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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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