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


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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.

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Training in-store associates the best way to improve customer personalization

verkäuferin im juwelier geschäft

Timetrade’s recent whitepaper, Personalization in Retail: A Reality Check says that only 26 percent of consumers feel they’re receiving a customized +shopping experience even though 69 percent of retailers believe their delivering a personalized interaction.(Timetrade’s website says they help companies deliver on their brand promise of a truly personalized customer experience.) Since 90% of retail transactions take place in brick and mortar stores, it’s shocking to learn that consumers rank stores as the second worst channel for customer expPersonalization in Retailerience.

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A luxurious experience of India and its age-old luxury market




India is an alluring country that shimmers with vibrant colors. For centuries it has offered magnificent buildings, temples and landscapes. The past opulence of the maharajas and the splendor they created now flows seamlessly into today’s booming luxury industry.

The Indian luxury market

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Luxury Associates Need to Become Luxury Curators


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I recently returned from the largest international conference for professionals in the field of learning and development sponsored by the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Nearly 11,000 attendees from over 80 countries attended 300 concurrent sessions in Denver, Colorado. The exhibition hall boasted more than 400 leading training services providers. As I wandered the aisles of learning content vendors, one word repeatedly caught my attention—curated.

‘Curate’ is not a new word. Its root goes back to the Latin curare, which means to care. The first known use of the word ‘curator’ as someone who is in charge of a museum or art gallery collection dates back to 1561. The word has evolved over the centuries and today defines ‘curate’ as “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or website content.”

Content curation is so omnipresent in consumers’ lives today that we barely notice it. Your shows on Netflix are curated based on your viewing history, Spotify tailors music selections specifically to your taste, most news services feed you content according to your specified preferences, and shopping services such as StitchFix will curate a personal wardrobe for you. Curation as a marketing and sales technique gained ground in 2011 with Steven Rosenbaum’s book Creation Nation.

I love the idea of turning luxury sales associates into luxury curators for two reasons. The first reason is the root of the word – to care. Care needs to inform everything a luxury associate does: caring about the customer, caring about the customer’s needs, caring about the luxury experience, and caring about the presentation. The second reason is the idea that the curated experience is a personalized experience for the luxury consumer. Today’s luxury customers seek experiences that are customized to their personal preferences, that are exceptional, and that they can share and remember. Recently, Saks Fifth Avenue launched a service through which associates are available 24/7 to curate personalized virtual boutiques for individual customers. But curation isn’t just about technology. As Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute says, “Technology today presents an immense opportunity for targeting potential customers, but it is ultimately the intimate humanistic relationships that sales professionals form with customers that keep them coming back.”  It is the luxury sales associate who holds the key to building those connections.

What do luxury sales associates need to do in order to become luxury curators? To find some answers I searched “How to curate?” and found some great tips on Coschedule is a marketing calendaring service whose tips are specific to how to curate online content. I’ve borrowed the heading for each tip and turned each into a suggestion for sales associates who are looking to create a curated luxury experience for their clients:

  • Provide your take on things – Add your own personal touch. To paraphrase Coschedule, provide every piece with context. You should always surround the piece with your views, knowledge, and insight. Share a story about your brand’s heritage or an intimate detail about the craftsmanship.
  • Don’t make it all about you – Remember your customers have different preferences than you. Research and understand the lifestyles of your luxury customers. Read luxury travel and style magazines, subscribe to luxury blogs, and know your competition.
  • Answer your audience’s common questions – Be knowledgeable about your brand, your services, distinguishing product characteristics, shipping and return policies, corporate responsibility programs, etc. Common questions may also include concierge-type recommendations on where to eat, shop or find local attractions.
  • Be very, very selective – Rather than rattling off a list of features, share two or three benefits (a personalized statement of value) you believe best meet your customer’s needs. To turn a feature into a benefit, think of the customer asking “Why is this important to this me?”
  • Take advantage of in-house expertise – Observe your co-workers. How are they interacting with customers? What can you learn from them? Be open to asking for feedback. Ask your manager to observe you and provide suggestions on how you can improve. If you don’t know the answer to a question, make sure you find someone who does.
  • Don’t forget your CTA’s (Calls to Action) – Your relationship to the customer doesn’t end when he or she walks out the door. Think about how you can proactively reach out to customers to grow the relationship by building upon additional needs. A hand-written thank you note is always welcome. You may want to invite them to an upcoming event, alert them to a new item, or just check in to see how they’re enjoying their purchase.

If you view your role as a curator rather than a sales person, you will provide the level of care and personalization necessary to turn every customer interaction into an extraordinary luxury experience.


What Do You Really Learn from a Luxury MBA, Management or Certification Program?

This month’s post is written by guest blogger Gretchen Shaw. Gretchen is an author, blogger and entrepreneur with a penchant for baking. She is passionate about communication, continued learning and connecting people. You can follow her on Twitter: @shawgret


luxury courses.jpgIf you tell a friend who labors in an unchallenging 9 to 5 job that you’re going to pursue your Luxury MBA they might think you’re pulling their leg (or acting annoyingly pretentious). They might also have a laugh guessing what your courses will be—Mink Fur Gowns 101 anyone?

In reality, luxury brand management MBAs, majors and certifications are actually incredibly useful; they sharpen your business skills and nurture your understanding of the growing luxury management sector.

Business schools such as HEC ParisLondon Business School and ESSEC have created tailored MBA programs, degrees, hands-on training and clubs that prepare tomorrow’s leaders in the high-brow and frenetic luxury management sector so that they are well-equipped to deliver exactly what their clients desire.

Students learn how to properly manage creative projects, launch products, develop marketing strategies and cover communication campaigns just to name a few of the skills that are covered. Thriving in the world of luxury is no mean feat, which is why pursuing such an MBA can be vital to your success.

Let’s take a closer look at what some of the best business schools have to offer:


ESSEC offers an 11-month MBA in International Luxury Brand Management at their campus just outside Paris, France. The program was first established in 1995, and is currently partnered with the likes of L’Oreal, Gucci, Christian Dior, Swarovski and Calvin Klein.

Students are taught to look at issues in the industry from a global perspective, and get to study complex situations from financial, business and cultural angles. There are four parts to the program:

  • Business Knowledge & Market Trends;
  • Luxury Brand Management and Semiotics;
  • Luxury Sector Management; and
  • A two-month consulting project at a prestigious company.

Field trips are an important part of the program as well, and recent trips have included jaunts to Dubai, Italy and Hong Kong.

HEC Paris

HEC Paris is one of the world’s leading business schools. Located in one of Europe’s capitals of luxury, HEC Paris offers a rapid-fire two-week luxury program that is aimed at people who already work in the sector and want to take their game to the next level. The course takes place across three cities:

  • Paris;
  • Milan; and
  • Florence

Students who attend the course usually already have solid experience in the world of luxury brands, and the course is known for its exclusivity. Lasting just two weeks, it seeks to endow its students with the right kind of skills, mindset and understanding that will help them succeed at luxury companies and brands around the world.

The course is super hands-on, very demanding and focuses on an all-round vision of luxury that takes a look at all its various sectors and facets.

London Business School

London Business School’s Global MBA (Luxury Brand Management) program is offered in three stages:

  • Stage I encompasses marketing and business environment, accounting and managerial finance, systems and operations management, as well as research methods.
  • Stage 2 moves to strategic management and leadership, luxury brand management, global marketing management and research methods.
  • Stage 3 includes an online dissertation and research methods and is worth as many credits as the first two stages combined.

The program seeks to endow the student with a firm understanding of luxury brand management practices. Skills learned by the student include strategic, marketing and research skills, while intimate knowledge of this specialized industry is also a desired outcome.

SDA Bocconi

The leading business school in Italy, SDA Bocconi offers both a one and a two year MBA. When it comes to the luxury market, their Executive Open Course schedule allows you to update your skills through the Strategic Management of Luxury Business class.

Luxury Connect Business School

Other schools are built entirely around luxury brand management. India is home to just such a school in LCBS (Luxury Connect Business School). This school boasts a unique experience while you train and works in collaboration with the International University of Monaco to offer a diploma or post-graduate courses.

Special Events

When you don’t have the time or resources to devote a full year (or even two weeks) to a luxury training program, other top European business schools such as IMD invite executives from luxury brands such as Hublot to Discovery Events geared toward fueling discussions, sharing knowledge or best practices and experience in luxury marketing and innovation.

There is certainly no wrong time to pursue an MBA or major in luxury brand management. Rather, there is always a right time. Luxury companies are growing all the time, with some recording growth of 27% in the last three years. If entering the world of luxury is something you’ve been thinking about, getting on board a luxury MBA, or major at a top school, is a great start.


Luxury: An Intimate Experience


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roseI’ve frequently written about the importance of the customer relationship when selling luxury. I’ve focused on the need to use the right language and gestures to create an environment of elegance and grace. But, until now, I hadn’t thought about intimacy and how it relates to luxury.

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Luxury Institute finds 7 improvements luxury retailers can make right now to improve sales

In the excellent article “Luxury Institute Reveals 7 Major Improvements Store Managers Recommend to Drive Sales Performance Right Now,” Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, LLC, shares results of an intimate focus group he conducted with  store managers of premium and luxury brands and shares their best practices and recommendations to improve sales. Continue reading

Luxury gestures – do actions speak louder than words?

serverLuxury service doesn’t always mean expensive or posh; sometimes luxury service can be found in less grandiose surroundings. On a recent business trip to London, I was pleasantly surprised by the service I received in a small restaurant serving Venetian fare. The eatery was a bàcaro—a Venetian word used to describe a humble restaurant serving simple food and good, young local wines. If you’re familiar with Spanish tapas, then you have the idea. Continue reading

Turning Returns into Opportunities


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Photo Credit: Tiffany & Co. For editorial use only

As usual, last Sunday’s New York Times featured the Tiffany & Company advertisement regularly found at the top of page 3. This time the  image was of the multi-heart Return to Tiffany (RTT)  bracelet (shown). Seeing as it was January 3rd, I wasn’t sure if someone in Tiffany’s advertising department might have a sense of humor. This particular bracelet, with all those little RTT hearts, and the timing of the ad made me think of all the post-holiday customers “returning” their unwanted presents to Tiffany. Though it’s hard to imagine someone wanting to return a Tiffany gift, it does happen. During my tenure there, we were especially concerned at this time of year about keeping up sales associates’ spirits while ensuring customers still received exceptional service. Continue reading

GRACE: The Perfect Recipe for Luxury Customer Service


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GRACEDaniel Humm is the chef and owner for the Michelin three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York City. He’s also the recipient of six James Beard Awards, four stars from the New York Times and the S. Pellegrino Chef’s Choice 2015 award. Mr. Humm was recently interviewed by New York Magazine and asked how me keeps his team motivated. He replied:

We treat every service as if it’s the only one that matters, the same way a sports team prepares for a championship match. Everything we do is done with intention and the desire to make the guest’s experience the best it can be.

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