Sell A $35,000 Watch In A Recession?

The Wall Street Journal:

When a man in a Cartier watch stepped into the IWC Schaffhausen boutique in Beverly Hills recently, salesman Hua Huynh sprang into action. He led the customer to a case of Aquatimers, the Swiss brand’s line of self-winding dive watches. “What’s the damage?” asked the customer, pointing at one model. “The value is $5,800,” replied Huynh. “Would you like to try it?”

Hovering nearby, Jean-Marie Brücker winced.

After the gentleman replied, “Nahh,” and left, Brücker closed in on the salesman. Instead of asking a yes-or-no question, he chided, “next time, you say, ‘I invite you to try the watch. Please take a seat.’ ” He pantomimed swiftly laying the watch on a suede-lined tray, leaving the customer no easy out.

Brücker, a former Xerox salesman, is training IWC Schaffhausen’s sales force to sell expensive watches in a recession. After years of double-digit sales growth, sales of Swiss watches have fallen off drastically. Watchmakers like IWC–a 140-year-old company whose watches are considered collectors’ items and generally cost between $3,000 and $300,000–are having to re-learn the old-fashioned art of salesmanship.

The “macaroon technique,” referring to the sandwich-like French macaron pastry. This can be applied to most any product (including, presumably, a Xerox machine) and goes something like this: “Madam, this timepiece (or diamond or handbag) comes from our finest workshop and it has a value of $10,000. If you buy it, your children are sure to enjoy it for generations to come.”

That pesky number is sandwiched between the product’s more romantic benefits. “We sell luxury–it’s an emotion,” Brücker instructed.

Flattery sells, so to further those positive emotions, he insists that sales associates compliment the customer’s own watch, even if it’s from a competitor.

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