While today’s high net worth clients are demanding more personalization, luxury retail has become more impersonal. The velocity with which luxury is growing, along with the unprecedented turnover of its sales teams is magnifying this challenge.

Clienteling, where sales associates build long-term relationships with customers, based on their preferences to provide superior customer experiences, is key to resolving this challenge. Furthermore, when Clienteling is done well, sales advisors can create desire in ways that marketing and CRM cannot.

It’s not business as usual…

We are in the midst of a retail revolution. Clients are more knowledgeable, giving them confidence not seen before. It’s no longer the advisor selecting the client, but instead, the power has shifted to clients who have more choices than ever. This has changed how clients make decisions, shop, and how they choose sales advisors.

Today’s luxury clients are less likely to purchase high-end products from strangers. Unless sales advisors can identify topics of mutual interest, then Clienteling is minimized.

Said simply, unless at least 20% of client communication is on topics of mutual interest, then the relationship is less sustainable. What percentage of your sales team is executing at this level?

The risks are high…

Impersonal outreach by too many sales advisors, blast emails from HQ and automated CRM correspondence contacting clients, posing as sales advisors, hurts revenue. This type of impersonal Clienteling damages the luxury store brand, as well as the sales advisor’s brand.

Current Clienteling challenges…

1. Clients are less likely to respond to strangers

Today’s clients are less likely to respond to outreach from an advisor they don’t remember and with whom they felt no rapport.

2. Inactive clients are getting lost

Turnover is making it harder to inspire inactive clients to return. This is often under-addressed by retailers when sales are growing exponentially – like now.

3. Quotas kill – Clienteling by the pound does not work

Giving quotas to advisors for how many clients they must reach daily, weekly, etc. without oversight for quality, damages relationships. Sending generic emails and text messages about new products is not enough.

4. Technology does not replace relationships

Advisors who just copy and paste templates without personalizing the communication jeopardize relationships. Just imagine being the client who works with more than one advisor in the same company and receives identical messages.

5. Different generations require different solutions

Today, there are five generations of customers. Is your sales team adept and flexing to the demographics of each customer?  Does your sales team have a special focus on nurturing the next generation?

In our experience working with luxury retailers, we find the following Relationship FIRST® Clienteling strategies to be successful:

1. Manage relationships, not transactions

Sales advisors need to use Clienteling not only to sell but also to build relationships. Clients do more business with advisors with whom they have a relationship. This is not a universal skill that sales associates have. It needs to be learned – especially by the youngest generations who may have less experience using interpersonal skills.

2. Strategic vs. Unplanned

Clienteling, done well, is a strategic tool to develop a book of business, not just a history of outreach and responses. Strategizing monthly and weekly, and implementing daily, will capture a greater percentage of clients’ unplanned purchases.

3. Allocate Clienteling time for each sales advisor

“I have no time” used to be an excuse, today it’s a reality. Retail leadership needs to solve the issue of “no time” when sales advisors truly have no time to conduct Clienteling. At the very least, leadership needs to designate specific Clienteling time for each advisor.

4. Create an intrapreneurial clienteling culture

We find the most successful companies executing Clienteling are retailers who, at the time of their founding, placed this activity at the core of their company values. Family jewelers and art galleries are powerful examples, whose advisors live Clienteling every day. It’s not too late. Be the executive who helps your organization shift from Clienteling tasks to a Clienteling culture.

5. Upskill and reskill to reinvent

All skills are not equal. It’s the select skills that make the biggest difference. At Shanker Inc. our Relationship FIRST® Clienteling addresses the strategy and skills clients seek from their sales advisors.

A call to action…

Unless your organization is continually supporting your sales team to differentiate its Clienteling – then it’s likely, that your competition is.

Shanker Inc.’s Relationship FIRST® Clienteling Method prepares your sales associates to engage with each customer to deliver the personalized attention they demand and deserve.

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 martin.shanker@shankerinc.com