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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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