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How to Deal With Rich Jerks, and More of Your Questions Answered

Employee discounts? Geller has the answer.

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What’s the best way to deal with rude customers who also happen to be big spenders?

This is a particular problem in jewelry because, as Bob Sutton, the Stanford business professor who penned the 2007 bestseller The No Asshole Rule has noted, on average, the more well-educated, wealthier and more prestigious people are, the worse they behave. These people are often your best customers. There is of course a wide range of jerks, from the clueless who are so wrapped up in themselves they aren’t aware of the offense they give to the out-and-out nasty who seem to take pleasure in demeaning people. When you signal to the former that their behavior is making you or a staff member uncomfortable, they will often act in surprise and modify it. As for the genuine a-holes, Sutton acknowledges it is a tough situation for a small business owner, especially when one customer can make the difference between a good week and a bad one. In such instances, he recommends a form of sucking it up but using a mental survival trick to maintain your cool and your self-respect. It’s called temporal distancing. The idea is to try to frame the engagement almost as if you aren’t present, as if you’re watching it from a day later, or a week later and looking back at what’s happening. A similar approach is to pretend you’re a social scientist who has come across a special specimen and thinks: “Oh, what a fascinating subject or specimen. I can’t believe how lucky I am to see this close up.” The idea is not to get dragged in to the point where you react emotionally or take it personally. Sutton adds there is an unwritten belief among service providers that such clients be levied an “asshole tax”: “The nastier you are, the more money you end up paying and the worse people you have serving you,” he says. Yes, suck it up if you have no choice. But make sure you walk away from the encounter on top.

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What are some revealing questions I can ask of potential sales candidates to make sure I have sharp people on my shop floor?

For this, we went to sales trainer and consultant Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible and a former speaker at our SMART Jewelry Show. Here is Gitomer’s list of sample questions you could ask in an interview:

1. Why do you want to succeed at sales?
2. Where does your sales passion come from?
3. What is the last sales book you read?
4. What is the last creativity book you read?
5. Tell me about the biggest sale you ever made.
6. What was the biggest reason you got it?
7. Tell me about a sale you lost.
8. What do you say when a prospect says, “I want to think it over”?
9. What do you say when a prospect says, “I’m satisfied with my present jeweler”?
10. What do you say when a prospect says, “Your price is too high”?
11. How often do you listen to or read personal development information?
12. What was the last seminar you attended?
13. Are you a member of Toastmasters?
14. How do you improve your presentation skills?
15. What is your most creative approach to follow-up?
16. Give me your 30-second personal commercial.

Asking these questions should give you a pretty good idea if you have a future sales star on your hands .

I’m currently revising my store policy on employee discounts. What do you suggest … give it to them cheap, or try to make some profit?

Make it a win-win situation for both of you, suggest David Geller of JewelerProfit. It’s commonly said that a lot of people in luxury goods retail have a hard time selling their own product because they can’t imagine owning it. Says Geller: “Think about it. Ever overheard one of your sales staff show a piece of jewelry, tell the customer the price as they actually gulped? ‘This ring is only … gulp … $4,000!’”

Think of your employee sales as pure advertising, he says. “If you can get your staff to wear the stuff and it’s theirs, they will be more likely to show it to their customers with the idea of ‘I own one, so should you!’” In Geller’s store, the policy was to give staff anything in the store at 10 percent above cost. Any purchases could be paid for over six paychecks. End result? “They sold an awful lot of what they wore, and as they became more ‘decked out,’ so did their personal sales,” says Geller.

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I don’t seem to be able to keep a check on my emotions in high-pressure business situations. Any suggestions?

Instead of telling yourself to calm down — the conventional approach — turn the dial in the other direction, says Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks. Reframe that nervousness as excitement. So instead of saying “I am nervous about making this pitch,” say “I’m excited about making this pitch.” Writing in Harvard Magazine, Brooke says it works because nervousness and excitement are similar. They’re both high arousal emotions; it’s just that one is negative and the other is positive. “What you’re better off doing is reappraising an emotion that’s similar and turning a threat into an opportunity,” she says.

It’s a changing world. How do I make my business more sensitive and responsive to the diversity around us?

Brian McComak, founder and CEO of Hummingbird Humanity, a diversity and inclusion consultant, speaker, author and facilitator, suggests you start with the people you turn to for advice, guidance or mentoring, or what he calls your Trusted 10. “Write down the 10 people you go to for business advice,” he suggests. “Then, list their identities: gender identity, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. If you find that your list of advisors is very similar in their identity, work to intentionally build trusted relationships with individuals who have different lived experiences. Ask for their input, wisdom and counsel.” Once you start looking for input from outside your traditional social circle, you will likely find there is a significant amount you can do to build relationships — both commercial and social — with typically underrepresented groups.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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