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Smooth Seller: Lara Bergseth

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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]

[componentheading]BIO[/componentheading]

Smooth Seller: Laura Bergseth

LARA BERGSETH
Age:
37
Years in jewelry sales: 17
2005 sales: $850,000

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[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]

IDAR JEWELLERS
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Employees: 9
URL: www.idar.com

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.

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• 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]

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• 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.

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[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]

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