How to Navigate the Art of the Upsell

It is challenging to navigate product recommendations with clients who are uninformed. Hannah Gay dives deep into the art of the upsell, and how education is the first step to securing the best results for your clients.

For the average Australian consumer, shopping for beauty products is a challenge. I’m often one
to take a stroll down the beauty aisle at Woolies to check out its wall of cleansers. And I’ll admit, waiting for a prescription at the chemist is always more enticing when Cetaphil’s on sale. It baffled me as a teenager that some beauty products would cost more than others, and that grabbing a can of Le Tan somehow never felt quite so rewarding as splurging on St Tropez.

Growing up, I came to assume it was all just a branding thing – that a Chanel foundation would always cost more because … Chanel. I’m certainly more savvy nowadays, however the confusion felt by the bulk of Aussie beauty consumers remains. One client will gladly drop a day’s wage on a deep cleansing facial, yet follow with a haul of celebrity-endorsed skincare. While both are typically considered ‘treat’ purchases, the methodology behind each spend doesn’t quite line up. There’s no doubt the results gained from a treatment with a trained beauty therapist cannot be matched. And yet somehow, consumers of beauty will regularly lean on other stockists to serve them better skin.

Financial incentive and beauty marketing

I look at it in two ways: firstly, the financial incentive. When a professional moisturiser can cost upwards of $100, we’re often swayed into picking up a $12 alternative at our next grocery shop. The second, more challenging issue to navigate is around marketing. Unfortunately, measures around ingredient marketing remain loose, confusing buyers into believing there’s no difference between a retail niacinamide and a professional one. It’s a conversation I enter into regularly with friends in an attempt to condense the science into layman’s terms.

“If I could shout it from the rooftops it would be that just because a product has cult status in a Facebook beauty group, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually a good quality product or one that is right for you,” argues Skintifix owner and dermaviduals stockist of 13 years, Robyn McAlpine. “As a society we spend far too much money on beauty products that don’t deliver the promise that the shiny marketing suggested it would. Partnered with guidance and support, working with a corneotherapist takes the guesswork and trial and error out of buying skincare which means you’re getting more for your investment instead of buying self-guided, off the shelf (or the internet).”

Why spend more on professional beauty products

So how does the beauty therapist rectify this, better educating their clients and in turn, prompting them to spend in-salon instead? National Educator for RefectoCil Australia, Hayley Sultana reminds us that pro products are dearer than non-pro given the high quality and/or active ingredients they contain. “These unique ingredients make the products more effective and long lasting, so although professional products may be slightly more expensive initially, in the long run you can be guaranteed of more consistent and reliable results which translates into more bang for your buck!” The brand retails a line of at-home SKUs through its salon stockists, ensuring clients are face-to-face with choice post-treatment. “Customers are not only getting a customised and professional service from their lash or brow artist but have the satisfaction of knowing the products they use following their professional treatment have been specifically designed to deliver ongoing results.”

Making informed decisions

In 2017, Lisa Conway wrote in her book Your Salon Retail (Zing Office): “People want to make informed decisions. As a professional, it’s your job to inform them.” I once worked in retail and so this lesson has been pumped through my veins. It’s a steeper learning curve for the beauty therapist, who can often be reluctant to sell to their clients as they feel it’s not their area of expertise. Investing in solid staff training is a vital way to boost selling skills. RefectoCil has invested in free monthly online training sessions, live demonstrations and RefectoCil-certified courses for its stockists. “Our philosophy is that upselling and education work hand-in-hand,” Hayley says. “We teach industry professionals and encourage them to educate their clients on the benefits and importance of home care products along with emphasising the benefits as to why a particular salon treatment can enhance another. When these techniques are passed on in a professional manner there really is no need to ‘upsell’.”

The importance of a skin analysis

Robyn takes a stricter approach to sales, whereby clients are required to undergo a skin analysis prior to making any in-salon purchase decisions. “I do believe it hinders clients but for all the right reasons. And as a business owner this is exactly what you want! It creates a client who is committed to the process and who understands the importance of knowing their skin in order to get results. By not having direct online sales it creates a really strong client-to-business relationship.”

Like getting a product tip-off from a friend, a recommendation from a trusted therapist is just as good. Sometimes, when we’re lost amongst the noise that is modern beauty marketing, we just want to be told what to do and how to do it. “One of our highest values is trust and intention,” Robyn explains. “This means we are always asking ourselves what’s the best option for the client in front of us. For some clients, the best option is the cheaper one and that’s what we will always go with. The bonus of integrity- driven retailing is that it’s also seen our retail sales skyrocket.”

This article first appeared in the July-August 2022 print issue of Professional Beauty.

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