Choice Words: How to Speak to the Luxury Customer


It’s been said that women fall in love with their ears and men with their eyes. I studied music and have an ear for languages. So 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.

 Everything about the luxury  experience—the colors, aromas, sounds, and language—must work together to create the complete luxury aesthetic. If any element does not align, the messaging becomes muddled. Luxury brands spend large sums to ensure the boutique lighting is just right, the appointments are lavish, and the marketing images tell the brand story; yet they sometimes fail to make sure their sales associates’ language consistently conveys the tone of the brand.

To understand the powerful relationship between vocabulary and brand, I perused several well-known luxury websites and selected some choice words. Read through the following lists and listen to how each word resonates with the brand message:

CHANEL: couturier, glorifies, exhilarating, precious, extravagant, richness, exalts, accentuates, mysterious, magical, eternal. spell, elegance, trumps, illuminates,  decoration, classic, elegance, shines, triumphs, signature, surprising, unexpected, fresh, impeccable, flawless, conjures, whimsical, fearless, sexy and timeless

PATEK PHILLIPE: unfaltering, rare, expertise, elegant, savoir faire, rich, timeless, stylish, pride, enduring, unparalleled, prestige, connoisseurs, perfection, undisputed supremacy, excellence, trustworthiness, ingenuity, passion, noble, pioneering, finest, investment, reputation, sentimental, treasured,  discretion, aristocratic, tradition

ROLLS-ROYCE: best in the world, illustrious, powerful, pedigreed, commanding, unforgettable, authority, striking, unrivalled, supple, graceful, ultimate, palatial, exquisite, bespoke, precise, refinement, embrace, sleek, grand, sublime

If I had separated the brand names from their respective vocabularies, would you have been able to guess which brand name corresponded to which wording?

Language can be evocative and seductive. The perfect word can conjure an image, arouse an emotion or spark a memory.  By taking the time to polish and refine your luxury vocabulary, you can complete the luxury brand experience for your customer. Click on the Luxury Lexicon link here or on the menu above to access a list of words to get you started. Be sure to read your brand’s marketing materials, advertisements, and social media posts. Capture those words you feel exemplify your brand and incorporate them into your customer dialogues. Open your ears to the words you, yourself, hear as a customer and adopt those that please you. I invite you to share your own favorite luxury words in the Comments section below. Selected entries will be added to the Luxury Lexicon.

When Matchy Matchy Works: Keeping Your Brand Message Consistent Across Channels

wereonitYesterday 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!”

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The Why of Luxury Selling: How Luxury Associates can Inspire Loyal Customers

attactive girl silhouette with whyOn 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.

Continue reading “The Why of Luxury Selling: How Luxury Associates can Inspire Loyal Customers”

“Thinking” about Luxury

thinkingDoes 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 ““Thinking” about Luxury”

Once Upon a Time: Telling Luxury’s Story

story“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.

Continue reading “Once Upon a Time: Telling Luxury’s Story”

Should Sales Training Differ for Luxury Brands?


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.

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Flip Your Approach to Selling by Thinking About the Outcome First

flipIn 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.

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“What’s it to you?” – Igniting Customer Desire

matchWhat’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 ““What’s it to you?” – Igniting Customer Desire”

“I’m just looking” can mean so much more

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYour customers have said it. You’ve probably said it yourself. “No thanks, I’m just looking” is the most common response to the oft heard question “May I help you?”

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.)

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Imagine that! Helping Customers Envision

AlgarveA few years ago my husband and I vacationed in the Algarve region of Portugal. I was struck not only by the stunning scenery, but also by the gracious and elegant service we received. Wherever we went—whether it was to a fancy restaurant, a roadside café, or a little shop—we were welcomed by the warm, friendly smiles of the courteous staff. Still, one encounter stood out above the rest…

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