Yesterday I visited the website of an upscale department store brand to order my favorite Chanel blush. Everything started perfectly. The brand’s logo was displayed elegantly across the top of the page. Its signature black and white color scheme was set off by striking, high resolution images. The ordering process was easy and I was even offered three free samples upon checkout—just as I would have been had I purchased the product in the store itself. Perfect! Almost… As I completed the transaction a final message appeared on the screen: “We’re on it!”
On a recent flight back from Boston, I re-watched one of my favorite TED Talks. Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action. It’s a great video in which Sinek describes why great companies inspire loyal employees. My thoughts turned to luxury selling and I thought about how great associates can inspire loyal customers.
In the video, Sinek talks about three different types of companies. Those that know what they do (the majority), some that know how they do it, and the few that know why they do what they do. Sinek refers to this as the Golden Circle. Every organization knows what it does – it’s the products or services they sell. Some organizations know how they do it. This usually translates into what differentiates them from other companies that do what they do – in other words, their value proposition. But very few companies know, or can articulate, why they do what they do. The Why isn’t about making money. The Why is about contribution and impact. The Why is about inspiration.
Sinek then talks about how the human brain corresponds to the Golden Circle. The neocortex – our “outside” brain – corresponds to the What. It’s the part of the brain responsible for rational and analytical thought. The middle sections represent the limbic brain that controls our feelings, emotions, human behavior and decision making.
Does your heart quicken when you see someone carrying a Chanel bag? Do your eyes widen when you spy a Lexus LS turning the corner? It’s been said that luxury is not defined by need but by desire. There’s a certain feeling you get when wearing, driving, or obtaining the luxury item. You feel special.
Many of the posts in this blog talk about the role desire plays in luxury sales and customer service (see What’s it to you?” – Igniting Customer Desire and The Value of Luxury). The CEO of Hermès, Axel Dumas, understands how integral creating desire is to his company: Continue reading
“Only 19 percent of consumers believe sales associates have relevant information,” says Adam Silverman, principal analyst at Forrester Research, San Francisco. “That’s very shocking and that’s clearly an indicator that the sales associate role needs to change.”
One way in which you can change that role is to perfect the art of telling luxury’s story. A good story engages and excites the listener. Stories create emotions and those emotions, in turn, drive desire. We buy luxury items not because we need them, but because we desire them.
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 my recent blog post “Ditch the Pitch,” I talked about eliminating the prescribed sales script in favor of critical thinking. Not every sales situation can be addressed with a script. Sales associates who can think quickly on their feet will be able to handle unexpected obstacles with grace and elegance, solve problems quickly, and provide a richer customer experience.
With that in mind, I just finished reading an HBR blog post by Joe Panepinto where he says:
Too many companies are still trying to create thick manuals that lay out every possible scenario and a corresponding brand-appropriate response — an “if they do this, you do that” kind of approach. Very reactive.
I’ve heard it said that women fall in love with their ears and men with their eyes. I’m a woman who studied music and has an ear for languages. Perhaps this is why I’m particularly attuned to the words I hear, especially when those words are delivered as part of a luxury customer experience.
What’s it to me? Everything! If you can’t articulate why your product or service is important to me, you’ll likely not win me as a customer. Very often sales associates try to differentiate themselves by becoming subject matter experts. They then overwhelm potential clients with a litany of facts and product features with no regard for what’s actually important to the customer. In other words, what is the benefit to the customer?
Being able to distinguish between a feature (a statement of value) and a benefit (a personalized statement of value) is the key to igniting customer desire. When purchasing a luxury service or product, it’s less about need than it is about desire—and desire is emotion based. That means in order to tie into the emotion that will create desire, you need to position not only the value of your product or service, but its value to your customer. Continue reading
How can you avoid the “I’m just looking?” response from customers? The first step is to stop asking closed-ended questions. By using inquisitive, open-ended questions, you’ll initiate a dialogue and side-track the automated “I’m just looking” comeback. (Check out this previous blog post for tips on asking open-ended questions.)
Close your eyes. Can you follow your nose to Neiman Marcus, or Nordstrom, or Saks? Our sense of smell more than any other sense, is captured in the part of the brain associated with emotions and feelings—smell a Crayola crayon and you’ll be transported back to your childhood. Retailers have been capitalizing on this fact for years. We all know the story of Coco Chanel’s search for the perfect perfume that would ultimately become the definitive fragrance of La Maison Chanel. Most luxury brands and designers offer eponymous perfumes: Burberry, Gucci, Hermés… the list goes on. Even Tiffany & Co. puts its brand name on a perfume bottle.