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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Robin Johannes

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This Colorado “Smooth Seller” see jewelry as … good analogy! … soul food.

[h3]Robin Johannes[/h3]

[h5]Johannes Hunter Jewelers; Colorado Springs, CO[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=R]Robin Johannes started in the jewelry business straight out of high school — deciding to work out of her parents’ store because she knew she was “too much of a party animal” to go to college. Nineteen years later, the 39-year-old former “party animal” is the owner and primary sales associate at the family business, and in 2004, personally sold $2.9 million in jewelry. She estimates her closing rate is 30% for first-time customers, with 60%-70% for repeat customers.

Johannes Hunter Jewelers is a family-owned and operated business, located in downtown Colorado Springs, CO, that offers a distinctive variety of high quality jewelry. The store specializes in high-end jewelry and does a lot of custom work along with a heavy emphasis on jewelry with colored gemstones. Last year, the store did $5 million in sales.[/dropcap]

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[componentheading]Smooth Seller Interview[/componentheading]

The best sales advice I’ve ever received is very, very simple. Just because you [the salesperson] can’t afford it [a piece of jewelry] that doesn’t mean the customer can’t. This advice was given to me from my mother when I was making $17,000 a year. It really helped put things in perspective for me. 

My favorite type of customer is a woman making a self-purchase. Mostly because they’re at that “I am woman hear me roar” self-congratulatory phase in their lives and they want to give themselves a gift. For some women it’s their first major non-service purchase. Within that group I really enjoy women that are making such a self-purchase for the first time. It’s just fun. They’ve reached a place in life where they can give themselves a little soul food. And that’s what jewelry is — soul food. 

[blockquote class=orange]My step-father says I missed my calling as a shrink. I make myself very available for people’s needs.[/blockquote]

• Men like it when I call them [about jewelry]. At first they act like they don’t like it when I call but when they appear as the hero with their loved ones they take all the credit. 

• My worst customer was a guy who threatened to blow up the store. There was a customer in his 40’s who was dating a woman for about 10 years — she’s been a client of ours for quite a while. They finally decided to get married and he came in to buy an engagement ring. After five or six months the engagement was broken off. That’s when he came back in to the store to return the ring, which was long past our return policy. I told him “we guarantee jewelry, not relationships”. That’s when his exchange with me got more heated. I kept my cool and held my ground. But he just got more heated and made that threat. Eventually he left the ring on the counter along with a few hundred dollars in cash to cover other work done in the store. As far as the store was concerned his accounts were cleared so I mailed the ring to his house. It belonged to him. Eventually the two got married but the man died. Years later, the wife brought the ring in and had it made into custom jewelry. 

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• I got into the jewelry business through nepotism. My mother was in the business. When I graduated from high school I knew I’d be too much of a party animal for college and thought it would be a waste of my time. So I went directly to work for my mother.

• One of the best salespeople I know is my “personal shopper” at the Nordstrom’s in Denver. She’s really not my “personal shopper” per se. But she’s a clothing saleswoman who does take good care of me. She lives by the old Nordstrom philosophy about customer service. She told me that when she started she was a little apprehensive about working there as she had heard customer service at Nordstrom’s “wasn’t what it used to be”. But she joined them and eventually became my personal shopper. She’ll call when new stuff comes in she thinks I might like. In other words, she works the phones much like we do in our store. 

• My most phenomenal sale was a 5.0-carat round diamond I sold to a gentleman from Wisconsin. I’ve had bigger sales, but this sale was phenomenal because the way it all happened. My “personal shopper” at Nordstrom’s in Denver referred me to the Wisconsin gentleman’s daughter who lives in Fort Collins, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Colorado Springs. The [Wisconsin] woman’s father wanted to buy an important diamond for his wife. So, the daughter came in to the store and we selected a short list of diamonds. Then we got her father on the phone for a teleconference. The three of us talked about the diamonds but the father and daughter eventually made the final choice. She selected the diamond at the store and the father sent the check later. It was a $145,000 sale. 

• My homework consists of reading the trade magazines for starters. I sometimes read conflicting reports in the trade magazines, so I call my vendors to get a balance of information on important industry issues. I also get out in the market and to the trade fairs to talk with vendors and to get market updates, trend forecasting as well as other information. 

• I also belong to a Scull group [Scull and Company, a retail consultancy firm]. My Scull group is made up of 17 jewelers from all over the US. The stores are similar in that we’re making sales ranging from $1.5 million to $8 million annually and have similar views on business and store management philosophies. I belong to a phenomenal group of store owners, two of which are the most creative marketing people I know and another man who is a store owner in Texas and is away from his business about 90% of the time. We meet twice a year, once at the Scull headquarters in New Jersey and another time at another group member’s store where we do a store critique. We meet for 4.5 days twice a year. 

• As a store, we do a lot of calling. We work wish lists pretty hard as the bulk of our customer outreach. For me, I’m on the phone about one hour a day or 20% of the time. Other [salespeople] in the store are on the phone slightly more ? perhaps 20% to 30% of their day is spent on the phone. We do a lot of custom work which requires a lot of calling to set appointments with people to check waxes, approving a quote on a piece or calling to order a piece of jewelry. 

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• Our store has an official dress code and that is everyone wears a suit. In fact, one of our interview questions is “do you have or do you have access to a suit wardrobe?” We’re professionals at what we do and professionals go to work dressed like professionals. We know that our store looks expensive. And we also know how we dress, combined with the store’s appearance, may make people think we’re snobbish. But once they come in and get to know us customers soon figure out that we are warm, real people and that our dress code is for the staff, not our clients.

• My step-father says I missed my calling as a shrink. I make myself very available for people’s needs. 

[blockquote class=orange]In our store, when we close a really big sale we do a ‘happy dance.’ Each salesperson has their own little jig they do.[/blockquote]

• If I weren’t selling jewelry I’d be a motivational speaker. I just like the idea. I know I would be only making a temporary impact on people’s lives, but it would be about helping people to be more positive and upbeat. 

• In our store, when we close a really big sale we do a “happy dance”. Each salesperson has their own little jig they do. No, they don’t go to the backroom. Each person has to do it in the showroom in full embarrassment of everyone — including the customers. The customers usually ask what it’s all about. It’s all in good fun. 

• With my mother planning to leave the family business in about six years to work on a more limited basis, one of my long-term goals is to make sure the secession goes smoothly. I want to make sure our relationship remains stable throughout that process and when all is said and done.

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

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Smooth Sellers

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

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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

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Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons 

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

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

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Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman 

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

Published in the April 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Bernie Robbins Jewelers
LOCATION: Marlton, NJ

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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