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Smooth Seller: The Team at Wixon Jewelers

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Happy Together: Teamwork lifts Minnesota jeweler to $17 million in yearly sales

Smooth Seller: The Team at Wixon Jewelers

[h3]The Team at Wixon Jewelers[/h3]

Owner: Dan Wixon
Manager: Hope Snyder
Location: Bloomington, MN
Years in business: 18
2004 sales: $17 million

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=J]uleen Close, David Brenke, Carri Tonsager, Susan McClain, and Linda Detlie agree the lack of a commission structure helps them and their co-workers perform better. With no client ownership mentality, Wixon customers can be served by as many as three to four sales associates at a time. This has translated into a group that works and sells well together — with “team sales”, in which more than one person is involved, accounting for 50% to 60% of the store’s total sales. Each team member brings a different set of qualities and qualifications to the table. As qualified as the sales force is, they are quick to admit that the store’s mascots Sam, Louie and Moose, are howling good at sales and are a big draw for most customers.

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The largest independent jewelry store in Minnesota, Wixon has its own gem lab and offers on-site custom design and repairs. Wixon will open its new huge super-store in the fall of 2006.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]TEAM INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• We harass, poke fun at, and pick on each other to make each other laugh — kind of like sibling rivalry. You get thick skin, because you might be the next target. It’s all in good fun.  

• How do we handle turnovers? If you mean the pastry, we eat them! Otherwise, we are not on commission so everybody is used to working as a team. We just want the sale, so we may call in a watchmaker, a goldsmith, a gemologist, the owner, anyone we can … to help enhance the client’s experience.

• After a big day, we’ll often sit around and unwind with a glass of red wine.

• This group loves to eat! We always have doughnuts or sweets, chips and cheese on Thursday nights. Anything on the table in the lunch room is fair game.

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• We have sales training every Saturday. Hope gives us written tests — some are surprises, some we know about in advance.

[blockquote class=orange]We harass, poke fun at, and pick on each other to make each other laugh — kind of like sibling rivalry. You get thick skin, because you might be the next target.[/blockquote]

• Our team’s theme song? “Big Spender” — music composed by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It was originally sung by Shirley Bassey.  

• One of the sales people greeted two people saying “How are you two gentlemen today.” She quickly realized one was a woman and excused herself. She told the other salesperson, “I think I just blew this sale”. The other associate said, “How did you say it exactly, did you say ‘guys’ — because that can be just casual?” The first associate said, “No, I called them ‘gentlemen’. I need to T/O it.” The second associate said she would try, went over, introduced herself, and got their names. The gal’s name was “Tiffany” so she just kept using Tiffany’s name, they talked, tried on jewelry, she got them to relax, soon they were laughing and she got the sale.

• Dan and Hope like to bet us a dollar if we think that the person we helped will be back. They don’t believe in the “be-back bus.” And they will hold you to your bet!

• We love to partner and play off each other. One might tell a customer that St. Patrick’s Day is a huge jewelry holiday, and turn to another sales associate who without missing a beat confirms this and adds that it is second only to Christmas. Everyone is willing to help an associate with a client. They may offer to steam it, find a box, gift-wrap it, offer a beverage, take their jewelry back to the goldsmiths for a clean and check etc.

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• Our watch fair was gangbusters. People were buying big, complicated pieces. We had that buying synergy in the room. We were wall-to- wall full of people waiting to be helped. This was for two days straight. One regular client left a check for $50,000 and said he would call us when we closed to tell us what he wanted. Now when he comes in, we just hand him a pen and invoice as a joke. We stopped at giving him a key to the case!

• We all want to be the best! We work hard. There is no focus on a single superstar. And we are truly happy for each other’s successes.

[blockquote class=orange]The sales atmosphere is friendly. A lot of big talk, some taunting, but it’s only done to push each other farther.[/blockquote]

• We had a company-wide goal — if the group hit the goal, there was a big pot of money to be split. If the group didn’t reach the goal, eight people would be chosen to put on a skit at the next company meeting. We didn’t hit the goal, but we had a 20 minute performance by the “Wixon Sapphire Theatre” – with popcorn, and even a playbill. Our co-workers had costumes, music, even a dance routine. We have a goldsmith, a watchmaker, someone in accounting, a gemologist, and four sales people. They had two formal rehearsals. It was really well done – scary, actually. It was so funny. We have it on tape. Back-up blackmail!

• We had a big goal for the two-day watch fair, which we blew past. After achieving the goal, Dan gave us each a crisp $100 dollar bill and hired a chef to make us lunch every day for the eight days before Christmas.

• The sales atmosphere is friendly. A lot of big talk, some taunting, but it’s only done to push each other farther.

• Our team’s mascot? The “boys” — Sam, Louie and Moose. Besides being smooth sellers, we love to have them here. Customers are disappointed when they aren’t here. They are the “big closers.” You can’t be a true Minnesotan and not own or love a dog.

[componentheading]MANAGER INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• It would be nice to say [this team] just landed in our lap, but it is very difficult to assemble a team like this. Sometimes you see the potential for a great sales associate knowing you’ll need to invest two or three years of hard training into them. If you were right, the risk was worth it. Sometimes the sales associates who have been in the industry 20+ years, and have a lot of experience, that you think would be the perfect hire, aren’t. Some have an inability to change, and an attitude that they know everything about selling, service, etc. We like to look at everyone’s long-term potential. We ask ourselves about a potential new employee: Are they genuine, will our clients like them? Can they learn? Will they learn?

• Our sales staff relies on our three watchmakers, five goldsmiths, and four gemologists for support. Every person in our company has an important job.  

• We consistently get [customer] comments like, “Everyone is always so nice”, “You have the most professional, and knowledgeable staff that I have ever seen,” or “Even if my regular sales person isn’t there that day, I always get excellent service.”

• Our growth
reflects our ability to change. Our motto is “Change is good.” We pride ourselves in our ability to try new things. We look at things never as failures, just as things that didn’t work. Some sales associates have a hard time with change at first, but they all come around to it because we live and die by it and allows us the opportunity to envision the future.

[blockquote class=orange]We consistently get [customer] comments like, ‘Everyone is always so nice,’ ‘You have the most professional, and knowledgeable staff that I have ever seen.'[/blockquote]

• We are unusual as a big store because we don’t pay commissions. We are of the belief that every client deserves to be helped by the very best. Let’s say a new client comes in and wants to see a specific Patek Philippe for example. In a commission environment, they would be helped by the next person whose turn it is. Now let’s say that sales associate doesn’t know Patek Philippe very well, but you have three or four others who are passionate about it. The client loses, they don’t get the full experience and jewelry store may not get the sale. If I pulled a salesperson off of that client in a commission environment, I am essentially stealing from that person’s pocket book – it was their turn! That’s not right, so we pay a salary. We assign the very best to help that Patek client, even if it’s three times in a row! In our store, people are motivated by knowledge. Knowledge is power. If you want the clients and the opportunities, you need to know your stuff.

• Salespeople are judged by what kind of team players they are. We don’t have a place for what I call a ‘hot shot.’

• We offer incredible health care which includes the Mayo Clinic. They get dental and life insurance. As a free standing store we are closed on every major holiday — paid. Dan is really proud of the 401K program we offer. We match 50 cents on every dollar they put in. Dan doesn’t want people to ever have to worry about being able to retire.

[span class=note]This story is from the February 2006 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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