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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Robert Hough



New Yorker proves you can joke around and still make serious sales

[h3]Robert Hough[/h3]

[h5]D’Errico Jewelers; Scarsdale, NY [/h5]


Age: 42 
Years in jewelry sales: 20 
2005 sales: $1 million

[dropcap cap=R]obert Hough’s selling history has sole —  as in shoes. In a bid to win a sales accessory contest at a Kinney Shoe Store where he worked, Hough sold a woman shopping for dress shoes a purse, an additional pair of casual shoes and a big bundle of wools socks – in the middle of summer! The purchaser of the wool socks happened to be the wife of an executive at a major jewelry store and, by the next day, Hough had been offered his first position in the jewelry business. Twenty years later, he’s still selling up a storm, with $1 million in sales in 2005 and a closing ratio of 80%.


Location: Scarsdale, NY 
Employees: 15 
Annual sales (2005): $2.7 million

Housed in an authentic log cabin nestled in Scarsdale, NY, D’Errico Jewelers specializes in custom design, which accounts for more than 70% of its sales. The 3,000 square foot store is divided in half – with one part for sales, the other part for the bustling shop. The business sells medium- to high-range jewelry and emphasizes impeccable customer service.[/dropcap]


• Getting psyched up for a day of selling just happens naturally. 

•  Everywhere I go, people come up to me and ask questions about the store I’m in – whether it’s the furniture store or the car dealership. I must have the look of a salesman. My thinking is if I can handle objections about products I don’t know about it helps me better handle objections I do know about at my store. Eventually, I will let a person know that I don’t work at the store and will “hand the sale over” to someone who actually works there.

[blockquote class=orange]I can’t believe I used to say “To be quite honest with you”. Makes it sound like everything else you have said was less than honest.[/blockquote]


• My biggest sale ever was $275,000 – an Audemars Piguet watch. I was working at Gotthelf’s in the Denver store. I had a customer in the office just shooting the breeze, when Kevin from the Vail store called to do the same. When I told him I was talking to a client, Kevin told me about the watch just arriving. So I showed the customer a picture in a watch magazine and with Kevin describing it to me. I then described the watch to the customer for about ten minutes then we agreed on price. He called his bank and wired the money.

• I am not a morning person. Once I walk in the store, I will rummage through the pile on my desk, get it in order, then enjoy my coffee.

• When I first started I never followed up with a client. I worked 80 hours a week and sold like crazy. I was a turn ’em and burn ’em guy. Then in 1988 I met a guy who was hitting million dollar sales goals. That was even bigger money then and he did it working Monday through Friday. I watched him do customer follow-up and eventually wrote my first thank-you note. After that I began working more on developing relationships with clients.

• To learn more about sales I read business journals. These are the publications that profile big sales like a million-dollar real estate sale or a multimillion dollar computer system sale. I look outside the industry to see what it took to sell someone a home worth $1 million or why a company’s top executive would buy an entire new computer system worth millions of dollars. By comparison, my sales are much easier.

• I go to local business council roundtables to help learn more about sales and businesses, but it also got me thinking more about wearing a suit to work. These people work hard for their businesses and they’re dressed to the nines.

[blockquote class=orange]I always get a tingling sensation in my spine when I sense a buying signal. It’s the damndest thing. [/blockquote]


• I let customers know that I will be calling when they first purchase from me. But it is mostly thank-you calls or reminders of anniversaries or birthdays, I really never approach it as a sales call, it makes it a lot easier.

• I really don’t think when I approach a customer. I just talk to people. My conversations are all over the place, but I find that when they are really relaxed a customer will tell me everything I need to know to meet his or her needs and close the sale.

• The dress code for D’Errico Jewelers is always knotted up, suit and tie.

[blockquote class=orange]I think the professional look is back and people like it. Business casual seemed to get out of hand. [/blockquote]

• I create a need in the client. If a customer isn’t doing cartwheels by the time I’m done selling them, then I haven’t given them the sales experience they deserve.

• I really don’t set goals for myself. I am aware of the goals for the store and do all I can to help achieve those goals. We are all focused on a common goal.

• Yes, I have a daily plan. Do I follow it? No. The day really seems to set its own direction once the door is open.

• It’s easy for salespeople when it comes to me. I am a lay-down. The salespeople in our industry are steadily getting worse. In an attempt to save money, companies have put a lot people that lack enthusiasm and integrity on the floor. It’s a shame.

[blockquote class=orange]The thing that bugs me the most is when customers act like they know everything. I’m the only person that knows everything. [/blockquote]

• The advice I’d give on someone’s first day of selling jewelry is be yourself and, if you don’t have fun or love it, get out of it!

• I am a professional. I won’t allow a slump to take place. True salespeople create sales when walk-in sales aren’t around.

• The best sales advice I’ve ever received was always be enthusiastic, honest, and passionate and never lose your integrity.

• If I blow a sale, it’s usually because I let my ego get in the way.

• I absolutely love the holidays — the parties, happy people. Besides it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

• When I’m not in the store, I don’t worry about what’s going on. But on my days off, I only worry about the rain as it ruins my golf game.

• When tired or sick and trying to get through the day, I torment people.

• I know it’s time to take a few days off when I snap at people.

• My favorite type of customer is one that has fun and is not too serious!

• Customers will remember me because I always crack jokes, which brings a smile to their face.

• I’m different from other salespeople because I truly enjoy working with customer. Plus, if I promise, I deliver.

• I am very quick with a sale as I hate dragging things out. If a customer wants to hang out, it’s over a glass of wine and talking about what is going on in their lives.

[blockquote class=orange]My biggest short-term goal is to hit the lottery and my biggest long-term goal is to keep my hair. [/blockquote]

• It’s a fine line between “customer” and “friend”. I have hunted and played golf with a couple of customers, but that’s it. I like to keep things separate.

• I think “turnover” whenever people are uptight or really serious.

• If I wasn’t selling jewelry, I’d be selling exotic cars. Since I was young, I loved identifying cars as they came down the road. When I was working in a jewelry store in Denver, a customer pulled up in an Aston-Martin. He actually let me drive. I was hooked!

• If my friends could see me now, they’d laugh, because I didn’t end up in jail or dead.

[span class=note]This story is from the November 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]



Wilkerson Testimonials

To Generate Funds for a Jeweler’s Move and Remodel, Wilkerson More Than Delivered

Even successful jewelers need a little extra cash to fund expansion plans—especially when there’s inventory on hand that’s ripe for liquidation. For Beaumont, Texas-based jeweler Michael Price, co-owner of Mathews Jewelers, it was the perfect time to call Wilkerson. Price talked to other jewelers as well as vendors for advice during the selection process and decided to go with Wilkerson. And he wasn’t disappointed. When it comes to paying for the move and expansion, Price says the road ahead is clear. “When we close on the next two stores, there’s no worries about finances.”

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Donna Burgess, Occasions Fine Jewelry, Midland, TX




Donna Burgess

Occasions Fine Jewelry, Midland, TX

Although you might not suspect it upon first chatting with the amiable, conversationally gifted Donna Burgess, the 57-year-old Tennessee native is a Type A personality who gets straight to the point, and the point is to sell jewelry. At an average sale of just over $900, she sells plenty of it to achieve annual personal sales approaching $3 million. If you need more evidence this grandmother of 11 is a shark, she relaxes by reading murder mysteries, especially the serial-killer kind. — EILEEN McCLELLAND

You have to listen as much to what’s not being said as to what’s being said — and then get straight to the point. If you are in the fashion jewelry area and a man has come in and you show him something that isn’t very expensive and he says, "My wife wouldn’t wear anything like that, it’s too gaudy," you know you are in the wrong area of the store and in the wrong price range. So go for something totally opposite.

We sell more to men than to women, and most men don’t care to shop. They don’t want to see everything in the store. Most of the time, if you ask them what they are thinking about, they don’t have a clue. So I’ll usually pull out a pendant and start with something basic. If he says, "Oh, no, she’s got one of those," then go to something that’s a little bit out there.

You can say, "I’ve got the perfect thing." Get it into their head that you have what they need. Be confident. Be direct. Don’t say, "Well, this might work."

Learn your product. Walk around the cases and know where you are going to take your customer ahead of time. Don’t waste their time trying to find something. That way you look more confident, you look more professional, and you’ll make many, many more sales.

I wear very classic jewelry. A pair of diamond studs, a pair of inside-out diamond hoops, an inline tennis bracelet, a solitaire pendant, a couple of Simon G rings and a gold ankle bracelet. So I sell a lot of inside-out earrings, that’s my go-to staple for an anniversary. I’ve also had people who notice my necklace. You sell what you wear. I’ve even sold a few gold ankle bracelets.

When I started I took every “no” personally. You can’t do that. Everybody’s going to hear “no”.

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons




Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons 


Published in the May 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Simmons Fine Jewelry
LOCATION: Meridian, ID

Blake Simmons graduated from Boise State University in 2011 with degrees in business management and marketing. Following graduation, he immediately demonstrated his sales prowess by selling more than $1 million in his first year of working full time at his family’s business. Simmons has been married for five years to his wife, Jill, and in his spare time he loves hunting, riding motorcycles, skiing and snowboarding.

My father has always said, “We don’t sell jewelry, we sell romance.” I have found this very true in my own sales especially to men buying for their wives, and it makes a big difference in the way a sale goes if I can help the customer to forget about the amount of money they are spending on “just a little rock.”

Don’t short yourself. Always show big to sell big. If that doesn’t work, scale it down, but if you have the mentality that someone can’t afford something you won’t ever sell big pieces.

I earned a bachelor’s of Entrepreneurial Management, and if I weren’t selling jewelry, I would find a way to create a business to go along with my passion for the outdoors.

I do most of the social media for our store. It’s such a great way to facilitate sales to the younger generation.

I like to wish happy birthday and anniversary via text. I have had customers come in and purchase for the occasion as a result of a text.

The book that had the biggest effect on the way I sell was Start With Why. It’s a very simple read, but if an individual can learn their “why” they will be driven to succeed continually.

We recently started to host an annual Vault Sale. We take the older merchandise in the store and offer it to our best customers at incredible discounts. The customers love to come and usually buy multiple items.

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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman




Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman 


Published in the April 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Bernie Robbins Jewelers

Gennifer Flaxman had what she described as her 15 minutes of fame when she won an audition for a Weight Watchers commercial, filmed in November 2012. She says her first trip to Los Angeles felt like an out-of-body experience. It all happened right around the time she reached her goal of losing 99 pounds. Transforming herself has exponentially ramped up her confidence. “I am more comfortable suggesting more fashion-forward pieces now because I feel I am regarded differently. I’m more personable and friendly, too. I always had great rapport with existing customers but I feel I am doing a better job now of garnering new clients. I wear the jewelry in the store and I find I am selling more pieces off me than I ever did before. If you look better, your jewelry looks better and people are more interested in purchasing it.” Still, there has been one annoying glitch — some of her less regular customers don’t recognize her, and wind up working with someone else!

To get psyched up for the day, I listen to music on the way to work — I usually have two favorite songs at a time (my two favorite right now are Bruno Mars, Locked Out of Heaven, and Maroon Five, One More Night — and I cycle through them, listen to them and yell the words at the top of my lungs.

 My background in social work absolutely does influence my approach to selling jewelry. I don’t realize I’m even doing it, but I tend to get to the emotional needs while I’m selling — what the gift means, what they want it to mean, trying to make it more important and more memorable.

 I do call certain customers, but calling has become a lot more obsolete. A lot of clients much prefer texting. I sold a $74,000 watch from a text conversation. The owners of Bernie Robbins are less than pleased with the use of cellphones on the floor —but they are a necessary evil.

 With cellphones, you are on call all the time. There is no such thing as time off any longer. If a customer wants to come in for a repair, chances are I’ll be there. Because how do you show up for the sale and not for the repair, even if it is your first Sunday off in six weeks?

 I happen to have a ridiculous, crazy memory. I don’t need to write things down, I retain the information. When you remember something about them that’s personal, it makes for a relationship instead of just a sale.

 I drink a lot of coffee; and a good workout is something that also gets me raring to go and psyched up.

 I always greet people with a hello or a welcome. I cringe when I hear, “How are you?” I absolutely cringe. I take the old school approach to building rapport — I comment on someone’s hair or jacket — because if you’re genuine about it, it really works.

 I ask for a sale by talking about payment options. In this store, regardless of income or wealth, we offer almost everyone the opportunity to use our credit, and we have an interest-free option. So that’s almost always how I ask for a sale. I look for buying signals, I use credit as my opening, and if they say they don’t need it, I’ll ask questions about when they plan to give it, and what else they’ve seen, what reservations they have. Then I do the hardest thing for the salesperson to do, which is shut up. Especially for me.

 I have what is called my mojo ring. I pick one piece of jewelry and wear it for a long period of time; I say it gives me my mojo, but I always wind up selling it off me. Currently, it’s a stack of Ippolita bangles that I’ve been wearing for months.

 My favorite type of customer has evolved. Now my favorite customer is a repeat customer. I take such satisfaction when someone comes in and asks for me, even if it’s just for a repair, because it shows me I’ve given them good service.

 My most memorable sale was to a gentleman purchasing a ring for his wedding anniversary. He was going to be deployed to Iraq by the time the ring was ready, and when his wife came in, we had him Skyped in. We presented her with flowers and had dog tags inscribed for their sons. It allowed them to celebrate their anniversary even though they were miles apart. It was about a $25,000 sale, but it was the kind of sale that made you feel good about what you were doing and the memory you were giving.

 My biggest sales day was $176,000. I sold a diamond watch (A Rolex Daytona over the phone), a diamond engagement ring, and a whole lot of little things.

 I am the toughest critic with a salesperson. I have walked out of so many stores if I’m not happy with the service. I’m interested to see if once they ask me my name they are interested in using it afterward. 

 In my nine years at Bernie Robbins, there was only one year when I did not achieve $1 million in sales, and that was in 2007. Each year, when I finally get there, I take a deep sigh and feel that the pressure is off, and once the pressure is off, that’s when I soar.

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