The Irrelevant Price Tag | How to effectively sell high-end skin care products

Written by Douglas Preston, L.E., president of Preston Skincare

Oh no! Your spa just introduced a brand new line of treatment products that you are expected to sell to clients. That is great, but look at those retail prices! They are higher than anything the spa previously carried. You have built up the confidence to sell your existing lines for facial customers, but what will they say when you show them new products that can cost almost twice as much?

This is where your imagination goes to work and not necessarily in a good way. You can just see the horror on a client's face, recoiling from the shock of a $99 moisturizer. You already feel the guilt of asking someone to purchase a product you believe she could not possibly afford. And how do you get a client to agree to spend a whole lot more money to buy something for which she has always paid less? This is not a situation in which you want to be. The good news is you do not have to be. Let us look at a few facts before we decide that a certain product might actually be out of reach for many or most of your clients:

  1. First of all, a facial treatment itself is not exactly a likely thing for which a thrifty person would make an appointment. The mere fact that your client has signed up for your services indicates that she or he places a high value on personal care. That means they are willing and capable of spending money for maintaining a healthy appearance.
  2. You do not know how your client will respond to the new highly-priced products.
  3. If a product line is priced a certain way, the manufacturer knows that they can be sold at those prices.
  4. Many department store skin care lines – products without the power of those used and sold by aestheticians – are priced higher than some that can offer better results.
  5. Even if you think your new products are pricey, a certain percentage of your clients will buy them.
  6. And, if you are a commissioned employee or solo aesthetician, what is wrong with earning more money from your sales?
  7. If a product can help a client achieve their appearance goal then the skin care professional should introduce it regardless of price.Main2

Skin care professionals may say this does not change the way they feel about selling expensive products, but maybe this will help…

EXPENSIVE? SAYS WHO?
What exactly does the term expensive mean? Is an expensive product one unaffordable to a potential client? Does it mean that a service or item is not worth the price being charged for it? Well, yes and no. A certain thing could be priced out of reach for one client and be a comfortable price for another. Also, for a client who does not value skin care products or facial services as much as another, then almost any price could seem excessive. The truth is it is the level of desire a client has for a product or service that determines whether or not he or she will find it expensive. And the higher that level of desire, the more likely a client will make the purchase in spite of price, especially those for whom your prices may be more than they are accustomed to paying. So, the real question is not whether a product at a certain price is high or not, but how the client feels about it at that price. The more they want something, the more they rationalize a way to purchase it.
Take a Mercedes Benz, for example. Many people buy that car when they might do better with a Ford or Toyota. Both cars are of good quality, provide needed transportation, and cost far, far less than a Mercedes Benz. Yet, the customer who wants the luxury car is thinking about benefits that are not obvious in the act of buying one. This customer is thinking about and feeling things like status and the story the car tells the public about them as a person: successful, higher class, attractive. When a person craves the feelings that only a luxury car can provide, the desire for the car increases and the cost of the car gets rationalized by focusing only on the monthly payment. And if the payment can be covered, then the fact that the car is so expensive could be reduced as a purchasing factor.
And, just like with the Mercedes, a client can find status benefits by purchasing upper-end skin care products. I cannot name how many times new clients proudly told me they had been using only La Prarie, Payot, Sissley, and other status brands, none of which I would ever want in my treatment room over professional lines. This customer is motivated both by the status of the product (expensive – therefore, exclusive) and the idea that a higher-priced brand will probably produce a superior skin-enhancing result. Of course, not every car-shopping customer will opt for a Mercedes Benz whether or not they can afford it. Some wealthy and more conservative people choose to drive more affordable cars, while a wage earner may strain a budget to put a luxury vehicle in the carport. After all, that is what finance departments are about. The point is that it is not always the cost of an item that determines who will buy it, but, rather, how the prospective customer feels about it, regardless of the price. 
Returning to product quality, a higher price does not guarantee a better-made item or service. Both Mercedes Benz and BMW have had questionable quality ratings of late and yet, the demand for their cars continues to grow, especially in the United States. Main4This quality information, available to any customer, does not seem to be impacting consumer desire for luxury/status cars. It is almost as if the rationale is if you cannot afford to fix it regularly, you cannot afford to buy it. Only lower-income people would need to worry about little things like frequent car repairs. So, once again, the feeling found in a status item can override the fact that the product may not be all that high in quality or reliability.
What does all this mean to you challenged with selling higher-priced skin care products? Well, everything! There is good news for you in this reality of retailing. That news is that you can stop fretting over the price of your new skin care line and begin to identify the kind of client who will love buying them.

LEARN ABOUT THE PRODUCTS
How simple is this! Spend some time familiarizing yourself with each product, focusing on the benefits, scent, texture, and other great qualities it contains. Read as much material as you ca find on it. Work those testers to your advantage! Pay special attention to what the products can do and how the client will look, and therefore feel, when seeing their skin improve.

SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE
Skin care professionals are all about product technology, but clients are not so much. Do not bore or intimidate clients with words like delivery system, nano-technology, or patented ingredient. Most do not understand or care about those things any more than they want to know how a car engine works. They just want it to do whatever they are buying it to do – reduce lines, brighten the skin, even tone, or increase hydration. Enthusiasm and positive emotion helps make a fun presentation and encourage customer interest: "I really love our hydrating cream! It hydrates like nothing else I have ever tried, and the skin just looks amazingly smooth and bright after only a week of using it. It is pretty amazing!"
Your excitement, smile, and sampling the product on the client will generate a sale more often than not. The main thing is to get your mind off the price and on the high points of the product, as you have no real idea how the client will respond to the retail tag until they see it. And, as we have already shown, the higher the client desire for this item, the lower the price will seem to them. Short, sensual, and exciting stories get the best sales results!Main3

IDENTIFY THE TARGET CLIENT
Does it really matter that every client might not be able to afford or even want these new products? Not really. No one can sell everything to everyone; that is just a simple fact. There is no barrier to great sales with some clients. Some sales will do quite nicely, especially at the premium price level.
So ask yourself (without adding personal fear or bias), who among your clients would likely be a new product buyer? Okay, the teenager with acne client whose mother is paying for treatments may not be right for the line, but what about your older client who also signs up for more upper-end, anti-aging services? Clearly, this client is ready, willing, and capable of spending money on the best personal care you have available. But, what about the middle-aged office worker or executive concerned about her appearance in a professional environment filled with youthful twenty-somethings? A 51-year-old facial client of mine recently underwent $23,000 in facelift surgery out of fear of losing her job at a technology company whose hiring managers regularly show preference for young recruits. She saw the surgery as an investment in her future in spite of earning less than $100,000 annually from that job. This same client also purchases my most-premium priced skin care products, and this is a single mother with two children in college and living in a costly area of California. Desire is everything.

TALK IT UP!
What you think about and talk about during the day, particularly with every conviction, is what you will sell most frequently. You love this new line and cannot say enough about it to everyone you know, including your clients. Excitement builds attention and that attention is the spotlight you need in which to showcase your products. I suspended that method just before introducing a new product collection from Australia. Almost as if they were worried that I was going to keep a secret from them, again and again I heard them say, "Well, I want to know about it!" In the world of youth and beauty, clients want to know everything possible that could help them delay the onset of aging. That is what skin care professionals (and their products) are supposed to do.

GET RID OF THE GUILT
Let me say it right here: it is not your responsibility to worry about what your clients purchase; not in your spa, the mall, a pricey restaurant, or anywhere else. You cannot see what they can afford to spend, nor do you have the magic power to know that in advance. More than that, it is not the seller's job to make spending decisions for the public, but only to demonstrate merchandise a client may or may not choose to purchase. Look at it this way, if you were about to buy a pair of gorgeous heels in a shoe store that you really want but probably should not spend the money on, would you appreciate a sales clerk trying to talk you out of making an unwise decision? Likely not! It is not their business to interfere with your life in that way. After buying those fabulous shoes, do you blame the sales clerk for allowing you to buy them? Of course not. You take responsibility for your buying decisions, technically wise or not. We are not talking about so-called pushy sales where a store employee leans on you to buy something you do not really want. That is something skin care professionals should never do, and it is important to recognize that merely showing and describing a product to a client, regardless of price, is not an act of pushiness.

BLESS YOUR SUCCESSES
Only sold two of that new product last month? Good for you! Two is twice as good as zero and 100 percent better than one. Do not deflate your enthusiasm with criticism over what you did not do. There is always room for improvement and anything is an improvement over nothing, regardless of how small the gain. Put your efforts into growing your sales from whatever point they are when you start working with them. Building retail is no different than increasing the clientele from whom you need to get those sales. Gradual and steady is just fine so long as it is leading to the outcome you desire. And remember this: the higher the price a client will pay, the less likely it is that they will argue with it. Go for the upper first to make money-making easier!

With a little time and practice, you will quickly discover how easy it is to fill your clients' shopping bags with the best of your professional skin care products at higher-than-usual prices. Once you overcome your sales inhibition, you might even wonder how you ever felt that way in the first place. Fear is expensive and financing that fear with your career potential is the worst way to pay for it. Understand that freedom sometimes takes courage to acquire, but once you are free, you will never be stuck again. Take it on!


HeadshotDouglas Preston’s career spans 32 years in professional aesthetics, education, and skin care career mentoring. Preston’s business articles appear in DERMASCOPE, Spa Management Journal, Les Nouvelles Esthetiques, among others. He is past-president of Aesthetics International Association and former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. Preston was named The Day Spa Association’s “Spa Person of the Year” in January 2006 and voted Favorite Spa Consultant in American Spa’s 2006 readers’ poll. His recently published book, An Esthetician’s Guide to Growing A Successful Skincare Career, is a top-seller with aesthetics professionals. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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