It’s unquestionable that luxury brands have executed brilliantly in creating customer demand for their products and services – perhaps more than we thought was possible considering the current environment. But since relationships are the lifeblood of luxury retail this exponential growth poses the question – can they deliver the promise of relationships going forward?

Since we can’t only rely on existing clients, and the new clients are changing, the sales advisor role becomes more critical to a brand’s long-term success than ever.

Have You Noticed?

Because the positive business trend is so robust, luxury retailers may not notice if revenue is being generated predominantly with existing customers whose desire for the brand can vary over time.

Since we can’t only rely on existing clients, and the new clients are changing, the sales advisor role becomes more critical to a brand’s long-term success than ever. It’s the sales advisor who has the power to develop a lifetime relationship with the client and, as important, strengthen the relationship between the client and the brand.

Some Challenges Are Not Evident When Sales Are Roaring

In our work with top luxury retailers, we’ve identified a few sleeping challenges that brands need to address today. Consider how much your organization needs to… 

  • Sell beyond the ask

Short-term transactions threaten the long-term business. Although, the business may be strong in the immediate, based on brands skilled at driving traffic for “it” items, how much business is being left on the table by advisors who don’t have the skills to sell what customers didn’t come in for? Marketers get the credit for creating demand – but it’s the advisor that closes the sale – or not.

  • Motivate with meaning – not standards

Sales advisors become self-motivated when they are inspired. Too many managers are trained on giving advisors feedback and coaching without knowing how to inspire. Without a “WHY” or “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” (WIIFM), today’s workforce is subject to the lure of the competition. In luxury, every day brings new standards and protocols, yet advisors today don’t do what’s asked because they “HAVE TO” – so, are you inspiring them to “WANT TO”? 

  • Transform not transact

Transactional relationships with advisors create transactional relationships with clients. The client is not the only one looking for a personalized experience and employees in the current environment are as demanding as the client. Do your managers know your people as individuals, their aspirations, interests, challenges, and personal milestones? Without understanding advisors at the individual level, you run the risk of them feeling as if they are merely cogs in a wheel.

With the pivotal role that sales advisors play in securing future demand, retailers need to ensure advisors have the skills to create healthy relationships with the customer, their manager, and the brand.

Luxury Retailers Need to Put Three Relationships FIRST®

With the pivotal role that sales advisors play in securing future demand, retailers need to ensure advisors have the skills to create healthy relationships with the customer, their manager, and the brand. A small investment in developing core interpersonal skills will increase employee engagement and retention, which translates to increased levels of customer acquisition and spend.

For those retailers who are committed to staying ahead of the curve, we have several recommendations that will make you tomorrow-ready – today. Although these ideas may appear simple, they are not simplistic and require a steadfast dedication to developing a human-centric culture.

Let’s take a look at the triple win.

Relationship #1:  Sales Advisors and Customers

Too often luxury brands double down on selling skills and neglect the core of all relationships – which is an interpersonal connection that requires genuine listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence. While this may seem obvious, common knowledge is not common practice. I invite you to look at your curriculums and gauge if these topics are getting the requisite attention.

WIN: An advisor who masters these skills has a special touch for creating trust with new clients and for forging long-term relationships that translate to brand loyalty. 

Relationship #2. Sales Advisors and Managers

Managers need to know advisors as people and not only see them as employees. This requires managers to know what motivates each one individually. One-size fits all motivation strategies don’t work as well as personalized interactions. Conduct conversations on topics other than performance, listen to discover their hearts and minds, and listen for the cues and clues with genuine curiosity to tailor recognition to their individual preferences. This sounds deceptively easy and yet one of the biggest requests we receive is to develop managers in these skills.

WIN: Managers who master these skills create healthy environments where sales advisors exceed their goals and take initiative to develop future business.

Relationship #3. Sales Advisors and the Brand

Employees want to be inspired by something bigger than themselves – the brand. This is why they often join an organization with excitement and then become disillusioned by having to focus only on tasks and standards. Brands need to link employee initiatives to the company values so that advisors find meaning in how they contribute to those initiatives. This requires leadership to be transparent and make a concerted effort to live their values in everything they do.

WIN: Brands that master these skills attract and keep top talent and transform their people into brand ambassadors who elevate the brand with everyone they meet.

Success is Not an Accident

While I am not suggesting that the positive business trend in luxury will diminish – I am saying luxury retailers will benefit now, and in the future, from taking an in-depth look at what’s needed today from the sales advisor role and what will be needed going forward to ensure continued success. Heading off tomorrow’s problems today will convert challenges into competitive advantages.

Martin Shanker is founder and president of Shanker Inc., a New York-based global consultancy deploying its Relationship FIRST® Method for luxury retailers and brands to develop their sales teams with a focus on neurosciences, emotional intelligence, and behavior-based training. Clients include Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, LVMH, Lane Crawford, Tod’s and Van Cleef & Arpels. Reach him at