Coach’s Corner: Winning Customers … or Not

Coach’s Corner: Winning Customers … or Not

Even in a changing retail world, core customer services strategies still are business essentials.

Here are my top 10 go-to sales rules for winning customers, plus a bonus goal setting suggestion.

1. Always, always, always agree with the client. Not. “No matter what the customer says, states or demands, you should, under no circumstances, ever disagree or make the customer wrong or suggest their request is impossible.” NOT! This is so old school. Some of my best sales were when I told a customer not to buy something he really wanted to buy for his fiancé (a black diamond for her engagement ring, because she wears black diamond stud earrings all the time). He later gave her a white diamond engagement ring and he came back and thanked me for the guidance. Remember, as a sales pro you get to lead the sale and educate the customer. Do what you do best and let your customer known you are the professional and you won’t lead them down the wrong path.

2. Address the problem. One thing I’ve always prided myself on is selling diamonds sight unseen. I rarely, if ever, lost a sale and I never discounted. When my customers would meet me, their first impression was not that I was a natural salesperson–passionate, yes; salesperson, not necessarily.

Interestingly, only a handful of my customers came to me knowing they wanted to solve a problem–i.e., that they wanted to buy a diamond but didn’t know much about them–and needed a solution. I got most of my leads from a cold start, people I didn’t know.

After lots of questions and discovery with the customer, I would determine if they had a problem and needed help. (They always did.) Here is what I would say:
“My goal for this meeting is to help you understand you have a problem that you need to fix, whether you choose to work with me or not. After you agree that you have a problem, then I will try to convince you that I am the right person to help you fix it. At any time if you are out shopping and you fall in love with another ring, please call me and I will be happy to walk through the buying process with you and make sure it is a good purchase for you. The most important thing is that you are happy and that I educate you.”

Once they admitted they needed to fix the problem and needed help with buying the best and right diamond, then I would launch into how we would fix it and make her super happy.

This wasn’t a trick. I meant it. The customers could see it and they trusted me as a result.

3. What you say means nothing; what your customer believes is everything. You can have the best sales presentation in the world, but if the customer doesn’t believe it then you don’t have a chance. Take the time to engage with the customer.

Ask them questions and let them tell you their wants and needs. Yes, many times they don’t know what their needs are and you’ll have to guide them.

Practice, practice, practice your brand presentations and weave your brand stories into your customer’s stories. It’s essential and will make selling so much more fun.

4. Keep it short. Brevity is key. You must be able to articulate your value proposition in one minute or less. While raising money for one of my businesses I had to develop “quick pitches.” I had to stand in front of a group of venture capitalists and tell them my business model in less than one minute. Those were stressful times for an Irish lass who enjoys telling long stories.

5. Turn it around. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. Customers might not know your store (a weakness) but they don’t have negative preconceptions either (a strength). You may not have 20 years’ experience selling diamonds (a weakness) but you can show your customer that you love what you do and they have come to the right place because you care about helping them (a strength).

6. Make an emotional statement that’s sure to grab the undivided attention of your customer. In Sales 101 we learned about the customer’s favorite radio station–WIIFM, or what’s in it for me. Yet we have a tendency to change the channel too often whereby the “me” is really “you” and not the customer. The station the customer is looking for is the one that is all about the customer and their need. This is a workshop all its own.

7. Sell yourself. Understand that your differentiator when positioning yourself to customers isn’t your brands, it’s you. Not only should superior service be your trademark, but you can also distinguish yourself by store culture. When your employees enthusiastically share your store values and practices with customers, you begin to connect on a relational rather than a transactional level.

8. Create a moment of truth. Create a reason a customer must hear you out, something so compelling or that drives so much curiosity that they agree to spend more time at the counter with you. Then you have a single moment of truth to deliver on this and convince your customer that the solution you offer would truly be the best option for them.  

The key to this moment of truth is to have a well-honed and repeatable way of showcasing the value of your store, your brands or solution, something that goes well beyond a simple brand story but includes customer examples, passionate stories and teachings about how you are different and add value. The more you deliver this personalize story consistently, the better you will get at it, and the higher the likelihood of closing that diamond sale.

 9. Authenticity is key. Yes, brand stories are important. At Hearts On Fire we have an amazing story that differentiates us and our brand, and it needs to be told. No matter how well you write your script, though, it is sure to sound scripted, and if you get off the script, what then? Often, the conversation can never be recovered.

When you are yourself instead of working off a script, there is nothing to remember. At Hearts On Fire we always encourage you find your voice. We never want to change your voice; we just like to help you with the talking points. Be yourself!

10. Tell a story. Top sales people tell stories because it engages customers and puts the sales message in a context that captures the customer’s attention, perhaps even tugs at the customer’s emotions. A story provides a structure that makes it easier to understand your pitch and to remember it so your customers can recommend and defend your story when you are not in the room.

When it comes to storytelling, the opening should be dramatic and personal. The beginning of the sales conversation should focus on dramatizing the needs of the customer. If the story is delivered in the right way, it captures the customer’s attention and involves them in the drama of the story.
And, finally, here’s that goal setting suggestion that I promised.

Spend five minutes every day prioritizing. Without prioritization, it’s difficult to be efficient and productive. At Hearts On Fire, Jay Lell and Lindsey Davis (global trainers) have been doing a lot of coaching these days. One thing we discovered (a surprising discovery) is that sales professionals in many retail stores didn’t have sales goals and didn’t prioritize their days. I suggest taking five minutes at the end of every day to sit down, assess, and choose the five or six priorities for tomorrow so you can begin with clarity. Without prioritization, it’s difficult to be efficient and productive.

Pat Henneberry is vice president of global learning and development at Hearts On Fire. She also is founder of The Jewelry Coach, a sales training community for jewelers. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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