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Smooth Seller: Gayle Hellberg

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“My secret weapon for selling is being honest” says Smooth Seller from Marshalltown, IA.

[h3]Gayle Hellberg[/h3]

[h5]Hellberg’s Jewelers; Marshalltown, IA [/h5]

[componentheading]STATISTICS[/componentheading]

Store sales volume: “Just under seven figures”
Personal sales volume: “25 to 30 percent” 
Personal closing ratio: “Over 90 percent”
Store profile:
Hellberg’s Jewelers has a rich and lengthy history in Marshalltown, Iowa, where they began selling a full range of high-grade diamonds, watches and jewelry more than a century ago.

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[dropcap cap=H]ellberg’s Jewelers is a 105-year-old family business located on Main Street near the court house square in downtown Marshalltown. Customers that come to a downtown store typically have a mission when they walk through the door. They either need to purchase something or have a repair to leave. The repair is easy. If they need to make a purchase, I make it my mission they leave with gift in hand and an “I’ll be back to this jewelry store” written on their face. Personal service is what we stress in our store and is one of my strengths.  [/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• My most memorable sale? I married into this business and in the past my husband and father-in-law handled all the loose diamond sales. One day, they were both unavailable and I took the opportunity to sell a loose diamond and closed a $7,000 sale. It was a real turning point for me to realize I could do it. That sale gave me the confidence I have today.

• How did I get my start? I didn’t really get my start in it until our daughters were in school. As the girls got older I spent more and more hours at the store. I started by doing window displays. Today I do the restringing of beads and pearls, sales, the advertising, some office and administrative work and create handmade bows for our gift-wrapping. Our store is very well known for its signature gift-wrapping. I am the voice of Hellberg’s Jewelers on all radio and TV advertising. It’s important to have my voice on the ads as it ties people back to the store. 

• My secret weapon for selling is being honest. I guide them to the best piece of jewelry to fill their needs, irregardless of price. 

• My favorite type of customer is the customer that is not very knowledgeable about jewelry. I like being the person who educates them on the value of their purchase. For many people, jewelry is a major purchase. They want to know as much as they can about what they are considering. More importantly, an informed customer has confidence in me and feels good about their purchase. 

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• In the 1980s my husband and I went to a trade event in Minnesota where we attended a two-day sales seminar by [sales training professional] Leonard Zell. I didn’t know much about sales at the time so I was like a sponge. I left the seminar very excited about sales and wanted to learn more. Now I attend at least three to four sales training seminars a year.

• Best opening line? I’ll tell you what I don’t say and that’s “May I help you?” This opening line puts customers on the defense. I want customers to feel comfortable so I always open with something general like “good morning” or just a simple warm greeting. Eventually our conversation will reveal why they came in to our store.

[blockquote class=orange]Best closing line? “May I gift wrap that for you?” I know this line is used often, but a salesperson knows when a customer is near that point of committing themselves to a purchase. It’s a nice, subtle way to close the sale when you know they’re ready to write the check.  [/blockquote]

• Selling jewelry is based on trust. My customers trust me because because I’ve lived here for over 30 years and people have gotten to know me through my community involvement. Also, they know that I am a perfectionist. For me, nothing leaves the store unless it’s in absolutely the finest condition it can be, cleaned, boxed and beautifully gift-wrapped. Plus, the store itself has a 105-year history in this town. People know that the store was built on honesty. These are the qualities that keep people coming back to our store. 

• The ideal salesperson dresses well. If you sell fine jewelry a salesperson’s good demeanor and dress should reflect that. At our store there is no casual attire. Also, being friendly is important. Take a genuine interest in your customer. Above all be truthful. 

• In looking back on my early days in retail jewelry sales, I can’t believe I used to say “May I help you?”

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• I particularly enjoy selling Add-A-Link diamond bracelets by Kasper & Esh. It allows for a major purchase at an affordable price over a period of time as each link is added. Selling a starter bracelet insures a repeat customer. Kasper & Esh is an old, established company and their jewelry is spectacular! I also like to sell wedding rings. These are happy times for young couples that are making one of their first substantial purchases. It gives me a chance to impart my basic selling philosophy of educating young people.

[span class=note]This story is from the February 2004 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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