What is a fashion selling professional and why you should be proud to be one

By William Brobston

A generation ago, a fashion sales role was seen as a professional and respected role. These days 75% of sales associates I meet want to move into corporate or management. I often find myself asking why?

Sellers often have a higher earning potential than corporate and management functions, have the most tangible incentives, the most opportunity for self-expression and creativity, and have the most fun! Nevertheless, most candidates judge corporate or management roles to be more respected and a more worthy career objective. I suspect this is because many of them have not yet worked next to a veteran selling professional and learned why they should want to be one.

… malaise around selling roles is driving declining customer experiences, which in-turn drives clients to buy online instead of in stores.

This fact is not an incidental one - this malaise around selling roles is driving declining customer experiences, which in-turn drives clients to buy online instead of in stores. The industry needs to show clients why they should shop in stores; and one of those reasons needs to be the service they receive from a professional class of sellers that can’t be matched online.

Some may not see fashion sales as a worthy career, but I know better. I grew up hanging out with Neiman Marcus personal shoppers after school. I started my fashion career selling ladies shoes, where I met some of the most professional associates I know. My first manager in New York had recently retired from Bergdorf Goodman where he sold men’s clothing for 25 years – he taught me most of what I know about service and client relationships. Several of the highest paid fashion professionals I know are sellers. And I have had the pleasure of leading teams of outstanding sellers who take deep pride in their work – who made me proud to work next to them every day.

They consistently inspire, surprise, delight, and deliver above expectations.

A true selling professional serves their clients with talent and humility. They consistently inspire, surprise, delight, and deliver above expectations. They remember details, they invest in relationships, they know their clients inside and out. They work very hard - often well beyond business hours (and will challenge management to keep up with them). They hand write thank you notes. They anticipate their clients’ needs and desires. Their relationship with their clients extends beyond just their 4 walls – to advising them about other purchases, dinners, holidays, and personal gifts. They take pride in everything they do.

A professional seller sets performance goals for themselves that exceed the goals given to them.

A professional seller sets performance goals for themselves that exceed the goals given to them. If their goal this month is 100k, they will be shooting for 130k. Next year they want to add 50% to this year. Next year they want 30 clients over 20K. Next season they want to sell 15 looks from the runway instead of 7. Next season they want to take more clients out to dinner, have more after-hours appointments, more in-home appointments, more consignment shipments sent, more red carpets dressed, more billionaires in the client book. 

A professional seller knows what’s happening in every brand, with every collection, with every designer. They travel, they are cultured, they speak multiple languages, and they take pride in their personal presentation. They can talk to anyone about anything.

A true selling professional seller loves meeting new clients and knows that their next #1 client could walk in the door at any time. They won’t judge a book by its cover. They have a deep client book and write everything down. They open that book daily and call clients they haven’t talked with in a while, often just to say hello. When new deliveries arrive, top sellers are pulling right from the boxes because they have already pre-sold pieces, and are ready to ship others on consignment. You might never see them on the floor and wonder how they are always #1. This is how.

You might never see them on the floor and wonder how they are always #1. This is how.

A professional seller drives a business. Not just their business – but sometimes the business of a store or of a whole brand. When done right, sellers are the most important members of a company, and we should all aspire to match their dedication, precision, professionalism, and results. These unique professional roles are vital, challenging, and rewarding—and require skills that must be cherished, honored, and valued.

These unique professional roles are vital, challenging, and rewarding—and require skills that must be cherished, honored, and valued.