Selling Value!

Years ago, when I started my career in retail I was required to read a book titled, "Successful Shoe Salesmanship," by Dr. William Rossi. One statement from that book has stood out in my mind for over thirty years. The statement was, "Give your shoes a reason for being and you give your customer a reason for buying." In other words, it is up to the salesperson to create value in the merchandise they are selling,
whether the item is shoes, jewelry, electronics or space shuttles.The first thing that salespeople need to understand is the definition of the word "value." I believe that value is simply "perception." I know the value that I have for a hundred dollar bill is totally different than the value my children have for the same bill. They think, "let's party," and I think "let's hide it from them." I am sure that Bill Gates has a very different perception of a hundred dollars than I do and so on.

Salespeople can have a tremendous influence on the customer's perception of value based on the words and the phrases that they use. In addition, knowing that value and perception are very personal things, a salesperson will be able to maximize their success by first finding out what the customer's perception of value is when it comes to jewelry and selling them jewelry based on their perception of value. Some customers come into a jewelry store with a preconceived perception of value and others are looking for the salesperson to give them a perception of value. Every customer is different and needs to be dealt with in a different manner.

The only way that a salesperson can be successful in determining what pre-conceived perceptions a customer has, if any, is through asking open-ended questions. One of the biggest mistakes that I see in all types of retail stores is that the salespeople sell based on their perception of what is valuable and not on the customers' actual wants, needs and desires. In far too many stores the only time a sale is made is when what the customer likes about a particular item or piece of jewelry accidentally matches with what the salesperson likes about the piece of jewelry. Salespeople need to ask good, solid open-ended questions to determine the customer's needs and any specific issues that the customer wants addressed.

The question: "What is important in selecting a ____?"

This question is without a doubt the most important question in all of sales and one that needs to be asked with every customer. What is important in selecting a ring? What is important in selecting a graduation gift? What is important in selecting jewelry for yourself? The reasons that people buy are numerous. The chances of you making a sale and being able to sell higher priced goods lies in your ability to ask questions and then base your demonstration on the specific concerns or issues that the customer needs to have addressed. I call this the NA=A/DA theory or NADA theory. This stands for:

Needs Assessment equals

Answers/Demonstrate the


For example, if you were to ask several different customers, "What is important in selecting a ring?" Their answers may vary from I want the diamond to be secure. Another customer may say that the cut of the diamond is the most important. Another customer may say, "I don't know, this is the first time we have looked at jewelry." One hundred different customers may give you one hundred different answers to the same question. This is what sets the expert, the professional salesperson, apart from the average salesperson. The expert, the professional salesperson, sells based on the reason(s) the customer wants to buy not on the reason(s) that they want to sell.

Another major mistake that many salespeople make is bringing up the price prior to establishing any value. In my mind everything is too expensive until value has been established. Through asking questions you can usually get a pretty good idea of a price range that you should be working within. However, keep in mind that I absolutely believe in starting high and working your way down. It is far easier to come down than it is to go up. Further, I believe that it is a compliment to people to show the best that you have available.


  1. Questions that you should ask to help determine the customer's perceptions of value are:
  2. What have you seen before that you liked?
  3. What have you had in the past?
  4. Tell me about your jewelry wardrobe?
  5. What would you like to do differently this time?
  6. How often do you wear your fine jewelry?


In addition to obtaining the answers to these questions you may want to take notice of the clothing that they are wearing, the jewelry that they have on, what kind of automobile they are driving, etc. This information along with the answers to other questions may help you determine what the customer's perception of value may be and other choices they make in spending according to their lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that you should pre-qualify people based on the way they are dressed or on what kind of car that they drive. However, it doesn't hurt to notice these things to help in determining their income and spending ability.

Once you have asked the questions and found out the answers, or that the customer needs you to give them the answers or your expertise in selecting merchandise, you should begin your demonstration.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books "I'M a salesman! Not a PhD." and "Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into." He also developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, "The Employee Handbook" and "Policy & Procedures Manual," The Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called "Sales Insight" For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, or fax 303-936-9581.