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Smooth Seller: Mary Ann Ritchie

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One of this Maryland Smooth Seller’s selling secrets is her one-of-a-kind “big hi.”

[h3]Mary Ann Ritchie[/h3]

[h5]Colonial Jewelers; Frederick, MD[/h5]

53, senior sales associate, more than $1 million in 2005 personal sales

[componentheading]Smooth Seller Profile[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=S]HE WASN’T VOTED “most likely to succeed” in high school, but Mary Ann Ritchie gave her classmates an inkling of the bright career ahead of her when she sold the most yearbooks senior year. Ritchie’s early accomplishment prompted the aspiring saleswoman to choose college courses in business management and psychology. After earning her associate’s degree, Ritchie married and helped her husband develop a pottery business. For years she worked the potter’s wheel, but when the marriage ended, so did her job. Ritchie went to work for a jewelry store across the street from her present employer. She worked there for 12 years and left to become a store manager for a large jewelry-store chain. While working that position, Ritchie was approached by Colonial Jewelers about a job. After the third phone call, she agreed to come in for an interview and took the job — that was 10 years ago. Today Ritchie is Colonial Jewelers’ senior sales associate.  [/dropcap]

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[componentheading]Smooth Seller Interview[/componentheading]

• I’ve cried on the job just once. I had just started with Colonial when a young woman came in with her deceased parents’ wedding rings. She wanted to do something with the rings so I suggested putting the rings together in a figure-8 design to create a pendant. I helped her with this project over 11 years ago. To this day she still wears that pendant.

• I don’t have a lucky charm, but red is my color. When I need a picker-upper, I wear something red.

• The special thing I do is I always send out thank-you cards. I don’t send out generic thank-you notes. I take time to send nicely written thank-you notes. I get thank-you notes in response to my thank-you notes as well as flowers.

• I don’t say hello like anyone else. I have a long, drawn-out — and loud — “Hi.” My “big hi” is the subject of many jokes in the store. Co-workers think I know everyone because of my “big hi.” Customers get a “big hi” when they come in, and by the time they leave we know each other well enough that I give them a hug.

• There isn’t much customer service in America today. It’s the simple things, like a lack of eye contact, no real greeting or communication with the customer. I was at a clothing store recently and the sales associate didn’t bring the merchandise I was buying to the counter. I had to bring it up myself. And, while the sales associate was ringing up my sale, she was talking to another staff person, ignoring the customer. Good customer service truly is a dying art.

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[blockquote class=brown]As I walk up to a customer, my gut feeling is to welcome him as I would welcome a guest into my home. [/blockquote]

• Bad customer service has driven more jewelry sales online. And now, more people are buying online because they’re getting more comfortable with it. Retailers need to learn that good customer service is what separates them from the competition, including the Internet.

• I believe there should be a certain amount of professionalism when it comes to dressing. I think women have a distinct advantage over men as we can combine many types of comfortable clothes to look professional.

• My homework week-to-week consists of reading a lot of the trade magazines to keep abreast of industry issues and trends. But I still fall back on my college education in business management and psychology that taught me to believe being in tune with people’s needs and assessing these needs from every angle.

• My favorite way to surprise a gentleman customer, who is buying jewelry for an anniversary or engagement, is to congratulate him. It’s a way of reminding him that he’s part of the process. He is, by the way, the guy spending a lot of money on the jewelry for these occasions. When I remind gentlemen of their role in these events they just are shocked for a moment. Then it hits them and it just melts them.

• I don’t think there are sales slumps. Most salespeople agree there is a monthly sales cycle. Each month there’s about a five-day warm-up period. Then for the next 15 days you’re smoking hot and can sell anything. After that there’s a five-day cool down and then the cycle repeats itself. I’ve tried tying these cycles to the full moon but don’t have anything conclusive (only joking!).

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[blockquote class=orange]When I’m feeling tired, I dance to the classic rock Muzak that plays in the store. Actually dance! I use music a lot in my life. It literally makes the bad stuff disappear.”   [/blockquote]

• I consider customers friends in the way I welcome them to our store. The relationship develops during the sales presentation. Like other salespeople, that relationship is extended to me outside the store with invitations to weddings, baptisms, graduations and such. But for me the important part of my relationship with customers is the pictures I have of them. I’ve filled-up a 50-page photo album and now have a second one going.

• My biggest long-term goal is to be the best I can at sales. People who are the best in their field are always getting better. I see myself doing this not just by doing more homework, but using technology, namely computers and the Internet, as some of the basic tools to help me improve my sales.

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

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