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Is It Possible to Be Too Welcoming? Plus Other Questions From Our Readers

Also, how much trust should you extend another person in the jewelry industry?

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We have a small store. If someone is sitting near the front door and they greet a customer, when is it appropriate for others to extend a welcome?

If you’ve ever walked into a Japanese ramen restaurant where the entire staff stop and holler a greeting, you’ll know how disconcerting this can be for the unaccustomed. It’s also distracting to other customers who might be in the store, says Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts. Her advice is that the initial greeting be left to one person.

“Customers should be greeted promptly by someone who is already positioned near the front of the store — with a smile, direct eye contact, and verbiage that doesn’t sound like a salesperson. That said, if the initial outreach is met with a need to ‘browse,’ and the customer is moving around the store, associates should stay busy — but be attentive — and should offer that same smile and eye contact, along with a pleasant ‘hello’ when the customer gets near to where they are standing.”

Sales trainer Shane Decker concurs and advocates you systemize your entire approach to greeting customers, starting with the person closest to the door: “I’ve written about the ‘sweet spot’ for greeting: It’s 10 feet from the door on the client’s right walking in. The salesperson/greeter should never be seated, they should be standing (and not behind a case).”

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Decker says that under such a system, there should be only one greeter — determined by your “up system.” “Because when more people greet, the client is confused about who will wait on them,” he says. “They should be greeted with a smile, not ‘Hi how are you’ or ‘What brings you in today.’ So one greeter, welcome the client, tell them you’re glad they came in. Be professional.”

I’ve hired a new employee, but she won’t start for a few more months. How can I keep her feeling excited about the job — and lessen the risk she might change her mind?

Think small but considerate gestures, says Jack Mitchell, one of the country’s leading clothing retailers and the author of Hug Your Customers. Mitchell tells the story of a superstar salesperson with Macy’s who, after much wooing, finally agreed to come work at Mitchell’s store. Says Mitchell: “We could sense it was a big decision for her, because she is a very loyal and committed person who had established relationships at Macy’s. So we sent her flowers with a handwritten note welcoming her to Mitchell’s and telling her how bright her future was here.” Certainly, a considerate means of showing appreciation. But Mitchell didn’t realize exactly how important his little gesture was until a few years later, when, during a seminar, the sales associate told the flower story and revealed something that Mitchell didn’t know. She said that right after she had agreed to join Mitchell’s, Macy’s made her a counter-offer and she had told them she would think about it. While driving home, she was having mixed feelings, but when she arrived at the house and saw the bouquet of flowers and read Mitchell’s personal note welcoming her aboard, she was touched and decided to go ahead with the job switch. The lesson? Mitchell answers: “Most people think a hot button is something big, but it can also be incredibly small, like a bouquet of flowers and a nice note.”

One of the things I like most about the jewelry industry is that people are still willing to do business on trust, but then I recently got burned on a handshake deal. How can I know when to trust someone?

For commercial transactions, there is no substitute for a properly drawn up contract. Yes, the jewelry industry is special, and the fact that its stock in trade are among the most precious goods known only makes the general trust people have in each other all the more remarkable. But when you do a deal on a handshake, you’re not just putting your trust in the other party’s good intentions, you’re making a bet the future won’t throw one of you a curveball … and the last few years have shown just how dependable the future can be. Get it down on paper.

Do you have any quick tips on how to compliment people in this sensitive age? It seems such a minefield these days.

“You’re so brave to wear that.” “Your English is excellent.” “You don’t even look pregnant.” “Your hair is so exotic.” Yes, indeed it is easy to unintentionally offend someone (although, that’s actually always been the case — people are just less likely to put up with it these days). With just a little care, you should still be able to use praise to quickly get on a customer’s good side and boost your chances of making a sale. Start by staying away from anything physical or related to their heritage. When it comes to jewelry, one of the best ways to get on a customer’s good side is to praise the pieces they are already wearing or have shown interest in. You are an expert in this field, so it’s a compliment backed by authority. Praising a customer’s personality is also usually safe ground, especially if you’ve honestly enjoyed the transaction, so let them know. (“Gosh, I haven’t had so much fun serving anybody in a long time!”). Praise is a powerful tool. But, yes, wield with discretion.

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Thinking of Liquidating? Wilkerson’s Got You Covered

Bil Holehan, the manager of Julianna’s Fine Jewelry in Corte Madera, Calif., decided to go on to the next chapter of his life when the store’s owner and namesake told him she was set to retire. Before they left, Holehan says they decided to liquidate some of the store’s aging inventory. They chose Wilkerson for the sale. Why? “Friends had done their sales with Wilkerson and they were very satisfied,” says Holehan. He’d enthusiastically recommend Wilkerson to anyone looking to stage a liquidation or going-out-of-business sale. “There were no surprises,” he says. “They were very professional in their assessment of our store, what we could expect from the sale and they were very detailed in their projections. They were pretty much on the money.”

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