Rapaport Magazine

The personal touch

Catering to the customer is important in the jewelry industry, but building relationships is what will bring people back to your store.

By Leah Meirovich

With so many choices available to jewelry consumers today, it can be hard for a business to stand out from the crowd. Building relationships with clients, getting to know them on a personal level, and really understanding their needs can help a company distinguish itself and keep clients knocking on the door, even when the same items can be purchased down the street.

“For a salesperson to have a personalized relationship with a client, they must be able to bond with and identify things they have in common [with the customer] beyond jewelry,” says Martin Shanker, president of jewelry and luxury consultancy firm Shanker, Inc. “If it’s just jewelry, remember, they can get jewelry everywhere. What builds a deeper relationship is that you know things about each other — the things you mutually like, what kind of foods you both eat, where you like to travel. I understand your life, and because of that, we communicate on these topics; we bond.”

To form authentic relationships, at least 30% of a salesperson’s discussions with clients should be nonbusiness communication. Simply collecting birthday and anniversary dates along with buying preferences is not enough, Shanker says — though he adds that even the business-related conversation needs to change.

“The reason for personalization is not just to do more business,” he explains. “It’s because the customer is radically shifting. The internet allows them to be more informed and self-directed, so they are much more knowledgeable and think they don’t need salespeople in the same way. If you tell them what they already know from their research, you confirm they don’t need you. So you need to find more interesting things to say about the product than the obvious, such as what inspired the designer, or something unique about the piece itself.”

Getting to know you

This is a method Kaeleigh Testwuide, owner of the Diamond Reserve, knows well. Customers visit her two shops in Denver, Colorado, by appointment only, and she spends the first 20 minutes or so sitting with the clients, becoming acquainted with them and what they’re seeking. In fact, she won’t do business without it.

“We don’t try to sell people what we have, we try to find them what they are looking for,” she says. “We take the time to meet with people for second, third, even fourth appointments, and find different things that fit their needs. I think putting in the time is huge, and it makes your client feel like you care about them and aren’t just trying to sell them something. When it comes to jewelry, they are looking for a dream, and you need to find out exactly what that dream is.”

Testwuide believes this approach makes customers feel important, and following it up with small touches that show you care — such as wishing them a happy birthday or a congratulations on an anniversary — will draw them back to your store. “They’re going to come back because they don’t have to go through the steps again of figuring out who their person is. They feel like you are their person,” she says.

Gaining insight

Beyond inspiring loyalty and getting customers to return, building relationships with your clients can help enhance sales, asserts Tracy Matthews, chief visionary officer of Flourish & Thrive Academy, which runs a program to help jewelers improve their businesses.

Understanding what makes customers tick “will help you understand the buying habits of the people who shop from you,” says Matthews, who is also the host of the Thrive by Design podcast. “It helps you gain a better knowledge of your consumer base as a whole, what they like, what they’re looking for.” Among the jewelers who work with her, those who have implemented this practice have increased the value and volume of their sales, she adds.

“It leaves a great taste in their mouths, and it’s something that they remember, and if they remember you, they’ll keep coming back,” she affirms. “The more you understand the likes, needs, wants and desires of the people who are walking into your store, the better your chances of making a sale. And I think that people are buying jewelry now more than ever that has meaning, or that represents something. And if you can understand what it represents to them and what actually matters to them, then you can speak to those likes, needs, wants and desires and create a real connection with them.”

Creating a lifetime client

As a jewelry store’s front line with the customer, salespeople can make or break a business, which is why the people you choose to represent your brand are extremely important. While transactional selling may yield a purchase, relational selling will net not only the current sale, but future ones as well.

“You can choose to have an order-taker, or you can choose to have someone who’s actually going to build your business,” says Matthews. “I think [it’s] pretty obvious that you’d want someone who is interested in and incentivized by growing the sale and developing those relationships.”

Shanker agrees, adding that listening skills are the most important tool for building relationships. Customers don’t want to be pounded with questions they may consider invasive or annoying, he says; instead, you should facilitate their thinking process.

“Don’t speak to them like they have no information,” he urges. “Instead of asking questions, make statements that bring the customer to tell you more than they normally would.”

For instance, he suggests asking them what they like in jewelry, rather than inquiring what they collect or what pieces or designers they own, since the items they already have are not necessarily what they want now, and the question may feel intrusive to them.

“It’s all about the art of questioning, and about the listening skills, which will get you the information you need,” Shanker states. “That is what personalization is, and what will allow you to build a relationship with your client. You may have a salesperson who has one big sale with a customer, but if you just measure how much they sold, that’s not the full picture. You also want to measure how many times a customer returns asking for a specific salesperson. Even if those sales are smaller, if the customer has already come back three or four times in a year, you’re going to do more business overall.... This is particularly important for the jewelry industry, because you’re not only looking for a sale, you’re looking for a lifetime client.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - June 2021. To subscribe click here.

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