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Selling Against the Odds

By: Immpreneur

 

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Salon owner Reema Khan was convinced that eyebrow threading could be the next beauty treatment to take America by storm, but it was virtually unknown outside of Chicago’s India Town. Somehow, she had to get eyebrow threading into America’s malls with their abundant foot traffic. Problem was, she didn’t have a hot new product, a big brand name, or financial backing behind her—all the things that malls look for. Learn how she overcame these obstacles to get into her first mall, leading to s.h.a.p.e.s Brow Bar becoming a $14 million business with 70 locations around the country.

 
Targeting Decision Makers
 
Once they decided to focus on shopping malls, Reema and her husband Mosin did their research, targeting eight malls of the roughly 50 in the Chicago area—upscale facilities that were close enough to India Town so that transportation for their employees wouldn’t be a burden. Next, they researched these malls on the internet to find out who the decision makers were—leasing agents mostly—and where possible they called ahead to make appointments. In some cases, however, they just showed up and hoped for the best, getting experience in the art of “cold calling.” Before their first call, they assembled a presentation containing some pictures of eyebrow threading and a story about its history. Their pitch was simple at first, perhaps too simple.
 
“I would show them a spool of thread,” says Reema, “and then I’d say, ‘With this simple piece of string, I’m going to make people beautiful. I’m going to shape their eyebrows.’ But the leasing agents at the malls never got the idea. They would just stare at me and ask again, ‘What is the product? What are you trying to sell?'”
 
New Tactics And New Rejections
 
Undaunted, they revised their presentation, adding a new tactic: demonstrations. Reema brought a friend along to help her illustrate the technique, but still couldn’t break through.
 
What Reema later discovered was that leasing agents are trained to look for something foolproof: national chains with a built-in following that would draw traffic to the malls, boutiques with a proven track record, or hot products that people were already clamoring for. Reema and Mosin had none of those things going for them; they were unknowns with no track record peddling what seemed like a bizarre, foreign process. It was easy to think of reasons to turn them down.
 
Eyebrow threading is just too unusual, the leasing agents would say, and you could never showcase it in high traffic areas; you’d need privacy. Other agents were even more blunt, calling eyebrow threading ‘tacky,’ something that would lower the tone of the mall. “We’ll call you,” they’d say at the end of the meeting, which, in America, almost always means “NO.”
 
The Power of Persistence
 
“I was rejected in every mall that I approached until Ford City Mall,” says Reema. “Every time I went there—at least four times—I would be left waiting in reception, outside the leasing agent’s office, and the manager would never come out to see me. Finally the day came when the leasing agent said, ‘Okay fine, you’ve been waiting for so long. Come in and show me what you’ve got.'” They had gotten in the door, but it was very nearly another rejection. Fortunately, the leasing agent was a woman. When it became clear that she was having trouble grasping the possibilities of eyebrow threading, Reema took a bold step, offering to personally shape the woman’s eyebrows. When she saw herself in the mirror, the leasing agent was so pleased that she decided to give the Khans a chance. She offered them a mall cart (shown above) for a two-month trial.
 
Reema had broken through the resistance of the leasing agent with one of the oldest sales tactics in existence: sampling. She had placed the product in the hands of the prospect, getting them to appreciate its special qualities personally. And that was the beginning of s.h.a.p.e.s Brow Bar.
 
Lessons Learned
 
1. Put Your Best Foot Forward: Create a Great Presentation
When asked what she would do differently today, Reema said she’d pay much more attention to the presentation, employing more photographs and high tech graphics on the computer. When you’re just starting out, and your product has no reputation, you should spare no effort to make it look as professional as possible.
 
2. Sell the Benefit, not the Product
She now believes that she should have shown eyebrow threading as not just a stand-alone process, but in the overall context of makeovers, including related products such as moisturizers, and eyebrow powders. In other words, she should have sold eyebrow threading as a package—a concept that the savvy marketers at upscale malls would be more likely to relate to.
 
3. Get the Customers to Sample the Product
Traveling salesmen used to get people to handle their merchandise so they could fully appreciate their unique qualities. Human nature being what it is, once a customer had the product in their hands, they were much less likely to give it back.
 
This article was originally published by Immpreneur
Published: April 9, 2014
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IMMPRENEUR.com is a unique website specifically created for immigrant entrepreneurs. The site delivers instructive insights and advice, highlights opportunities and provides tools & resources to help immigrants launch, manage and grow successful businesses in the US. Immpreneur.com has recently launched a social network specifically for immigrant entrepreneurs http://immpreneur.com/community/home/, enabling them to build connections, get advice and share information.

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