What do we look to achieve when hiring new staff?

Do we take on those with extensive knowledge or teach them our way from the start? Perhaps we should ask ourselves if there is such a thing as too much knowledge; or perhaps, do we have enough knowledge?

What’s the old saying - you don’t know what you don’t know... something to ponder!


A problem with the diamond and jewellery industry is that many do not appreciate the difference between product knowledge and professional presentation skills.

Note: I don’t call presentation “selling skills”. I don’t believe that in the context of selling a diamond ring you are in fact selling, but rather they are buying from you. Clearly this touches on the very concept of trust.

This article is not about trust (it’s been spoken of enough). This article is about knowledge of the product - diamonds and jewellery - and the skills to effectively present it.

Yes, I have blind shopped a number of stores both here and overseas for my personal interest and, although many would perhaps expect me to be astounded at the lack of knowledge in our trade, it isn’t necessarily the case. The problem I see is that years ago the consumer would come in relatively blind, but today they enter with just enough knowledge to make them dangerous!

The feedback that many love to share with me (something I’ve witnessed myself) is that the retailer of diamonds has little to no knowledge of how diamonds are actually formed, mined and faceted, and in particular the technology which is employed today, other than in most cases a very superficial understanding. Yes, some have extended their knowledge with diamond grading courses and better yet have made it their mission to read and ask experts copious questions to further their knowledge.

Professionals will tell you: it’s knowing this information that enables you to exude confidence about diamonds without having to show off your knowledge to the customer. Needless to say a great way to kill any diamond sale is drowning the client with facts. The ABC of jewellery retail tells us they want to go on a romantic journey, not back to school to understand geography and rock formations.


So let’s segregate the knowledge from the presentation.

The generic marketing arm of The World Diamond Mark (WFDB) recognised the need for an educational programme for retailing diamonds - developed in conjunction with others such as the HRD. Hearts on Fire is renowned for producing one of the best retail programmes within the industry. In fact it is said that some retailers want to be stockists just to have the chance to attend their training!

The latest addition to this space is a set of wonderful jewellery lectures and courses on wearing jewellery, rules and revolutions, and discovering gemstones, developed by Van Cleef & Arpels. This is one of the world’s great jewellery houses giving back to the industry through education, a very worthwhile contribution to our industry.

To the diamond retailers who may read this, I pose the following questions:

  • Does your store have a diamond training programme for your sales team?
  • Do you annually update it?
  • Does it include information on how to search the web and which websites to look at if they were a consumer?
  • What are the prices being offered by your competition (If it’s on the web, you have to assume the consumer has seen it)?

Web Statistics tell us that as many as 70-80% of consumers purchasing diamond rings go on the web first. With this in mind, you might want to contemplate a group discussion on how you could counter comments made on these sites, and the real advantages of touching a feeling.

Most retailers will tell you that it is very rare to be asked about “blood diamonds” or where the diamonds come from. My response is twofold: First, it is becoming more and more prevalent, and if your team can answer such a question confidently just once... it could be the difference between making and losing that sale.

The interesting aspect of the Hearts on Fire training is that they imbue sales people with a confidence and belief that these are the “most perfectly cut diamonds in the world”. The word is belief, and if you could instil a belief in your team about something unique in terms of the diamonds that you retail or how you put them together in jewellery, you change the very nature of the next phase which is the presentation.

I mentioned earlier trust and confidence. A sales person who has extensive diamond knowledge can speak about everything else until the consumer begins to ask questions. It is through their questions that one is guided as to how much information the customer wants or doesn’t want; the customer in reality guides the journey.

Rather than seeing yourself as the captain who steers the ship, your goal should always be that the customer buys from you... you shouldn’t have to hard sell.

How much professional development do you do in your business? When a new person comes to work for you, are you just happy to let them communicate their own story, or do you look to set a standard and foundation for diamond knowledge and then let the individuals personalise it. If it’s the latter, at least now you have a baseline, and you haven’t made assumptions about your sales teams skill set. How often have you brought a presentation expert into your store or found great videos on YouTube that your team can watch in their own time to discuss at a staff meeting?

The moment we stop making the effort to improve and learn, we are going backwards. There is no such thing as “too much information”. Information and knowledge are the pillars on which we stand; these foundations allow us to grow with confidence... we are in the business of providing our customers with mementos which capture a point in time, a union, a birth, an anniversary.

Combine information, knowledge and storytelling and our businesses will surely grow.