate on the steak. That’s really your job no matter what anyone may tell you. If you match the client with the item that gives them the most joy then you are doing right by the customer, your store and yourself. Eventually you’ll find a sales style that best suits your personality and you can get comfortable with techniques like sequencing, add-ons, cross sales and so on.

[componentheading]STAFF[/componentheading]

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[contentheading]Goldent Oldiest[/contentheading]

[h4][b]What are the pros and cons of hiring older workers?[/b][/h4]

The list of advantages is as long as their teeth: seniors are often more responsible than their younger counterparts, call in sick less, work harder, don’t get involved in office politics, and have good life skills. Yet many retailers have mixed feelings about hiring those over the age of 55. To be sure, some older workers do tire more quickly from long hours on the sales floor or may want to work shorter hours either for personal reasons or to protect their Social Security benefits (but that can also mean fewer benefits that you’re obliged to pay).

Ultimately your decision should be guided by this rule of thumb: in retail, people like to do business with people who are like them or share their interests. So, make sure your staff matches your area’s demographics. Altho-ugh for just about anywhere in the US, that now means a graying market. And if you’re still not convinced, you better hurry up and get warm to the idea. According to AARP projections, 25% of the workforce in 2010 will be individuals over the age of 50.

[componentheading]CUSTOMER SERVICE[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Sorry Situation[/contentheading]

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[h4][b]We recently failed to make a delivery on time to a corporate client due to circumstances beyond our control. I would like to personally apologize to try to salvage the relationship but my husband thinks it’s a bad idea in business to ever admit fault. What do you think?[/b][/h4]

If your husband’s worried about being sued, then maybe he is right. (In some states, apologizing can be treated by the courts as an admission of guilt. If you find yourself dealing with someone litigious, consult your attorney first.) But aside from those rare instances, the “never say sorry” school of thought probably should have been put to rest with John Wayne. In nearly all cases, it’s best to try to make amends. Business is based on trust and relationships and you won’t last long if you lose the trust of your local community, especially in jewelry.

Simply saying “sorry” won’t cut it though. Apologies that are most effective are those in which the offending party accepts full respo-nsibility for their actions, explains why the problem happened and how they intend to address the issue in future, and, where appropriate, offers to pay or remedy any damage caused.

[span class=note]This story is from the September 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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