I just finished a spirited online debate in the LinkedIn group Sales Trainings & Sales Enablement Pro’s, where I had posted the following question:
I believe sales training for a luxury brand needs to be different because of higher customer expectations. Do you agree?
Several folks argued that customers should expect excellent customer service no matter where they shop. I agreed in a perfect world that would be true. In any event, no one should tolerate bad or rude customer service. But I still contend expectations are higher when shoppers patronize a luxury store.
In the course of the debate, I was asked by several contributors for a specific breakdown on how sales training for a luxury brand would differ. Here, then, are some of the topics I would cover with a luxury sales team that I would not “necessarily” be asked to cover with a non-luxury brand:
- Brand training: the history and heritage of the brand, timelines that feature significant events and people, ultimately creating passion for the brand and what the brand represents. (Often signature details are part of the product, and/or brand icons are integrated into the visual merchandising, so we’d cover the stories behind these).
- Brand/Luxury Vocabulary: creating a consistent brand message, using luxury brand words to create an image and to help customers visualize
- Poise and Body Language: how to act with grace and elegance. Emphasis on how to take care of, hold and present items (e.g. LV associates put on white gloves when they present an item), savoir faire
- Emotional Intelligence: this covers a wide range of topics including understanding the luxury customer, cultural sensitivity, diplomacy, how to be discreet, etc.
- Expertise: deeper knowledge of product sourcing and craftsmanship, full understanding of sales, after-sales and customer services processes to facilitate support, business savvy, knowing how to differentiate from the competition, keeping up on what’s current and relevant
- Customer experience: being attentive, anticipating customer needs, creating the luxury experience, writing thank-you notes
The trap here is that whatever points I make can easily be argued from the other side. For example, if I say that creating passion around the brand is critical for luxury sales, someone else could argue it’s equally critical for non-luxury sales. So, I guess the argument goes back to customer expectations. I expect superior service at the Ritz-Carlton. If for some reason I’m not treated well, the failure seems even more egregious. On the other hand, my service expectations at the Red Roof Inn are not as high. If they happen to exceed those expectations, I’m thrilled and will be sure to stay there again. I expect a level of service that matches the price I’m paying. This equals Value. That’s not to say I don’t expect a minimum level of service. The whole extends beyond service to include company culture, corporate citizenship and how companies treat their employees. It’s fairly easy to learn who the best employers are. It’s why, when I’m shopping by price, I prefer Costco to Walmart. Would I expect my salesperson at Target to exhibit all the behaviors in the above list? No, but I would be thrilled if he or she did and I’d consider that salesperson exceptional. Would I expect this level of service at Louis Vuitton? You betcha!
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Are there other topics you would include in luxury sales training? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.