If Clienteling is critically important to the success of a luxury brand and to the success of the sales professional—then why have sales professionals been reluctant to ask all clients for their contact information?

Are your sales professionals not asking 100% of the time because they won’t or can’t?

Since managers often complain that sales professionals are not asking all customers for their contact information, I have, over the past six months while consulting and training thousands of managers, asked the following question to better understand and help my clients resolve this challenge:

Would you say that your sales professionals don’t ask their clients for their contact information 100% of the time because they:

  1. WON’T (the sales professional knows how to effectively ask clients but won’t) or
  2. CAN’T (the sales professional doesn’t ask because they don’t know how to ask effectively)


Managers’ response

Upward of 85% of managers said their sales professionals WON’T ASK, commenting that sales professionals did not need support on “how” to ask to increase effectiveness. Furthermore, these managers expressed a frustration with their sales teams not asking customers more often. In particular, managers complained that sales professionals offered excuses such as:

“I know my customers and they don’t want to give retailers this information.”
“My customers complain they already get too many emails.”
“I do ask, but my customers become frustrated with me and so I stopped asking.”
“You want me to ask every customer for his or her email and contact information?”

A different perspective: What was really troubling or standing in the way of sales professionals’ success?

By interviewing many sales professionals crossing different clients and product categories and asking questions to understand why sales professionals were not asking clients, I discovered a different perspective.
Sales professionals were not asking customers for their contact information if they thought it would risk frustrating their customer at the end of the sale. Although salespeople didn’t come out directly and say they needed help, it was the subtext of what they were passionately saying. Simply said, if sales professionals received an emotional decline to their request, they felt it was a risk the client might not return to the store and ask for them by name. It was evident they struggled between the opportunity and the risk and sales professionals won’t risk being rejected.

As a response, I asked sales professionals: “If I could show you a way that would not risk offending your customers — would you ask 100% of your customers for their contact information? The answer I received was a resounding – yes!

In the end, identifying an effective way that sales professionals could ask customers for their contact information, without fear of pushing the customer, was a big help in improving performance. When sales professionals applied the specific words and methods when asking clients for their contact information, their capture rate jumped to 90%+ effectiveness in obtaining their email address and mobile phone number.

What did managers learn?

  • Employees sometimes speak in code. Instead of admitting they don’t know how to do something they think they should actually know how to do, they will instead offer explanations why they can’t do something.
  • More times than not, if an employee is not doing what you ask – check carefully that they know how and if they don’t, teach them.
  • Managers seemed to be addressing the symptom rather than the problem, which resulted in a push/pull with their sales teams rather than listening for the root of the problem and developing real solutions. The job of managers is to solve root issues.
  • Adults typically don’t tell you what they don’t know because they believe they should already know, so instead they offer explanations why they can’t so something which sound like excuses but are often a call for help.
  • Don’t assume employees can do what’s being asked – even if it seems simple to you.
  • The sales professional / client relationship is one that sales professionals are careful not to jeopardize. Therefore, their decisions are based on perceived risk.

Martin Shanker is the President of Shanker Inc, a global consultancy working with luxury brands developing sales teams to stay relevant in these evolving times. Clients include Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, LVMH, Lane Crawford, Tod’s, Van Cleef & Arpels and many other luxury brands.