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Last updateTue, 12 Dec 2017 7pm

How storytelling is about to change the way we sell diamonds

“The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. Everyone loves a good story; every culture bathes its children in stories.”  - Jonathon Haidt, author

Recent innovations in diamond selling techniques will soon alter the way the entire industry sells diamonds, so let’s examine three of these incredibly powerful new conceptual selling programs: Chosen, by Jared, My Diamond Story, by Helzberg, and M2M by GIA. But first, in order to understand the potential impact of these new ways of selling diamonds, let’s consider how our innate neurophysiology naturally sets the stage for the way these programs increase consumers’ purchasing interest.

For the past two hundred and fifty thousand years, our ancestors were biologically indistinguishable from us. But something remarkable occurred about eighty thousand years ago that led to evolutionary changes in our shared neurophysiology as a species: the invention of language. Suddenly parents could convey, through stories, wisdom that could alter each child’s relative survivability, and therefore the likelihood that specific genes would be carried downstream to modern day humans. Children who enjoyed stories learned how to avoid being eaten by lions, when to harvest, and which plants contained neurotoxins. Children who weren’t as interested in stories, and therefore missed the lessons contained therein, were less likely to survive and pass on their genes, such that today, we are the direct descendants of our story-loving ancestors, with consequent implications for the way we individually receive and process information.

The ancient Greek and Roman philosophers understood the power of storytelling, and today, it is a generally accepted fact in the sales training community that if you want to persuade or sell, turning your sales pitch into a story yields significant dividends. Even better, no generation is more likely to be engaged - and to be persuaded - by a story than Millennials. Recognize that Millennials generally resist direct selling techniques, preferring instead to uncover the merits of a given product through their own discovery of the facts. As such, storytelling provides the opportunity to insert salient facts about the product without appearing to be openly selling, increasing the probability of success in the sales process. It should therefore come as no surprise that recent developments in diamond selling techniques that rely on “telling a story” are creating successful outcomes for the retailers employing them.

I first encountered Chosen during a mystery shopping exercise immediately after last year’s JCK Show, when I took the daughter of one of our customers on a whirlwind tour of Reno jewelry stores to show her how her competitors were selling diamonds. The Jared store we visited had just received the materials and a small assortment of Chosen diamonds, and while the staff was still obviously trying to get their heads around the new selling platform, I was really stunned by the power of the concept.

Rather than focusing on the grading characteristics of the diamond (which inevitably leads to a margin-reducing discussion that commoditizes the sale), Chosen focuses on the “Journey” that the diamond took, both geographically from the mine, to the cutter, and then to the retailer, as well as structurally, from a rough stone to the beautiful polished diamond that’s now ready to be mounted into the ring of her dreams. By changing the purchasing decision-making process from one of evaluating the diamond’s characteristics relative to its price, to an exercise in understanding the diamond’s unique “Journey”, Chosen succeeds by relying on storytelling elements incorporated into a book that contains the life story of the diamond.

In much the same way, Helzberg’s My Diamond Story (MDS) turns the process of mining, cleaving and polishing, and finally the design and manufacture of her ring, into a discovery of her engagement ring’s unique story, brilliantly de-commoditizing the diamond, and instead revitalizing the emotional component of the selection process. And like Chosen, every diamond in the MDS program comes with a book that tells the entire story. But unique to MDS is a video display incorporated into the ring box that allows her fiancé to upload a special message of love, again reinforcing the emotional component of the engagement ring selection process.

Both the Chosen and MDS programs brilliantly take advantage of Storytelling elements to profoundly alter the selling dynamic, and from what I hear, the sales results that each is producing are excellent. In fact, it’s my understanding that a re-branded version of the MDS program - Love’s Destiny - is now being rolled out in the Zales stores, and one might reasonably assume that some similar product is in late planning stages for Kay.

If these programs share a weakness, it’s in their reliance on something that most Millennials see as dinosaur technology to tell their story: a book. Seriously, when’s the last time you caught a Millennial reading a book? And that’s why I find the M2M program by GIA so amazing. Yes, the M2M story elements can also be conveyed in book form, but for the past 18 months, GIA has been simultaneously developing an extraordinary phone app that allows the story of her diamond to be told - as well as shared - digitally! The M2M (standing for Mine to Market) app is an infinitely expandable platform divided into seven sections: Formation, Discovery, Mining, Polishing, Grading and Jewelry (allowing the retailer selling the stone to tell their own story), as well as a blank Personal section that’s turned over to the couple who ultimately buy the diamond so that they can upload the rest of the story of their diamond’s journey.

I can’t overstate the brilliance of the app’s architecture, particularly as it applies to helping the retailer not only sell a specific stone, but also as a device for expanding awareness and market share in their local community. As Matt Crimmin, GIA’s Vice President of Lab Operations who’s been overseeing the development of the M2M program, told me, “(by) going digital, we are able to integrate all types of content including text, images, video, and modeling to tell the history of their stone. And we are also able to create a mechanism for the retailer to create a digital connection to their consumers. Yes, the app contains the GIA Report for the specific diamond, but rather than thinking of it as a GIA report, think of this as digital story-telling platform.”

This point is incredibly important: female Millennials never, ever shop alone. Yes, they may visit your store by themselves, but when it comes to evaluating a product they’re considering buying, they invariably share the process of deciding what to buy with their immediate cadre of friends, through social media. And the more important the purchase, the wider the circle of friends. So, when you give her an app to share that tells not just the story of the diamond, but also the story of your store, she’s providing you with advertising power that possesses incalculable value.

Like the Chosen and MDS programs, M2M provides Mine to Market information about the diamond, verifying that it’s a natural diamond as opposed to a synthetic lab grown, and confirming its socially responsible origins. For me, the key unique benefits provided by the M2M program include a combination of its unassailable accuracy (nobody doubts the veracity of a GIA Report) combined with the share-ability of the information contained in the app. And most importantly, GIA is currently the only laboratory in the world with a demonstrated capacity to confirm, based on its physical properties, that a specific polished diamond came from a specific piece of rough, so you don’t need to depend on an accounting protocol to confirm the diamond’s chain of custody. Amazingly, GIA actually matches each polished diamond to the rough scientifically before they will put it on the app. How extraordinary!

These programs that rely on storytelling elements are enabling retailers to gobble up market share, as well as expand retail profit margins. A changing selling dynamic will likely allow early adopters to obtain a preemptive advantage over slower-reacting competition, so I encourage you to get on board as similar programs become available to you in your local market. As selling diamonds at reasonable profit margins has become nearly impossible, I know that many of you have seen the fun go out of selling engagement rings. Change the diamond selling dynamic into Storytelling, and you may rediscover the reason you originally started in the jewelry business.

Class Dismissed!

George Prout is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Gems One Corporation, and can be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or at Gems One’s office at 800-436-7787.

 


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