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    Blog Index
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    Why Are Luxury Marketers So Weak at Selling?

    First, you must accept my premise, although it may be counterintuitive. It would seem that luxury marketers are experts at selling, given the focus on high-end customers and high-end products and services. You would also think that all of the in-depth research produced in the luxury market would result in more accomplished and effective salespeople, but you would be wrong. Here’s why…

    While many luxury marketers have developed theories and analysis about selling, few have developed, taught, refined, and enforced, effective selling scripts, dialogue to handle complaints and objections, and closing strategies. Most luxury marketers recruit sales people who have either worked at other luxury brands that “look good” are “nice enough” and “polished enough” to represent their organizations. But this is a failing strategy, and I see it failing every day as we analyze the sales environment and performance of luxury brands, large and small. Now, the larger brands at least have a broad strategy in terms of how they want their brands represented, (still no detailed sales approach) but small brands, boutique brands, and entrepreneurs focused on luxury tend to have no sales strategy, no sales approach, and limited understanding of the difference between, saying they offer luxury and really offering a luxury experience.

    A major part of the luxury experience is the sales experience. Customers seeking the VIP treatment will first encounter the sales professional. However, the salesperson should be just that – professional, at selling the products or services of the luxury marketer. This should not be something left up to chance, but rather a well-crafted sales process that the luxury brand has installed to make sure it meets its revenue and profit targets. This is rarely done.

    The result is that luxury brands and the establishments that offer them are typically weak at selling, at best. Their sales professionals don’t know how to open conversations, probe to understand and develop interest, answer questions, or close. If it’s a retail establishment you are likely to be ignored, and can leave without any attempt to stay in touch with you. If you buy from the establishment there is little attempt to know who you are, what your interests are, to act on them, or to stay in touch. In other words, luxury marketers are often as bad as any other business at delivering an elevated experience. The only difference is that enormous sums have been invested in brand development, the retail environment, and the products themselves, but the people charged with selling these products or services have not been invested in. They are not professional salespeople.

    One reason is that luxury marketers suffer from the same bias against selling as much of the population. They apologize for it, try to camouflage it, then underperform at it, and do not develop a strong enough sales culture to dig in deep and identify how best to sell the company’s products. Larger brands are typically without a sales culture and strategy that extends across departments.

    Another factor is demonstratively “clouding the issue of selling” in the minds of those on the frontline. This means excessive language about “the customer experience,” and “interacting with the brand,” etc.  While there is a place for these concepts and phrases, you cannot be afraid to say the word, “sell.” I can guarantee you that the great retail merchants in luxury used the word, “sell” on a daily basis.

    A disconnect from the idea of selling is common in larger retailers, hotel chains, airlines, etc. where the person who interacts with the customer is unaffected by revenue growth. As an entrepreneur or business owner, this is something you cannot afford. One way to getting your team to sell more is letting them know that everything you do exists to build revenues. Even luxury marketers focused on the term, “customer experience” should be clear that developing a great customer experience is rooted in wanting to sell more product.

    Many luxury marketers are afraid to stress the objective of selling because their focus on sales has drifted to becoming a byproduct of their advertising and other promotional efforts. But, this is a mistake.

    What’s quite challenging today is the luxury marketer can become a victim of societal and cultural norms that often reflect and promote mediocre presentation, conversation skills, hyper-sensitivity to the wrong things, and negatives perceptions of selling. I’ve seen salespeople in luxury environments unable to complete sentences without the word, “like,” (“Are you ‘like” looking for….?) completely unaware of how to approach a modern luxury customer who may well be dressed in a t-shirt and jeans but worth millions. It’s time to acknowledge that there’s a weakness in sales strategy and skill and take steps to fix it.


    The Retail Businesses Quietly Soaring

    In my travels, I’ve noticed something. There are retail businesses that are opening and thriving that are not supposed to be doing well, at least according to the statistics.

    Major brands are closing brick and mortar locations. The word in retail is that everything is shifting online. In Manhattan where living spaces are dominated by apartment dwellings, the doorman who had limited concierge duties, now runs a full-scale package receiving, storing, and distribution operation. Each day, tons of packages from United Parcel Services, Federal Express, and online retailers like arrive. That’s because there’s been a major surge in online shopping. What you may not know is that a special kind of retailer is thriving today, despite competition, – and in a big way.

    I would call retailers, doing well right now, community-centric. These are local brands that are entrenched in their communities, and have forged a special connection with the people who live and work there. What’s interesting is that, this was always the model for retail success. It’s just that many retailers forgot how to work the formula.

    Here’s how it goes: You know the residents, the mail carriers, crossing guards, teachers, and other merchants. You know the police and firemen. You recognize parents and their kids. You know senior citizens, pastors, priests, and rabbis. You interact with them. You have laughs with them. You remember their special days and events. Your place is often a meeting place. You have addresses and phone numbers. You see them at community events. In other words, you have a stake in the success of the community.

    The retail model that doesn’t work are businesses who are there just to take money out of the community. Often, they have spaces that are too big, and staff who are impersonal. Rents are too costly for today’s economics. You have to sell big-ticket items to cover the cost – and that is the national brand’s game. The best strategy today, for most small retailers, is to have a modest physical space with a big virtual footprint. This strategy is working for specialty food stores, bookstores, bakeries, fitness centers, hair salons, and a host of other businesses. And the savvy entrepreneurs, are combining their retail sales, marketing, and operations, with online and social media strategies. They are connected online, leveraging every bit of data, and mining their database, as well as maximizing personal relationships for repeat orders. These retailers are learning the ropes of getting attention via social media and creating an aura around their businesses that extends beyond their neighborhoods.

    I have a few clients who are uncharacteristically quiet about what they are doing because they don’t want competitors to know their secrets, but trust me, many retailers are making it work. A few years ago I deliberately pushed my retail clients to step it up and get technology and data savvy. I asked them to create more interesting images through social media. I even got involved in a project incorporating animated characters to grow one brand. It is thrilling to see more imaginative approaches to the business, and it all coming alive. And I can tell you, it works.

    If you need help with your retail brand, perhaps innovative ideas to drive more revenues and become the premier retailer in your category, get in touch. I’d love to see you soar like many others. Write me:


    The Quiet Groove of Focus

    The world is very noisy today. Social media, television, radio, with the endless volume of declaration, persuasion, opinion, and disagreement in the air is louder than I ever recall.

    I’ve always cherished my quiet time, but today I do so more than ever. Being able to retreat from our ever present, multi-media existence is essential to our well-being professionally and personally. I’ve always understood this, but today’s environment has certainly given me greater focus.

    What I do requires contemplation. I observe the world, reflect on past, present, and personal experiences, and try to deeply consider approaches that would be best for my clients. I’m no different than any other professional. I just make sure I do this in the context of quiet – or the least noise as possible, as I know how empowering this can be.

    If you’re talking all the time, you can’t listen. And if you’re always listening to others, you run the risk of forgetting how to listen to yourself. If you can’t hear yourself, you might miss the ideas, and insights triggered, not only by your thoughts while quiet, but those that come through other channels such as when you get the impulse to read, engage in conversation, and take part in experiences.

    I am thrilled to have developed an understanding of focus over several decades that differs from what I observed in others, early in my career. Originally, I thought of focus as hard, tense, and aggressive but in time I’ve found the most rewarding ideas come when there is less push, less pull, and certainly less noise. Try tapping into the power of quiet focus to guide you to exactly the best steps in your career or business.


    In 2019 Work on The Intangibles

    I’ve always taught that the intangibles make a big difference in business. This is particularly the case when it comes to selling. Take for example, retail environments. Customers will pay steep prices when the right words are used by you and your staff.

    Usually those words are linked to the intangibles in the mind of the prospect. When the wrong words are used, you’ll have a difficult time getting basic price points. Here are five examples of words to use during sales interactions.

    “It’s My Pleasure,” a phrase popularized by the Ritz Carlton organization remains one of the best examples of how you can set the stage for any sales conversation. Many young sales professionals will adopt phrases like “No Problem,” which is all too common, and does not convey a high-level interaction. Don’t use it.

    “I’ll Be Right Back With Your Change,” is another phase that is appropriate. In restaurants today it is common to hear servers ask: “Do you need change?” This is an offensive question where the focus is more on the convenience of the server than the service of the patron. It is in fact an approach designed to speed the tipping process. Don't do this either.

    “Thanks for calling. Sara, I’m wrapping up with another customer, and I want to give you my full attention. Can I call you in a moment?” Many sales people make the mistake of offending in-calling customers by saying, “I’m with a customer,” or worse, asking the caller to call back. In an active sales environment, you will certainly have times where you cannot handle multiple customers. The key in this situation is to make the incoming customer knows you are “wrapping up” shortly, to reinforce their value as a customer, and to take responsibility for calling back.

    “I was just about to get in touch with you.” This is a great way to let customers know they are on your mind, and pre-empt any concerns about you not getting in touch with them fast enough. This phrase can set the stage for a great connection.

    "Welcome Sir. Welcome Ma'am." I was recently at a business luncheon and witnessed a young supervisor instructing a member of the wait staff. The young server turned to her supervisor and said, "Yes, Ma'am!" The supervisor yelled at the young person and said, "I am not my mother. Stop calling me Ma'am!" I felt bad for the young woman who was part of the wait staff and the supervisor because terrible instruction was begin given. Today it is common to have servers and just about everyone refer to clients as "Guys," an overly familiar, and in my view, disrespectful wany of addressing clients and customers. One intangible you can address this year is finding another way to address your customers and clients -- unless you run a bar or pool hall, don't say, "Guys!"


    The Multi-Platform Business Opportunity

    Since the mid-1980s I’ve been involved in information, media, and technology. There were exciting times back then as each year we saw major changes surface in what was possible – from the expansion of targeted television programming and interactivity, to proprietary information industry networks like the real-time market data industry on Wall Street. But I can tell you there’s no time as exciting as right now for what I call, “the multi-platform business.”

    Instead of one platform and channel creating a path to customers, businesses have the opportunity to drive new business and serve clients with multiple platforms. What does this mean? You can service clients face-to-face, you can service them online, you can service them using mobile devices, you can service them through the post office, and you can service them through multiple other channels working along with partners. In other words, there are no limits today to the way you can reach clients, engage them, drive new activities, and thus create new transactions, revenues, gifts, and donations. The problem is that I rarely run into a business that is doing this effectively.

    Email and text notifications, video access, online purchasing, e-membership cards, on-boarding online, online training and orientation, coaching online, virtual classes and conferences, audio guides and instruction, and much, much more is possible for every business today. But most businesses are locked into one model which has worked for them. The challenge is that most business leaders think of new advancements as trends – and not tools.

    The growth of the Internet and social media has had everyone rushing to put in place the lastest technology capability that’s heavily promoted. Over the years I’ve seen private corporate television networks, videoconferencing, teleconferencing, email, webinars, social media, live webcasting and more have its turn as the dominant enabling technology.  But what’s interesting is that none of them go away. Instead, we now have all these tools in our arsenal. Aside from the fax machine, we typically don’t replace technology platforms, we just add them to our toolkit. (The exception could be in the music business where the shift to digital-only has been real – but even there we’re seeing vinyl records reclaim their place and cachet.)

    The question: how can you better use the available technology toolkit – now cheaper to implement and fully accepted by the marketplace -- to expand your reach as a business and send your message of excellence to your tribe? This is worth pondering for more than a few minutes as we enter a new year of possibilities for your organization. What most businesses need today is the will to move forward, and a well-thought-out plan to execute across multiple platforms, creativity and experimentation in doing so, and a commitment to make more than one of these vehicles work financially.

    At no other time in history have there been more ways to drive results to your business. And today the technology is there to do it, more affordable than ever before. I say, you must make the development of a multi-platform strategy to serve your clients, audience, fans, and supporters among your top priorities right now. That priority is at the top of my list.