Retailing for the Timid

Retail can be intimidating — if you think it makes you look like a salesperson. Rather than thinking of retail as “making the sale,” consider it a way of offering your professional opinion.

<p>Colorful displays and fully stocked shelves draw a client&rsquo;s attention to the retail display, making it easier to talk about products that would benefit her.</p>

What’s your biggest reservation about selling retail? The products you use offer no benefit for your clients? You prefer clients avoid maintenance at home? Clients can buy what they need at Wal-Mart? It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Of course your clients would benefit from using salon products at home. They’re certainly buying somewhere. Are they buying from you?

Varied reservations about not selling retail include: I didn’t sign up for this. I’m a nail tech, not a sales person. I’m creative, I shouldn’t have to sell. It makes me uncomfortable (so I shouldn’t have to do it). I hate when people try to sell to me. Clients will stop coming to me because they think I’m trying to sell them something. Clients will say no.

“Many times, the fear of retail comes from a subconscious place,” says Steve Gomez, professional development manager for Milady Cengage Learning. Gomez says techs often have a fear of the clients’ perception of them when they sell. “Techs need to acknowledge that feeling but realize it’s a misperception,” he says.

Think about it. If you go to the chiropractor, acupuncturist, or gym, for example, do you get upset when the person you’re consulting with offers an opinion? It may be a supplement that boosts your immune system, or a calming tea, or a protein shake. Is your initial reaction, “I bet they just want my money!” More than likely, if you have a relationship with the professional, you take a moment to consider why the person is recommending the product and then decide if you agree it’s something you want.

In the same way, when clients come in for a nail service, they consult you as a professional. They want immediate results (the nail service), but more often than not, they also want long-term results. They want consistently pretty hands and feet. They expect you to have products to help them get the results they want.

Gina Marie Burkholder, spa department manager at Salon Art-Tiff in Ephrata, Pa., is a retail superstar, regularly selling over 20% of her service totals in retail. Is it because she’s a natural saleswoman? No. Is it because she gets a cut of everything she sells? (She doesn’t.) Burkholder says it’s because she loves what she does, and she cares about her clients and truly wants them to have the best experience she can give them. “When clients take product home from the spa it turns an appointment into an experience,” says Burkholder.

The secret to Burkholder’s success is her mindset. First, she says, you need to realize you are in a position to help your clients. You’re not likely to feel comfortable selling retail for the 10% bonus your salon may offer or to meet a goal your manager demands. You will feel comfortable selling retail only when you realize your knowledge helps clients, and they are paying you for your professional recommendation.

Second, listen to your customers. It sounds simple, but active listening is a deliberate discipline. When you listen actively, you hear the needs of a client. Burkholder tells the story of a client who went on and on about how excited she was because her granddaughter was coming to town. She bought a gift certificate for a pedicure, thinking her granddaughter would enjoy the pampering. Burkholder suggested a bottle of mango foot cream to go with the gift certificate. “How great is that?” Burkholder says with excitement in her voice. “Wouldn’t you love to get a some beautiful foot cream with a gift card for a pedicure?” Her motivation wasn’t the “sell”; her motivation was seeing her client get excited imagining her granddaughter opening the gift. “The granddaughter is going to love using the foot cream, and every time she does, she’ll have a fond memory of her experience here, and of her grandmother,” says Burkholder.

Burkholder understands she is in a position every day to educate clients and to offer them products that will turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. “It’s not a mindset that comes naturally to everyone,” says Burkholder. “But it’s one everyone can develop.”

Burkholder holds a “client consultation” with all new clients so she is able to learn about their needs. “I ask clients what brought them into the salon, what they love about their nails, and what they would like me to do to help them,” she says. “Some clients only want their nails to look pretty for an event, or they want to come in to feel pampered, and that’s OK.” Most clients, however, mention areas of concern: Their nails have trouble growing or they split easily or they suffer from dry cuticles. Burkholder tailors her service to use products that address those areas of concern. (If most of your clients are regulars, you can still conduct a “client consultation.” During a regular appointment, ask clients what originally brought them into the salon and if there is anything they wish you could “fix” about their nails.)

Along with the client consultation, Burkholder’s salon has other systems in place that make recommending products more natural. In the numbered boxes, she explains how her salon has made retail a part of the culture.

<p>Nail techs at Salon Art-Tiff place retail product in small baskets and bring them to the front desk, offering personalized recommendations for each client.</p>

1. Product Knowledge: “Many times I find techs are scared to recommend products because they don’t see themselves as an expert,” says Burkholder. “They don’t really know the benefits of using the product. They may not truly believe in the product, so they don’t have confidence recommending the client purchase.” Burkholder finds this unacceptable. “You have to know the distinct benefits of each of your products,” she says. “That way, if a client wants to buy on impulse — because she has seen an ad or a shelf-talker or has had a friend rave about a new product — the tech can either confirm it’s a product that will help the client or recommend a product that will work better.” Burkholder not only educates clients on the benefits of the hand and foot care products in the salon, she also makes it her business to recommend hair products. “If I hear my client say she hates her hair because it’s dry or has no shine, you can bet I’m going to recommend a product to help her,” says Burkholder.

2. Scripting: “Scripting sounds like a terrible thing to do, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Eventually, you don’t even realize you’re doing it,” says Burkholder.  When Milady coach Steve Gomez introduced the idea of scripting to the salon, Burkholder resisted. “It sounded so fake; so rote,” she explains. Gomez ­reminded her she already used rehearsed answers to clients’ ­common questions. Scripting provides a way to be prepared to talk about different products in the salon. “Now I’m able to ­describe what oils are used to moisturize cuticles and how a strengthener or top coat works,” says Burkholder. Read the manufacturers’ product info to learn the benefits of the product and how the ­product is supposed to be used to achieve those benefits. Write down and memorize the information so you can talk easily about it when a client asks.

3. Explain your products as you use them: “Explaining a product is just as important as recommending one,” says Burkholder. How many times have you bought a product only to be disillusioned. You probably told your friends the product “didn’t work.” To avoid this happening with products from your ­salon, Burkholder suggests explaining every step of the service. Pick up the ridge filler bottle, for example, show it to the client and say, “This is ridge filler. We use it for a smooth finish. When you use it at home, this is how you apply it.” Then do the same for the polish and the top coat and the cuticle oil. Explain every product to the client.

4. Place products you recommend in a retail basket: “We’re required to place three to five products we use or ­recommend in a small retail basket,” says Burkholder. As she discusses the products she is using, Burkholder places it in the basket. Perhaps her client will say something about a friend, family member, or event that triggers her to think, “Oh, they could use/would love the XYZ product.”  Burkholder gets up from her desk, shows the client the product, and ­explains why she thinks it’s relevant to what the client just mentioned. Then, she places it in the basket. At some point, perhaps while the ­client chooses polish or dries her nails, ­Burkholder takes the ­basket to the front desk. When the ­client checks out, the receptionist says, “Gina put a couple of items aside for you. Are you interested in purchasing any of these items today?” The clients get personal recommendations, they don’t make a purchasing ­decision in front of the nail tech, and they aren’t distracted by all the products on the shelf, which can be overwhelming.

These disciplines can make talking about retail an easy segue with any client, but salons can provide additional ways to aid staff. A customer reward program allows clients to receive benefits, discounts, and free gifts. Shelf-talkers, fully stocked shelves, and aesthetically pleasing displays provoke interest in clients who love to buy something special for themselves when they’re in the salon. Gomez says salons have experienced good results by wearing T-shirts ­advertising the salon’s reward ­program, a new product, a sale, or a seasonal service. If your salon sells merchandise, have staff wear and use the products so they can make ­sincere recommendations.


Words of Encouragement

Here’s more advice from Gina Marie Burkholder:
> There should be no anxiety on your part or the client’s part. Offer recommendations because you believe your client will truly benefit.
> Don’t get discouraged; people often don’t buy until the third recommendation.
> Believe in yourself. You’re the expert ... and clients want you to be.
> Read the client. You won’t recommend the same products to everyone.
> Don’t be cocky.
> Know your salon’s products!

Related Reading: 11 Ways to Spruce Up Your Salon

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