By Ashley Davis
Live from Conclave, Jeff Fromm, president of consumer trends consultancy Futurecast, set out the new sales rules for retailers to follow in the digital age.
Los Angeles--Retailers have heard a thing or two about selling according to generation demographics.

They’ve heard about “midults.” They’ve heard about Generation Z. And they’ve probably heard enough about millennials to write a book about them.

But Jeff Fromm, president of consumer trends consultancy Futurecast, is the man who actually has written books on the topic: he’s the co-author of “Marketing to Millennials” and “Millennials with Kids.”

At the American Gem Society’s Conclave education conference, going on now in Los Angeles, Fromm laid out new sales rules for retailers to follow that were far from the typically espoused millennial marketing wisdom.

These rules also apply to an ever-evolving baby boomer customer and beyond.

Here are some of the highlights.

The New ABCs of Sales
Retail jewelers have probably been taught to “always be closing,” but today, Fromm explained, they need to “always be collaborating.”

“It means you’re going to have to be more useful and less pushy,” Fromm said.

Millennial consumers are inherently wary of a sales pitch. They’re digitally savvy and tuned in. They’re “prosumers” rather than consumers, exposed to and capable of processing large amounts of information.

So if a salesperson acts in the role of a trusted advisor, imparting their specific jewelry expertise and making suggestions, rather than someone making a sale, they can create a loyal relationship.

This can be achieved by foregoing rote sales questions like “What is your budget?” and instead, making suggestions and learning about the customer’s needs.

Today’s shoppers already know how to compare prices and work within their own budgets. Retailers should focus on collaborating with their clients and becoming a trusted source of knowledge.

Put the Millennial Focus on Employees
Traditionally in sales, the customer always comes first. But Fromm suggested that to understand a millennial customer, store owners should pay attention to their millennial employees.

“Many of them, in addition to compensation, not in lieu (of), want to work for a brand where their values align with the brand’s values,” he said.

This speaks to the importance of passion in the work place. Millennials want to work with companies they believe in, whether that’s due to an enthusiasm for the product being sold, an emphasis on work/life balance or even the way a company gives back.

The important thing is to understand what your millennial employee wants and what they value, thereby helping stores understand how to connect with their consumer cohort.

“You can’t win with millennial consumers if you can’t win with millennial employees,” Fromm explained. “You have to meet them halfway, because your rules and their rules are not the same.”

Don’t Treat Others As You Want To Be Treated
Instead, treat others as they want to be treated, he said.

“Empathy is at the core of it.”

A salesperson should understand the various emotions, including fear and anxiety, that come with purchasing fine jewelry.

The key is to identify a customer’s need state--or, why they’re shopping--whether that’s for an occasion like a proposal, a Mother’s Day present, or a self-purchase.

“The consumer has a need state that extends beyond the product you sell,” Fromm said.

Retail has to adapt to what the customer wants and needs, acting on the information a customer shares rather than sticking to a dedicated sales strategy.

“Not everybody wants what you want,” Fromm said.

The Next Step: Identify Influencers
Millennials crave content, and it’s a given that they require various social media channels to interact with a brand or store.

“I think we’ll see very rapidly that best-in-class retailers move to content strategies where they integrate traditional CRM (interactions with customers) with social behavior. We’re talking about who is consuming your content, who is curating your content and who is creating content on behalf of your brand.”

He emphasized that the latter, those who create content--such as Instagramming a product on their personal feed--are the most important consumers to a brand.

The way of the future, he said, is to use a simple algorithm, whether proprietary or from a third party, to identify the “5 percent of customers who not only buy from us, but actually love us and have a social influence” and treat those customers differently.

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