If I had to identify one large knowledge gap in the skin care industry, I think it’s in the area of retail sales. Yes, there is a wealth of product knowledge training available, but very little in the way of customer psychology and sales technique. Knowing what to recommend is not the same as knowing how to sell.
Aestheticians are in a tough bind because of this shortfall. On the one hand, it’s probable that no one has ever taught you how to sell products, and yet on the other hand there is an expectation that you’re supposed sell a lot—whatever that is.
It’s intimidating, frustrating, and a large number otherwise capable aestheticians respond to the pressure through avoidance. However, until you learn how to generate retail sales, you will be earning significantly less than your potential. That just won’t do.
Although I started out as an aesthetician, I went down the career path of management and sales. As part of that, I learned to set goals, and focus on the profitability of the business in addition to the service-oriented aspects of the job. Along the way, I’ve been taught some great lessons about how to improve retail sales and I want to share some of the best secrets with you. Master these, and your retail sales will go up, but more than that—you might start enjoying the process too.
Without financial targets in place, retail sales are largely determined by circumstances and tracked according to feelings. On any given day, you might feel like you sold a lot—but did you really? It might have just been busy. Perhaps you got lucky because your favorite client remembered to tell you she was running low on everything. When you’re vague about your goals and results, retail sales stumble along without any real sense that you can count on it as part of your income. Always know what your sales averages are, then compete with your personal best.
As a consultant looking at sales reports for aestheticians, I like to see a retail sales to service ratio of 25 to 50 percent. For example, if you’re booking $750 in services per day, then your retail sales goal should be at least $250. Aestheticians who have learned to enjoy and become better retailers might be selling $375 in retail on that same $750 service sales total. I’ve met several others who really focus on it and sell even more.
Before you begin your shift for the day, take a moment to scan your inventory. Is there anything out of stock? Is there something that you have too many of? What’s the most profitable product you can sell today? How many are you going to sell?
After I got my aesthetics license in 1983, I continued managing a retail cosmetics counter in addition to being a freelance make-up artist. I had a great team working for me and we found ways to keep things new and interesting. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and sell the same favorites over and over again, but if products get old, those damages add up to a big financial loss. If something wasn’t moving, we found creative ways to promote it. Jars of expensive hand cream? We did hand massage demos. Glitter eye shadow after the holidays? We’d layer it under a muted shade. I learned quickly that the hottest selling item of the day was whatever we put our attention on.
Your skin care analysis should include asking about the client’s home care regime, but it’s more than a fact-checking session. These early conversations are when you establish trust and rapport. This is true on a first-time client’s complete intake, but also for returning clients when you’re asking how they’ve been doing since the last visit. When you discuss product usage and preferences at the beginning of the appointment, you are sending a message that products are a vital part of the skin care equation. Don’t try to close a sale yet, but do mention that you’ll be making some recommendations later.
Recently I was on a flight when a fellow passenger struck up a conversation with me. Women love talking about going to the spa, so I asked her a few questions. “Is there anything you don’t like about the retail part of the spa experience?” “Yes,” she said, “I like to buy things, but I wish they would warm up and talk to me about products before the facial. I’m interested and will buy things, but I don’t like it when they wait and spring it all on me at the end.” Wow, and that came from a lady on the street. I’ve been teaching that for a long time.
When your clients emerge from the treatment experience, emotionally speaking, they’re in what I call the “pink bubble.” They’re refreshed, relaxed, maybe even euphoric. Whatever their mood post-treatment, it’s crucial to extend the experience throughout the retail sales process. You shouldn’t suddenly become tense or serious and bust their bubble!
A dear friend of mine is an avid spa-goer who pointed this lesson out to me. She’s the type of woman who says she doesn’t like it when she feels pressure to purchase, but I’ve noticed that she buys more spa products than anyone else I know. I asked her to explain what makes the difference. “For me, the shopping should still feel like part of the pampering! I hate when the aesthetician gets nervous and changes the energy. I want it to feel nurturing and fun!” So for her, the mood is everything. I agree.
Your professional development includes years of study in physiology, technique, and ingredients. Although it’s necessary for learning and communicating within the industry, overtly-technical language isn’t something your customers understand or value. Really they just want to know what’s in it for them, sprinkled with an interesting story or two about why you think that product is particularly good.
Have you ever gone shopping for something practical, but with very technical features such as a computer or car? How does it make you feel if the salesperson is spouting off facts and numbers for things you don’t really understand? If they don’t simplify and explain the meaning to you, then it becomes an anxiety-producing experience as your left brain tries to analyze all the data. The last time a high-tech guy did that to me, I walked out and bought what I wanted online instead.
Many of us have limiting beliefs about money, and yours can really undermine your retail sales. This is particularly true when you have a certain “set point” at which you will let yourself spend money. Unless you’re aware of this dynamic, you will tend to project your limiting beliefs onto other people and unconsciously cut the sale short when the transaction has reached your own personal limit.
I learned this lesson many years ago from Mary Melman, a grand dame of retail sales. She noticed that whenever I had a sale nearing the $80 mark, I’d bring it to a close as quickly as possible. I was only 19-years-old and that was a lot of money to me back then. One day, when I was selling skin care products to an obviously wealthy matron, I unconsciously cut the sale short at my usual “not more than three items and not more than $80” limit. Afterwards, Mary came over to me and said, “Sheesh. You act like she’s spending your money.” That single comment completely changed my retail sales.
Shopping for spa-type products should be enjoyable. Things we sell look good, smell good, and the purchase itself is an act of selfcare. Splurging can be good for one’s spirits, yet sometimes people will feel a little nervous or even guilty when it’s time to pay for all that fun. Reassure them if this happens. So, instead of you getting nervous too, maintain the “pink bubble.” Remind them what they liked. Tell them how much they’re going to love the products. Assure them you’re right there for them if they have questions later. These little anxieties will usually melt as you reinforce that it’s OK to spend money on themselves.
I was staying at a hotel in St. Louis where the room service delivererwas great at this. Each morning, I’d order some coffee and a light breakfast. When she delivered it, she would say things like, “Here’s your coffee Madam, and you’re going to love it. It’s nice and fresh! Yes ma’am…good and hot, too.” I fell in love with her. She made me feel good about that coffee and the hotel. I was tempted to go to Starbucks in the lobby, but she was so endearing that I stayed loyal to her every morning. I liked ordering from her.
One of the distinctions between excellent salespeople and checkout clerks is the salesperson’s ability to form an authentic and ongoing relationship with the customer. Let go of any shyness or fears of rejection that you may have, and show your customer that you really care about them. Tell them how much you enjoy seeing them, and invite them to come back. Part of this is hospitality, putting guests at ease. Guests need to feel that you like them. But beyond that, plant seeds for the future. Establish yourself as a trusted advisor that they can come to at any time, not just when they have services performed. Be their “go to” person.
There was a make-up artist I knew who lived this philosophy. Not only did she do a great job of applying make-up, but she would teach people about what colors they should wear, pull blouses and scarves off of racks, give suggestions about what they might do to their hair and color. She went way beyond “business as usual,” and became their personal shopper. Her customers were fiercely loyal and wouldn’t even buy an outfit for a date without consulting her. She made her commissions off of the product sales, but what people were really buying was her great advice and attention.
If there is a key to implementing these secret tips, it’s this: understand that sales ability is a skill that can (and should) be developed. You just need to have an open mind and an interest in learning. So many people in our industry have a self-defeatist attitude that says, “I’m not good at sales,” or “I don’t want to be pushy,” or “I’m above all that.” These are examples of closed belief systems that will severely limit your career options. Retail sales are an inseparable part of your profession. Embrace selling as another opportunity to provide amazing customer service. Find out what makes people enjoy shopping with you, and practice getting better at it.
I’m the same as many of you. I used to be shy, and think that “sales” was a bad word. One thing that changed me was having been blessed with some great mentors over the years. Not only did I learn to become better at sales, but I learned to enjoy the process because I found ways to sell that don’t feel like “selling” at all.
When you’re having a good time, your customers will too. You can do it, I know you can.
Jaya Schillinger is a business coach with 20 plus years in beauty, health, and personal development. Her company, Inspiration Inc works exclusively with holistic businesses. Drawing on front-line experience and training as a Certified Life Coach, Jaya provides strategic coaching and training that results in improved performance, profitability, and job satisfaction. She serves on the advisory board for The Day Spa Association (DSA) and is a member of the International Coach Federation. Jaya presents at spa industry events such as the Day Spa Expo 2006-2007, and is a co-creator of the Power Up! Seminar and DVD series for spa professionals.