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Smooth Seller: Veronica Babich

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This Florida “Smooth Seller” loves selling jewelry because it’s a “happy business”.

[h3]Veronica  Babich[/h3]

[h5]The Gem Collection, Tallahasee, FL [/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

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43, sales manager, $925,000 in 2005 personal sales; The Gem Collection, Tallahasee, FL

[dropcap cap=S]ometimes selling jewelry is just in your blood — and maybe even in your gas tank. After majoring in marketing and art in college, Veronica Babich thought her career path was taking her far away from her mother’s retail jewelry store. But something kept tugging at her, until one day, she hopped in her car to drive to Chicago to work for a jewelry manufacturer. She was halfway to the Windy City before she called her mother to tell her where she’d gone. Babich later got into retail sales working for a downtown jeweler in Chicago, then moved to California and spent another two years working jewelry shows for a wholesaler. After taking time off to start a family, she moved back home to Florida in 1992 and began working at The Gem Collection — the same store where her father had purchased a treasured sapphire ring nearly a decade before. Today, she’s not only a mother to a teenage son — she’s also the “mom” in the showroom, as the only woman on the sales team. [/dropcap]

[componentheading]Smooth Seller Interview[/componentheading]

• I’m very personable — I ask how the customer’s family is, how is the gift that they purchased last time, and I remember what they’ve bought and what goes with it. Once I develop a relationship, I don’t forget.

• I’m not as direct as some people when I sell. Since the rest of our sales staff is all men, my approach seems very different.

[blockquote class=orange]Having fun with customers is crucial. If someone makes you laugh, you enjoy the experience more. And it makes you happier when you give the gift you’ve purchased. Yes, you share that experience with the person you give it to.”    [/blockquote]

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• Having a son drives me. I give thanks each morning and pray for him. He’s a self-motivator — he’s in the honor society, Spanish club, he plays lacrosse. I let him know that I try every day to do my best, and he’s done the same thing.

• One of my customers taught me a great lesson in patience and goal-setting. She had a baby, and realized that she’d never get any jewelry because it cost too much. But now, she asks her family for gift certificates as gifts, and she saves up a little at a time. Eventually, she has several thousand dollars to put toward a piece of jewelry.

• Quality is a word that means a ton to me. I want to have quality in my life, and that translates into the service I give and the products I sell.

• People want to feel safe with their precious belongings. That’s why at our store, we verify everything. We check repaired merchandise three times before we give it back. It gives me 100 percent confidence to say, “Yes, this is your diamond.”

• What really impresses me is that Don and Dorothy [Vodicka, owners of The Gem Collection] are so charitable. They donate a lot to the community, and it’s been a very strong point in the business.

• A negative answer isn’t bad — it’s just an opportunity to go in a different direction.

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• People are people no matter where you live. Their attitudes may be different in Tallahassee than in Chicago or Los Angeles, but they’re not stupid. They’re not slow, they’re Southern.

•  You can’t run from problems, because they always start with you.

• My biggest sale ever was a $45,000 custom ring, with a princess-cut diamond in the middle and trillions on the side. I researched it a lot, and had the opportunity to shop for their diamond in Antwerp through an IJO trip. While I didn’t buy the diamond there, they knew I was going to produce for them. The ring appraised at over $60,000 shortly after I sold it — it felt great to know I’d really delivered great service.

• Sometimes I let customers have some space, but not too much, because then it’s hard to come back in. I’ll reapproach by showing them my favorite piece of jewelry. They tell me if they like it or not, and we’re off and running.

• Most people who complain want to buy something. They just want a better experience.

• When someone complains, it’s important to say, “I understand.” Or, “I’ve had this happen to me before … I’ve been there.” Now they think they’ve got someone who will listen to their problem. Once they relax, then you can start another conversation about the solution.

• The day I got David Geller’s repair pricing book, I felt like my whole life was going to be better. I didn’t have to pull a price out of my head any more.

• I love the jewelry business because it’s a happy business. Sure, it has its moments, but overall, we make people happy.

• I’m the store mom. It’s a big joke around here — the guys say I’m always looking to “straighten them out.” I try to be gentle in my criticism. But I’m only going to tell you a few times.

[blockquote class=orange]  If you ask for help, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you want to win. [/blockquote]

• Make yourself smile on the phone. Customers can always tell.

[span class=note]This story is from the January 2007 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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