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Smooth Seller: Lisa Hamel

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Lisa Hamel fell in love with jewelry when, as a child.

[h3]Lisa Hamel[/h3]

[h5]Leo Hamel & Co. Fine Jewelry; San Diego, CA[/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

Smooth Seller: Lisa Hamel

[dropcap cap=L]isa Hamel fell in love with jewelry when, as a child, she and brother Leo (who is six years older) began making silver necklaces out of the same material Leo used to make ammunition. When she was old enough, she asked to work in Leo’s newly-formed business. He sent her to work with a jeweler down the street, but she hated it. Leo asked her to come back a week later, and she’s now one of the store’s top sellers. She’s always loved diamonds, and her favorite product is Hearts On Fire. Last year, her personal sales were $2.24 million.

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Lemo Hamel started his business in 1978 with a pre-owned Rolex, two diamonds, and a few colored stones. Originally, the store was known as a “discount store,” drawing customers with the lure of lower prices. Now with two locations (including a 4,500 square-foot flagship showroom) in the San Diego area, discounting is a thing of the past. Today, LEO HAMEL & CO. is now known primarily for its extensive selection of fine Swiss watches and Hearts On Fire Diamonds. Hamel’s stores project to break $13 million in annual volume this year.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

[blockquote class=orange]When I’m feeling sick, tired, or unmotivated, I think of the craziest thing I can say to make the customer laugh, and I say it.[/blockquote]

• I got my start in retail jewelry sales as a gopher for Leo and his wife back in the early 1980s. One day, Leo was on the phone and a customer walked in. So, I stepped up to help him. Back then, on the price tag, we had written the cost, the retail price, and the minimum price. Well, I accidentally quoted this pair of earrings at cost! I went to tell Leo my mistake, and he said “Go back out there and tell him you got the price wrong, and sell it at the minimum price.” I was horrified, but I had to go back and work him up. When I made the sale, it was fun!

• When I’m feeling sick, tired, or unmotivated, I think of the craziest thing I can say to make the customer laugh, and I say it. Their reaction gets me going again. Usually, I say something in reference to sex. One time, this guy was really grinding me on price. So I said, “Drop your shorts!” He said, “What?” I said, “You want me to drop my shorts, you drop yours first!” He busted out laughing. After that, it was a done deal.

• I don’t have any favorite opening lines. I pretty much just fly by the seat of my pants. I think to myself, “I’ve got to find the perfect piece that’s gonna get this guy lucky!” So it’s not just about making the sale, it’s about helping the customer get the reaction he wants and turning him into a friend.

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• The one thing I always do for my customers is make them feel good. There are few customers I don’t hug. Sometimes, I feel bad when a new customer is there and they see me hug a past customer. I feel like telling them, “Hey, I want to hug you, too!”

• The most memorable sale
of my career was when a woman from Mexico came in the store, and she spoke no English. I’m Hispanic, but I speak very little Spanish. So, I just used the words I knew to sell her. She wound up purchasing a seven-carat diamond.

• The mistake
I catch myself making most frequently is putting sales under the wrong names in our computer system, so we’re always having to go back and re-enter everything. Also, I tend to speak “Lisa” to my sales assistants. I speak very quickly, and I assume too often that they understand what I want.

• I know a sale is clinched when he’s rubbing, holding, or reaching for his wallet, but he doesn’t want you to know it.

• I know a sale is going south when there are two girlfriends in together, and one is telling the other, “it’s too big” or “it costs too much.” But you can tell she really just wants it for herself. I hate that!

• I’m slowly learning to take time off. For many years, I wouldn’t even leave the store for lunch. I was too afraid of missing something important. But now, I’m spending more time with my kids, who are 12 and 13 years old. I’ve given so much time to my career, and now I’m trying to give a little bit back to my family.

• I can’t believe I used to wear boots with jeans to work!

• When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a singer. Still do. Only problem is, I can’t sing! But when I’m really drunk at a karaoke bar, I sound damn good.

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• If I met someone on their very first day in jewelry sales, I’d ask them, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Most people think selling jewelry looks fun and easy, but it’s a lot of hard work. Especially here at Leo Hamel & Co. — you can’t just sit around with your finger up your butt.

[blockquote class=orange]Most people think selling jewelry looks fun and easy, but it’s a lot of hard work… you can’t just sit around with your finger up your butt.[/blockquote]

• When there are no customers in
the store, I always get on the phone to get customers in. Or, I run to the bathroom because I probably haven’t gone in three hours or so.

• My favorite customer is a man who comes in with his wife. He loves watches. When we get new collections in and I see a watch that would be perfect for him, I call him, and he’s so grateful. He’s like a kid in a candy shop, grinning from ear to ear. He has a huge collection … I’ve sold him about 20 over a three-year span.

[span class=note]This story is from the November 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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