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Smooth Seller: Robert Hough

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

[h3]Robert Hough[/h3]

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

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

ROBERT HOUGH
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%.

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D’ERRICO JEWELERS
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]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• 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]

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• 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]

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• 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]

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