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August 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Insights

Change for the Better

Match your demeanor to your customers to make them feel at home

by Christine Anzell & Jack Levenson

Webster's defines a chameleon as a small lizard whose skin changes color according to its surroundings. Our definition of a retail chameleon: a sales associate of any size who changes demeanor slightly according to his or her customer.

When it comes to fine jewelry, the difference between the good sales associates and the great ones is often minor. A great one can quickly size up a customer in terms of personality and then tweak his or her own personality to make that person feel at ease.

You're an effervescent, outgoing charmer who loves to chat. In comes Mr. Blandman, a gentleman on a mission who obviously has little time for small talk or humor. If you can tone down your personality and get on to business, you'll probably make the sale.

You're a busy beaver: clients to call, paperwork to do, appraisals to complete. In comes Mrs. Blabber, an elderly woman who likes to buy but loves to talk. Turn your back on the tedium and spend a few minutes making Mrs. Blabber feel like she's the most important person in your life right now and make the sale.

Be a Mirror
Effective associates are adept at mirroring the attributes of their clients. A professional will carefully observe the physical behavior of the customer and adapt accordingly. If the customer sits or stands back a short distance, the pro will stay out of his face. If the customer moves in closer (often a sign of interest in the item, by the way), the sharp observer will move in slightly also.

While watching the customer, listen carefully, especially at the beginning of the encounter. If the customer speaks softly and you have a tendency to be loud, for example, take the volume down a notch. Don't stop being you, and don't make the exercise obvious to the customer. Simply make a small adjustment here, a minor tweak there to reach a middle ground.

One of the authors worked for years with a sales associate who was very good but could have been great. "Mary" was barely 5 feet, barely 100 pounds, with a ferocious energy for selling that fit her gravelly voice, ruddy complexion and two-packs-of-Camels-a-day demeanor.

When a customer would raise an objection after "Mary" asked for the sale, she inevitably would lean across the counter, punch him playfully – though not lightly – and say "C'mon, Cheapskate! You know you can't take it with you; where's your checkbook?!" and finish with a laugh that would reverberate off every surface in the store. It worked often, but not always. She simply couldn't turn it off – or even down. Many prospects equated her Type-A enthusiasm with high pressure and walked out.

When it was suggested she might want to soften her approach in certain situations, she was repelled by "the very idea" that she not be herself.

We've never advocate not being yourself. Chameleons don't turn into elephants, after all; they simply change color according to their surroundings – and they survive longer. Don't become an elephant if you're a lizard; just change color slightly according to the scenario – and watch your pockets turn green in the process.

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson have spent a combined half-century in fine jewelry retail. For information about their copyright jewelry-specific Client Record Keeping Book or Sales Training Manual, call (800) 887-8902.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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