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Shane Decker

The Critical Mistake Way Too Many Jewelers Make In Educating Salespeople

The answer is to create your own store “university” for employees, says Shane Decker.




BENJAMIN FRANKLIN once said, “Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” He could just as easily have been referring to dollars in customers’ pocketbooks that never make it into the cash register of your store. When you don’t train your salespeople, you will never see their promise come to fruition.

Develop incentives and penalties that they will incur based on their learning performance. Jewelers tell me all the time that they can’t find good people. Well, if you don’t train them up, they’ll never be any good! Too many owners treat training as an afterthought … something to be done here and there, when you find the time. I’m telling you, the time is now, and it’s not an option if you want to thrive.

Consider the following truths of retailing:

  • 1. You will only make as much money as your people allow you to make.
  • 2. Your store is only as good as your weakest link.
  • 3. You will only be as good as you train. The less you train, the worse your team looks to your customers.

These things are true no matter what you sell — but you’re in the jewelry business, and our industry is changing faster than most. And, there’s a lot to learn: Product knowledge, store procedures, gemological education, salesmanship, and even a particular store’s culture and psychology. All told, it’s a three-year learning curve for rookies (and even longer for larger stores).

Are you convinced yet to make training a top priority? If not, here’s one last thing to think about: Every day, you entrust your employees with your inventory, your money, your customers, the name on your door, and your integrity. That’s right, your personal integrity is reflected in how well you hire and train!

So what’s the best way to educate your people?

First, you’ve got to make your people accountable to learning. Develop incentives and penalties that they will incur based on their learning performance.

Encourage them to listen to gemological training tapes on the way to and from work, rather than rock and roll. Have them read the trades, especially INSTORE. Let them know you’re serious about it by enforcing consequences.


Second, create your own store university. Make it a two- to three-week course that covers the following:

  • Product knowledge: Work with your vendors to list the 25 most important points of each brand you carry. Start a file on each brand that your salespeople can train on, and test them. Measure their learning about each timepiece you sell.
  • Store procedures: How are repairs taken in, how should inventory be handled, how should customers be greeted, etc.
  • Gemological training: The Diamond Council of America has an excellent gemological course for salespeople.
  • Salesmanship: This will be an extremely thick file. They should learn how to turn over a sale, the anatomy of a sale, opening and closing, etc. (all covered in my DVD series — sorry, couldn’t resist the plug).
  • For most owners, it takes 18 to 24 months to properly develop the course materials for a store university. But the results are well worth the time and effort.

    Get your university up and running, and make your sales team accountable to learning. Once your trainee has graduated your university, have them shadow your top three salespeople for the next three days. Then and only then should you put them on the sales floor to represent your good name to your customers.


    After all, would you take your car to an untrained mechanic? Fly in an airplane with an untrained pilot? So, why would you ask your customers to trust anyone less than a pro with their jewelry purchase?

    Get your university up and running, and make your sales team accountable to learning. You may be surprised at just how much silver is in your mine.

    This story is from the March 2008 edition of INSTORE.

    Shane Decker has provided sales training to more than 3,000 jewelry stores. Shane cut his teeth in jewelry sales in Garden City, KS, and sold over 100 1-carat diamonds four years in a row. Contact him at [email protected].



    Wilkerson Testimonials | Sollberger’s

    Going Out of Business Is an Emotional Journey. Wilkerson Is There to Make It Easier.

    Jaki Cowan, the owner of Sollberger’s in Ridgeland, MS, decided the time was right to close up shop. The experience, she says, was like going into the great unknown. There were so many questions about the way to handle the store’s going-out-of-business sale. Luckily for Cowan, Wilkerson made the transition easier and managed everything, from marketing to markdowns.

    “They think of everything that you don’t have the time to think of,” she says of the Wilkerson team that was assigned to manage the sale. And it was a total success, with financial goals met by Christmas with another sale month left to go.

    Wilkerson even had a plan to manage things while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place. This included limiting the number of shoppers, masking and taking temperatures upon entrance. “We did everything we could to make the staff and public feel as safe as possible.”

    Does she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers thinking of retiring, liquidating or selling excess merchandise? Absolutely. “If you are considering going out of business, it’s obviously an emotional journey. But truly rest assured that you’re in good hands with Wilkerson.”

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