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Smooth Seller: Otis Cobb

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This Indiana “Smooth Seller” is a church deacon who celebrates sales by saying “Hallelujah!” (quietly)

[h3]Otis Cobb[/h3]

[h5]Albert’s Diamond Jewelers; Schereville, IN[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=S]enior sales associate Otis Cobb gives credit for his success where he believes credit is due. At the top of his list are God, his wife, Delores, and Fred Halpern, owner of Albert’s Diamond Jewelers in Schererville, IN, where Cobb, 65, has worked for 17 years. Halpern has a philosophy Cobb supports: Customers should be treated like family. Delores Cobb retired from the banking industry six years ago and now works at Albert’s as Otis’ assistant and as a sales associate. “I like to sell,” Cobb says. “I don’t want to be bogged down with paperwork and all this other stuff. Delores fusses at me a lot, but she picks up a lot behind me. “She’ll say, ‘Why don’t you get all the information? Why don’t you get it straight?’ But I like what Shane Decker says, that people who are entrepreneurs, they don’t have time for the little, small stuff. You hear that, Delores?” Every time he makes a sale, Cobb thanks God, with a joyous “Hallelujah!” either quietly, or shouted out in the back. And for Cobb, a church deacon, thanking God is no figure of speech. — EILEEN MCCLELLAND [/dropcap]

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[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

Gain a lot of product knowledge about everything in the store and know where everything is in the store

• I started in part-time sales after I was a part-time janitor, and I developed a passion for the business and a passion for people. I was kind of shy, but that took me out of my shyness. I started loving the business and I just went on from there. I went from mopping floors and washing windows to selling an average of $2.25 million a year.

[blockquote class=orange]When there are no customers in the store, I try to go through receipts and see what customers bought last Christmas, to see what I can call them on and get a matching item. I study some of the new items. When a customer comes in the store and wants something, I can go right to it. I try to know everything that is in stock, get a grasp of inventory and make follow-up phone calls.  [/blockquote]

• One of my biggest days, about two or three months ago, I sold a $70,000 diamond ring, not counting what else I sold that day, another $15,000 or $20,000. It was hallelujah times. The gentleman was very happy. It was for his 50th anniversary.

• I’m a soft sales person. I try to help them make the right decision. I pride myself on my return ratio and in picking out the right thing for the right occasion. That comes from the heart.

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[blockquote class=orange]You know what’s funny? Even if a customer comes in for a battery or a watchband, you can then turn that around to a big profitable sale by taking time with them. You miss the opportunity while the jeweler is cleaning the ring if you walk away. About a month ago a customer was looking at $6,000 diamond earrings while she was waiting. I went over to talk to her and she said, “Oh, I like those earrings.” It took me less than five minutes. She bought them. And the poor salesperson had walked away and left her.[/blockquote]

• My lucky charm is being Otis and being congenial and nice to people from every walk of life. I don’t slight anyone. People come in and they may not look like they have anything. Those are the people I always wait on. They pull out more money than what you can realize. A lot of salespeople make that big mistake and it backfires on them.

• The most memorable sale of my career? There are so many, but the one that brought tears to my eyes was an elderly man; he had to be about 65. He wanted to buy his wife something, and he had never bought her anything of value. I recommended the past, present, future diamond necklace. He wasn’t sure, but he gave me a small deposit, and he came back in the store with his wife. I went and got it out. I had told him when you give this to her you have to tell her “I’ve always loved you in the past, I love you in the present and I will always love you in the future.” And so he did that when he gave it to her in the store, and we all started crying. It was so touching.

• If I weren’t selling jewelry, oh my God! I don’t know what I’d be doing. I was in the jewelry business for a while, then when I got out of the service, I went to the accounting department and that was the most miserable two years of my life. I can’t think of anything other than being in the jewelry business. It’s been very, very rewarding to me.

• How do you become the ideal salesperson? First, work for people who give you the tools: the shop, the inventory, the freedom. I work for a fine establishment. Second, you must be honest. A customer knows when you are lying to them, when you are pulling their leg. Last, but not least, you have to have a passion for what you sell. If you are just there to pass the time away or look at the clock, then you are lost.

[blockquote class=orange]Grow a passion for the items that you love.  [/blockquote]

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• Every piece of jewelry can have a history behind it and can be passed on to generations. You have to make the customer make the right choice. It could be a little pre-engagement ring, that’s $59.99, but he’s buying it for someone he loves.

• Be patient and be honest to your employer and to your customer.

• I know a sale is going south by watching body language. They’ll start stepping back a little bit, and when you start recognizing that, it’s time to tee off, it’s time to get someone else involved. We work as a team.

• There is envy and jealousy in every place you work. I don’t think people realize the time and energy you put into your success. I try to share with those who will listen, try to share techniques and things to do. Some do grow as salespeople, and some don’t want to learn from you.

• My long-term goal is to give the best that I have to the people I work for until it’s time to slow down or stop working. I’ve been trying lately to share sales knowledge with some of the younger staff. If they will listen, I’m trying hard to share what I know.

[span class=note]This story is from the February 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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