Sales Talk That Sells

Did you know that you already have the skills and client trust you need to successfully sell services and retail products to your clients? You are a service professional-a “people person”—someone who knows how to talk to clients about their specific needs and to offer solutions.

Cheryl Schimming, national nail educator for the 1,400 CEMM Salons, says that nail technicians need to be educated about a product or service so they can in turn educate the client about what she needs. In this way they can sell the client a result, not a product. Says Chimming, “For example, we do not sell cuticle oil. What we sell is strong, healthy nails and the gratification that comes from having strong nails. When we find out our clients’ wants and needs and really key in on them, it’s easy to get the customer to buy.” Schimming says that the salons maintain client consultation cards and that all nail technicians are required to go through thorough consultations with their customers to keep the cards updated. “The nail technician needs to be a very good listener,” Schimming asserts. “It’s not our time to talk to the customers; it’s out time to listen.”  


In a traditional hard-sell attempt, salespeople try to convince a buyer that she needs a particular product or service rather than allow the buyer to come to that conclusion by herself. This technique made for a lot of lost sales. Today, according to Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solutions in Fairfax, Va., the focus is on what he calls consultative selling. “Nail technicians need to present themselves in a manner that is soft-sell yet consultative. They need to ask the client specific questions, such as what she likes and what she doesn’t like. Then they need to analyze the answers rather than come back with a solution right away. I call it the AAA method—Ask, Analyze, Answer.” Consultative selling is all about educating the client and presenting options. “Don’t ask yes or no questions right away,” says Oskin. “Start the questions with the word describe. Phrases such as ‘Describe what you had in mind today’ are particularly good phrases to use at the first visit, but they are important at consecutive visits as well.”

Oskin says that a second line of questioning is often necessary in order to fine-time the clients’ needs. He says to save the yes/no questions for this phase. Let the client tell you what she needs and then say, “Let me make sure I understand what you need. Is this what you need? Well, here’s what I would personally and professionally prescribe for you.” Then, says Oskin, give them the options. “Remember,” he says, “options don’t have to be just for today. Options are not either/or. In consultative selling, the client has to always win first. Whatever you prescribe, make sure it’s to the client’s benefit, not yours.”

Nancy Flinn, owner of Nancy Flim Marketing Resources, Inc. in Weston, Conn., says, “The selling situation is about consultation. When you’re consulting, you’re dealing in words of what, why, how. You’re in what we call in the selling business an ‘open probe.’ You are eliciting needs and desires through conversation.” Recommendation and consultation are not the same. Consultation comes first. The recommendation should result in a sale if you’ve done your consultation correctly, says Flinn. What makes for a great consultation? “Knowing the product,” answers Flinn. “Customers today will ask why much more often than they used to. You can’t give a consultation if you are not knowledgeable about the products.” Flinn says we’re all salespeople whether we’re selling a service, selling a retail product, or selling out skills. She says that effective selling is customer service; ineffective selling wastes the buyer’s time. “Ask questions and listen to the answers. Before you can sell, you have to find out what the buyer wants,” Flinn explains.


Once you have consulted with a client, let her know as you prescribe a product that she can try it out. Bisoni suggests you say, for example, “Are your cuticles bothering you? I have a product that will help. I’ll put it on you and you can try it.” Bisoni says she then puts the product on a client’s hands and says, “Try this and if you like the product, you can get it at your next visit.” Says Bisoni, “I have put acrylic on one finger of a natural nail client and let her try it. This not only helps sell a full set in the future, it is a good way for the client to see my work and build her trust in my skills.”

Oskin has a tip for nail technicians who want to soft sell add-on services: Say, “You know,  we do offer gift certificates and I know you’re hesitant to try other services. But if you buy two gift certificates for other people, you can get a free one yourself.”     


  • Cheerfully greet your client by her first name and let her know you notice something good about her. (“Good morning, Millie. That red jacket is very becoming.”)
  • Ask your client general questions about her family, what she has been doing, etc., but don't get personal.
  • Discuss your client's beauty needs with her in detail, asking questions that are open-ended rather than yes or no questions. Remember to use the phrase “What specifically?” frequently during the conversation. (“You say you're having a problem with peeling nails. What specifically are you doing now to clear up the problem?”)
  • Clearly explain what you are applying to your client's nails at each step and what the product will do for her nails. (“Diane, I'm going to use this buffer to smooth out your nails and then apply this strengthener to prevent further peeling.”)
  • Let the .client know that the product is available for purchase. (“Applying this product twice a week over your polish will help strengthen your nails, ‘Marcia’. It's always available at the reception area.”)


  • Don't make negative comments about any aspect of a client's appearance. (“Your hands look awful.”)
  • Don't promise product benefits or services you can't deliver. (“This nail hardener will make your nails long and strong in a week.”)
  • Don't chatter on about yourself or with other nail technicians during a service.
  • Don't insist that a client needs and must buy a particular product or add-on service. (“If you don't buy this cuticle oil, your nails will remain brittle.”) 
  • Never use the word "maybe" when prescribing a product, (“Maybe you should try this product”)
  • Don't be tongue-tied around your clients.
  • Don't use vague and confusing language when explaining what a product is and what it does.
  • Never rush a client into a buying decision. (“This product is on special today at two for one. After today, you'll have to pay full price,”)
  • Avoid appearing indecisive or unknowledge-able about a product. (“I'm not sure if this product will do the trick.”)


The words you use in consultative soiling arc critical to your success. “This is what I'm going to do for you today” is, to Oskin, a hardsell approach that will turn off clients.

“They may not come hack if they feel they are being hard sold,” he says. Manners and body language are as important as what a nail technician actually .says to her client. “Many times nail technicians talk to other nail technicians and other clients while they are performing a service. Talk to your own client and make eye contact. Don't talk about your kids, your wedding. Everyone comes into the salon to be pampered. Briefly talk about your success, awards von may have won. But talk about your client.”


Never say anything that would harm the ego of the client, advises Bisoni. “Never say to a client, “Your hands are a mess. You really need a manicure.' This makes the client uncomfortable.” Bisoni says nail technicians need to be a positive reinforcement all through the service', regardless of whether they are selling a product or a service. “If I saw that a client's hands were very dry, I would say, 'Gosh, has the heat in your home this winter been drying your hands? “Then I might tell her that a paraffin dip could soothe her hands. I would focus on the luxurious aspect of the service.” Bisoni recommends that with a client whose hands arc in terrible condition, say something like this: “Well, your hands are not as bad as some I've seen.” Whatever you say, never embarrass or belittle a client in order to make a sale. “A lady came up to me once and said, 'I have something that will be really good for the wrinkles around your eyes.' Buy her product? I wanted to punch her,” Bisoni admits.

All in all, if you remain focused on your client and her needs, you'll (Mid up selling product and services effortlessly because you will be responding, which is a receptive stance, rather than  selling, a typically aggressive posture. By being the professional, service-oriented person you are, you'll find products and services literally selling themselves and you'll be amazed at the increase” in your profits.



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