By Peter Smith
Peter Smith has more than 30 years of experience building wholesale and retail sales teams. He currently is president of Vibhor Gems.

For his latest column, Peter Smith took a break from hanging his stocking by the chimney with care to share tips on staffing, stocking and selling for the holiday season.

Read on for a dozen busy-season suggestions from the author of Hiring Squirrels and the widely read article, What Will Become of Retail Jewelry Stores?

1. Post Your Hours of Operation
Spend a few bucks and have someone post your holiday hours on your front door and/or window. When the season is over, have the hours changed but always have your hours posted. Also, post your hours of operation on your website, including any extended hours for season, and always have your hours of operation updated on your store’s voicemail.

2. Make Finding Your Phone Number Easy
Ensure that your phone number is clearly posted on your website and monitor any messages on your voicemail and your e-mails on a regular basis, certainly no less than hourly.

3. Name Tags
If you don’t already do so, think about having name tags made for your staff in season. We need to do everything we can to make the customer experience as low effort for them as possible. There is absolutely no downside (save vanity for some) to this.

4. Best Sellers
If you have not made plans to ensure that your best sellers are in stock, and potentially backed up, then you should do it immediately. Dreams of clearing your non-performing inventory through the season are just that. While you occasionally can move otherwise non-performing inventory in the height of the season, the days of customers buying anything in the madness of the holidays have come and gone. There is a reason why your best sellers are best sellers. Do not make the mistake of losing business and customers because you tried to sell them tickets to last week’s concert.

5. Schedule Your Best People for Busiest Times
This is not the time to massage egos or demonstrate your fairness and equity in making the schedule. Even as patterns shift from times past, you should still have a pretty good idea about when you will be busiest. Schedule your best salespeople (those are the ones who can actually sell stuff!) when they are most likely to make sales.

6. No Up-System
If you use the Up-System (each salesperson gets an equal amount of turns with walk-in customers), you are losing business. If being fair is more important than making sales, keep doing it. If you can afford to miss opportunities, keep doing it. If you want your least effective salespeople to have the same access to your customers as your best, keep doing it. If you want to maximize business, scrap it now. It is one of the craziest things I have ever heard and it is anti-business.

RELATED CONTENT: Thumbs Down for the Up-System

7. Expect Every Customer to Buy
It seems almost sacrilegious to discuss this in a couple of sentences, but you should expect that every single customer who visits your store is doing so with the intent of buying something. If you feel otherwise, you’re in the wrong business. Make sure that attitude permeates throughout your culture and expect nothing less of yourself, your team and, most importantly, your customers.  

8. Smile
I went into a store in Dallas a few weeks ago and the atmosphere and negativity emanating from the sales team was shocking. It was as clear as could be that no one wanted to be there and they were obviously not enjoying their jobs. Make sure your people act and look like they want to be there and want to help customers. They should have positive body language with each other and with your customers. Create an energized and positive environment (put some bloody music on, please!!!!!) and encourage your team to have fun. Wearing a smile costs nothing but it sets a beautiful tone for your customers.

9. Paradox of Choice
I’ll make this short. The more choices we give the customer, the less likely they are to buy. Ask good open-ended questions; listen well to their answers and present no more than three items when it comes time to introduce product.

10. Three Price Points
When the customer gives you their price point, make sure that the price they give you is represented in the three options. For instance, if they want to spend $1,000, the three options should be about $1,000, $1,500 and $2,000. That is called the contrast principle or anchoring and there is a ton of science to support the rationale for using it. What the science also shows is that more often than not, the customer selects the middle option. Do the math on the difference that can make in your business.

11. Ask for the Sale
Ask 100 percent of your customers for their business. ‘Tis not the season to feed information and ideas to customers so that they can shop elsewhere (and don’t think that you are competing with just other jewelers). The best salespeople already ask for the sale more than their colleagues, and the less successful salespeople will be pleasantly surprised at the number of customers who agree to make a purchase because they were asked to do so.

12. Capture E-mails
Ask everybody for their e-mail. This is not the time to resort to time-worn clichés of, “We just don’t have time,” or “People don’t want to give you their e-mail.” I get most of my sales receipts (including from Apple, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and others) e-mailed to me. They don’t ask me; they just assume I want it electronically and they put the burden on me to ask for paper if I prefer that.

There might be other reasons to request the e-mail, such as special offers, to remind the customer of cleaning or appraisal updates, to follow up on inquiries, or to have private customer-only sales every now and again. No matter what your narrative, expect to capture everyone’s e-mail. It is still one of the most important marketing tools available to us today. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Have fun and be successful!

Peter Smith, author of Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, has spent more than 30 years building sales teams at retail and at wholesale. He currently is president of Vibhor Gems. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or reach him on LinkedIn.

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