The 4 Dimensions of Commercial Elegance

Nicolas Caron

Published : 17 May 2016
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Before introducing the four dimensions of relational and commercial sophistication, I would like to remind you of some self-evident facts that we sometimes forget:

Luxury is the only industry that goes unaffected by the crisis. The figures do not decline and all reports look favourable in terms of growth prospects.  As a case in point, let’s take a look at this note on LVMH’s website from CEO Bernard Arnault:

LVMH

In 2013 LVMH has recorded a further increase in sales, and its operating income has crossed the 6-billion-euro mark. In a buoyant and competitive market our Group perpetuates its success by combining long-term vision and reactivity, tradition and innovation, spirit of enterprise and social awareness.

There is no doubting that we would all like to be in a position to write such words in our annual reports!

Of course, your industry may seem very different from that of LVMH, luxury hotels or jewellery. Yet, the codes and business practices of luxury can be modelled and used to inspire traditional business practices, whatever the sector.

For example, one of the essential practices of major luxury brands is to ensure that the brand values are adhered to by employees. This is not optional, it is THE priority. The level of demands is huge on this and all necessary means are implemented to ensure a proper understanding of the behaviors and emotions expected on the field.

Besides these points, these brands also pay attention to the new codes of luxury at all levels of the marketing chain.

The new codes of luxury

What are these codes?
They are practices, postures, attitudes, gestures, verbal and non-verbal communication allowing salespersons to establish:

  • An exceptional relationship rooted in a culture or a history and centered on a number of fundamentals. In a sector undergoing great upheaval, this helps maintain solid foundations.
  • A hedonistic relationship which is constantly renewed and individualized. Customers always have new emotional and sensory interests. All senses must be aroused through colours, materials, etc.
  • An essential relationship, justified by its intensity, authenticity and simplicity. In the luxury industry this is synonymous with purity, ethics, delicacy and uniqueness.
  • A creative relationship emphasizing a sublimated and innovative humanity, associated with the modern digital mindset, opened to new storytelling and fields of expression.

If you are done reading the above, I suggest you read it again and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why would my clients not be sensible to these codes?
  • How would these relationships allow me to get better in my own industry by questioning my vision, what makes me different, my business network, my results, etc.?
  • How raising my CRM requirement level could help me distinguish myself from others and turn the “relationship” card into a long-term asset?

Because Halifax leaders are confident that the codes of luxury can translate to other sectors in the pursuit of business excellence, they have decided to integrate Ludi Art – the company I have created – to the Halifax group.

Now that I am part of the group, we have decided to teach some very specific modus operandi in order to increase the quality of the relationship between sellers and customers, regardless of their profiles – i.e. to use relational elegance as an additional asset to :

  • Take more pleasure in the job and become aware of the emotions that are experienced and conveyed
  • Establish instant and long-term relationships with demanding customers
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Sell more and better

The 4 dimensions of relational elegance

Drawing inspiration from the new codes of luxury, we will answer the question: How can we teach relational elegance to every seller?

With this question in mind, we have broken down the meaning of these codes into four essential dimensions.  An essential, intense and authentic relationship should have a genuine human dimension. An aesthetic and hedonistic relationship should be imbued with beauty, delicacy, pleasure and words likely to sublimate stories and arouse the senses. Salespersons must therefore develop this aesthetic dimension.

The creative component of the relationship is a reflection of our digital era, that of a population that constantly needs to be surprised. Thus, sellers must not only master organization skills and knowledge and anticipate, but also develop their own creativity to meet the ever changing demands and behaviors of customers. This is the new professional dimension at stake.

Finally, let’s not forget that anyone dealing with a customer must sell themselves as well as their products.  The fourth dimension of our approach – the commercial dimension – merely consists in adapting the three other dimensions to sales, negotiation, complaints handling, up-selling, cross-selling, and budget management techniques.

The human dimension

La dimension humaine de la vente - Le grand blog de la vente

Bringing back the human dimension at the heart of the relationship means that you should immediately show consideration towards your customers, regardless of the means of communication – face to face, telephone or email. They are the ones who come to us and choose us by giving us a call or sending us an email. We should therefore offer them all our relational resources by being sincere and fully committed to them. Superficial and contrived welcoming techniques don’t work.

The usual personalized service that all companies claim to offer in their annual reports and websites materializes first and foremost through the special treatment customers get at each and every interaction. Good intentions only translate into real actions when you are facing the client. This is where luxury brands make the difference, allowing no gap between the promise made and the real experience.

In this human approach, the seller must develop his self-awareness in order to be more available to others. This means being present in the here-and-now with the other person and switching from artificial customization to genuinely personalised relationships.

The aesthetic dimension 

La dimension esthétique de la vente - Le grand blog de la vente

We are living in an era of image and appearance which is even more intense in the universe of luxury where beauty is paramount and every detail matters.
Sellers must look after their personal aesthetics just as they must their professional environment. They have to maintain the quality of the environment where customers are received or welcomed.

To illustrate my point, here is an excerpt of an interview I conducted with Carole Aversenq, the CEO of 4 * hotel L’Ermitage, located in the Evian Resort.

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Hôtel Royal Ermitage

According to you, what are the constraints specific to the world of luxury?

“In the world of luxury, customers expect a certain standard even if there are differences in quality between a 4* and a 5*. Our resort includes both a 4* hotel (L’ERMITAGE) and a 5* hotel (Le ROYAL), so when clients from Le ROYAL move to L’ERMITAGE, they often forget that they are entering a 4* hotel and come there expecting the same level of service and quality, which makes things more difficult.

In a 4 *, clients expect an experience that matches their investment and the quality/price ratio is very important.

Besides, clients are increasingly impatient.”

(During this interview she made a remark about the cleanliness of the table as we were discussing on the terrace. I can tell you that this woman sees everything. She saw a faded rose in a floral presentation and had it removed immediately. She also asked the waiter to clean up a few forgotten crumbs and made a remark to him).

Then another waiter came to ask us to change seats because a group of customers had arrived and the lounge we were in was not suitable for two. Mrs. Aversenq asked me: “Do you think that he spoke with enough elegance when he asked us to move?”. I replied with a smile. We understood each other. It was not enough per her requirement level. The words and gestures expressed must constantly match the standards of the place and be delivered with the necessary relational elegance.

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Just like this waiter, a salesperson aiming for excellence needs to develop an aesthetic dimension and thus get a better feel of how meticulous they must be about the way they look. This is also achieved by choosing venues for clients (hotel, restaurant or lounge), selecting the appropriate images or pictures for products when sending a written proposal, devising a factory tour to impress clients with the neatness of the place. Finally, salespeople must pay close attention to their verbal and nonverbal communication so that they can be in harmony with their clients. They should select relevant and meaningful words and speak with a tone adapted to the expectations of the client. Their posture, eyes and smile will have to share the same aesthetic qualities, i.e. a simple and natural charm both pleasant and reassuring for the client.

The professional dimension 

La dimension professionnelle de la vente - Le grand blog de la vente

Being professional in the luxury industry means that you should ANTICIPATE customer needs and therefore prepare every interaction with care. Here are a few examples:

  • A client of your restaurant is pregnant and you give her a cushion to seat on the terrace; you will do that before she asks you because you know that the iron chairs look pretty but won’t be comfortable enough for her.
  • You are going to play on a superb golf course in Scotland as a result of a lovely birthday present. You get out of your car; someone comes forward to welcome you and calls you by your name. He already knows who you are and immediately shares the details of your program of the day.
  • A waiter, knowing that cooking a beef rib requires at least half an hour, gently notifies his customers to avoid them getting unnecessarily impatient, or better yet, to make sure the dish they asked for matches the time they want to spend at the table.

Salespeople aiming for excellence receive their clients after having prepared their files with great care. They would never ask them: “How long have you been a client?” because they already know!

Traditional sellers applying the codes of luxury should subtly emphasize their professional and personal expertise without overdoing it and take some time to listen to and observe their client. They should rely on the history of their company, their superior product knowledge and the quality of their skills to achieve excellence at every interaction.

They should also be fully aware of the scope of their profession and be able to keep their promises. This is critical. The client should never be able to say, “I’ve been deceived.” Whatever the subject, service or interaction, your actions should always match the promise.

The commercial dimension

vendre avec délicatesse - Le grand blog de la vente

In the luxury industry, it is better to proceed at the pace of the client. Advising and suggesting is often the first step. Then, by talking about the history of the product, of the company’s success, we make the client want to buy and choose us.

However, tact is not incompatible with commercial efficiency.

Of course, when it comes to selling, the end-goal is always the same. The big difference is that the best salespeople have grasped a major principle: A lot of customers love to buy but hate being sold to. Selling with the codes of luxury means transforming this precept into an actual day-to-day behavior.

In the world of luxury, sales and negotiation techniques are taught via our traditional face-to-face modules or through digital learning. The subtlety lies in the techniques you choose to use, the way you use them and how you adapt them.

For example, when choosing a luxury hotel for a seminar the argumentation should attract the client by focusing on the beauty and greatness of the place – walls, surfaces, high ceilings, beautiful views, natural light, original frescos, historical anecdotes about the place, connection with the values of the client’s company. Being able to “narrate” stories, to emphasize materials, places and products requires great oral skills, vocabulary and knowledge. 

This applies to all industries

Les codes du luxe peuvent se décliner - Le grand blog de la vente

As I mentioned earlier, the codes of luxury can perfectly fit into more traditional industries, in B2C as well as B2B. Here are a few examples.

  • When receiving an IT supplier, would you prefer them to use a basic closing technique to make sure you sign quickly, or would you rather be captivated and get a feel of all the benefits their solution could bring your way?
  • When you arrive at your bank and there are people ahead of you in the queue, would you rather have the cashier immediately acknowledge you by looking over his screen, smiling at you and greeting you with a small nod, as if to say, “I saw you, I’ll get to you ASAP”, or do you prefer waiting without any sign of recognition?
  • When visiting a property, do you prefer hearing, “This room is 15m2″ without being guided around or having the agent take some time to show you the south-facing terrace, discuss the arrangement possibilities, tell you about the history of the house and the means of transportation?
  • When you want to buy a new car and you enter the dealership, do you like seeing vendors having a good laugh without lifting a finger because they are finishing their coffee or do you prefer dealing with a nice vendor who immediately gets up to welcome you with a friendly attitude? At the end of the meeting, do you prefer someone who gives you a price scrawled on a leaflet or someone who surveys your needs in detail and gently hands you a well-drafted and personalized quote?

We all have a lot of examples of business transactions conducted without this kind of pleasant elegance that could have elicited our desire to buy, and more importantly, to buy again.

To conclude, I hope this article has made you want to try and explore new avenues of business excellence, whatever your industry. If you want more information about the programs we are developing on this topic, you will find an example here.

Happy sales day!

Françoise Rousseau 

© Halifax Consulting

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