Professional Jeweler Archive: The Newbies

February 2003

Managing/Timepiece Sales

The Newbies

Make sure your sales associates can answer your customers' timepiece questions

Many years ago, art historian and critic Robert Hughes had a best-selling book and heavily watched public television series titled The Shock of the New. It described the impact of various styles and trends in art on each generation.

Training a new employee can be a challenge not unlike the debut of a new style or trend. At our store we feature a sizable number of fine Swiss watches and a full line of jewelry. I’d like to share some of what we do, specifically in watches, to prepare our new hires – “newbies,” if you will – for the selling floor.

We always try to hire people with a jewelry background. Certainly, this shortcuts some general knowledge and experience issues. But we’ve found success as well with people who have experience in fine clothing and other luxury sales.
Even with industry experience, there’s no guarantee your new hire will have been exposed to or understand the most effective ways to sell fine watches.


We approach learning about and presenting fine watches similarly to presenting fine jewelry. First, we provide extensive training in basic product knowledge. Whether you have two lines or 10, sales associates need to understand basics terms such as crown, crystal, clasp, quartz and automatic.

We also expect our staff to be able to explain many timepiece features without the aid of a watchmaker. When a customer asks what something does, the sales associate should answer knowledgeably and concisely.

Brand Information

When you have multiple brands, it’s important for associates to understand how to position each one. Which of us has not been asked to compare or qualify one brand against another? The ability to answer is no different than for the customer who asks, “Should I buy the G/SI1 or the H/VS2?” The answer lies in the groundwork and research you’ve done to ensure the associate has a thorough brand knowledge.

In Touch with Watches

I always encourage new hires to spend some time at the case, just picking up watches to feel differences in scale, flexibility and weight. Then they can more precisely communicate with customers about the watches.

Conversant in Catalogs

Have your sales associates become familiar with manufacturer counter catalogs. I ask them to play find-and-seek, looking at a watch in the catalog and then locating it in the case. This leads to quick recognition of brand, model and style, which makes for a more expert presentation to customers.

Then be sure to drill on the key differences between brands, including manufacturing differences, water resistance, durability, warranty and more. This will help to assure a quick counter to objections and technical issues.

Confirm Customers’ Decisions

Make sure sales associates feel all brands are meritorious. Customers must feel that whatever watch they buy, at whatever price, their decision is a sound one.

Always a Student

Training should be ongoing because you not only have a new sales associate from time to time, the merchandise is regularly new also. Stay ahead of the trends, the newest models and the changes. In the watch business, you want neither your staff nor your customers to be shocked at what’s new!

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

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications