The Psychology of Upselling: How to Make A Sale in the Salon

upselling-2Broken on cosmetics – piggy bank, coins, nail polish

photo : Getty images plus/michal staniewsk/istock

Picture a slick used-car salesman, slapping hapless buyers on the back as he hands over their new keys. Or, how about those loudmouths hawking tourist merchandise at the airport? When artistic souls like nail techs think about upselling, it’s images like these that all too often come to mind. But according to Ken Lloyd, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist and the author of The K.I.S.S. Guide to Selling, those who make an effort to sell retail in this industry are simply providing their clients with added value.

“It’s not dumping product on people that they may not actually need and thinking, ‘Ha, got ‘em!’,” Lloyd says. “It’s not even about having the gift of gab; it’s a collaborative model of communicating, of helping people obtain what they want and of helping them to feel beautiful, confident and comfortable.”

Indeed, successful upselling often boils down to a paradigm shift in our perceptions. It’s why NAILPRO sought out psychologists, industry marketing experts and seasoned nail pros, all of whom shared nonaggressive sales-boosting techniques that work double-time to increase loyalty and your bottom line.

upsellingWoman having feet massaged in spa treatment room

photos : Zero Creatives/cultura

Sales Psychology 

Why is upselling so difficult? According to Alia Hosch, a beauty industry consultant and former salon owner, it makes us feel awkward. “We think of that perfume lady at the department store—the one who’s going to spray you, even if you’re trying to avoid her—and we don’t want to be that person,” she says. “It’s crucial to think of our role as recommending rather than selling.”

Marita Dunham, owner of In the Nails Day Spa in Huntsville, Alabama, agrees that nail pros tend to equate selling with feeling pushy or imposing. “I look at it from another point of view,” she says. “If you truly believe in yourself and the products you’re using, then what you’re offering is a good thing; you’re sharing your expertise about how to take care of a hangnail or maintain manicures between services. Don’t come at it with the goal of trying to make a sale, but rather of providing your client with additional resources.”

This requires a keen sensitivity to clients’ needs—which, luckily, comes naturally to service providers and artists. While stereotypical salespeople never stop talking, studies show that the most effective ones spend up to 80 percent of their time just listening. “The more you understand the customer,” Lloyd says, “the more able you are to collaborate.” For example, Hosch says, “When someone mentions challenges with hangnails or dry hands, be sure to listen carefully and tell them about the amazing solutions at their disposal. If you don’t recommend anything, then you’re not coming across as the expert and that person will simply go somewhere else.”

Getting Motivated 

Psychologically speaking, the easiset way to achieve something is to envision it. This is according to Michael Mercer, Ph.D., a Barrington, Illinois-based psychologist and the author of Spontaneous Optimism. To that end, Mercer recommends keeping visual reminders of what you hope to achieve by accumulating sales commission or boosting your salon’s profits. “Collect images on your phone,” he suggests. “Perhaps it’s a place you’d like to vacation, a designer handbag, a gift for your kid or, if you’d like to cut down your debt, an image of a big zero. Take a look every day and remember the big picture: You’re working to improve your life.”

One motivational pitfall lies in the “smallness” of many nailcare products. Meaning, you may be less inclined to suggest a bottle of polish, as those returns can seem negligible. Mercer, however, reminds us of CLV: Customer Lifetime Value. “Remember, you primarily sell consumable products, or ones that run out,” he explains. “If clients like what they buy and they trust you, they’ll buy more. Put forth the effort to sell that small item and you could be securing retail sales from that client for the next 5 to 10 years.”

Durham adds that the word no doesn’t necessarily mean your efforts were for naught. “If someone says, ‘Let me think about it,’ or ‘Not this time,’ I let it go, especially if it’s a long-term relationship,” she says. “Often, these clients think about it and come around eventually.”

upsellingAfrican American woman painting her nails

photos: Getty images/JGI/Jamie Gril/blend images

Strategic Selling 

From the minute client’s walk in the door, savvy salespeople practice getting them into “yes mode.” How? By saying things like, “I noticed you were in the shop two weeks ago,” or by simply commenting on the weather, i.e., “It’s windy out there, isn’t it?” “Yes is a very positive word; it gets people nodding in agreement,” Lloyd says. “A lot of little yeses tend to build up to a bigger yes. It also opens the dialogue and makes people comfortable.”

Another time-tested strategy involves something called pacing. Lloyd explains it like this: “Great salespeople tend to mirror their customers’ behavior—they speak
at a faster or slower pace, according to cues from the client, and they mirror body language, too. They also speak as eloquently or basically as the customer.” Lloyd describes
this as a trust-building technique. “It shows that you understand your client’s individual personality, style and needs. It puts them at ease and tells them, ‘This person is a  lot like me.’”

You’ll also want to practice your interjections—think phrases like, Oh, and one more thing! “It’s an attention grabber and makes people anticipate something good,” Lloyd says. On that note, consider persuasive sentence structure. Take the sentence, This polish is beautiful and
long-lasting and elegant. You can make it far more powerful by saying, This beautiful and elegant polish is also long-lasting. “That way,” says Lloyd, “the client doesn’t think they need to debate the fact that it’s beautiful and elegant. You’re only proving one simple point—that it’s long-lasting.”

In terms of describing products, try to avoid the word features and stick to benefits. Lloyd adds that it can be effective to use the word “and” rather than “but.” “Say they’re explaining why they’re attached to an older, inferior product. Tell them, ‘I understand what you’re saying and I also think this. Never criticize a client’s choices.”

When it comes to product, our experts are in agreement: The key to confident, motivated selling lies in knowledge, which stems from education. “It’s about being trained properly by your product vendors,” Hosch says. “Clients are relying on you to be the expert, but it’s hard to describe a product or to feel confident upselling it if you don’t know anything about it.” If you’re a salon owner, make sure that your techs get to try all of your products and that you secure regular training from your vendors.

Also, keep in mind, everyone loves a good story. “The phrase, ‘I have a story for you,’ is comforting; it reminds us of being a kid,” Lloyd says. “If you have a colorful story about how well a product worked, clients will remember that far better than any straight description.” Mercer reminds us, however, that rather than doing too much talking, you want to get the client chatting. The key to this lies in open-ended questions. “Pose them using the following four phrases or words: Tell me, Describe, What and How,” he says. “For instance, ‘Tell me  what kind of look you’d like to create for this party.’ Questions like this force the client to think about what she wants and to tell you her thoughts, feelings and goals—which, of course, equips you to sell her exactly what she wants and needs.”

Another effective word? Imagine. But once you use it, Mercer says it’s crucial to pause for at least three seconds. Try it: What do you imagine—pause—would look good on you? “When you pause, people really do start imagining,” Mercer says. “The brain triggers their eyes to roll upward, and they consider the wonderful products they may want to use. In fact, research shows that the most successful real estate brokers are the ones who ask potential buyers questions like, ‘How would you imagine customizing this kitchen?’ because that causes people to picture themselves living in the house.”

The most important thing to remember about upselling: If none of the above techniques work, if you’re still told no, never take it personally and don’t shy away from upselling in the future. “We don’t ever know what’s truly going on in someone else’s life,” Durham points out. “You never know when they may be having trouble financially, for instance, so don’t let no influence how you feel about what you do nor about the amazing expertise you have to offer.”

-Katie O’Reilly

[Images: Getty images plus/michal staniewsk/istockZero Creatives/cultura; /JGI/Jamie Gril/blend images]

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