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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Maria Reilly



Top salespeople share their secrets

[h3]Maria Reilly[/h3]

[h5]H&H Jewels; Coconut Grove,FL[/h5]


Smooth Sellers: Maria Reilly

[dropcap cap=I]n her “other life” before selling jewelry, Maria Reilly was a pre-school teacher who didn’t really care much for sales work. That all changed in the early 1990s when a friend of Reilly’s encouraged her to work part-time for a silver jewelry manufacturer. After learning the manufacturing process, she transferred her jewelry-making management experience to retail jewelry and hasn’t looked back since. Now sales manager and a principal in the store, Reilly pulled in $1.5 million in sales last year, or half of her store’s total sales for 2004. She also boasts of a 90% closing ratio.


H&H JEWELERS offers the intimacy of a jewelry boutique store along with a reputation for high-end gemstones, custom design, and personalized service. H&H Jewels is an authorized distributor of top watch brands like Baume & Mercier, Bedat & Co., Breitling, Corum, Raymond Weil, and TAG Heuer.[/dropcap]


• My biggest sale ever was someone I knew from following our local newspaper’s social pages. The customer was eating at a restaurant next door when she walked by our shop and saw a necklace set with a 50-carat-plus blue sapphire. It was a lovely old Burma sapphire that was certified as unheated and set in an estate piece. After a fair amount of haggling, we ended up selling the necklace for $270,000.

• The last time I cried on the job was recently when one of our employees resigned from our store, not to mention the jewelry business, to pursue her dream of becoming an electrical engineer. She was an integral part of our family at the store, and although I was happy and proud of her for taking the plunge, I knew she would be so sorely missed.

[blockquote class=orange]I shop other jewelry stores and retail outlets to judge how salespeople interact with customers. I usually dress down in jeans and a t-shirt.[/blockquote]

• My morning routine starts with getting up at around 6 a.m. and heading straight to the gym to meet my personal trainer. If he even senses that I’m not in the mood to workout on a certain day, he always breaks the tension by having me do even more lunges and squats than usual. My colleagues think it’s a painful way to start the morning, but it gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  


• I’m not a big TV watcher, but I do listen to the radio and read the newspapers to keep up with business announcements. If an existing client is featured in a news story I’ll contact the client to congratulate him or her and let them know that I saw the news article. Or, if it’s someone who doesn’t shop with us I contact them to reach out to a potential client.  

• I shop other jewelry stores and retail outlets to judge how salespeople interact with customers. I usually dress down in jeans and a t-shirt. It amazes me how differently I’m treated when I’m well-dressed and when I’m not. Salespeople should never judge a book by its cover.  

• Our customer data system is one of our most important tools, helping us provide the utmost personalized service to our customers. We have very close relationships, and a very loyal following — it is not uncommon for us to receive invitations to weddings and similarly important events because we take such care to make our clients happy. I am constantly writing thank- you notes and making follow up calls.  

• Even with all the advances in technology with e-mail, websites, etc — nothing is more effective than a phone call. It’s not always to call about a new piece that just came in. During the difficult hurricane season we recently experienced, for example, I called many of my clients just to make sure they were alright.

• I believe dressing
in the most professional manner. I require everyone on the staff to wear a suit, because it reflects the level of items that we are selling. We are known for being extremely professional and our customer expects to always see us dressed appropriately. I also believe it builds personal confidence to dress in business attire because we are experts in our fields just as a banker or a lawyer is an expert in theirs.

[blockquote class=orange]I have so much fun playing dress-up with our clients, and using our custom-made one-of-a-kind pieces.[/blockquote]

• My favorite way to surprise a customer is to come up from behind a customer to surprise him or her with a beautiful necklace or timepiece just to try on. I have so much fun playing dress-up with our clients, and using our custom-made one-of-a-kind pieces.  


• I have a client who told me that whenever she or her mother is having a bad day, they meet up to visit our store. There is something special about browsing through such beautiful things. Mother Nature is the best jeweler in the industry.  

• If I’m feeling down, tired or sick I go for the chocolate. I don’t need much of an excuse to eat chocolate, so we always have a nice stash in strategic parts of the store. I tend to eat more of it when I’m not feeling 100% because it always makes me feel good. I also tend to laugh more.

• I am a genuine worry-wart. Leaving the store is reminiscent to leaving my children at home when I had to go away on a trip without them. Even though I am 100% confident in the abilities of my staff to keep things in order, I worry about them getting overwhelmed by the pressures of demanding clients and deadlines.

• I know it’s time to take a few days off when I can’t stand the thought of inserting the key to unlock the main door.

• My favorite type of customer is the young couple considering marriage. I’m the diamond specialist in the store so I deal with a lot of young couples at this stage of their lives. The part I enjoy most is when a young man gets so excited about the purchase he brings his mother down to the store to see it. I am a salesperson who rarely sells a diamond in one visit. There are few exceptions, but for the most part it requires a process. For most of these young couples I’m like a mother figure. I even end up going to their weddings.

• A way to bring a smile to a customer’s face is just like looking into a mirror. I smile, and I get a smile right back. It’s that simple.

• I do whatever it takes to make my customers happy. When my customers are nervous about not reaching me, I give them my home number. When someone needs a recommendation for something like a good place to eat, or a great florist, I go out of my way to assist them. In some ways, my job requires the patience of a saint, the listening skills of a counselor, the expert knowledge of a master jeweler, and the connections of a concierge. I often come into the store on my day off to ease the nerves of a client picking up their engagement ring, and I’ve made personal home deliveries for items hot off the polishing machine. Again, I do whatever it takes to make my clients feel like a million bucks … regardless of their purchase amount.

• Because I am not a “pressure” salesperson, I do end up spending a lot of time with a customer — hence, all of the wedding invitations! At the very minimum I spend an hour with a given customer, and usually work with him or her over several visits. Many customers are making life choices, and it is not something that I would ever feel comfortable pushing. The time that I spend is without question more time than the average salesperson would spend with a customer.

• If I weren’t selling jewelry, I’d probably be doing more charity work.

[blockquote class=orange]Many customers are making life choices, and it is not something that I would ever feel comfortable pushing.[/blockquote]

• When I close a really big sale, I like to reward myself by thanking the staff because it’s always a team effort in my eyes. I like to spread a sense of satisfaction amongst everybody. It’s an invigorating feeling that is highly contagious, and that’s a bug that I think everyone likes to catch.

• My biggest long-term goal
is to make H&H Jewels the most desirable jewelry store in South Florida. I think we can accomplish this by getting more involved in the community — there’s great potential for us there. We need to take every opportunity to get us out and in the community through charity events or by sponsoring events. I’ve even asked each staff person to pick a favorite charity and get more involved in it. I want to do this because I simply believe in what we do. Our store has one of the best designers I’ve ever seen.

[span class=note]This story is from the March 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]



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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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