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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Lara Bergseth



Her Father’s Daughter: Lara Bergseth wanted to fly, but found her calling in the family store

[h3]Lara Bergseth[/h3]

[h5]Idar Jewellers[/h5]


Smooth Seller: Laura Bergseth

Years in jewelry sales: 17
2005 sales: $850,000


[dropcap cap=A]t the tender age of nine, Lara’s parents put her in charge of the most important job in any jewelry store — cleaning the toilets. She made $20 a month, which she used to buy new Barbie dolls. To this day, she’s still the head toilet cleaner … but she’s also the store’s top seller. During her college years, she thought she would become a photographer or painter, but wound up working first in the jewelry department of a major department store, and later in a chain store. Bergseth decided she’d rather be working with her parents, and returned to Idar.[/dropcap]

Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Employees: 9

In 1972, Idar Bergseth and his wife Nikki opened their store in the quiet, provincial capital of Victoria with what was then a revolutionary business model — every piece in the store was designed and made by Idar. It took a while for the idea to catch on. In fact, three months passed before the Bergseths made their first sale! But over the years, the unique creations of Idar Jewellers won area residents over, and soon a second location will open in Edmonton.


• We used to see lots of Americans in the store. They’d come across the border, and we’d sell them two to three items a day. Now, we may sell one per month! Ever since 9/11, Americans visit far less often and spend less money here — especially with the falling value of the American dollar. The Canadian market is improving, though. Nearby Alberta, an oil-rich province, is booming. Young people are coming in with money to spend, and they bring lots of energy into our showroom. It’s great!

[blockquote class=orange]Customers always tell me, ‘You must really enjoy what you do, we can tell.’[/blockquote]


• My constant companion is Jock, a Texas Rednose Pit Bull that I rescued from an animal hospital. We always keep him in the store, but he has to stay in the back because customers are sometimes frightened to see him. When I walk through town with him, it’s like walking down the street with a loaded gun. Nobody harasses me! As a woman, it’s really nice to have that kind of protection.

• The jewelry I enjoy selling most are wedding bands with no stones. What an easy sale! The customer puts it on, they like it, and that’s it! You don’t have to explain about the diamonds, which can take forever. With diamonds, for example, guys always want to know all the specifications — they feel they’re investing their money, and they want to make a good investment. Then, after you spend all this time with them, they go away to do more shopping and research. These wedding bands sell for triple-key (unlike diamonds), and there are never any problems. Those customers are always happy as clams.

• My favorite type of customers are gay couples. They both want big diamonds, so we sell two diamonds to each couple, instead of just one. Gay customers are very loyal. They don’t like having to explain their situation over and over. Once they find a place that makes them feel comfortable, they come back again and again. And, they tell all their friends to come in as well.

• My lucky charm is Nutmeg & Ginger Cologne by Jo Malone. I wear it every day! It was originally my boyfriend’s cologne, but one day I wore it and sold over $10,000. I sell a ton when I’m wearing it. It’s a recent lucky charm, just since January when I stole it from him. He’s recently gone to work on our new Edmonton store, which opens soon, and he wanted to take the cologne with him. Needless to say, I wouldn’t let him.

• The most memorable sale of my career? When I sold a ring that I designed, which had previously won a national design competition. It was a $15,000 ring, and was the first award-winning design I’ve sold that I also designed. When my dad asked me to create the design, we went through more than 100 designs before he liked what I had. He knew it would win. He made it at the end of last year, and I sold it in March to a nice woman. That was important to me, because I didn’t want it going to a bad home!

• To a brand-new salesperson I would say: if it’s not fun, don’t do it. If you get a customer who is rude to you, you don’t have to put up with it. Tell them to leave! You don’t have to kiss up to people to get their business. A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and it really woke me up. Life is short, and you shouldn’t have to kiss ass to make money. Do what you enjoy, and sell to people you like. Customers tell me all the time, “You must really enjoy what you do, we can tell.” When you’re having fun, it shows.


[blockquote class=orange]Life is short, and you shouldn’t have to kiss ass to make money.[/blockquote]

• One thing I always do for my customers is treat everyone like they have a million dollars to spend. People really appreciate not being judged. I once had a lady send me a note that said, “I only spent $1,500, but you made me feel like I spent $15,000. Thank you!”

• The book that’s had the biggest effect on the way I sell is Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander. I first saw it mentioned in INSTORE as a good book for improving sales skills. I loved it! It’s about developing thick skin. Because we make all our merchandise, I tend to take everything personally. If a customer says, “Oh I don’t like that,” I used to take it as an insult. Now I understand that they’re not trying to insult me, they just want to say what they want. The book made a big difference in my enjoyment of my job.

[blockquote class=orange]I hate it when people steal designs. But sometimes customers will argue.[/blockquote]

• For homework, I like to read business books. I have practically every sales book out there. I also love AGS Conclave — their seminars provide a huge boost for me. I come back and I’m psyched. After a conclave, I’m always excited to try out the new things I’ve learned.

• My favorite regular customers are all older people. They teach me things. One fellow, who spends between $100K-200K per year, always spends some time teaching me how to negotiate. My natural tendency is to get flustered when I’m upset. For instance, someone may bring in a Cartier ad and ask “How much for a piece like this?” Then I’ll answer, “Call 1-800-CARTIER and find out!” I hate it when people steal designs. But sometimes customers will argue. Anyway, this gentleman has taught me to “stay out of the red zone” and keep from getting angry.

• The mistake I make most often is talking too much. Sometimes you have to shut up and listen, or you lose the sale. You have to give the customer a chance to think — I’m bad at that. Talking too much about yourself is even worse. They don’t want to hear your life story. When they start backing up, or they look at each other, or they put the piece down … you know you’ve lost the sale.

• If you can help other people in the trade, do it. If it’s fun, do it. Making money is nice, but it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day, you have to be glad with what you’ve done for others.

• When the store is packed with customers, I’m really good at focusing on the person in front of me. I take people as they come in —I can see who’s next. I never say “I’ll only be a minute”… that tells the person in front of you that you’re in a hurry to get rid of them! Instead, I tell people “Someone will be right with you.” You should always remain totally calm, without rushing, even if it’s just a $50 repair.  

• When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a stewardess! My mother would have bawled. She used to say, “That’s just a waitress in the sky!” That said, I did finally earn my pilot’s license!

• Teamwork is really important here. We’ve got a technique that one of our people, Darryl, calls “The Squeeze.” It’s when one male and one female salesperson team up to sell to a couple. Nine out of 10 times, it works.

[blockquote class=orange]I used to wear jewelry in the store. But one time my dad sold my gold chain right off of me![/blockquote]

• I never wear jewelry when I’m selling. I have lots of jewelry, of course, but I don’t wear it so I can stay totally neutral. I can sell big or small. If I was wearing something big, a woman who wants something small wouldn’t trust me — and vice-versa. It also allows me to try on jewelry, which many men like. Now, when I was younger, I used to wear jewelry. One time, my dad brought me out of the back of the store and sold my gold chain right off of me! This way, I get to keep all my stuff!

[span class=note]This story is from the July 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]



Wilkerson Testimonials

A Packed Store Like the Day Before Christmas? Wilkerson Makes It Happen

Deb Schulman says once she and her husband, Ron, decided to retire, she could feel “the stress start to leave.” The owners of B. Alsohns Jewelers in Palm Desert, California, the Schulmans had heard about Wilkerson over the years and contacted them when the time was right. Wilkerson provided the personalized service, experience and manpower it took to organize their GOB sale. “We are so impressed with the way Wilkerson performed for us,” says Ron Schulman, “I’d send high accolades to anyone who was interested.”

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Donna Burgess, Occasions Fine Jewelry, Midland, TX




Donna Burgess

Occasions Fine Jewelry, Midland, TX

Although you might not suspect it upon first chatting with the amiable, conversationally gifted Donna Burgess, the 57-year-old Tennessee native is a Type A personality who gets straight to the point, and the point is to sell jewelry. At an average sale of just over $900, she sells plenty of it to achieve annual personal sales approaching $3 million. If you need more evidence this grandmother of 11 is a shark, she relaxes by reading murder mysteries, especially the serial-killer kind. — EILEEN McCLELLAND

You have to listen as much to what’s not being said as to what’s being said — and then get straight to the point. If you are in the fashion jewelry area and a man has come in and you show him something that isn’t very expensive and he says, "My wife wouldn’t wear anything like that, it’s too gaudy," you know you are in the wrong area of the store and in the wrong price range. So go for something totally opposite.

We sell more to men than to women, and most men don’t care to shop. They don’t want to see everything in the store. Most of the time, if you ask them what they are thinking about, they don’t have a clue. So I’ll usually pull out a pendant and start with something basic. If he says, "Oh, no, she’s got one of those," then go to something that’s a little bit out there.

You can say, "I’ve got the perfect thing." Get it into their head that you have what they need. Be confident. Be direct. Don’t say, "Well, this might work."

Learn your product. Walk around the cases and know where you are going to take your customer ahead of time. Don’t waste their time trying to find something. That way you look more confident, you look more professional, and you’ll make many, many more sales.

I wear very classic jewelry. A pair of diamond studs, a pair of inside-out diamond hoops, an inline tennis bracelet, a solitaire pendant, a couple of Simon G rings and a gold ankle bracelet. So I sell a lot of inside-out earrings, that’s my go-to staple for an anniversary. I’ve also had people who notice my necklace. You sell what you wear. I’ve even sold a few gold ankle bracelets.

When I started I took every “no” personally. You can’t do that. Everybody’s going to hear “no”.

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons




Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons 


Published in the May 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Simmons Fine Jewelry
LOCATION: Meridian, ID

Blake Simmons graduated from Boise State University in 2011 with degrees in business management and marketing. Following graduation, he immediately demonstrated his sales prowess by selling more than $1 million in his first year of working full time at his family’s business. Simmons has been married for five years to his wife, Jill, and in his spare time he loves hunting, riding motorcycles, skiing and snowboarding.

My father has always said, “We don’t sell jewelry, we sell romance.” I have found this very true in my own sales especially to men buying for their wives, and it makes a big difference in the way a sale goes if I can help the customer to forget about the amount of money they are spending on “just a little rock.”

Don’t short yourself. Always show big to sell big. If that doesn’t work, scale it down, but if you have the mentality that someone can’t afford something you won’t ever sell big pieces.

I earned a bachelor’s of Entrepreneurial Management, and if I weren’t selling jewelry, I would find a way to create a business to go along with my passion for the outdoors.

I do most of the social media for our store. It’s such a great way to facilitate sales to the younger generation.

I like to wish happy birthday and anniversary via text. I have had customers come in and purchase for the occasion as a result of a text.

The book that had the biggest effect on the way I sell was Start With Why. It’s a very simple read, but if an individual can learn their “why” they will be driven to succeed continually.

We recently started to host an annual Vault Sale. We take the older merchandise in the store and offer it to our best customers at incredible discounts. The customers love to come and usually buy multiple items.

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman




Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman 


Published in the April 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Bernie Robbins Jewelers

Gennifer Flaxman had what she described as her 15 minutes of fame when she won an audition for a Weight Watchers commercial, filmed in November 2012. She says her first trip to Los Angeles felt like an out-of-body experience. It all happened right around the time she reached her goal of losing 99 pounds. Transforming herself has exponentially ramped up her confidence. “I am more comfortable suggesting more fashion-forward pieces now because I feel I am regarded differently. I’m more personable and friendly, too. I always had great rapport with existing customers but I feel I am doing a better job now of garnering new clients. I wear the jewelry in the store and I find I am selling more pieces off me than I ever did before. If you look better, your jewelry looks better and people are more interested in purchasing it.” Still, there has been one annoying glitch — some of her less regular customers don’t recognize her, and wind up working with someone else!

To get psyched up for the day, I listen to music on the way to work — I usually have two favorite songs at a time (my two favorite right now are Bruno Mars, Locked Out of Heaven, and Maroon Five, One More Night — and I cycle through them, listen to them and yell the words at the top of my lungs.

 My background in social work absolutely does influence my approach to selling jewelry. I don’t realize I’m even doing it, but I tend to get to the emotional needs while I’m selling — what the gift means, what they want it to mean, trying to make it more important and more memorable.

 I do call certain customers, but calling has become a lot more obsolete. A lot of clients much prefer texting. I sold a $74,000 watch from a text conversation. The owners of Bernie Robbins are less than pleased with the use of cellphones on the floor —but they are a necessary evil.

 With cellphones, you are on call all the time. There is no such thing as time off any longer. If a customer wants to come in for a repair, chances are I’ll be there. Because how do you show up for the sale and not for the repair, even if it is your first Sunday off in six weeks?

 I happen to have a ridiculous, crazy memory. I don’t need to write things down, I retain the information. When you remember something about them that’s personal, it makes for a relationship instead of just a sale.

 I drink a lot of coffee; and a good workout is something that also gets me raring to go and psyched up.

 I always greet people with a hello or a welcome. I cringe when I hear, “How are you?” I absolutely cringe. I take the old school approach to building rapport — I comment on someone’s hair or jacket — because if you’re genuine about it, it really works.

 I ask for a sale by talking about payment options. In this store, regardless of income or wealth, we offer almost everyone the opportunity to use our credit, and we have an interest-free option. So that’s almost always how I ask for a sale. I look for buying signals, I use credit as my opening, and if they say they don’t need it, I’ll ask questions about when they plan to give it, and what else they’ve seen, what reservations they have. Then I do the hardest thing for the salesperson to do, which is shut up. Especially for me.

 I have what is called my mojo ring. I pick one piece of jewelry and wear it for a long period of time; I say it gives me my mojo, but I always wind up selling it off me. Currently, it’s a stack of Ippolita bangles that I’ve been wearing for months.

 My favorite type of customer has evolved. Now my favorite customer is a repeat customer. I take such satisfaction when someone comes in and asks for me, even if it’s just for a repair, because it shows me I’ve given them good service.

 My most memorable sale was to a gentleman purchasing a ring for his wedding anniversary. He was going to be deployed to Iraq by the time the ring was ready, and when his wife came in, we had him Skyped in. We presented her with flowers and had dog tags inscribed for their sons. It allowed them to celebrate their anniversary even though they were miles apart. It was about a $25,000 sale, but it was the kind of sale that made you feel good about what you were doing and the memory you were giving.

 My biggest sales day was $176,000. I sold a diamond watch (A Rolex Daytona over the phone), a diamond engagement ring, and a whole lot of little things.

 I am the toughest critic with a salesperson. I have walked out of so many stores if I’m not happy with the service. I’m interested to see if once they ask me my name they are interested in using it afterward. 

 In my nine years at Bernie Robbins, there was only one year when I did not achieve $1 million in sales, and that was in 2007. Each year, when I finally get there, I take a deep sigh and feel that the pressure is off, and once the pressure is off, that’s when I soar.

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