The Knowledgable Beer Seller

this man knows more about beer than you do about jewellery

Research shows that students working part-time in off-licences often know more about the beers and wine they are selling than retail staff working in the average jewellers know about the gems and other products they are selling.

It’s more than students just liking a drink!

You’ve got to wonder why this is so. You might suppose that the students working in off-licences already know a lot about the drinks they are selling because it’s well known that students can be very passionate about drinking. Joking aside, students working in off-licences are hardly going to be experienced sommeliers so there must be something else at play here.

They want to give their customers confidence.

The average consumer is still very intimidated when it comes to choosing a bottle of wine. If they cannot speak to someone who is knowledgeable about the different kinds of wine and their qualities at the point of sale, the chances are that they will go looking for better service at a different off-licence the next time they want a good bottle of wine. No doubt, off-licences rely on the repeat business to provide a steady flow of customers, especially in these economically straitened times, so if a customer doesn’t come back because of lack of product knowledge, it could spell the kiss of death for an off-licence.

Realising this, perhaps wine sellers go the extra distance to ensure that their staff is well versed in the tastes and needs of their local market. They understand the questions and concerns of their customers. They find out the ‘story’ behind the wine, the vineyard and the people who make it. Most likely they subscribe to monthly wine magazines to give them insight into trends that might open the door to new entrepreneurial opportunities. In turn, they communicate all of this to their staff so that they can convey this knowledge to the customer.

You might argue that learning about wine is a much easier prospect than learning about gemstones. Tasting wine is a big part of learning what makes a good wine so if bottles of wine are readily available in an off-licence, all you have to do is crack a bottle open and get tasting. But it’s worth bearing in mind that selling wine and selling gems have a lot in common, not least the word ‘clarity’.

Passion, commitment, salesmanship

If you want customers to value you, you need to value your customers. That might sound like an obvious thing to say but it’s surprising how many jewellery retailers ignore this basic tenet of business. How do you build value for customers, with its implicit assumptions of trust and quality of service? Surrounding yourself with the best people is key.

Hiring staff with the right background and experience is a good place to start but even more than that, making sure that your staff is well trained and motivated goes a long way towards helping to ensure that your business keeps making money. How do you motivate staff? By ensuring that your staff is passionate about the products it is selling.

Where do you find passion?

Passion comes from knowledge so there is a direct correlation between motivation and product knowledge, which in turn can impact on commitment to the business. A well-trained employee is therefore more likely to be confident about the sales process. If staff is more confident about the sales process then it is more likely to be effective in bringing extra revenues into the business.

What is a well-trained employee in a jewellery store?

Just like a good employee in an off-license, a well-trained employee in a jewellery store will know the proper way to handle, store and care for the products they are selling. They will know the differences between natural, treated and synthetic gemstones in the same way a well-trained student working in an off-license knows that champagne-style wines made outside the region of Champagne cannot be called champagne. They will have to master the language of gemstones and jewellery, the differences between different types of metals, stones and manufacturing techniques.

Where can you get this training?

In the alcohol business, it is up to the supplier to educate and to some extent motivate retail sales staff to understand and sell their product. There is no reason this can’t be rolled out by jewellery manufacturers and stone dealers who supply you.  This should be part of service you receive and expect.  We all expect our customers to part with serious money when it comes to making a purchase, the least we can do is give them the knowledge and confidence they need to make a sound purchase.

Ultimately, your staff are only as good as the effort you are willing to put into ensuring they are well-trained. Ignore that at your peril. In this fraught economy, people are reluctant to spend money on jewellery so will hunt for the best possible deals that they can get, or will buy with the retailer they have the most confidence in, even if the price is higher. Make sure that it’s you they turn to for value and confidence when making that purchase.