Snap Judgments

July 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Insights

Snap Judgments

As mom warned you, don't judge a book by its cover – any customer at any time is likely to make a big purchase


In our ongoing efforts to conduct the most effective sales training possible, the two of us often go shopping. We trade our business suits and dress shoes for jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers and wander into the mysterious world of fine jewelers or department store jewelry counters to see what happens. Too often, what does happen (or should we say doesn't happen) is truly unbelievable.

We deliberately dress way down to prove that just as customers judge sales associates on initial contact, so do sales associates judge customers the minute they cross the thresholds of their stores. We are proud – and sad – to say we've been ignored or talked down to in some of the finest establishments in the nation.

What's interesting about this situation is we'll conduct a seminar for that company the next day and ask whether anyone can share a story about prejudging a customer only to discover their initial judgment was incorrect. Often, the same sales associate who ignored us the previous day stands up and proudly presents the best anecdote in the group to prove the importance of not prejudging people. Why is it that sales associates universally seem to believe in not "judging books by their covers" and then persist in doing exactly that day in and day out?

"Not me!" you say. "I treat everybody equally." That's what many sales associates swear when telling us stories about folks who enter the store in worn-out shoes, T-shirts with holes, cut-off jeans or sweaty sweats. The sales associate who virtuously and courteously helps these apparent losers is usually rewarded when these are the people who whip out a wad and spend significant cash. Maybe we've all learned to be kind to the unclean.

But What About All the Rest?
Be honest now – how many times have you seen a teenager walk in and suddenly remembered some important paperwork you had to complete? When was the last time you rushed to greet a bent-over senior, a person who obviously was not born in this country, a physically or mentally handicapped person or one whose sexual preference appeared to be out of line with your own?

Here comes a gentleman with a bad toupee and a watch in need of a new strap. How often have you pushed the newest associate in that gentleman's direction while you waited, hoping someone off the cover of Vogueor GQwould stroll in, head directly for the diamond solitaire case, look in your direction and say "I'll take that one!"?

Do you avoid eye contact when you see a potential repair, cleaning, a battery replacement or – perish the thought – a return coming your way? Tell the truth; wouldn't you rather someone else handle that situation?

You might be missing the fact that all of the above-described people may have as much expendable cash as the folks with the designer clothes and fancy manicures. In fact, they often have moredisposable income than the fashion plates who come in to drool but have no room left on their platinum cards.

True Stories
A nine-year old asks to try on a $150 watch. After several sales associates avoid him, one who sees the possibilities offers to help. Twenty minutes later, the boy returns with his mother, who buys the watch for him.

A woman walks in and makes a beeline for the countertop watchband display. That "green" salesperson is left to help after the vets stampede to the back office. Upon choosing a $10 strap, she inquires about a 2-ct. diamond ring she saw advertised in the newspaper. Shortly thereafter, she's on her way out the door with her snazzy new watchband and her breathtaking ring as the other associates kick themselves.

An admittedly intimidating-looking gentleman enters a San Francisco department store. His shaved head is adorned with a spider web tattoo that extends over his face to his neck. As he moves from one department to another trying to buy several items, no one makes eye contact with him. He finally comes upon an empathetic soul in Fine Jewelry who accepts his credit application figuring, "What the heck. I'll process the application, he'll be rejected and be on his way in a few minutes." When the human cartoon character is granted an opening credit line of $5,000, the associate winds up ringing – and earning commissions on – sales from her department and several others.

Judge Not ...
Successful sales associates never prejudge. Even if the big sale isn't made that day, the courteous and enthusiastic equal treatment of all customers will assure a very high rate of returning clients at the times they are ready to buy.

Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson have spent a combined half-century in fine jewelry retail. For information about their copyright jewelry-specificClient Record Keeping Book orSales Training Manual, call them at (800) 887-8902, fax them at (954) 217-7065 or e-mail them at

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


HomeAsk the ExpertBrainstormStatsSite of the WeekConsumer Press Scan
Your Business On-LineCalendarMagazine & Site ArchivesStaffSite Map
Professional Jeweler EventsGuide to Electronic Services
Classified On-LineJA Certification Study Session

Home Ask the Expert Brainstorm Stats Site of the Week Consumer Press Scan Your Business On-Line Calendar Staff Site Map