I met at noon on a gloomy winter ‘s day recently, with two cheerful gentlemen that have a combined eighty years of selling fine jewelry to independent retail jewelers. As I sat at the table with these two I realized how different things are from forty years ago.
The three of us were dressed casually no suits no ties. Forty years ago we would have come to the luncheon dressed in suit and ties.
My first question was: “Do you wear a suit and tie when you make a sales call?” Their answer was an emphatic no. We dress down. Retailers understand. Crime in the jewelry business has made us so careful about our visibility and exposure that everything we do today is designed to make us less visible. Both salesmen said they operate like secret agents. In both cases they do everything possible to keep their identity a secret, only their families know what they do for a living. Crime has had a major impact on the road for jewelry salesmen. Year after year, fewer people are willing to consider this as an occupation they wish to pursue.
Forty years ago there were thousands of salespeople calling on retail stores showing products to retail jewelers. These two men who were selling at the time said at certain times during the year they would run into three or four salesmen lined up to see a buyer in a major store and they would stay at a hotel in a large city and have dinner with eight or nine salesmen who were working the city. Today they both believe they are lone wolves and hardly ever run into any other sales people on the road.
The industry has changed dramatically and both of these gentlemen that call on fine independent retail stores believe when they retire there will not be other salespeople to follow in their footsteps.
They believe the Internet and the development of brand names and the inventory control methods and the buyer’s approach, which is ultimate caution, will make it impossible for salespeople to make an adequate living due to the constant increase in the cost of traveling plus the concerns about crime make this occupation less attractive.
These road warriors can help jewelers with solid advice as they visit many stores and know what works and which stores are doing well and why they are successful.
Sales reps like these two gentlemen offer years of experience and knowledge that can help any retailer willing to listen and use their knowledge.
Good sales reps spend time in all types of retail jewelers and recognize which stores are most successful and why. They can provide valuable insight as to reasons why and how stores can be more successful.
I spent more than three hours with these two men for the interview. They said it is in their best interest to provide retailers with guidance, recommendations and advice to help the retailers overall business grow. They both recognize the importance of developing and maintaining good long-term relationships that will endure.
They recognize compared with 40 years ago, there is less loyalty due to the stiff competition and expanded number of vendors offering products to retail jewelers today compared with 40 years ago with more trade shows and more competition from overseas vendors.
Both these salesmen offer sales training and in many cases jewelers take advantage of their years of experience and knowledge of selling by allowing them to meet with their sales staffs in one on one training. All helps to arm sales staff with useful information and selling techniques. All helps close a sale.
Regrettably, Not all jewelers take advantage of this opportunity. It is a mistake. Every salesperson sells differently and can learn something from another salesperson’s portfolio. The process makes them more effective..
Good sales representatives have a critical eye and provide valuable information about merchandise in showcase placement. Having a good working relationship with a sales representative that calls on you can provide more than just merchandise to sell. It is all part of the service offered by the good road warriors. Take advantage of it.