What I learned from my hairdresser (and its not about hair!)

You know, I find it interesting that so many entrepreneurs feel like hiding under the table when I start a conversation about sales skills. 

And when they consider why this resistance, they realise that it’s mainly because they don’t like to ‘be sold to’. But, when we dig deeper, they realise they love to buy stuff! 

What’s happening here?

So many of us, when we know it’s time to step up and start promoting our services and selling our products, shrink and disappear under the table. We assume that other people don’t like to buy. Then, when we finally work up enough courage to get out there and start pitching our products and services, we tend to sell to people the way we like to be sold to. When we’re met with rejection, we’re discouraged and ultimately give up. 

A while back, I was in a sales workshop led by one of the best mentors I worked with, an expert in pitching and selling. On that day, I came to realise two important things. The first was the massive difference between influence and manipulation. I wonder if you've noticed how often people mix them up.

Influencing happens when you guide the potential client to make the buying decision that is right for them. I like to call it guided selling/buying.

It’s like thinking of yourself, the seller, as a tour guide for your potential client. Help them discover what they like and what they want. Then design what they need. If you realise you don’t have what they’re looking for, make the brave decision to refer them to the person you know will help them. Direct them to get what they want, rather falling into that short-sighted trap – the hit-and-run strategy. That strategy pushes them to buy something that you have, but that doesn’t match what they’re after.

The other message I took from this workshop was, ‘be the client you want to have. Be cool when someone is pitching their services to you and appreciate where they’re coming from’.

I decided to adopt this attitude for a while, and see what happens. 

After the workshop, I went to get my hair cut. Louis, who has been my favourite hairdresser for a long time, has this natural ability to serve his clients beautifully – and by consequence, his business. I had no idea that I was about to learn an amazing sales strategy! What I’m about to share with you is his great way of implementing the six laws of influence by Dr Cialdini.

Before I tell you the story of Louis, here are the six laws of influence, and an example of each, so you can see them in context:

  1. Reciprocity: if someone brings you a gift, you feel that you must buy them a gift in return.

  2. Social proof: when someone you trust recommends a service, you're more likely to buy.

  3. Authority: when someone has been working in a field for years, you will be more likely told buy from them because in your mind their experience will position them as an expert.

  4. Likability: you are more likely to buy from someone you like.

  5. Consistency: you are most likely to buy from the a brand you said yes to before.

  6. Scarcity: when an offer is quantity-sensitive, for example 50% off sale while stock lasts, you are more likely to make a quick decision to buy (provided that you already want it).

Now back to the story...

Louis is an Italian man in his early 60s. Once, long ago, I picked the salon randomly when walking down the street. As I waited for my turn to get my hair cut, I had a look around me. The walls were filled with pictures of Louis at festivals and hairstylists’ competitions, holding up awards he had won. He’d been a hairdresser for ages – at least 30 years, if not more (+1 authority). He clearly knew his craft. 

I had been to his salon before, but had my hair cut by his apprentice. This time, the apprentice had a day off, and I felt so honoured to be getting a haircut from the master. When I sat to get my hair washed, he asked where I lived. This was a great way to gauge if I could afford his high-quality products. I responded with the name of my suburb, and that was a positive signal to him, as the area is one of Sydney’s most upmarket. Then he asked me what I thought my hair was like. I said, ‘Very thin and without much volume’. He gave me a caring look and said, ‘Let me show you something’.

He brought out a sample of a shampoo and a masque both designed for thin hair that lacks volume. ‘This is the best product I have. It’s from France. I’ve tried so many products but that’s the best (+1 social proof). Would you like me to try it on your hair and see what it can do for you today?’ (Free sample, +1 law of reciprocity). To which of course I said yes.

Slowly and patiently, he began to plant the seed; so I’d try the idea of owning the product. He began as he was cutting my hair and talking about the greatness of the brand, why it was the best, and the results celebrities got from using the product. He did this without ever mentioning the price.

As he did this, he got me to agree with various statements he made. Like, it’s so important to take care of your hair because when people see your healthy hair, it makes you look good and you will attract more clients. To which I said yes. To have healthy hair, he said, you can’t pick random products from the shelf at a chemist. You want to ask an expert to show you the product that is right for you. To which I said yes.

And he kept going and going… By the time he was blow-drying my hair, he had extracted at least seven yesses from me (+7 consistency) …

Louis asked me to check my hair as he was tousling it to show me how much volume it had, and how thick it was looking. He then asked for permission to show me the range of products he thought would be great for my hair. To which I said yes.

He had done a fantastic job of slowly making his pitch. I remembered what my mentor shared with us during the workshop: Be the client you want to have. 

I ended up spending three times more than the price of the haircut. I bought several products and walked from the salon with a big smile on my face. Great job at selling and upselling, Louis! 

In a nutshell, that’s the art of selling.

If you feel challenged by sales, I'd love to hear more about the three biggest challenges you’re facing.

**If you believe that someone in your network might benefit from this story too, please share it with them.**