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Smooth Seller: David Nygaard

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David Nygaard started his penchant for business at an early age.

[h3]David Nygaard[/h3]

[h5]43, owner and CEO, $850,000 in 2006 personal sales; David Nygaard Fine Jewelers, Virginia Beach, VA[/h5]

[componentheading]BIO[/componentheading]

David Nygaard

[dropcap cap=U]pwards of a million dollars in personal jewelry sales made 2006 a successful year for David Nygaard, but not for the reason you’d expect. That figure actually represents a drop in his personal-sales tally from the year before. But it was a cause for celebration nonetheless because Nygaard wants to get off the sales floor and pass some of his success on to his staff. He was able to do that, and his operation continued to thrive. When Nygaard was in fifth grade, he started his first business: selling pencils. He even took in some trade-ins (old pencils for new, with a little cash thrown in). Later, he transformed a love of exotic rocks into a career in gemology, earning the titles of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society and Master Gemologist Appraiser from the American Society of Appraisers. He bought his mother’s business, Sandy’s Touch of Gold, in 1995 and renamed it David Nygaard Fine Jewelers in 1998. In less than a decade’s time, his innovative business practices have helped him to grow from a single store into six thriving locations — with plans for more.[/dropcap]

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[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

[blockquote class=orange]I don’t live the life of the rich and famous. I change lots of diapers[/blockquote]

• My business is an expression of my personality in our community. As such, my Christian faith is a way of integrating my world view into the business. I think you have to integrate your entire life. I’m a father, husband, and business owner in this community. So, I’m involved as a baseball coach because it’s important to my kids, but I support Little League because it’s important to the community.

• A customer’s not here to buy a ring, he’s here to become happily married. The ring has no value outside of that result — he’s buying the aspiration. So, we help customers stage their engagement proposals. We also offer premarital counseling events once per quarter. Things like that really can transform them into better husbands with better marriages — which is what they want, when you boil it all down.

• Having a family (a wife and six children) adds a degree of “down-to-earth-ness” to my sales demeanor. I don’t live the life of the rich and famous. I change lots of diapers.

• The more high-end the customer,
the more down-to-earth you need to be as a salesperson. The true “millionaire next door” is self-made, with an average house and an average car. They’re unassuming, casually dressed, unobtrusive.  

• You have to be authentic
— people are looking for that in a relationship. It’s a big Generation X thing. They want the real deal.

• The most memorable sale of my career?
On Christmas morning, a friend/client called me at home, realizing she had forgotten to purchase a gift for someone. She asked if I would wrap up a $25,000 watch her friend was looking at and drop it by her house. I was like, “Oh brother, it’s Christmas day and here I am going off to work,” but I knew she needed some help and she was a good friend. So, I took it to her house, and the friend was there … we just “happened by” with the family and kids to wish her Merry Christmas. We disguised the transfer as a social call. I quietly gave it to her so she could pass it to her friend later that afternoon.  

• Many jewelers assume
they need to drop their margins on larger diamonds, when it’s just the opposite. You need to make good profits on gravy sales like that. That customer doesn’t care about cost, he wants a great diamond. To him, $50,000 is no big deal.

• When I fail, I want to learn why and what I need to change. We moved our store location and saw a 35-percent drop in high-ticket sales. I took a look at the problem and decided to borrow more money and open more locations. I wanted to sell quality jewelry in a price point that everyone can afford ($500-$1,500). When that becomes your core, it can sustain your operations, and the high-ticket sales become gravy.

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• I don’t like “lines.” They seem to be insincere. But I do believe there are important questions to ask, like: “What do you want this ring to say?” “What are you trying to say with this gift?” “What do you want her to say about this to her friends?”

• The mistake I catch myself making most is talking too much about common interests and forgetting to talk about jewelry or the occasion.

[blockquote class=orange]When I fail, I want to learn why and what I need to change.[/blockquote]

• Knowledge is critical, especially in regards to knowledge about specific jewelry. An effective salesperson needs to know how to help people find the jewelry that’s right for them — and for that you need jewelry knowledge.

• If a customer is really, truly price-driven, they’re not our client. I refuse to be that type of retailer, so I don’t worry about the Internet. We sell by adding value through a luxury experience and education — and by helping our customers meet their aspirations.

• Professional dress
is a positive for salespeople, which is why I give out a clothing allowance. In small mom-and-pop stores, we often don’t dress the part of the professional because we can get away with it… or maybe we don’t see ourselves in that role. But when you dress up, you look in the mirror and think, “Hey, I really am a professional. I’m valuable to customers — I bring knowledge and information to the table that they don’t have.”

• My biggest short-term goal?
To open two more stores this year, and raise the capital to open 12 more stores.

[span class=note]This story is from the March 2007 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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