Starting a career in the fashion business is exciting, but also a little bit daunting. The fashion industry in fact provides such a broad and wide set of professional roles that span from the most creative to the most administrative.
Out of all the jobs available where could one start?
Clearly, there is no straight answer or an answer that fits all career trajectories.
However, if we had to provide advice, we’d probably say that the best entry-level position in fashion can be found in sales.
In this post, we’re going to discuss why the sales division is such a great opportunity to start your exploration of such a complex and fascinating industry.
So let’s dive into it and find out what are some of the key skills you’ll acquire through a job in fashion sales.
#1 Learn How to Relate to Customers
As a starting point, you’ll be able to build relational skills that allow you to understand how to approach customers and help them throughout their shopping experience.
Working in sales teaches you how to communicate effectively with the right vocabulary and tone of voice. It helps you understand how to embody your brand so that you can charm and entice your customers.
As a result, you will be a master of persuasion, learning a few tricks of the trade such as:
- Providing a sense of opportunity or urgency (with sales promotions)
- Creating an experience that makes customers come back to the store
- Learning what products go well together and how to increase your average ticket sale
Depending on the brand or on the collection you’ll be selling, you may have to deal with many different types of customers, spanning from value-seeking clients, who are always looking for a bargain, to high net worth individuals who value their time above all else.
Being able to identify who the customer is, and what value he\she is looking to acquire through the purchase is a skill that takes time to be learned, but in time, you’ll develop a strong sense of the audience and an ability to connect people’s “problems” to the “solutions” offered by your brand, through its products and services.
Customers in fact – from a marketing perspective – when visiting a store are in fact looking for some type of value.
The value is not the products they buy, but what the products can do in order to help them with a situation they are trying to figure out.
This marketing approach is called Jobs to Be Done and in this post, we discuss this concept in further detail.
When working in sales, you’ll be able to better understand how your products are seen by your customers, and how you can present the right features of each item, so that its perception of value can be maximized.
In the next section of our post, we’re going to look into how to connect your products to the value that customers are seeking.
#2 Learn How to Communicate the Intangible Values of Fashion
So what are the values of fashion? Of course, there are tangible values, connected to the actual qualities of the product. These qualities are tangible as they can be touched and felt materially in the quality of the craftsmanship, in the feel of the fabric, and so forth.
However, these elements are not what makes fashion – and especially luxury fashion – so expensive.
What plays the biggest role in determining the markup price of your collection is the “need” that the product is able to fulfill.
What are the needs that lead customers to buy fashion products? There are three types of needs: functional, social, and emotional. Let’s look into them.
These needs are simply connected to the practical use customer make of our products and services. In the context of fashion, these products are usually mass-market products that are usually quite inexpensive and provide us with the most basic functional benefit of clothing, which is sheltering us from the weather and cold. As these needs are commodified, many brands try to increase their profit margins by providing something more enticing such as social benefits.
In this context, fashion brands fulfill a very important role, as fashion products gain value in the customer’s eyes. Customers often – if not always – use fashion products as social currency, usually for one of two reasons. To either fit in, or show belonging to a particular group, or to stand out or make ourselves get noticed. Social needs are associated with middle-tier brands such as bridge brands, and diffusion lines, which benefit either from the trickle-down value or from strong trendy communications. But what about the top of the fashion pyramid? What kind of value do luxury products bring to the market? Let’s see in the next paragraph.
These needs are satisfied through products that have such a strong reputation and heritage, that the simple fact of owning them, makes us feel proud and part of the brand’s legend. These needs are usually satisfied by luxury brands that are exclusive and aspirational, as the fact of owning these products is a strong social signal. Because of this emotional drive, these products need to be aspirational and exclusive, if they become too accessible they may completely lose their aura of prestige.
By working in sales, you’ll build strong marketing foundations by learning how to connect each customer segment to the most attractive value proposition your brand is able to offer.
This approach follows the principles of the Business Model Canvas, which we discuss in further detail in this post.
Great! So in sales, you’ll be able to learn how to build a strong relationship with your customers, how to enhance their perception of value, and match the perfect product with the perfect customer.
In the next paragraph, we’ll look into how sales can help you understand the way in which at each brand touchpoint, you can provide a different sales experience based on the customer’s purchase intent.
#3 Understand Pricing and Distribution Strategies
Customers can go to stores for many reasons, not only to buy. Most times to simply browse.
Brands know that the store experience you provide to your potential customer can’t be developed through a one-size-fits-all approach.
By working in sales you’ll be able to identify your customer’s purchase intent and manage his\her store experience accordingly.
As someone working in sales, you’ll know everything there is to know when it comes to entertaining, educating, informing, or pitching to your customer, based on your customer’s journey stage: awareness, comparison, and purchase.
This approach follows a framework entitled “Customer Journey Planning” which we discuss in further detail in this post.
Understanding the buyer’s intent is so essential in managing a store experience that brands go as far as designing the entire store layout on the grounds of the customer’s needs.
By working in sales you’ll be able to understand what type of experience is the best fit for your prospective buyers and how to provide it to them seamlessly and effortlessly.
This is no small achievement, as sometimes identifying the customer’s shopping intent can be very complex, as discussed in this article.
Great, but what about the character? Doesn’t experience in sales help in building character?
It surely does. Let’s look into this in the next section of our post.
#4 It Builds Character
Of course, not all of our sales pitches go well. In the beginning, it’s actually quite likely that most of them will result in failure. So in terms of character building, there are many things that sales can do for you. Let’s see some of them:
- It teaches you how to deal with rejection, or failed pitches, as not all your sales attempts will convert.
- It teaches you how to conduct negotiations and come to an understanding or agreement with your customer.
- It teaches you how not to give in to pressure and stay calm as you design solutions to your customer’s problems.
The last of the three points is especially relevant as a job in sales entails a customer service component as part of your customer’s shopping experience.
This is a great skill to have as customer service is the new marketing. We’re going to look into this in more detail in the next section of our post.
#5 Builds Customer Service Skills
Customer service is the new marketing, and being great at customer service is in itself a great skill to have.
Customers may have to deal with a lot of challenges when it comes to shopping and customer service is the “human touch” that makes the experience meaningful and memorable.
By learning when and how to put on your customer service hat you will be able to create loyal customers who will come back to you as their personal shopping guru.
Moreover, as we all know, great customer service is a great tool to spread some word-of-mouth marketing which impacts retention and even advocacy!
A customer service orientation is essential in today’s fashion industry and building great customer service skills is a very useful by-product of being a wonderful salesman or saleswoman.
If you’d like to learn more on what are the top 10 rules for excellent customer service, we’ve got you covered. Here’s an article for you.
As we’ve now covered all of our tips, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
Great! In this post, we were able to synthesize what are some of the key benefits of starting a career in fashion by getting into sales.
As we’ve discussed in the post, by working in sales you’ll be able to:
- Learn how to relate to customers and build exceptional interpersonal skills.
- Learn how to convey value and make products desirable and enticing.
- Identify how to provide individualized shopping experiences based on your customer’s shopping intent.
- Build your character and learn how to deal with failure and constructive feedback, when the sale just doesn’t happen.
- Develop great customer service skills, which is – as they say – the new marketing.
If you’d like to see how your career can quickly progress from sales into marketing, we’ve got you covered! In this post, we look into the 5 stages of a career in marketing, starting from a role in sales. Enjoy!
Don’t hesitate to explore our blog, as on 440 Industries we have a wealth of content dedicated to a career in fashion. Take a look and explore!