The changing sales landscape calls for new skills and training to keep up with evolving needs and deliver growth. Additionally, the sales of luxury brands require a higher level of sophistication and salesmanship, which calls for a training program tailored to the needs of luxury sales professionals.
Luxury sales remain immune to crises affecting other retailers, even amid economic gloom and high inflation. LVMH’s fashion and leather goods saw sales growth of 22% in July to September 2022 quarter. The Collective, which sells luxury brands in India, saw a growth of 3.5% in 2020 against 2019. The Indian luxury market is expected to grow annually by 8.03% during 2021-25. Selling luxury is a specialized discipline about exceeding expectations and delighting customers with higher expectations than traditional customers.
A luxury sales professional is an advisor and expert product consultant who guides customers through their purchase journey so that they don’t feel they are being sold. Unlike a traditional buyer-seller equation, luxury sales are about appealing to emotions and establishing person-to-person relationships with consumers. Luxury sales professionals require a specialised skill set that calls for a training program distinct from regular sales training.
How does sales training for luxury brands differ from others?
Any successful sales training program includes core skills that cover technical and non-technical knowledge specific to the industry and business segment for which the program is being created. In addition, soft skills such as communication, active listening, negotiation, collaboration, and confidence building are also part of the sales capabilities development program.
However, luxury brand sales require greater sophistication and fineness than non-luxury brand sales because of the high value of luxury goods. Luxury brand sales are characterised by high value and low volumes. Hence, the stakes are high for the salesperson for the successful closure of the deal. For example, the luxury car market comprises only 2% of the overall car market, but the value of each car is significantly higher than the cars in the non-luxury segment.
Segmentation of car market by vehicle cost range
Along with regular sales skills, the salesperson of luxury brands requires the following capabilities for success.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand customer thoughts and feelings to form an emotional connection or one-to-one relationship.
Luxury sales professionals need to have a higher level of emotional intelligence. They must be adept at engaging customers and finding out why they want the product or service. The core objective is not to coerce customers into purchasing but to enable them to decide to buy in. They should be able to empathise with the customer and establish value by highlighting how each feature will meet their needs and benefit them. Studies have shown that sales personnel with emotional intelligence training outsold the other group without the training by 12%. According to Penny Blake, a leading luxury sales trainer, 70% of lost sales of luxury brands are due to sales staff without emotional intelligence.
EQ can be developed by improving self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation.
In-depth product and brand knowledge to demonstrate intrinsic value and unique craftsmanship
Luxury brands are carefully crafted and often have complex and interesting origin stories, unlike mass-produced goods. They have backstories which are a fundamental part of their appeal to luxury consumers. For example, the House of Gucci was founded by Guccio Gucci as a saddlery shop in Florence in 1906. According to Bernard Arnault, chairman, and chief executive of Louis Vuitton SE, luxury consumers emphasise values like quality and craftsmanship.
The luxury salesperson needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the product, which covers not only product features and characteristics but also the story behind the brand. The salesperson must know how the product was made, what goes into it, and other finer details.
Sales professionals must be product experts to explain a meaningful product’s intrinsic and emotive values to luxury consumers who may be connoisseurs and collectors of the brand.
Detailed knowledge comes from exposure to the brand itself, including factory visits and meeting with designers and other stakeholders to get an in-depth understanding. The salesperson must be able to ask the right questions to the customers to be able to correlate product features with their needs.
The sales training of luxury brands includes detailed knowledge sessions for salespersons that should be an effective blend of classroom sessions and field visits to showrooms, manufacturing units, and interaction with other stakeholders associated with the brand. The training program for other non-luxury brands may not require this detailed training.
Effective communication and active listening skills
Luxury sales are also about practising subtleties, and positive language is essential, specifically when demonstrating value. Luxury brands salesperson should limit their reliance on sales scripts and instead focus on personalised communication depending on customers and situations.
Even as communication skills are essential for all salespersons across product categories and brands, it has greater significance for a luxury brand. The training program for luxury brands should emphasize continuous communication skill training and customised workshop to enable salespersons effectively communicate with luxury consumers. It is one of the top ten skills luxury brands look for in their employees.
Additionally, luxury brand salespersons should have exceptional listening skills to be able to emphasise with customers and connect at a personal level. It helps to build trust, understand buyer needs, and strike a rapport for a long-term relationship which is very important in the luxury industry.
Luxury customers come from across the world, and the luxury salesperson will deal with people from different cultural backgrounds daily. Different cultures have distinct customer service expectations, and salespersons need to understand the cultural nuances to better engage with customers without causing unintended offence.
The best way to impart cultural training is through classroom and on-the-job training.
As the number of wealthy individuals increases in India and globally, luxury spending will continue to rise. To tap the luxury retail opportunities, the brands need to have trained salespersons with abilities to attract and engage customers. The buyer of high-value luxury goods expects a level of service and experience commensurate with the price they are paying. They have high expectations, with customer experience becoming the key factor influencing their purchase decisions. Today’s customers are well-informed before they enter the store, which has led to the ever-shrinking window for luxury brands to interact with their prospects and customers. It has become essential for luxury brands to have specialised salespersons who can make the best use of the limited opportunities available to turn an opportunity into revenue.
Luxury brands can build the capabilities of their salespersons by enrolling them in centum learning sales excellence program. The program delivered in hybrid mode will equip the salespersons with both core sales and soft skills, resulting in improved business performance and revenue growth.