Have you ever had a new client come into the salon, and you immediately wished you hadn’t booked with them? You couldn’t help judging them based on how they looked or how they dressed or acted. They basically made a bad first impression.
That happened to me as a young stylist. I worked in a super trendy salon that accepted walk-ins and a woman came into the salon who looked like she hadn’t had her hair cut in ages. Her clothes were out of style and she actually looked like she could be living on the streets.
Assumptions were made that she would be a poor tipper and none of the more experienced stylists wanted to deal with her. So being the new stylist, I agreed to help her.
As I began the consultation and focused solely on this woman who had been pre-judged by all of us, I realized she was a lovely woman. We discussed what style she wanted, and I ended up giving her a great haircut. She was thrilled with the beautiful change and tipped me $100! That’s back when the shampoo, haircut and style was about $30.
Turns out, she had money. And she was so pleased with my haircut and the way I made her feel that she continued to book with me.
We all live by the WIIFM mentality. What’s In It For Me?
It’s human nature. We aren’t too excited about doing things, reading things, listening to things that don’t benefit us in some way.
In fact, the best advertisers know what their clients want and make sure their ads let the clients know exactly what’s in it for them.
What would happen if we used the WIIFM philosophy with our clients?
What if, rather than trying to tell them what style we think would look best on them, we give them our full attention and discover who they are and what they want.
Granted, they may want a style that you know won’t look good on them because you’ve assessed their hair, face shape and body shape. And in that case, it’s your duty as a professional to let them know the reasons why you would suggest something different.
When you make your clients feel heard and valued, they will trust you when you explain why the style they want isn’t the best choice for them.
Here’s five key steps that will help you incorporate the WIIFM philosophy with your hairstyling clients:
1. Put The Client First
Do you listen to understand your clients or do you listen to reply because you already know what you want to say?
Listening is vital to your success as a hairstylist. Listening demonstrates that you care and are truly interested in the outcome.
Listening helps you clarify what the client really wants. They may not use the same jargon or terminology that you use to describe a certain style or a preference. If you listen intently, you’ll be able to understand what they are telling you in ways you both can agree upon.
Listening allows you overcome obstacles before they happen because you’ll be able to personalize their services by including what they want and avoiding what they don’t want.
LISTEN to your clients by:
L – Looking them in the eye with confidence.
I – Intently listening and asking questions to understand their wishes.
S - Staying focused on what they are asking you to do.
T – Testing your understanding by repeating back their desires.
E – Engaging with positivity and non-judgment.
N - Noticing all the details about their hair, their face shape, body shape, and lifestyle to determine if the style they want will provide the results they are looking for.
Listening ultimately builds trust. And trust leads to loyal clients who will keep coming back to you.
2. Be Present
Have you ever been to a party where there’s tons of people and music and all sorts of distractions and you’re having a conversation with someone who makes you feel like you are the only one in the room? They were totally focused on you and were intently listening to what you were saying. They weren’t looking around or constantly checking their phone, and you didn’t feel rushed.
It’s an awesome feeling when you’re talking with someone like that. They make you feel special. You walk away feeling encouraged because you know they really care about you and what you have to say.
That’s a great trait to practice with your clients. The hustle and bustle in the salon can be very distracting, and it’s easy to find your attention wandering while your client is telling you what they want.
So focus on focusing on them! Make them feel like the only one in the room. You will make them feel special, and you’ll increase the chances that they’ll rebook.
Remember the saying, “Put yourself in their shoes.” That’s what I’m referring to here. When a client is sitting in your chair, they might be having a bad day. Or maybe they had a bad experience at the last salon they were at so they are distrustful.
Rather than taking their words or their mood personally, try putting yourself in their situation to defuse that feeling so you don’t become defensive. It’s not easy so you have to be intentional about this because if we aren’t prepared, it can set us off.
As soon as you feel yourself becoming defensive, take a mental step back, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this isn’t a personal attack. Their behavior says more about them and what they’ve gone through than it says about you.
If you can empathize with them, it will help you win their trust and you’ll increase the odds that they’ll become a regular client.
4. Banish Assumptions
Assumptions will often come back to bite you – just like my story above about the disheveled woman who came into the salon where we all assumed she had no money.
As difficult as it is to do, the best mindset to take with all new clients is a neutral stance. Meaning, don’t judge them before you know their story.
Have you ever had a bad day? You know, the kind of day where you think it can’t get any worse but it does? If someone judged you and your character based on your attitude or actions that day, would they be judging you correctly?
This is where giving the new client “the benefit of the doubt until you have all the facts” is a great strategy to take.
Sometimes, though, you will have new clients who are just icky people and if that proves to be the case after your attempts at listening, being present and empathizing, then you will have to decide if this is a client you want to tolerate. You can refuse to rebook them while still maintaining your integrity.
Hopefully, the majority of your new clients will prove to be wonderful people and you’ll share mutual admiration for each other.
5. Ego Check
I don’t know about you but as soon as I allow myself to think too highly of myself and my skills, and I just jump in without paying attention to Steps 1-4 above, I seem to experience a humbling incident.
In this blog, I shared about an incident where I confidently gave a client the style she asked for but I wasn’t applying the steps above because if I had done those things, I would have discovered she was going through a very tough time and her request for a drastically different haircut was emotionally driven.
If I had checked my ego and sat with her and really listened, I could have steered her in the right direction like Jan did in my blog.
Please don’t confuse confidence with ego. One of the top priorities of On Point Hair Academy and this Own Your Chair blog is to help hairstylists build confidence. When you are a confident stylist and you’re willing to learn and grow, your business will flourish.
If, on the other hand, a hairstylist has a big ego without the skills behind it because they aren’t willing to learn and grow and take accountability for their actions, they will most likely struggle to maintain a successful business.
When you have humility (freedom from pride and arrogance) but you have confidence – that is a winning combination!
As you practice and master these steps, your clients will keep coming back to you again and again. Plus, they’ll most likely refer their friends and family to you.
And as your business grows and you increase your prices, they will happily pay top dollar for your services because they trust that you have their best interests at heart.
I’m not just saying this because it sounds good. I’m living proof of this because this is exactly how I’ve built my business.
Let me know if you’ve incorporated these steps in your hairstyling business and how they’ve helped you with client retention.
On Point Hair Academy and my Own Your Chair program were created for stylists like you who need just a little help (or a lot of help) in different areas of their hairstyling business. You don’t have to take this hairstyling journey alone.
Sign up to receive email updates about my latest blogs, in-person classes, my upcoming online membership and my soon-to-be launched online signature course.
If you’re ready to be in charge of your future, click the button now.
Remember, your work is not about you. Your work is about how you make your clients feel.