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Smooth Sellers

Smooth Seller: Venita Peterson

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In the nation’s capital, this “Smooth Seller” uses her incredible memory to better serve customers.

[h3]Venita Peterson[/h3]

[h5]I. Gorman Jewelers; Washington, D.C. [/h5]

[componentheading]PROFILE[/componentheading]

[dropcap cap=R]un by Ivan and Bonnie Gorman, I. Gorman has been serving the Washington, DC area for more than 20 years, specializing in high-end designer and bridal jewelry.

Venita Peterson first started selling jewelry in 1977, as assistant manager at a jewelry store in Galveston, TX. She has been with I. Gorman for four years.[/dropcap]

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[componentheading]INTERVIEW[/componentheading]

• My secret weapon for selling is my memory. I’ve always had the ability to remember a person’s name, personal history and the story behind their jewelry purchase, whether it’s one day, one year or more since they’ve been in the store. I say their name when they enter the store again and pick up right where we left off such as a discussion about their kids, the family pet, whatever. I commit details to memory when meeting and greeting people by reciting details of that person in my head throughout the day — my index. Later, I’ll take information from the index in my head and write the details down on my customer cards to help reinforce the memory in my head. People at work call me the “hard drive”. 

My most memorable sale was when I helped a high-powered lawyer buy the last of her gifts for family and friends. She mentioned that I. Gorman was the last stop on her list for shopping, so I casually asked “So what are you giving yourself for Christmas?” She was taken aback for a moment, then looked at her solitaire ring. She said she had worn that ring for 20 years and wanted a trade-up. I began going through some options with her when she cut in and said “Don’t bore me with the details. Just make it wonderful!” I knew she was a professional woman who could afford to spoil herself, so I created a $22,000 ring for her. She came in to pick it up and loved what I’d done. The sale is memorable not because of its dollar amount, but because a customer gave me so much trust to create a very significant and expensive piece for her without any real input. This is an obviously wealthy woman that’s a regular customer at our store. She believes in I. Gorman … so she believes in me. 

My favorite type of customer is the person who doesn’t come in the store with any particular item in mind. These are mainly women who want to buy something and have hours to sit down and shop. We talk, try things on and experiment. It doesn’t matter much if they end up buying or not buying a piece of jewelry. What matters is the exploration of their body, the colors of the gemstones, and the confidence that comes with wearing something other than a standard gold chain. Roughly 90% of our stock is contemporary designer jewelry so I like to see how far I can take things. 

Teamwork is very important to my success. I don’t fool myself and think that I could reach this level of sales success without such an incredible group of people around me.

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[blockquote class=orange]I don’t fool myself and think that I could reach this level of sales success without such an incredible group of people around me.[/blockquote]

My morning ritual starts with a peaceful morning walk with my dog. Then, when I’m getting all jazzed up for work I like to put on some high-energy music. Nothing too hard, but my high-energy music favorites include Eric Clapton, Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band. This music helps me get charged up for the day and by the time I arrive at work I’m ready to go. 

What surprises me most about working at I. Gorman’s is the referral business. It’s simply amazing. We send out gift baskets or thank you notes to all customers who give us a referral. It doesn’t matter if the referral customer buys something or not, we just want the person who recommended us to know how much we appreciate them mentioning I. Gorman to a family member or friend. 

When I’m at work I’m in working mode. But when I leave the store, I shut the work mode off. That helps me be a more multifaceted person with many personal interests such as spending time with family or gardening. This helps me do my job better — recharging my batteries, as well as bringing unique qualities about me out when I’m selling jewelry. I enjoy my work, but I’m careful not to become consumed with my job. 

I know a sale is going south when there’s no feedback. I know the signs — be it body language or a lack of questions or participation. At that time I need to step out of the equation and let another sales associate take over the sale. After all, it’s not about me. A sales person needs to be mature enough to remove themselves from the sale for the sake of the customer. If the customer is happy and becomes a repeat customer, everyone wins. 

One store event I really enjoy is the weekend trips [storeowners] Ivan and Bonnie give the staff. Every September, they close the store for a staff retreat with spouses and family. It’s great spending time with people in the shop so we can get to know one another on a more personal level … which helps us appreciate each other more at work. 

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I try to never prejudge a customer. When working at the Galveston store many years ago a man came in wearing a torn jacket and had a corn-cob pipe in his mouth. He came in asking for a pocket watch. We didn’t have one so I asked him if I could take him on a “tour” of the store to show him other jewelry. He shot back “Tour?” … then went with me to look at other types of jewelry. He ended up buying two lovely ruby rings — one for his wife, the other for his daughter.

[span class=note]This story is from the September 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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