New book says you can turn around your spa’s retail sales with a new approach

We all know generating retail revenue is a challenge for most spas. A new book contends that this can be turned around with a shift in training and perspective.

Linda Harding Bond is a therapist and trainer in Bangkok, Thailand. She writes in her book, The Engaged Therapist: How Spas Can Increase Retail Sales Now and Forevermore, that most spa therapists are introverts, and as such require a different training approach than is currently being offered.

We asked Linda about this perspective and how she believes spas can increase their retail revenue.

Why did you write this book?

Effectively selling retail products is a long-standing problem in the global spa industry. Although spa revenues surpassed the $16 billion-dollar mark in 2016 and is anticipated to reach $20 billion by 2020, retail revenues have not changed. They still hover around 3% for resorts, 4% for wellness and 10-13% for day spas.

My experience as a therapist, trainer and an introvert helped me see the missing link.  Engagement could lead to increased sales and a win-win environment for therapists, spa management and clients. This aha moment helped me realize that I could bring a fresh perspective to this industry wide problem.

In the book I share case studies, role-play exercises and training methodologies I developed. The methods have led to retail sales increases of 500% and higher for some of my clients. I also learned these strategies are equally effective across language and cultures. So far they have worked from China to India to the Caribbean.

Tell me a little about your assertion that spa staff are introverts. Why do you say this?

Introverts are defined as people who derive their energy from within. Many are easily stressed by prolonged external stimulation. Introverts are disproportionately represented in spa because it provides an ideal environment. Particularly for therapists because they’re interacting mostly one on one.

The workspace is extremely quiet, serene and conducive to thoughtful conversation which introverts love. The nature of the job allows frequent periods throughout the day to recharge with no interruption. There is a greater emphasis on listening and focusing on the guest which introverts do very well. And most spas are relatively conflict free.

What are the three biggest mistakes spas you believe spas make when it comes to retail sales, and what are some fixes for these? 

Massage therapists are given a pass from selling.

I often hear the term “pushing products” from them and it needs to be removed from their lexicon.

Spas carry products to extend the benefits of the treatments they offer and that’s how all therapists should think of retail. Particularly with massage, guests are often in pain or suffer from insomnia. If the therapist conducts a good initial interview, and listens well, guests will tell them exactly what they need.

To facilitate home care sales, spa managers should have their massage team identify every retail product that’s complementary to the treatments they perform. They need to be well informed on the benefits of each product. For example, essential oils, bath soaks, candles, eye pillows, scrubs, blankets and robes all come under massage purview.

Believing that product training is the same as retail training.

It is not. Product training focuses upon ingredient and protocol knowledge.

Retail training informs on listening well, engagement, how and when to provide educated recommendations for home care. Therapists need both sets of knowledge to maximize retail sales.

Low retail sales are often the result of not laying a proper foundation of engagement from the start of service. Spa managers can role play with their therapists to see exactly how they interact with the guest from the onset.  Are they asking questions to ascertain the guest’s needs or just performing the treatment?

Not building accountability for selling into therapist performance evaluations.

Recommending home care should be part of a therapist’s repertoire. Retail sales numbers are indicative of the quality of engagement and service that’s being provided. To ensure consistency of performance, spas must develop retail sales standards. Once results are tracked, they should be regularly reviewed with each therapist. Product commissions should be based upon sales performance.

For many spas this represents a change of culture and ideally would not be implemented until after proper training has taken place. Several spas that I’ve worked with have put a sales coach in place. Status meetings are held daily to address performance expectations, goal setting, and success recognition. Remedial training needs are resolved quickly. Therapists feel supported and embrace the new processes willingly.