One of the best ways to increase jewelry sales at stores and galleries is to discover what is right in your own backyard. Often local business owners are looking to feature designers from their area or are in need of skilled jewelers to take on contract work. Undoubtedly, you know most of these stores. The question is: Do they know you?
I was on the road for nine years traveling all over the United States and learned the dos and don’ts of approaching a store. The huge advantage of selling this way is that you get to see the store and you have time (usually) to check out the inventory they are currently carrying, see how they display their jewelry and meet their staff. This part of the experience will give you a huge amount of information about whether the store is a good fit for you and you for it. You’ll also have the buyer’s attention to yourself, unlike at a show, where buyers are being lured in so many directions. You might even discover stores that were never on your radar but that are a perfect fit for your work.
Draw a circle with a radius of 50 miles around your hometown and start researching stores in that circle. This ensures you are making day trips versus traveling long distances to the next time zone or across the country. You may take longer trips in time, but when you are first getting started, stay closer to home. When you have seen everyone in your 50-mile circle, expand your search to 100 miles.
The next thing you need to decide is whether to make an appointment or just drop in. Usually stores prefer an appointment, but sometimes you can get away with going in without one. If you call ahead of time and can’t get an appointment, tell the buyer you will be in the area anyway and might stop in to see the store, since you have heard such good things about it. Make it clear that you won’t be a bother. You never know; the buyer might just decide to make an exception once you are there in person. You can also walk in without having called at all and hope to catch the buyer with a little spare time. I found that about 50 percent of the times I made a cold call, I saw the buyer. About 50 percent of those times, I sold or set up the possibility of the store becoming a client in the near future.
If you are traveling any distance, consider finding someone with a jewelry collection who also wants to make a sales trip and travel together. I always tried to have a travel buddy. It is great for security, companionship, and organizing logistics.
Finally, know that everyone gets nervous before making cold calls and going to appointments with potential buyers. It does get easier with experience.
And there are simple things you can do to make it less stressful. Before you make a trip, make a list of everything you need to make yourself look and feel professional and prepared. Here are a few tips that have helped me:
- Keep your jewelry in easy-to-access cases and rolls. You don’t need a bust or jewelry displays that would be used in a store or at a show. You want it clean, easy to set up, and ready to go. One store owner told me he wouldn’t look at a line that took more than five minutes to set up. These buyers see lines every day; they know what they are looking for.
- Carry your work in a bag that doesn’t look like it holds jewelry. Black jewelry cases and suitcases are a major no-no. You might as well advertise that you are carrying jewelry and are naive enough to tell the world about it. You are an easy target. I always wore a backpack, so I had both hands free and I never had to set the line down. It was always physically on me.
- Have a postcard or brochure and a business card to hand to the sales staff as soon as you walk in. This acts as a calling card they can use to let the buyer know you have arrived.
- I cannot stress this next tip enough: Only wear your own jewelry. Guys, this goes for you as well; wear a ring, a bracelet or a pin in your lapel. From now on (and for as long as you have a jewelry business) you can only wear your own jewelry, no matter how tired you get of it—and you will.
- While you are waiting to see the buyer, take advantage of the opportunity to check out the store and chat with the staff. If there are customers in the store, they will ALWAYS be more important than you. I have at times waited for an hour before seeing a buyer. Relax. Don’t get on your cell phone. Be the perfect guest.
- Never show your jewelry in the store proper or near a window where potential thieves could see you, but be prepared to show it pretty much anywhere else. I have shown my line on a jewelry bench in the back of a store, while sitting on a toilet with the buyer sitting across from me on a chair (true story!), and in a posh, intimidating office. Don’t let the setting distress you.
- Be prepared. Have two-part sales order forms (you can get them at office supply companies), business cards, pens, a small stapler, a price list, a calculator, and your policy list. Know your work and the ways it can be altered or made in other materials.
- Tell the buyers about your company, but then sit back and let them look at your work. It is also important to ask questions about their business, their customer, the work they sell, and a comfortable price point. You want to learn as much about them as they learn about you.
- If they write an order, that is great. If they like your work and want it down the line, that is also great. If they feel the work is not for them, that’s okay too. Ask them if they know of a store in the area where it might be a good fit. No matter what happens, you have learned if a store is right for you or not and that is valuable.
- When you finish your appointment, write down everything you learned about the store and file it for future use. Make sure to get the names of the staff and the buyer. List the designers they are currently carrying.
- Write a thank you note to every buyer you see.
After you wrap up each visit, take some time to think about what you have learned from the experience and what you would change next time. I have finished a sales visit and gone to my car feeling utterly disappointed, but most of the time I felt it was a great experience no matter what the outcome. Now get out there and introduce yourself and your work!