Carine Roughan, president and founder of the professional sales training and strategic business development consultancy firm LuxMode International, discusses how the old paradigm for salesmanship can let down luxury brands and what companies should look for in a specialist sales trainer.
What is the difference between training personnel in luxury sales and training traditional salespeople? And what should you look for when selecting the right sales trainer? This is a question that I am asked almost every week and the answer has become second nature to me having worked at Cartier for over 12 years.
Let’s define the education and disciplines that are appropriate and necessary for luxury salespeople to succeed. Selling luxury is about exceeding expectations, delighting and surprising, but as we are challenged in new ways in this economic climate, how do we provide this experience?
We all know that consumers of luxury brands tend to have higher expectations than that of traditional consumers. They tend to be more sophisticated and more sensitive to dubious tactics and do not have the patience when it comes to aggressive salespeople.
Salespeople in general can be perceived as insincere because they use the same sales pitch, no matter who the client in front of them is, and consumers feel like they are ‘being sold’ or manipulated. The salesperson’s main interest in closing a sale may be a bigger commission on certain items or a particular brand that’s having a promotion for the month. They will attempt to talk you into buying at that moment; this is often referred to as “salesmanship” which is an antiquated sales paradigm.
A luxury sales professional does not pressure or persuade people to buy; a luxury sales professional is an advisor, an expert product consultant who acts purely on the behalf of the client’s benefit. It’s also about a mindset, establishing a person-to person relationship as opposed to a salesperson-to-customer relationship.
Selling luxury has always been about selling outstanding craftsmanship, design innovation, exclusivity, history and lore which in turn translates to appealing to people’s emotions. Bernard Arnault speaking at the Monte Carlo’s Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit stated that the fundamental shift in today’s market is that the consumer will place much more emphasis on values like quality and craftsmanship. One must be able to appeal to clients’ logic more than to their emotions and this is why sales professionals must learn how to demonstrate the inherent value of a product, which is unfortunately what most people do not know how to do. They confuse features (what a product possesses) for benefits and benefits for value. People don’t buy product features; they buy benefits that bring value and that are meaningful to them. Therefore establishing value is accomplished by relating how each feature will benefit that particular client.
Let’s look at a sales scenario to illustrate this. A salesperson for example will spend 10 minutes “downloading” the features of a watch, i.e. water resistant, chronograph function, 40 hour power- reserve, world time Jaeger-LeCoultre movement, sporty but timeless design, etc…, but how does he/she know if the client really cares about all of that information? Before talking about features and benefits, a formidable sales professional must first find out about the client’s needs and motivations so that they can select the right feature that is going to bring real value to that particular client. Not every feature is going to be a benefit for the client, and not every benefit is going to be of value for the client. By demonstrating value, a salesperson establishes themselves as a professional, and as someone who understands the client’s needs. It is a more sophisticated way to connect with the client.
Successfully selling luxury is also about practicing subtleties and when demonstrating value the use of positive language is very important. For example, instead of ending a sentence with the price of a product, they should use the word “value” and reiterate its inherent qualities. “The value of this [name of product versus saying “this watch”] is $26,000 and it has a solid 18K rose gold case.”
Now, to answer the second question, what should you be looking for when selecting a luxury trainer?
Does the trainer have actual experience selling to luxury clients?
What formal seminars have they attended to become a trainer?
Do they know about Adult Principles Learning?
What kind of platform skills do they have?
Does the trainer know about your products and how to explain their intrinsic and emotive values?
3- Mind set
Is the trainer genuinely passionate about your products?
Does he/she put down the competition?
4- Decorum: how does the trainer represent your company?
5- Do the training presentations, handouts and materials reflect your brand’s value of excellence?
6- How do they measure the success of their training?
Having said that, proper training is pivotal however the bottom line is, it can be counterproductive if you do not staff positive people with ‘can do’ attitudes from the start. A sales professional with a positive attitude, combined with outstanding sales skills will provide exceptional service with results.
In today’s economy, service has become a core competitive advantage and it is a small investment to hire the right people and train them to increase your sales.
Carine Roughan, President and Founder of LuxMode International