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Smooth Seller: Patricia Sexton

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Former homemaker finds success in jewelry sales

[h3]Patricia Sexton[/h3]

[h5]Sissy’s Log Cabin; Pine Bluff, A[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

Smooth Seller: Patricia Sexton

[dropcap cap=W]hen Pat Sexton entered the retail jewelry business, her intention was to get out of it within a month. That was 11 years ago. The then-housewife and mother of two was asked to help out on a part-time basis. While she still works a part-time schedule, her sales are definitely those of a full-timer. For nine years in a row she has broken the $1 million barrier and in 2004 she reached $1.4 million in sales. At 50, she shows no signs of slowing down with a long-term goal of selling $2 million. Sexton attributes her incredible selling success to genuineness and sincerity, as well as the best possible customer service she can offer, that allows customers to recognize her inherent passion for selling jewelry.

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Sissy’s Log Cabin combines rural charm with urban sophistication. It’s an old log cabin that, somewhat incongruously, sells high-end jewelry more usually found in big-city jewelers. Sissy’s success is so legendary, that it almost seems like an urban legend to those who don’t know it’s the largest independent jeweler in Arkansas. Sissy Jones is an energetic and dynamic store owner who manages and motivates her sales team through her weekly store meetings and innovative sales and management programs backed by exceptional customer service, and of course, a pinch of Southern hospitality.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• I got my start in the jewelry business over 11 years ago. Store owner Sissy Jones is my husband’s first cousin and she asked if I could fill in part-time for about a month. I’ve been a homemaker my whole life and managed the books for my husband’s farm, so I haven’t had a job outside the home in many years. I commuted 60 miles each way to work that first month, and did so for another six years. If that isn’t love for a job I don’t know what is. We have a home that is closer now, and I still do my husband’s books. And, I still work only four days a week.

• I never prejudge people. If they come in a t-shirt and jeans I’ll show them a high-end piece. I want each person to have the “Sissy’s Experience.” 

• I’m never idle.
I go through my calendar and call customers with follow ups on repairs, write thank-you notes or make calls on upcoming events. There isn’t much idle time here. I’m a high energy person. If I find myself with nothing to do I find something to do.  

• My success in just a few words is being genuine and sincere. These qualities show that I like what I do. I build sales relationships and people send me referrals. Another key to my success is we have wonderful inventory and great management support.  

• My biggest sale ever was to a couple from out of town who ended up buying $104,000 of jewelry in one day. The customer came in for a diamond upgrade. They started with a lower quality 4- to 5-carat diamond and ended up buying an 8.04-carat diamond. They also purchased a pair of ruby earrings and some John Hardy pieces. The couple drove six to seven hours to come to our store on a spring day. They were buying jewelry to celebrate an upcoming 20th summer wedding anniversary in August.

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[blockquote class=orange]I never prejudge people. If they come in a t-shirt and jeans I’ll show them a high-end piece. I want each person to have the ‘Sissy’s Experience.'[/blockquote]

• The hardest I ever laughed at the store was when my co-worker Mark did “the duck” to remind me of a time when we traveled to Little Rock for a store-related event. It was early in the morning and we were driving under an underpass. When a car driving on the overpass came by at the same time I ducked and said it was a low-flying plane. Mark broke out laughing, and then I did. We had fun with the inside joke all day at the “Wedding of a Lifetime” event Sissy’s was sponsoring. It soon became the biggest joke in the store and years later it’s still our little inside joke. He’ll do “the duck” when he wants to get a laugh out of me. In fact, he’s doing it right now.  

• I don’t have to get psyched up for my job. I love what I do and get excited about doing it. Plus, Sissy [Jones, the store owner] is such a great motivator that I love coming to work. I come early and stay late.  

• I use customer data quite a lot. I keep detailed records on a Rolodex and a calendar, but am in the process of converting all that customer information to database. I’ve been building relationships [with customers] for over 11 years and have a very loyal following.

• There’s no time for new customers. I have some, but not many — I’m too backed-up with my old customers who have been coming to me throughout their lives with children going through First Communions, to graduations and now weddings. You only get that sort of history with clients when you’re at a store for quite some time. Plus, I’m known as the mother of the store. I like the “taking care” role of my job.

• I get so involved that when I found out one of my favorite customers, a woman who comes in to the store at least once a month, was diagnosed with breast cancer it really made me upset. Shortly after the diagnosis I was told through her daughter that her mother had undergone very aggressive chemotherapy, so I sent some flowers along. The radiation treatments seem to have worked as she seems to have the cancer under control now.  

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• Each week we have sales training meetings focusing on different aspects of sales. It could be anything from closing a sale to asking for add-ons. Sissy and Bill are great teachers. Each day is a work in progress for me as a salesperson. After 11 years, I still don’t know it all. And, for those who do think they know it all they should allow time for refreshers on the basics. And, every year Sissy brings in [sales trainer] Shane Decker to the store.  

• We have monthly sales goals,
but we break them down to weekly sales goals. Each month we get our monthly sales target, which are usually 10% of what we sold that same month last year. But at each week’s sales meetings we get print outs of what we sold in the previous week, what we sold six months ago and what we sold a year ago that month.  

• I subconsciously and consciously notice how people sell to me. I usually take mental notes on their sales technique. At a clothing shop that I go to there’s a woman there who will call me when her store has a new jacket in or she thinks there’s something in the store I might like — much like me calling my customers with the same kind of approach. And, like my customers, when I get a call to try on something new, I get excited.  

• Retail selling is tough because you always have to be up — what I like to call “show time.” In retail, it’s show time all the time.  

• I don’t have an opening line.
I usually come up with one when I see the customer. I usually greet them with a comment on the weather or what they’re wearing. I then welcome them to the store and ask what brings them and how they found out about us, that’s important to us to find that out as we’re a destination store.

• It’s great selling jewelry.
Everyone leaves happy.  

• I love the holidays. It’s not just the high closing ratios. I just like the attitudes of the people who are excited when they come in the store. We do a lot of special events around the holidays to help the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Each year we give a certain percent of sales to charity. When customers know some proceeds are going to charity, they actually buy more.  

• When I’m feeling sick and tired I get through the day by remembering “show time” and try to keep moving like the Energizer Bunny.

[blockquote class=orange]By the time they leave, I pretty much know all there is to know about the customer and their family.[/blockquote]

• I work four days a week, but do put in extra hours as needed. When my husband is tired of me working too much, he’ll let me know. He’ll plan a weekend trip or a nice dinner and drag me into it.

• Compared to other sales associates
in the store, I spend more time with each client. By the time they leave, I pretty much know all there is to know about the customer and their family.  

• I have customers who are friends and friends who are customers. I can make friends with customers because I believe in developing long-term relationships and by providing the best customer service possible.  

• My long-term goal is to hit $2 million in sales. To get there I need to get those big ticket items coming in more by working my referral list harder. Perhaps I can take better advantage of marketing initiatives like corporate accounts.

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

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