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Smooth Seller: Lynne Sugerman

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This “Smooth Seller” from St. Louis, MO is proof of the power of positive thinking.

[h3]Lynne Sugerman[/h3]

[h5]Ylang-Ylang; St. Louis, MO[/h5]

[componentheading]BIO[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=L]ynne Sugerman knew pretty early on she had jewelry in her blood. Her dad, Bob, was in the business, working for a Midwest jewelry chain that kept the family on the move. By the time Lynne was 18, she was selling jewelry, too, to help pay for college. Her major changed from education to business, and by the time she left college, she was completely absorbed by a career that was supposed to be a summer job. Sugerman, 46, bases her sales philosophy on honesty, a sense of humor and a spontaneous smile. An optimist, she rarely has a bad day and if she does, she distracts herself by thinking about the next sale. She is general manager for Lois and Ray Morganstern’s company, Ylang-Ylang Fine Jewelry, which was named for a fragrant tree that grows in the Philippines. The 1,000-square-foot boutique sells fine designer jewelry by Beaudry, Jude Frances and Barry Kronen, to name a few. In the five years she’s been there, Sugerman has been encouraged to spread her creative wings, working with designers to achieve custom pieces for clients. With the help of their daughter Julie Ettinger, the Morgansterns have made the store feel more like a second home to their employees and customers, too, Sugerman says. — EILLEEN MCCLELLAND  [/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

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[blockquote class=orange] My customers are the most important people in the world when they are in front of me.[/blockquote]

• My favorite type of customer is one that I can have fun with, one that I can totally be myself with, as if I’m waiting on a friend or a family member. I don’t want to be stodgy or serious all the time. I love being able to have fun. I can get a feel for whether I can just have fun with them and joke around. Every once in a while you get someone where you joke a little bit and they just look at you, and you just know to stop.

• The thing that bugs me the most is when customers treat me like a clerk, like I’m beneath them. Because I’m probably just as educated as they are, you know what I mean?

• The biggest effect on the way that I sell is due to a surrogate uncle who was in the business — I called him my Uncle Harry — and my father, Bob. They were best friends. My dad started in the business when he was 12 and retired after about 50 years. My Uncle Harry started when he was 16 and kept retiring and coming back and working part time until he was about 85. I think ethics and integrity were the most important things I learned from them.

• I also learned not to prejudge a client by the way they are dressed. I remember my first Christmas working for a Midwest chain company when I had just moved to St. Louis and had no client base at all. The other girls were all waiting for a guy wearing a suit to come in. And a guy came in wearing overalls and a John Deere hat, like he had just come from the farm, and nobody would wait on him. So I walked over to help him and he said, “Give me a few minutes. I want to be left alone.” So I left him alone and in a while he waved me over and said, “I’ll take that and I’ll take that and I’ll take that, without even looking at prices.” He spent several thousand dollars.

• My biggest sale? $200,000 plus and they were rings that I helped create and design with Michael Beaudry for some very special clients, a baseball player and his wife. I think the reason it was my favorite sale was not just because he’s a baseball player, and not just because it was a big sale, but because I loved helping to design something that meant so much to them.

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• The first piece of jewelry I ever owned was a Snow White watch that my mom and dad got me, and it’s still in my jewelry box with the original band. Somebody years ago offered me something ridiculous, like $1,000 for it and I wouldn’t do it. My parents probably paid $3.99 for it. I felt like it was the most important thing to me. I felt like I was a little princess when I wore it. It was only worn for special occasions. I was about 7 or 8 when I got it.

• I know a sale is complete when they’re waving the credit card. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been selling so long, but I don’t do this “asking for the sale” thing. I am more of an indirect-close person, I’m not a direct close.

• I know a sale is going south when they leave the store. Seriously. I don’t think I ever, in the middle of a sale, think I’m not going to get it. When they leave is when I know. And then I think they’ll be back.

• My favorite jewelry? I think it changes with my mood and my outfits. Sometimes I want to be more classic, wearing a Beaudry, and sometimes I want to be more fun and funky and wear a Jude Frances or Erica Courtney. I’m a big earring person.

• I love trunk shows at the store. I love having designers in the store. People are so excited to meet the designer of their favorite piece of jewelry. It’s like having a celebrity in the store.

• When I make my first approach to a customer, I’m thinking I’m going to sell something. I’m not going for their jugular or anything but that’s the purpose of me being there and that’s the purpose of them walking in the store. Obviously they want to buy something.

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• Selling jewelry is based on trust. My customers trust me because I treat them like how I would want to be treated.

• I even check e-mail at midnight, and I am always thinking about what needs to be done. But this past year I went on an amazing trip to Israel and Jordan, and being out of the country I knew I had to totally let go and whatever happened, happened. That was the first time in my life, I can say I really let everything go. It was the trip of a lifetime. It changed me.

• The only thing that makes me nervous is new merchandise. The owner of my store has a sixth sense about what will sell, but it makes me nervous wondering if it’s going to sell or not. When I do get nervous, I just eat chocolate.

[blockquote class=orange] I know it’s time to take a few days off when I get cranky. [/blockquote]

• There are sales people who will hand clients a business card and say “make sure you ask for me next time.’ I don’t do that. I make them feel like they’re one of my friends so when they come back they do ask for me. And yes, absolutely, they do become friends.

• The holidays? I absolutely love them. I love the energy level, the hustle, everything about it. I work all year long just for the holidays. Christmas Eve is very, very fun, because you get the last-minute guys who don’t even care what it costs; they’ll just take it. The guy who comes in and says, “I’m just looking,” on Christmas Eve! I just laugh. I tell him, “‘l’ll let you in on a secret. You have four hours left. Are you just looking for next Christmas?”

• I do call customers on the phone. Everybody’s going with Web alerts and we were just talking about how important it is to have a personal conversation, especially when you’re in a high-end market.

• Doing something extra after the sale is important like a gift, anything from a jar of jewelry cleaner to a gift certificate to the client’s favorite restaurant. I think it’s important to go the extra step.

• If I weren’t selling jewelry, I’d be working with kids or working for a charitable organization. I volunteer for the Pujols Family Foundation. They work with children with Down syndrome. People constantly thank me for doing it. I get more out of it than I feel I give.

• My favorite thing about my job is doing something different every day. I’ve had wonderful opportunities with the store. I help with buying, marketing, sales, helping make beautiful pieces of jewelry. I like being involved in creating something and just taking it from infancy all the way up. I like seeing the excitement on the person’s face when it’s completed.

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

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