Selling to the First-Time Buyer

October 1998

For Your Staff:Selling Timepieces

Selling to the First-Time Buyer

Watch yourself! Use your knowledge to help, not halt, the sale

by Paul White, Watch Division Director
Reis-Nichols JewelerS, Indianapolis, IN

There are as many types of customers as there are timepieces, and you're sure to encounter each one in your job as a watch sales associate. How you handle them has a lot to do with making the sale and keeping customers satisfied.

One type of customer you'll see often is the watch novice. You can sometimes spot the first-time buyer by noting his or her familiarity with watch terms or brand names. Does the customer use and understand the words sapphire crystal, subdial, water resistance or chronograph? Does he or she mention specific brands (be careful here; a customer may have seen the brand advertised but know little about it).

One of your first jobs in helping a novice choose a watch is to find out who will wear it. Is the novice buying a watch for a spouse or as a reward for himself or herself – a young graduate who wants a "nice" watch or a businessperson who just earned a bonus.

Next find out what kind of watch is appropriate. Does he or she want a sport watch or a dress watch? Listen for clues that reveal other watch styles or brands the customer owns. If there's no mention of a brand name, explain a little about each brand you carry and see which ones elicit interest.

One warning: steer clear of prejudgments based on the watch on the customer's wrist. The knowledgeable customer may wear a plastic timepiece while buying that perpetual calendar.

If the novice is interested primarily in the brand or the style, a technical description may not be appropriate just yet. The color, size and type of bracelet may be addressed before technical topics.

If a novice picks up a chronograph or a more complex piece, is he or she familiar with the terms? Explain briefly at first. "It's a chronograph and offers useful stop-watch functions" is a quick initial description.

As interested as we may be in watch functions, many novice customers will buy multifunction watches only because they look good on the wrist. Use your sales technique and best judgment in deciding the appropriate time to offer technical details. But then, especially for novice buyers, it's best to be as comprehensive as you can be. Also let novice watch buyers know you're a quick phone call away when there's a question or a problem.

Sometimes first-time customers don't listen carefully. Perhaps a quick demonstration of the basics will solidify the sale and ensure you've created a repeat customer. Show how to:

  • Set the time and the date.
  • Read the time if a chronograph is involved.
  • Unlock the crown if needed.
  • Place it on the wrist (many buckles require a quick lesson).
  • Wind an automatic or manual watch during normal usage.
  • Show how to use any other functions – if needed.

Also explain your store's service and warranty police to first-time watch buyers. Jewelers with in-house watchmakers or a good contract shop often offer extensions on watch manufacturer warranties.

Remember the novice isn't familiar with typical requirements of his or her fine timepiece. If your store offers maintenance for higher-end automatic or mechanical watches, stress the service after the sale. The customer will feel more at ease knowing your store will handle any repairs, from routine to emergency.

Each month Paul White fills this column with sales tips for sales associates who want to sell more watches. If you have suggestions for topics, questions or specific examples from your store, send them toProfessional Jeweler,1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102, e-mail


 COMPLICATION for the Novice?

Should you steer the novice watch customer to a less complex model?

Perhaps. But with watches in particular, the desire for a brand name can make it difficult. If the novice does choose a complex watch, make sure he or she understands how it works.

Also gauge carefully whether you're placing your interests ahead of the customer's and losing a sale in the process. If a customer – novice or not – comes to the store with the intention of buying a particular watch, don't talk him out of it.

Once you complete the sale and explain your after-sale service, you could turn this novice buyer into a watch maven – the subject of next month's column.


Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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