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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Maria Reilly

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Top salespeople share their secrets

[h3]Maria Reilly[/h3]

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

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

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.

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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]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• 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.  

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• 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.  

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• 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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