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Smooth Seller: Nelson Holdo

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This California “Smooth Seller” used to study organic chemistry. Now he creates chemistry of a different kind.

[h3]Nelson Holdo[/h3]

[h5]Asanti Fine Jeweller; San Marino, CA[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=N]elson Holdo was an organic chemistry major, working his way through Cal Tech with a job at a retail jewelry store when his boss offered to pay for him to study gemology. “I got into it through the science end, but at the end of the day I really enjoy the people aspect of it. It’s what keeps me going,” Holdo says. As president of his own high-end company, Asanti Fine Jewellers, his average sale is in the $25,000 neighborhood and his biggest sale day involved a $1.3 million, 20-carat D-flawless diamond. That deal, like most, took a high level of initiative. “I called a guy I knew could afford it who had become a reasonably good client by that time, and I went into his office and sold it to him,” Holdo says. “It’s not like he came in looking for it.” House calls are all in a day’s work. “We’re not a traditional retail store,” he says. “We don’t have 50 or 100 people walking through our doors every day. We might have a half dozen clients in a day. Most of our business is done in sales outreach, calling prospective clients, so I spend about 75 percent of my day on the phone.” [/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

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• Twenty odd years ago I had a client tell me, “Listen Nelson, if I ever hear that you have told anyone that I shop with you, I will never shop with you again.” He wanted privacy. I really took that to heart. We put in a code of confidentiality at Asanti that is as tough as any sort of attorney-client privilege code of ethics. It’s one of the very few things that someone can get fired for. What happens at Asanti stays at Asanti.

I don’t tend to take no for an answer very well. Sometimes it takes approaching a client three, four, five times, and I think most people stop after once or twice. My advice? Keep at it.

The mistake I catch myself making most frequently is not adding on enough. Generally speaking, when my average sale is in the $10,000 to $25,000 range, I think it’s a little harder to add on. Do you say, “How about another $12,000 for the matching earrings?” But every once in a while I’ll make a concerted effort to do it. I had a guy come in to have a watch battery changed and he walked out with a pink sapphire ring and earrings, for $100,000.

[blockquote class=orange] Just make 20 calls a day and at the end of the week you’ve called 100 people and I guarantee a couple of them will turn into sales. [/blockquote]

I love colored stones. I sell diamonds but I think anybody can sell diamonds. To really sell color you need to really know it, understand it and be passionate about it.

We do a guys’ night out in October that is pretty well received. It’s a poker night here at the store. We bring in models to model the jewelry. It’s a real stag night. We will invite 100 of our top clients and give them $250 in store credit to play. They play each other, and they cash out whenever they want to. The catch is that the chips can only be spent that night. So before they go home, they have to buy. They might end up with $1,000 or $2,000 in store credit. They will typically spend twice what they have in chips. It’s a break-even for us, but it is huge PR because it’s non-threatening and the guys really look forward to it. We have it early enough in the season so that they will typically give it to their wives or girlfriends that night instead of saving it for Christmas. 

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When I was first in the business, in 1982 or so, I was working with this little old lady, who really didn’t have much taste and didn’t seem to have much money, either, but for whatever reason I went into a vault and pulled out an estate diamond bracelet, a $25,000 bracelet that I just thought she might enjoy seeing. It turned out to be the first five-figure sale I had made, and she became one of my best clients over the years.

My secret weapon for selling is my wife. We do a lot of team selling and sell very well together. She handles the emotional connection with the client and I handle the product client interaction. It’s rare that we meet someone we can’t sell together.

[blockquote class=orange] Your communications have to be focused on the customer rather than on yourself, they have to be positive in nature, and they should be open-ended to encourage a dialog. [/blockquote]

[span class=note]This story is from the February 2009 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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