3 things I learned from perfume salespeople.

When I walked through the front doors of Saks Fifth Avenue the other day, I felt like a stock trader on a trading room floor . . . on Black Monday.  It was a free-for-all of trial scents and “free gift with purchase” pitches shouted in my ear as I tried desperately to get to the elevators in the back.

Talk about cluttered sales environments!

It reminded me of our industry.

When I realized that those perfume pitchers might have a lot in common with Producers trying to sell shows, raise money, etc., I didn’t jump on those elevators so quick.  Instead, I watched for a good fifteen minutes, and picked up a few pointers for myself, and for all of you.

1.  Never stop selling.

“Calvin Klein for Men!” . . . “Calvin Klein for Me-!” . . . “Calvin . . . ”  These guys and gals were relentless.  And while it might get annoying, these salespeople knew that their job was partly a numbers game, and they were going to make sure they made an impression on every passerby, regardless of whether that impression resulted in a on-the-spot purchase.

LESSON:  If you’ve got a product you’re proud of, shout if from the rafters . . . and keep on shouting until you’ve got no voice.  And then write it on a sign and hold it up for people to read.

2.  Free samples and free services leads to sales.

I watched as three women got fully made up by cosmetics salespeople right in front of my eyes.  And then I watched as each of those three women walked about with a bag of product.  Offering a free ‘expert’ service along with some promotional products without a doubt helped solidify a sale.

LESSON:  Don’t be afraid to give away the milk if it’s really good milk, and it will keep people coming back to your cow.

3.  Getting to know you.  Getting to know all . . . 

Before those women were made up, the salesperson did her best to rid herself of that salesy title.  With a few quick questions and some back and forth, she quickly became the customer’s girlfriend . . . and how could a girlfriend steer you wrong with beauty choices?  I listened as the salesperson asked about her customer’s job, relationship, kids and more . . . and the sales person was genuine with her interest!  Luxury products aren’t essentials, so no one is going to buy them from people they don’t like.

LESSON:  Find ways to converse with your customers, whether in-person or online, and take customer service to a new level . . . and a new experience.


I hear a lot of us complain how difficult it is to do what we do, whether that’s sell tickets, raise money, or figure out how to fix a Dell printer that won’t stop jamming (sorry, a little personal venting there).  But if we all would stop and look around, we’d see that there are other people that have obstacles not that unrelated to ours.

And if we take a whiff of what they’re doing, maybe we could learn a thing or two.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.