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Smooth Seller: Gino Giragosian

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This “Smooth Seller” from Canada hates salesmanship

[h3]Gino Giragosian[/h3]

[h5]Absolute Design; West Vancouver, BC[/h5]

[componentheading]Smooth Seller Bio[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=A]At age 18, Gino Giragosian wanted to be a professional soccer player. His parents wanted him to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. His choice? None of the above. Fed up with the pressure, he came to the United States from Italy in 1984 for a change of scenery, visiting his aunt in Seattle. She sponsored him to stay in the U.S., and soon he became an apprentice with master jeweler Serco Tokatlian, a friend of the family. He learned polishing, diamond setting, designing and repair work. After a couple of years, he moved to California to work with an independent regional chain. When he started in sales, he could barely speak English. But just a year later, he was a manager. His salary continued to rise as he managed two other chain stores. Ultimately, Gino didn’t enjoy the turn-and-burn methods of discount selling, so he left to do some consulting with a jeweler in Vancouver. They wouldn’t listen to his advice, and he was getting ready to leave, but then he met his future wife, Taline. In 1999, he opened a 250-square-foot store, and carried only high-end silver. Business grew, and in 2003 he moved into a new 1,800-square-foot store, selling both high-end jewelry and high-end cigars. Today, the store does close to seven figures a year as a single-man operation. — TRACE SHELTON[/dropcap]

[blockquote class=orange] I always think positive, no matter what. Don’t let anything get you down, and think about making lots of money. [/blockquote]

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• I’ve always loved cigars. They’re luxuries. It’s like wearing a Rolex or driving a Rolls Royce — it’s about status. At the same time, it’s hard to bring men into jewelry stores. Now, I have a half-dozen men standing in line to buy cigars while I wait on jewelry clients, and they bring their wives or girlfriends in. A man who can afford to pay $30-100 per cigar has money to buy jewelry.

• I hate salesmanship. I’ll walk away from anyone who acts like a typical salesperson. I put the whole thing in front of the customer and say, “You tell me what you want.” They ask what is a great cigar, and I say they’re all great. They’re kind of like wine: Do you like white, or red? Or in this case, Dominican or Cuban? Do you like strong, light or medium taste? The same applies to jewelry.

• When I worked in the States, I used to do add-ons the hard way — “You’ve got a VS, go for a VVS,” or you try to push for a band. Here, I create an atmosphere where the customers sell each other. The husband says, “Honey, why don’t we buy the wedding band here?” My overhead is lower than Cartier and Tiffany, so they can pay less, and they also get a one-of-a-kind custom-designed ring.

• I won’t sell two people the same custom design. If you come into my store and see a ring like yours in my showcases, you keep your ring and I’ll give you your money back.

• Customers ask why they would buy moissanite instead of a diamond? I sell both. But I ask them, what do you want from a diamond? And what is your budget? For $6,000, you can get a platinum ring with 20 moissanites on each side and a 2-carat moissanite in the center. Other customers want a 100-facet or 88-facet diamond. It’s up to them.

• I don’t have the luxury of being sick or tired — I’m a one-man operation. I have had to close the store for a golf charity event, but it was for a good cause, so I had no problem with it.

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• If you want to sell semi-mountings, put them in the front showcase. Include a little hammer and chisel, an eye loupe, and fill it up with cubic zirconia and colored stones in the front. When customers see the glitter, they take a look. Once you have them sitting down, you can show them how each semi-mount looks with different sizes and shapes of diamonds.

• I never put much stock in GIA education. When I worked for Roger’s, they wanted me to go get my certification and they would reimburse. I told them, “You have six graduate gemologists on the sales team. The day any of them beats me in my sales figures, I’ll go get certified at my own cost.” It never happened. A lot of GIA-educated people get too technical, too fussy, and they burn the sale.

[blockquote class=orange]I’m very particular. My jewelers know that if they send me a ring that’s not perfect, I’ll send it back to them and they have to pay for it. So send it to me right the first time, and everybody’s happy. [/blockquote]

• The mistake I catch myself making most frequently is, well, being too honest. A customer came in wearing a 2-carat pear-shaped diamond. It was a horrible-looking yellow; you could practically see the inclusions moving inside. She wanted to buy a 2-carat moissanite so she could travel with it to Mexico. I had her hold the moissanite in one hand and said, “In this hand you have the moissanite, and you’ve got your diamond on the other. I’m a thief. Which one do you think I’m going to hit you over the head for?” She dropped the moissanite in my hand and walked out of the store, insulted. Two weeks later, her husband came in, bought the moissanite, and took the diamond to Mexico! They’re still my customers.

• A customer who wants moissanite wants to buy a bigger stone, a flawless stone, and they want to pay the least money possible. I sell 15-20 moissanites per month. And my store is in West Vancouver, which is like Beverly Hills — most homes are $1.5 million plus. And these people walk in and buy moissanites!

• Greet the customer with “Good morning,” then let them look around. Wait until they see something they want. I used to work in high-pressure sales environments, and it doesn’t work — customers think you’re pushy. I don’t ask them to buy. I let them make their own decision, and it goes one way or another.

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• I know I’m gonna have a great day of selling when I make love to my wife the night before. Too bad the store is closed on Sunday and Monday, or I would make a killing! Without her, I don’t know what I would do… I worship the ground she walks on.

• Customers like having a little time to discuss the purchase, especially if they’re spending a lot. I tell them I’m going to help a gentleman with a cigar purchase and give them a few minutes to talk things over, and they appreciate the space.

• If I hire someone, I want to get them as a partner. A partner will care as much as you do. You don’t have a commissioned salesperson pushing too hard, or a salaried salesperson not pushing enough. Right now, it’s just me… I want someone else who thinks like an owner.

• I know a sale is going south when the client doesn’t smile and they start to lie. I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and now I’m like an old cop. If you lie, I know it.

• When I close a big sale, I like to reward myself by going after a bigger sale. It’s like going after a bigger fish, or scoring a goal, or hitting a homerun.

• In looking back on my early days in retail jewelry sales, I can’t believe I used to go on dates with female clients. It turns into a bad scenario when they track you down at the store and cause a scene. Do not mess around with employees, do not mess around with clientele.

• The only piece of jewelry that I wear is my Freemason ring that I designed. I’m very proud to be a Freemason.

• When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a pro soccer player. I’m not one today because I moved to the great USA when I was 18, and soccer was not as big then as it is today.

• I hate taking inventory. But you know what? In a half-hour of bitching, you can do one showcase. Get it over with, and you’ve got more time for smoking a cigar.

[blockquote class=orange] My customers trust me because I am the most honest and upfront person there is.[/blockquote]

[span class=note]This story is from the November 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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