'Booking' Future Profits

January 1999

Managing:Sales

'Booking' Future Profits

Don't wait 'til next fall to think about improving 1999 holiday sales

BY CHRISTINE ANZELL AND JACK LEVENSON

Almost a quarter of your annual sales are compressed into the few weeks leading up to Christmas. No wonder the end of the year is such a critical time for this industry. Read the following conversation to learn how one jeweler ensured good year-end results (also check a related story you can pass on to your sales associates on page 111).

"So how was your season?"

"A little soft; we were disappointed. How about yours?"

"Best ever!"

"Really? I don't know what I did wrong. We were staffed, had lots of well-priced merchandise, placed newspaper ads, ran gift-with-purchase and purchase-with-purchase promotions, had a sale and two trunk shows. I thought we covered it all."

"How many customers did you call?"

"What do you mean?"

"How how many customers did you call? How often did you have your associates go into their records, call their customers and give them a reason to visit your store?"

"I, uh, I really don't have excellent records on my customers. And the salespeople don't have the time – or motivation – to do that themselves."

"That's where you missed the boat. We began a program last January that paid off for us in spades – and at minimal cost. I'd read about the big department stores – Nordstrom, Neiman's – providing their sales associates with client recordkeeping books and the authority to use the phone whenever they had an opportunity to drive sales."

"And ..."

"And so I started last year by furnishing my people with client books. We met to discuss how to use them, and they worked like a charm."

"What's the gimmick?"

"There's no gimmick. Look. We all have virtually the same merchandise, the same pretty gift boxes, the same credit plans. What makes one jewelry store stand out from the others is customer service. That – along with the right item at the right price – is what today's fine jewelry shopper wants.

Step by Step
"So we set up this program. It's really pretty basic: first, I made sure all my sales associates had personalized business cards. We talked about the importance of being an entrepreneur; they work on commission, so their income is really in their own hands. We also talked about the importance of networking with friends and other community members after hours. Do these people know what we do for a living? They should. We talked about the 'Card Within a Yard' rule (present a business card to everyone who comes within a yard of you), and I empowered them to write something on the back to make it seem special: 'free inspection and cleaning' or '10% off next purchase.'

"Then I presented each associate (and myself, by the way) with a personal client recordkeeping book. It's like a planner, but it's set up to retain information on customers, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, occupations, hobbies, birthdays, anniversaries, tastes, ring sizes, wrist sizes. There's a place for purchase records, inspection and cleaning records, 'wish list' items and personal notes. They keep this information on the customer and the people the customer buys gifts for. As all those folks who received business cards begin to drop by, we ask for information for our client book."

"You mean even if they don't buy anything?"

"Yeah. 'While we're installing your watch battery, Mrs. Smith, let me take some information from you for my client book ...'"

"How do you make sure your people are gathering this information?"

"I continually remind them about what a valuable resource they're creating. I also collect and review their client books each week, complimenting those whose records are developing nicely and counseling those who need some encouragement. It all takes about a half-hour per week."

"It seems kind of cumbersome; aren't there software programs that make this kind of record keeping easier?"

"I have the software; it's great for maintaining a mailing list – and even looking up purchase records in a pinch. But as far as driving sales, it accomplishes nothing. The client books help to make each sales associate a 'business owner.' And when a customer comes into the store, the sales associate simply flips open this professional-looking book and turns to the information she needs."

"OK, so now you've got all these books with all these names. How do you turn that into sales?"

"Imagine it's a slow week in January. We just start calling our customers."

"Don't they get annoyed?"

"No. This isn't cold calling; we're not selling subscriptions or insurance. We're calling someone we know – and who knows us – to take less than a minute of their time and give them a reason to stop by in the next few days."

"Oh, I get it. 'Hi, Mrs. Jones. This is Joe Skeptical down at Joe's Jewelers. I am having a very slow month and was wondering if you'd come down and buy something so I can mail these vendor checks that have been sitting on my desk for the past two weeks.'"

"Not exactly. The idea is to get them excited and make them want to get out of their recliner, fire up the ol' Buick and head on over. It's called driving your business – and here's where the entrepreneurial ones really show their stuff. I've heard them call with all kinds of great reasons to generate a visit (to see a list of those reasons, please turn to the sales associate version of this article on p. 111).

"And it works?"

"The proof is in the bottom line. We had more traffic, sold more items and had a higher average ticket last year than ever. The customer comments were complimentary, and there was a genuine feeling of warmth and friendship when the folks visited the store."

"Sounds like you're onto something."

"I haven't reinvented the wheel. But I was concerned about the incredible growth of competition from the Internet, television shopping, warehouse clubs and the big-box discounters. So I've learned how to take some of the downtime we all have each day and turn it into productive time. You know, here it is January. If you get your folks on this program in the next few weeks, I have a feeling, you'll be telling this story about yourself next January."

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson have spent a combined half-century in fine jewelry retailing. For information about their copyright jewelry-specificClient Record Keeping Book orSales Training Manual, call them at (800) 887-8902.



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

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