How not to sell perfume

I work with PR and communication so it is natural that the different aspects of sales techniques interest me, from the rhetorics to hands-on practical details. I am particularly fascinated by this, when it comes to perfumes as I think retail generally does have some work to do regarding consumer communication. The gap between the art, knowledge and stories within the perfume world – and the consumer – is gigantic. This leads to people spending too much money on products that are not right for them, which leads only to confusion and disappointment. People buy to much crap produced without neither heart nor art – because the perfume world allows itself be a slave to sales logistics. And the exceptions to these descriptions – they are much less well-known than they should be. Seriously, je déclare la guerre.

I don’t expect every person who sells perfume to be an expert. Although, that would be amazing… But I do hope that you feel, if not passion, then at least respect for the exceptional product that you sell, and that you have the will to create genuine dialogue.

I would love to spend some time with people who sell perfumes and talk about how we best invite and guide others into this world. Selling perfume is not like selling ”anything”, its like being there for someone who is discovering their inner self, its like being an expert of Michelangelo’s art. For crying out loud, all you sales machines – get your act together!

So. Here is a real-life example on how it should not be done. Today after work I went to a store in Stockholm to try Coco Noir. Inevitable. I have avoided reading reviews, just noticed them, because I wanted to discover it with a clear mindset. However, from my post yesterday (and if you read this blog you know), you can picture my stand on the noir side of things.

And here we go… I get to the Chanel counter, look for paper strips, none are to be found… After a while a sales woman approaches me and asks if she can help me. I answer politely ”No, thank you, I am happy botanizing by myself”. This is sign No 1 that she should back off. She doesn’t. Instead she says with the persuasion special effects of a real estate sales machine, ”Oh, this one is SO GREAT, I wear it myself. I have worn it everyday since I got it”. Ok… let’s pick this army of information apart. 1) I am smelling the perfume to see what I think about it. Not what she thinks about it. I could of course be interested in that and some other day maybe I would be, but today I already signaled that I wanted to be left alone. 2) It is completely irrelevant if she wears the perfume to me. For all sorts of very logical reasons like for example the fact that my skin does not smell like her skin. It is just completely irrelevant. The only two reasons why this information would be valuable are 1) if the two of us were identical or at least similar in a couple of relevant ways – and we were just not, and 2) if I really wanted to be (=try to smell) like her, and I don’t, and its just megalomania on her part if she assumed I do. The natural conclusion when someone is testing perfumes is that they want to find a fragrance that smells like them, like the self that they want to be. Needless to say – she has no idea what about me it is that I am looking for in an olfactory reflection of me – as she is only talking and thinking about herself. So all this information about this total stranger leaves me bored and silent. If she really wanted to talk to me about herself, well, weirder things happen in the metropolitan landscape – fine. But she wanted to tell me what to do (=buy) by telling me what she does, taking for granted that I want to be like her. Don’t ever do this when you sell perfume. You are insulting art when you do. If you don’t get this or if it sounds to pretentious for you, please sell something else.

You would think that it would stop here. After all, I was totally silent and not exactly encouraging the conversation. But she had more in store. ”You should know (I just love strangers who tell me what I “should”) that this is the last bottle we have, they all went flying of the shelves”. Ok. Should I buy it because everyone else that I don’t know did? Because…? By now I am thinking, ”Please, just stop talking, you seem like a nice girl but this is not working out, can’t you feel that?”. But I feel rude ignoring her so I say, ”Yes, it is exceptional, but not as noir as I expected”. This triggers no conversation. I sigh and walk away to the other Chanel bottles to play around for a while. I pick up Coco Mademoiselle. A familiar voice goes: ”This one really reminds you of the other one, they are very similar. They both contain patchouli.” Please, perfume girl… I just said the noir was less noir than I hoped, what are you saying? It’s like you’re comparing a man’s mistress to his daughter.

And then she starts talking about a body lotion that is perfect with the perfumes. I leave.

Perfume deserves more than this. If you agree and if you are in a position where you can do something about it, I will gladly support you in any way I can.

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