Over the last few months, I have spent significant time with the sales teams of several luxury brands across different sectors. One challenge these brands had in common was making their brand story tangible and relevant for sales associates and brand ambassadors, in addition to providing them with enough knowledge on luxury clients, who have, in most cases, a fundamentally different lifestyle than the sales staff.
I remember shadowing VIC sales ambassadors who not once reinforced the brand story in the sales process. When I asked for the reason, the answer was blunt: “Only marketing believes in the story. For the rest of the organization, it’s irrelevant. We focus on product.”
“Only marketing believes in the story. For the rest of the organization, it’s irrelevant. We focus on product.”
The result of such thinking can be a disaster. When the sales process is product-focused, omitting the brand story, there will be no brand-specific narrative and the clients will get a rather transactional experience instead of an emotional immersion. This has significant impact on willingness-to-pay, desirability creation, and loyalty. Even worse, when companies don’t educate employees on evolving luxury client expectations, including those of Gen Z, then it is difficult to imagine how a brand ambassador can inspire a client.
Luxury products are often purchased as expressions of personal identity. Hence, brand perception is everything. It is that invisible, yet tangible, emotion that connects the consumer to the product, differentiates one brand from another, and inevitably leads to a purchase. This is where brand storytelling and luxury sales training become vital. They are not mere strategies; they're integral parts of a successful luxury brand.
However, many luxury brands are underestimating the importance of training their sales teams on luxury and brand storytelling. They often take it for granted or don’t do enough due diligence to cross-check if the story is actionable in the sales process and actually used, as pointed out in the example above. This underestimation, unfortunately, will dilute the brand's image, negatively impact customer experiences, and ultimately suppress sales and growth.
Brand storytelling is not just about presenting a brand's history or its product line; it's about creating a unique, distinct, authentic and value-creating narrative that resonates emotionally with consumers. In the high-end luxury market, consumers aren't just buying products; they're buying experiences, emotions, and a sense of belonging to an exclusive club. Therefore, it's essential that every interaction they have with a brand, especially at the point of sale, underscores this narrative.
A well-trained sales team can effectively communicate a brand's story, allowing the consumer to understand the value and uniqueness of the products. This narrative approach helps build strong emotional bonds and aids consumers in their decision-making process. When sales teams are not adequately trained on brand storytelling, the customer experience is adversely affected, potentially leading to missed sales and a damaged brand reputation. The one thing I hear all the time from luxury sales associates is that “we don’t really know what makes us different and better.”
One common symptom: clients who push back on prices. When the sales process is rational and lacks a compelling narrative, then there is no Added Luxury Value created. As a result, the perceived value of the products the brand sells declines and clients become price sensitive. It’s a death spiral for luxury brands.
The gravity of this issue deepens when we look at the Chinese luxury market, where consumers are not only young (at an average age of 29 at the time of writing, according to Équité Research) but are also extremely well-informed and discerning. Chinese luxury consumers are not satisfied with just the product; they crave the narrative, the story that gives them a sense of being part of something larger, something extraordinary.
Furthermore, digital-savvy Chinese consumers are looking for seamless integration between a brand's online and offline presence. If sales associates in brick-and-mortar stores cannot effectively convey the brand's story that's consistently showcased online, this discrepancy can lead to consumer dissatisfaction and mistrust.
In conclusion, underestimating the importance of training sales teams on luxury and brand storytelling is a dangerous gamble that luxury brands cannot afford to make. It's not merely about product knowledge; it's about encapsulating the essence of luxury and telling a compelling story that aligns with the brand's vision and values.
Brand storytelling is the ultimate tool for differentiation in an increasingly crowded luxury market. Therefore, luxury brands must invest in comprehensive training programs to arm their sales teams with the necessary skills and knowledge. By doing so, they will be better equipped to deliver unforgettable experiences and to engage with consumers on a deeper, more emotional level, fostering loyalty and promoting long-term growth.
This is an opinion piece where all views expressed belong to the author.
Named one of the “Global Top Five Luxury Key Opinion Leaders to Watch,” Daniel Langer is the CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the executive professor of luxury strategy and pricing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults many of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several best-selling luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses on the future of luxury, disruption, and the luxury metaverse in Europe, the USA, and Asia.
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