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Smooth Seller: Rod Else

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Minneapolis jewelry salesman has a secret weapon: superb customer service

[h3]ROD ELSE[/h3]

[h5]Bergstrom Jewelers; Minneapolis, MN[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

Smooth Sellers: Rod Else

[dropcap cap=F]or customers who don’t like being sold to, there’s Rod Else, a salesperson who admits he’s not much of a salesman in the traditional sense — even with 18 years of retail jewelry selling experience under his belt. Despite the humble confession, Else has a secret weapon: superb customer service. He specializes in helping customers finding exactly what they want, no matter what it takes. For someone who calls himself a “non-salesperson”, Else has some impressive selling stats — with over $700,000 in sales last year and an 80% closing ratio. 

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Bergstrom Jewelers has been serving the Minneapolis downtown area for over 80 years. Bergstrom’s added another store with the opening of the Mall of America, the world’s second largest mall, located in a suburb of Minneapolis. Bergstrom’s is a member of the “Leading Jewelers of the World” and carries a variety of top-end jewelry and name brand jewelry and watches. The store also offers jewelry and repair services and a watch department with name brands such as Omega, Concord, Tissot, Movado and Seiko.The store specializes in beautifully-cut diamonds, colored gemstones and custom design work. They have four jewelers on staff with a full-service repair shop.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• I’m not a good salesman, but I am good at customer service. If a salesperson provides really good customer service, everything else takes care of itself.

[blockquote class=orange]I’ve taken a lot of sales courses. And I could have skipped them all by simply putting myself in the customer’s shoes.[/blockquote]

• I got into selling jewelry quite literally by accident. Years ago I was a marketing consultant. At the height of my career I was working with a group to develop a product to ready it for market. The job forced me to work horrendously long hours — 90-hour weeks were routine. When the product was ready for market and my consultancy work was finished, I was ready for a regular 40-hour work week. I learned about a job at J. B. Hudson’s, a high-end jewelry store that at that time had a store in the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store. When I went looking for a job at the store I ended up walking into Dayton’s jewelry depart-ment by mistake and asked about the job opening. The person behind the desk knew nothing about a job opening. I apologized for the mistake and was about to walk away when the district manager, who happened to be there, asked me a few questions, which turned into an impromptu interview. He asked if I had any experience in selling jewelry and I said, “No, but all sales, no matter what you’re selling, is 90% people knowledge and 10% product knowledge.” He hired me right then and there — that was about 1988. I intended to work there for one, maybe two, months and ended up working there for 12 years.

• Really good customer service is being genuinely interested in customers as people. You do this by asking a lot of questions. I always introduce myself and shake the hand of the customer and say “Welcome to Bergstrom’s. How did you find us?” Bergstrom’s is a destination store. Then I follow-up with personal questions about where the customer lives, if they have kids and keep asking more questions to get a sense of who they are as people. For me it’s an opportunity to learn why they’re buying jewelry and what it symbolizes for them. The sales presentation isn’t about me and what I know about jewelry. It’s about the customer and what they want the jewelry to mean to them.  

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• I only look at sales goals once a month and then don’t look at them again until the next month. Dollar goals give me a sense of urgency and allow me feel empathy and compassion for my bosses. It’s their jewelry in the cases. They are the ones with the inventory, the store and the worries. But you can’t satisfy customers when you’re thinking about dollar goals. It’s best to stay focused on the customer, asking them questions, providing great customer service and doing your follow ups.  

• The prayer I say most
is “The Serenity Prayer.” [“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can not change/Courage to change the things I can/Wisdom to know the difference…”] In the course of my day, I do a lot of prayer, visualization and meditation.  

• My biggest sale ever came from a client who followed me from my job at Dayton’s jewelry department to Bergstrom’s. For years, he only came to me with repairs. I always responded quickly with good work and followed up with phone calls to make sure everything was all right. Then one day out of the blue he came in and purchased a fine, oval 5-carat diamond and had it set in a gold ring set with loads of pavé diamonds. It was a very fine piece of jewelry.  

• I know I’m blowing a sale when I’m not careful enough. And the sales I always blow are the ones when I assume it’s a done deal. The sale is blown because I didn’t take enough time to ask the right questions. The one you’re sure you’re going to get is the one you’re sure not to get.

• I get psyched up for a day at work I say the Lord’s Prayer in my car. I drive to work in total silence to help me get in to my service mode. I take inventory of all the things I should be grateful for and then ask for God’s blessings, for the store to keep us in good business, and for The Lord to make me a good listener.

[blockquote class=orange]Eventually, the more questions you ask, the more you know what the customer doesn’t like, which makes it easy to identity what they do like.[/blockquote]

• I don’t spend a lot of time doing homework. I flip through trade magazines enough to get a general idea of the issues. For me I have enough product knowledge for my selling style. I like to keep clients focused on the emotional aspect of the sale. I can give them the technical sale or the fashion sale, but I always get back to the emotional value. That’s what it’s really all about.  

• I rarely use the phone for sales calls.
I may however lace in sales information with follow-up calls. People like to hear from you when it’s about a service call or a follow-up. When I talk to people, I take very detailed notes. I also take the time to hand write thank-you cards. It was something I got away from for a while, but am getting back into it as of late.  

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• These customers are very good to me. It’s more than just the referral. It’s getting invitations to weddings, gift certificates to dinners or even sending me flowers. That’s what comes from getting to know people and taking the time to understand their stories.

• My favorite closing approach
is to do “mini closes” throughout the presentation. I’ll say things like, “How do you feel about this?” or “That’s a good choice” or “Tell me what you don’t like about it. I’m just as interested in what you don’t like about the piece of jewelry as much as what you do like about it”.  

• Favorite questions I like to ask are, “Have you visualized what you want?” Then I’ll ask a few product questions like white or yellow gold or perhaps platinum. Then I keep asking questions and showing them more jewelry. Eventually, the more questions you ask, the more you know what the customer doesn’t like, which makes it easy to identity what they do like.

• I’ve taken a lot of sales courses. And I could have skipped them all by simply putting myself in the customer’s shoes. When I put myself in their shoes and work the sale from the other side of the counter I end up knowing more about the customer.

[blockquote class=orange]The sales presentation isn’t about me and what I know about jewelry. It’s about the customer and what they want the jewelry to mean to them. [/blockquote]

• The more time I spend in the beginning asking questions, the less time I spend on the close.

• The worst thing a salesperson can do is say you’re going to do something and not do it. You lose all credibility with a customer when that happens.

• My short-term goal is to remain teachable and stay in the moment and to always be focused on the people.  

• I spend a lot of time with customers. It’s all in the number of questions asked and the number of pieces I show them. It’s not uncommon for me to spend up to three hours with an engagement couple. Other people in the store like to say, “By the time the couple finishes with you, they’ll be celebrating their first anniversary”.  

• As I approach a client, I’m thinking “This is not about me, it’s about them. Their wants, needs, and desires.” That is where the focus needs to be. Not what I want to happen, but what they want.

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

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