Columnists Brad Huisken The use of knowledge is power

The use of knowledge is power

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Every successful professional jewelry salesperson has a tremendous level of confidence. In order to reach a high level of confidence, salespeople must possess and use their knowledge.  Remember the first time you used a spreadsheet program?  Or the first time you programmed your old VCR? You had the knowledge to use it, but you had to practice that knowledge to have it become second nature (well, VCR’s may never be second nature to some of us... thank goodness for kids!)  So, the title of this article should be “The Use and Constant Practice of Knowledge is Power!”

Knowledge breeds confidence. A little confidence can go a long way in helping you to not only make more sales, but also increase the quality of each sale. In selling, confidence simply means this: when you make a sales presentation you know that you can make a sale.  If you know your products well enough, and you know your selling (people) skills well enough, is there any reason to think you won’t make the sale?

Do you remember your first day on the sales floor? I know I was scared to death. Then, every day I gained a little bit more knowledge, a little bit more confidence, and then one day I was comfortable. Unfortunately, confidence can also breed complacency. Many salespeople fall into the trap of becoming complacent, and they stop gaining new knowledge.

Early in my career I was lucky enough to have a supervisor ask me; Do you have five years of experience or one year of experience that you have relived five times? Needless to say, this is a very compelling question. Unfortunately, for me, the answer was that I had one year of experience that I had relived five times. The question woke me up to the fact that I had let my education toward my career development falter. I had fallen into the trap of mediocrity.  At that point, I made a decision to seek all of the information and knowledge that I possibly could about my business and career. I would highly recommend that you ask yourself the following question after every sales presentation, whether you make the sale or not:

What could I have done differently to either have made the sale or to have increased the quality and quantity of the sale? In other words, do a bit of a self-evaluation and challenge yourself to improve and grow. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of mediocrity.

Very, very rarely will the answer to this question be “nothing.” I am sure I could have done or said something differently or better during each opportunity.  I know the true over-achievers in any business are the ones that are never satisfied with where they are and what they have produced in the past.

In fast moving businesses, like jewelry, where you have a lot of opportunities, there may not be the time after every presentation to do a self-analysis. Nonetheless, you need to make mental notes.  The liability in a fast moving sales business is that there is always another customer or opportunity coming in soon, so we start to think, “Well, I’ll get the next one.” And yet, imagine what would happen to your sales and your income if you sold jewelry to everyone that you approached?

The Four Elements of

Success in Sales

There are four basic areas of knowledge in sales; I call them the four elements of success in sales. Each is of the utmost importance and each plays a major role in the success or failure of any sales professional. If even one element is lacking, then your presentation will suffer. The four elements are: Sales Techniques, Product Knowledge, Operational Knowledge and Customer Service.

Sales Techniques - Sales Techniques are the specific strategies and techniques used to complete a transaction. As a professional jewelry salesperson, there are many selling techniques that you must utilize in order to maximize every potential selling opportunity. Most importantly, you have to know what questions to ask the customer. You need to find out if the purchase is one of emotion, what the appropriate add-on items may be, specifics about the item or items that the customer is interested in and more. You have to know how to initiate a meaningful non-business conversation, develop trust, and demonstrate your products in order to create value in the merchandise. You have to know how to handle objections, close the sale, and turnover the sale in a non-threatening manner. Further, a professional salesperson will know how to sincerely thank the customer and invite them back in a way that will eliminate any potential buyer’s remorse. A true professional will always let the customer know that you sincerely appreciate their business.

The bottom line, in jewelry, is that you are not just selling rocks and minerals; you are selling love and emotion. The goal is to create a relationship through a buying experience. This will ensure that the customer will come back and shop with you and/or your store over and over again. You will not necessarily have to use every sales technique with every presentation, but as a professional, you should have these tools at your disposal when needed. Every customer is different and every sales presentation is different. The more you know and can apply good, solid, non-pushy, non-aggressive sales techniques, the more success you will enjoy. In future articles, we will detail these selling strategies and techniques.

Product Knowledge - Product Knowledge, quite simply, is your knowledge of the product or service that you are selling, and your ability to answer any question your prospect may have about it. Product knowledge is unique. If a customer should see that the salesperson is weak in a particular area of product knowledge, they are like blood-hungry sharks and might just dwell on your weakness. On the other hand, you may accumulate all the product knowledge in the world and never have to use it.

As I previously stated, every customer is different. You will have the customer that is only buying price, some will buy only the beauty, and others will buy the technical aspects of the merchandise. Therefore, you have to be well versed on sales techniques in order to discover if you have a customer that is in need of a technically, or emotionally based sales presentation. You may spend a lifetime learning all the product knowledge that you need in order to call yourself a jewelry expert. As the products change, so should your product knowledge. Instill a commitment within yourself to be constantly looking for new information. The information is available through your trade magazines, trade organizations, vendors, the library, the Internet, your fellow salespeople, and a multitude of other resources. Make it a quest to learn a little bit of product knowledge every day.

Operational Knowledge - Operational Knowledge is your knowledge of how to complete the transaction from an operational point of view. This includes how to write an order, complete the financial forms, ensure delivery, and in some industries, the legalities behind the transaction. I have seen many situations where sales are actually lost due to a lack of operational knowledge.

How many times have you been at a business where the person couldn’t find a pen? How do you think a customer views you should you not be able to find a loupe or the ring sizer, or a pair of diamond tweezers? All of the operational issues that will assist you in a smooth transaction between buyer and seller are a must from a knowledge standpoint. Every company and every store has different operational procedures. Learn them, ask questions, and don’t let a stone go unturned when it comes to the operations of your company. Every time a gift certificate can’t be found, or a job ticket is incomplete, the cash register runs out of tape, you can’t find the gift wrapping paper, or numerous other operational situations, the customer loses a little bit of confidence and trust in you and your store.

Customer Service - Customer Service is your knowledge of how to treat a customer in order to gain their respect, trust, and commitment to you as an individual salesperson. It is your ability to build a base of clients that will knowingly and willfully come back to you again and again to satisfy their needs and to recommend you to others, that will place you among the elite of professional jewelry salespeople. Providing outstanding customer service happens before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale has been completed.

As was discussed in a previous article you must provide the type of exceptional customer service that will leave customers thinking what a great place that store is to shop. I have a theory - if I were to stand outside of any retail store and ask the customers; “why do you buy from this store?” and the customer answers, “because of the merchandise,” I believe that business is in trouble. Should the customer answer, “because of the people that work here,” that business is well on it’s way to a very long, successful existence.  What would your customers say?

Within this series of articles, we will focus on two of the four elements, Sales Techniques and Customer Service. The other two elements, Product Knowledge and Operational Knowledge, are unique to each individual company. They are, however, vitally important and must not be overlooked in your quest to succeed in sales.

There has long been an argument as to which element of the four is more important. The answer is quite simple: they are all important. A professional salesperson will master them all. If you are just starting in the jewelry industry, I would suggest that you start with a basic understanding of product knowledge. If you cannot answer the simple questions that a customer may have, there are no sales techniques that can save you, other than a turnover.

I am sure you will agree it is easier to learn everything there is to know about your products and the operational side of your business than it is to learn about people. These elements are known as the “hard” side of the business. As the products change and the operational systems change, a sales professional will keep up with the changes as they occur. Could you imagine going to a doctor who graduated from medical school twenty years ago, that hadn’t picked up a medical journal or continued their education since that time? It just isn’t done.

The elements of Sales Techniques and Customer Service are the “soft” side of the business. You could, and probably will, spend an entire career learning about how to treat your customers and prospects. Prospects and clients constantly change, and no two people will ever be exactly alike.  Each potential client has his or her own unique needs, and in order to properly serve them and possibly sell them, you must discover what these individual needs are.  Even if you do a good job of assessing needs, you also must know what service or product will meet those needs, and what it is about the product you must bring to their attention.

But, before you even can get to what their needs might be, you’ve got to have some rapport with the prospect. It is not unheard of, but it is highly unlikely, that a potential customer will come right out and state exactly what their need is.  That’s why it is often the case that a leading question, a question that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No” answer such as “Can I help you” is often met with failure... the client will more than likely say “no.”  You have to make the client comfortable with their decision to come to your store, and to talk with you about what may have brought them there in the first place. Whether yours is a destination store, or a place to stop while at the mall, there are certain things you must do if you are to have any chance to sell them anything.  In this situation all the product knowledge and operational knowledge in the world won’t help you.

In closing, a professional salesperson is the most curious cat in the land. Be curious, ask questions, challenge yourself to learn all you can about your products, operations, customer service and salesmanship. Use the information offered by such organizations as GIA to perfect your product knowledge; ask questions of your owners and managers constantly about the store’s operational procedures and policies. Insofar as the “soft” elements, Customer Service and Selling Techniques, go to training courses (ours or someone else’s - just do it) and read books! The minute you quit learning is the minute that you die a little bit. Look at every life experience and every customer as a learning opportunity. Turn off the television for a few hours a week and work to improve your skills, abilities and knowledge. The world is full of average people that just get by. Be something different, try to get better, and I assure you that you will reap the rewards of your efforts. Good or average salespeople are easy to come by; the exceptional and extraordinary salesperson will have all the success that they could dream of. The choice is really up to the person that looks back at you in the mirror every morning.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training.  Mr. Huisken has authored several books and training manuals on sales and  produces a Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it visit his website at www.iastraining.com.

 
 
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