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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Tonia Ulsh



This Pennsylvania Smooth Seller blows her customers away. How does she know? Because she won’t stop serving them until they tell her she has blown them away.

[h3]Tonia Ulsh[/h3]

[h5]Mountz Jewelers (three PA locations) [/h5]


Age: 37 
Years in jewelry sales: 21 

[dropcap cap=T]wenty years before she was born, Tonia’s father, Marvin Leitzel, opened Leitzel’s Jewelry Store in Millersburg, PA. Her earliest memory of helping with the store was sitting at home making the bows that Leitzel used on his holiday packaging. At age 16, when “The Four C’s” meant nothing more than a passing grade to her fellow teens, Tonia began selling jewelry at Leitzel’s. “I believe people are born with the instinct to sell, or they’re not,” she says. “For me, it comes naturally. I enjoy selling and I enjoy people.” In 1989, she began working for her brother, Ron, at nearby Mountz Jewelers. Today, she’s the company’s chief operating officer.[/dropcap]


Location: Central PA (three stores)  
Employees: 52 
Annual sales (2005): $2.7 million

In addition to having more certified gemologists on staff than any other area retailer, Mountz carries many of the world’s most prestigious jewelry brands, and was the area’s first to showcase debut lines by Scott Kay, John Atencio, and Diana by Couture.


• My customers trust me because I am a very open person. I give my honest opinion every time. I’m not selling to make a one-time sale; I’m doing it for the relationship. It may sound trite, but my clientele are like a family — I know as much about my customers and their lives as I do about my friends. Having that kind of intimate knowledge makes it fun for both of us when we work together. When you build that type of relationship, they naturally trust you.

[blockquote class=orange]I can’t remember my biggest sale ever, because honestly, size doesn’t matter to me. [/blockquote]

• Two things I love about my job: making people feel good about their life celebrations, and being a part of those events. I love running into a customer who remembers me because I was an important part of their celebration. Recently, a woman stopped me in the street and asked if I remembered her. I said, “No, I’m sorry, can you tell me your name?” She held out her hand and replied, “Maybe you’ll remember this!” She was wearing the ring I’d helped her and her husband create 15 years before for their ten-year anniversary — they were now celebrating their 25th! I hadn’t seen her since the day they bought that ring, but she obviously loved it.


• I treat customers like old friends. In fact, we had a wedding-band show about a month ago. A couple was in the store looking at rings, and we were having a really good time with the whole process. When they left, the other salespeople in the store asked me, “How do you know them?” They assumed I knew the couple, but I’d never met them before in my life! It’s a great job when you can make new friends every day.

• I don’t track my sales any longer — they all go toward the team total. Our salespeople don’t work on straight commission, but they do earn a team-based commission. I believe that has been crucial to providing the excellent service we’re known for.

• I’ve always been a person to share responsibility on the sales floor. No one has fun when one person is doing all the selling. People are in this business to sell, and when only one person is doing most of the selling, it brings down the morale of the entire team.

• It’s almost like a party when I’m helping a customer. I always bring staff out to look at what the customer is trying on. It gets everybody pumped. If we’re not busy, I get as many people out there as possible. It just energizes them and motivates them to work their client list. You can’t expect salespeople to treat customers well unless you do it yourself.

• I absolutely love the holidays! If you have a salesperson who doesn’t, they shouldn’t be on your sales floor. The energy, the excitement — it’s like a drug, almost. The holidays are the ultimate high for a salesperson. It’s not as challenging as the rest of the year, but it’s fun! The weak salespeople love it because they can sell, and the strong ones love it because they can sell up.

• Christmas Eve is the one day that feels the same every year. You feel proud of what the team has accomplished over the year, and that you’ve made it through the holidays without anything crazy going on. I would never want to miss working on Christmas Eve. Everyone feels the same — it’s the perfect way to end the year, and it makes you feel complete. We always break out a bottle of champagne, and our employees don’t leave right away. We sit for a while, talking about which customers we’ll be thinking about on Christmas Day, and how excited they’ll be when they see what they’ve received for Christmas.


• In looking back on my early days in jewelry sales, I can’t believe I used to be afraid to sell bigger. I limited myself. It’s a hard thing to overcome, but you can’t expect your clients to be as limited as you are in purchasing jewelry. You can’t sell your product or your store short. The more I was exposed to jewelry and the industry as a whole, the more I realized that the world wasn’t as small as I thought.

[blockquote class=orange]You never know when a customer will buy that $90,000 item — or if they don’t, but you show it to them, it makes that $50,000 item seem much more reasonable! [/blockquote]

• One of my most memorable sales
happened on Christmas Eve. We were sitting on the floor after hours, drinking champagne and talking, all the lights in the store were off. A truck pulled up across the street, empty. A man got out and knocked on our door, so we turned on the lights. He’d been selling Christmas trees out of his truck, and he pulled out a wad of cash (not a very big one), saying that he had two sons, a daughter, and a wife, and he needed gifts for all of them. Between myself and another employee, we went through the store and gave him everything we could, from free gifts to a locket for his wife that we engraved for him on the spot. He left with two full bags. Do you think he’ll ever forget us?

• For each and every customer, I always do more than what they expect. How do I know I’ve done it? I keep going until they tell me. People don’t keep that sort of thing to themselves — they tell you when you’ve really blown them away. If they don’t, you haven’t done it yet.

• My favorite customer is a happy one. I like people who are positive and like to have fun. We have a great time trying on jewelry. Life’s too short not to enjoy it.

[blockquote class=orange]Every customer has a story. You feel like a bartender sometimes. [/blockquote]

• I once met a couple that was celebrating their 10-year anniversary. They came in separately — he was buying her a bigger diamond ring, she was buying him a watch. But I was the only one who knew three surprises were happening that night — besides the two gifts, she was telling her husband that she was pregnant! They’d had some difficulty having children, so this was incredible. I wanted to be a fly on the wall so badly! Their daughter is 12 now, and her father comes in to buy her jewelry now.

• When I’m feeling sick or tired, I just come in to work anyway. I may feel that way at home, but when I get here, it just happens. Calling from home to check in just isn’t the same. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even tell someone I wasn’t feeling well. You have to be positive in this business, especially if you’re in a position of leadership.

• I can’t just take a day off. I’m a planner. I plan everything. I schedule my vacations around everyone else’s. I’m married with two children, and I do volunteer work and sit on the board of a non-profit, so it’s a lot to handle. But I never just take a few days vacation on the spur of the moment. When I feel frustrated, I figure out where I can give in a little, in such a way as to least affect my family and my life.

• The mistake I make most often is being too honest. I’m a very strong-minded person. I have an opinion. If I’m showing a person a piece that I don’t think is right, I’ll tell them. It may not be the greatest short-term move, but it’s the best thing for them in the end.

• I know a sale is going south when everybody’s quiet. My sales are never quiet. If it happened, I would quickly pull someone in to help salvage the sale. It’s like going to a party where no one is talking — who wants to go to that party?

• The unwritten rule I hate most is “he who speaks first, loses.” I hate it, but I abide by it. I’m a very determined person. I will wait it out, but it’s not fun.

• If a customer is shy or nervous, I don’t talk about jewelry. You talk about them or the person they’re buying for, and let them bring up jewelry when they’re ready. After all, that’s why they’re in the store, so they’ll eventually get to it. Make them more of a friend, get on their side, and let them know you’re there to help them and make the experience fun.

• If I could tell a new salesperson one thing, I’d tell them to relax and have fun. Everything else — your education, etc. — will come. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re never going to sell anything.

[span class=note]This story is from the May 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]



Wilkerson Testimonials

A Packed Store Like the Day Before Christmas? Wilkerson Makes It Happen

Deb Schulman says once she and her husband, Ron, decided to retire, she could feel “the stress start to leave.” The owners of B. Alsohns Jewelers in Palm Desert, California, the Schulmans had heard about Wilkerson over the years and contacted them when the time was right. Wilkerson provided the personalized service, experience and manpower it took to organize their GOB sale. “We are so impressed with the way Wilkerson performed for us,” says Ron Schulman, “I’d send high accolades to anyone who was interested.”

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Smooth Sellers

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




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




Smooth Sellers: Blake Simmons 


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




Smooth Sellers: Gennifer Flaxman 


Published in the April 2013 issue

STORE NAME: Bernie Robbins Jewelers

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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