Retailing in the Treatment Room: The Secret Ingredient
The very nature of esthetics makes retail sales more challenging. Most services are performed in quiet treatment rooms and are meant to be soothing, with little-to-no conversation. In order to even introduce retail, you have to figure out how to get the retail sales conversation started.
Tricia Ramsey, esthetician at Elixir Salon and Day Maker in Colleyville, Texas, has figured out the perfect recipe to make these conversations happen, and it all boils down to honesty, care for her client, and product education.
Ramsey can tell you all about the ingredients found in most high-end skin care lines. She can also explain what each ingredient in a drugstore wrinkle cream does.
But she’s an exclusive user of Aveda products. In fact, every single product she puts on her body—with the exception of deodorant and toothpaste—is Aveda. And that’s just because they don’t make deodorant and toothpaste.
“I have to know the ingredients of other products outside of Aveda,” she explains. “If my guest tells me she’s using another cleanser I haven’t heard of, I will Google it, and then tell her what ingredients it contains.”
This ingredient knowledge allows her to recommend an Aveda product she feels is right for the client’s specific issue.
“We don’t use glycolic acid in Aveda skin care, but I understand glycolic acid very well,” she says. “If I tell a client why they should give up a favorite product, they understand.
I don’t tell them why Aveda is good, but why it’s better.
Reigning Over Retail Sales
For an esthetician, retail is generally a bigger challenge than it is for stylists. While a hairdresser chats with her client for at least 45 minutes in the chair—with many opportunities to talk shop—estheticians are usually performing a quiet service.
With one important exception—waxing clients.
“I do a LOT of eyebrows,” says Ramsey. “I can have a solid day of waxing, and I think a lot of estheticians don’t think about retailing to wax clients.”
But Ramsey finds her wax clients always want to chat, so she maximizes that 15 minutes—especially with first-time clients.
“There are contraindications to skin care with waxing, so I already have to ask if they are using prescription skin care or any products with ingredients that could react to waxing,” she explains. “That’s my segue into the retail conversation.”
And for clients she sees regularly every month, retail can come up in any number of ways. Client going on vacation? Ramsey asks if they have a good sunscreen. Client training to run a 5K? She asks if they’ve tried Aveda’s Blue Oil for sore muscle relief.
“I don’t just jump in and ask them what skin care they are using,” she says. “The conversation is very organic.”
The results of all these conversations add up. In fact, they added up to the $41,723 in retail that Ramsey sold in 2016. Those sales were achieved in a 35-hour, four-day workweek where her service sales were $104,000, and her retail per client was between $17-$21.
While chatting up waxing clients is a natural thing to do and the perfect opportunity to weave in the retail conversation, how do you handle the facial guests?
Just like her waxing guests, Ramsey has a strategy for facial clients. During the consultation, she mentally chooses the number-one product she wants to sell them.
And when the guest points out dry or oily areas in her skin, Ramsey is ready.
She tells the guest, “Yes, I see it, but here’s what we’re going to use today to combat the problem.”
Picking up on cues from her guests is key, Ramsey says.
“Maybe the product I’m thinking of isn’t the right one,” she says. “The guest may say something smells great. So that’s my opportunity to say, ‘Yes, that’s our calming lotion, we can chat about that when we’re done.’”
Subtly planting seeds along the way is helpful since, unlike a hairdresser, Ramsey can’t leave in the middle of a service to write down a product.
Scheduling is another key factor in retailing to her spa clients.
“My owner and manager give me 15 minutes between guests instead of five,” Ramsey says. “A lot of owners look at that as lost time, but that’s time for me to talk about retail, and retail boosts profit—it’s better than squeezing in another brow wax.”
Resources like a retail basket, promo cards and a front desk who helps close the sale are also invaluable.
But the most important conversation Ramsey has with her guests about retail isn’t about retail. It’s about pre-booking.
“Guests who pre-book are significantly more likely to buy retail from me—the two could not be more related,” she says.
“A first-time guest who pre-books is saying they approve of me, which is why I show a lot more retail to my second-time customers than my first-time guests.”
On occasion, Ramsey doesn’t try to sell a first-time guest at all. “I know they will be back and don’t always want to throw a sales pitch out that first time, especially if my numbers are already good that month.”
Ramsey doesn’t play favorites when it comes to the products she retails. Instead, she focuses on filling a hole in a guest’s regimen.
“The first time I see a guest, they are usually just using a cleanser and moisturizer,” she says. “So I like to sell them something with a ‘wow’ factor.”
Some of her favorites include the Radiant Skin Refiner for guests who aren’t exfoliating, or one of the three Tulasara Concentrates (Bright, Firm or Calm) to give visible results quickly.
“My goal is often to get guests off heavy retinols to show them natural ingredients can work,” she says.
The Tulasara line has helped her do just that.
“In the past I have struggled getting medi-spa guests to transition to a natural product line, but the entire Tulasara line has provided heavy-hitting products,” she says.
Ramsey advises estheticians who are new to retailing to never assume a guest isn’t interested.
“I recommend product to every single person, even if they tell me they aren’t buying anything,” she says. “I had one guest tell me right off the bat she wasn’t interested in buying any products. I told her I had to give a written recommendation to all my guests, and she still didn’t buy anything. But she did pre-book, and when she came back, she bought products.”
Occasionally, Ramsey gets the “not interested” vibe from a guest. But she still recommends, and sometimes they’ll surprise her by purchasing everything she recommends.
“But you must use ALL of the products yourself,” she emphasizes. “I have zero acne, but I finally tried the Outer Peace pads, and they were amazing. If someone asks me about the exfoliator, I need to know how it works. And there isn’t an owner anywhere who won’t let you try products if it means you’ll sell them.
“There’s really no excuse not to retail,” she adds. “There’s new stuff coming out every day from Aveda.”