My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

I’m Not A Salesperson! I’m An Artist!


…is the mantra of many in the business of beauty. But what those people don’t see is that retail numbers are really a wonderful barometer of your skills and effectiveness, not just as a hair stylist but of someone who cares about providing good service and is actively trying to make their clients’ hair better.

Low retail numbers indicate one of 2 things happening (or not happening) during the clients’ experience in your chair:

  1. You are not listening to your clients’ needs regarding their hair, therefore it isn’t your agenda to give them better day to day results with their hair.
  2. The client doesn’t trust you or believe you to be an expert in hair. They simply don’t see you as a professional.

Either way, both scenarios don’t look good for you as a professional doer of hair. If you can’t sell a bottle of shampoo, you certainly can’t sell a colour to a cutting client. You definitely can’t promote yourself to potential clients or ask for referrals because all that involves selling yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, you will probably will die alone and unhappy because you never bothered to sell yourself to any potential life-partner or friend. Because you “can’t be fake,” “people need to like you for you.”

Great service is not about being fake, it’s about knowing why you are there. When we do hair, and aren’t caught up in the “I’m an artist” thing, we put on our best behaviour for the client. We dress the part and act the part; we are excited to see them and we are enthusiastic to be given the opportunity to do their hair for them. This is why new clients are so great. They generally help us to behave like professionals, as we aren’t familiar with them. If your dialed in and focused on your career, you will absolutely elevate the customer service experience for the new client. You will be focused on giving them a great experience, doing your best work in an attempt to win them over and make them regulars.

But there are a lot of hairdressers who can’t bridge the gap between doing great work and giving a great experience. A story:

A very famous haircutter spent 3 days in one of my salons prepping models for a show. This was a very big deal and it was an absolute honour to host him. I had the luxury of observing this person, and while his cutting was impeccable, his bedside manner was atrocious. I witnessed several models in tears after he had done whatever he wanted to their hair in absolute silence. I watched him walk past a model being hugged by her mother and she was absolutely sobbing.  He didn’t even lok at them, he just shook his head. He is the extreme version of the “artiste.”

Another soon-to-be famous hairdresser was teaching a cutting and styling class in New York and I was in the classroom. He was very warm to the two ladies who rudely left when they found out there was going to be no colouring. His model then came in over 30 minutes late, with a coffee, and without an apology. Something about the subway. He sympathized with her, apologized for her experience and thanked her for still coming in, after all she had been through. And then he demoed  a beautiful cut and style on her. He has since become very famous, even more successful, and charges an unbelievably high rate to sit in his chair. He is the extreme version of someone who knows what his job is; to create an amazing, memorable experience for his client.

And he does that at the same time as giving a great haircut, because he knows that the 2 things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. This is what they artist-mentality generally doesn’t understand; that giving a great haircut is expected. It’s the bare minimum. Nobody goes to the salon expecting a shitty haircut. They expect you to be good or they wouldn’t be there.

Thankfully, to get back on track is pretty easy. It may be tough to change your approach with old clients who have gotten used to the way you operate behind the chair but if you practice these ideas with every new client, you’ll find that behavior becomes part of your daily routine and begins to feel natural.

During the consultation, almost all clients will complain about the same two things: They either want their hair to be bigger or smaller. Curlier or straighter. Establishing what the client wants in a result is your job. And picking the right products for them to do their own hair at home and then teaching them how to do their own hair is your job too.

At the shampoo bowl, describe what you are using and why. Be brief, as you want to destroy the client’s will with your incredible massage. If the client comments on the aroma, discuss it. This is where product knowledge is important.

When back at the chair, use a styling product right away, before cutting if it makes sense for the situation. I like to use one of 2 of my foundational/ prep type sprays, Coconut Milk or Miracle Mist. Both smell amazing and the client always asks what they are. This may be unique for the client and gives you an opportunity to explain what you are using and why. Make sure to bring any products you are using to your station and dispense and apply them in front of your client. Then put them down in front of the client with the label facing them and go about your work and getting to know the client.

Once the cut or colour is finished and you are about to style their hair, give the client a styling lesson. Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and how they can do the same thing at home. Explain the finishing product selection and show the client exactly how to use that product.

After completing the service, put a few products on the desk for the receptionist to complete the sale. When saying goodbye to the client, explain that you’ve left the most important products she needs for her at reception and that you will see her in X weeks.

That’s it, that’s all you have to do. It involves behaving like a professional hair expert for about 10 minutes of the one hour appointment and it will make all the difference to your career.

If it’s done properly, it’s not selling. IT’S ABOUT TRUST

You see, if the client buys some of the things you’ve recommended, then that means they enjoyed your service and are happy with the result. If the client is happy, that means you’ve at least met and possibly exceeded her expectations. If you’ve done that, then the client is more likely to refer you to her friends, which means more clients for you to service more fully than you were previously. This equates to more money and more success, which actually does equal happiness.

And one of the most important things you can do? BE ENTHUSIASTIC! You need to mirror your clients’ energy, but you need to show your client you are passionately involved in doing their hair. That you are excited and you have a plan. That they are inspiring to you. I’ve never met someone who was passionate about both hairdressing and people who wasn’t successful.

If you want a fulfilling career, you need to be seen as a professional hair dresser. If your retail numbers aren’t where they should be, you have work to do.

11 thoughts on “I’m Not A Salesperson! I’m An Artist!

  1. To be successful in any business you need to get people to Know, Like and TRUST you! You summed it up beautifully my friend!!

  2. Great to hear from another passionate salon owner. We just had the same discussion at our team meeting Michael. Thanks for putting it into great words.

  3. Great advice and put so simply, I will be showing this to the staff to share with them and encourage them. Thank you.

  4. Big fan of your blog Michelle. I am a distributor representative and share many of these articles with my salons during team meetings and on my professional facebook page. One thing I find helpful is to present the regiment you will be using on the salon guest before you bring them to the shampoo bowl, during the dry consultation. When you establish a need during the consultation then outline the journey will be taking them on regarding products and styling advice it sets the sale in motion. Like you mentioned the shampoo should be as quite and relaxing as possible. This step backs up that theory. Keep them coming 🙂 enjoy your passion and bluntness!

  5. Whoops sorry michael … My auto correct named you as Michelle!

  6. Michael I couldn’t agree more! I do my best to teach these principles to new professionals so they don’t have to waste years of their career discovering the reality of retail. Bottom line, if you are not addressing professional product you are not properly servicing your clientele. And that is no way to grow a client base to make more money. Keep up the good work!

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