Still woozy from the desert sun? Catch up here on Chapter I.
Even after spending nearly six months and three trade shows breathing in its atmosphere, the world of the vendor is still a foreign land for me.
They say old habits die hard, and as often as they’re wrong, this time they got it right. One of the greatest challenges in making this transition has been the shift in perspective from retailer to supplier. To a certain extent, my intimate knowledge of jewelry retail has provided some wonderful insight into how the product is really being used (or should be), and of course I understand how different pieces of the industry puzzle fit together. That’s proven useful, not to mention good common ground to establish with my clients.
But sliding away from a luxury selling mindset into a
less glamorous more nuts-and-bolts category… that’s been pretty rough. Okay, it’s still rough, though I make a conscious effort to understand and embrace the product world I’m working in. It’s simply much easier to romance something that’s already beautiful.
To create romance around a product that is inherently utilitarian requires some serious creativity. The specs and dry facts take on a new level of importance to a buyer who actually plans to use the damn thing, and fostering a sense of desire takes second place to generating a need. Jewelry is beautiful and meaningful, but it has no necessity — and that’s what I’m used to selling.
In a way, this category is easier: here’s what this thing does, here’s why and how it will do good things for you. Basic math, right? But the jewelry industry has been dealing with many issues on an operational level these days (why else would there be so many seminars on how to manage everything from inventory to staff) that going over the time-money equation takes some thoughtful and patient explanation. This takes time and a certain careful handling of the “I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business” aspect of sales, for which I’m both uniquely suited and poorly situated.
I have never been “sweetied” and “honeyed” so much in my life. The bias facing young women in general and business women in particular is staggering, and the popular belief that my male colleagues would be more knowledgable about a technological product is patently absurd. But the male-to-male comfort zone remains, as even at this show I was often dismissed as the “cute blonde” who should find her (male) superior to make decisions or provide more information.
But so it goes. Complaining about gender inequality is shouting into the void, so I prefer the path of action. Proving my value, building a reputation, and learning to navigate the twisted paths of business relationships (not to mention serving my clients and my company) are all perched at the top of my priority list. Watching my mentors has led me to dabble a bit in mentoring others — an event worth its own blog post, in the future — and with that comes the sense of responsibility to other people.