The number one reason a client moves to another salon goes like this: “I always walked out looking the same.”  How did this happen? You stopped doing a consultation for returning clients because familiarity fooled you into thinking you knew the client so well it wasn’t necessary. Wrong.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known a client; moods shift, situations change, clients are returning to offices, others are starting new jobs. And all of us are trying to reinstate normality in our lives; however, we can include a new hairstyle. To keep client relationships fresh, offer change every time a client sits in your chair by doing quickie consultations, especially if you upload finished work to social media.

My rule of thumb for social media photos is never to upload something “nice,” only the really cool and extraordinary that come from great consultations. And the most compelling images are before and after shots—hands down. No, please, not another me-too back of the head balayage photo. If you’ve seen it a lot—so have your clients. Pass on it.

Your initial consultation is the reason a client first trusted you with her looks. From the moment she walked in, you knew to only work with the positives of her hair, features, and personality. You do this well because, over time, you developed a method that validates whatever a client feels is her best shot at looking good. Sure, you can do that, you say. You never let on that any suggestion may be a bit off or silly. And I am so proud of you for biting your tongue--there’s donuts in the breakroom.

You made all the right moves, and the client relationship started with a simple shampoo/blow-dry, then a one-inch trim, then long layers, highlights, and finally, one day, she walked in and said, “Cut it off. I’ve had it.” What? This woman loves her long hair. So you do your consultation again just to be super sure she knows what she is getting into. She passes with flying colors because it’s a breakup haircut---you know the one; she broke up with her beau and will now find someone new and teach him a lesson. You see an opening and take it. You cut the hair following insights from your consultation, and she genuinely loves it. You remind her she is a heartbreaker. She smiles.

The woman after her is also a long-term client who, for whatever reason, doesn’t give her looks that much importance. You know who she is—she isn’t sloppy or unkempt. She is just very straightforward about her looks. She told you she wants to be noticed for her character and intellect, not her hair. Really? Yes. She further justifies not wanting any changes because she doesn’t have time for it. No time to look her best. Wha…?

You see a universe of possibilities in her. Oh man, if she would just agree to a side bang and get the lipstick shade you suggested, or maybe just a few layers, you could rock her world. That’s when you again bite your tongue, and your experience comes in—she doesn’t want to rock. Period. I know. I know. There are still a few donuts left.

From now on, cover your ass. Take nothing for granted. Give every client the benefit of the doubt. Determine if they want “the usual” or something spiffier with each visit to your chair. You’re just checking—no need to linger. I suggest a brief and effective 3-minute consultation.Keep in mind: there are only three things a client can have, and I pose these three options as questions very directly. I also politely repeat their answers out loud so they can hear their responses. I learned this in a negotiation seminar. You’d be surprised how many will respond, “No, that’s not what I said.” Ok, let me try again:

1. Do you still want the same style trimmed up?

2, Do you want to update the style a bit with a couple of trendy hints?  

3. Are you in the mood for a style change? Do you want to see a few photos of styles that work for you?And get on with it.The above questions each take about a minute and keep you in control of the styling session. It also reminds your client that you are always ready to make it happen for her. Now, if she walks out frustrated and feeling she always gets the same look. Well, it’s because she requested it.  


Carlos Valenzuela is a hairdresser, writer, success coach, ex-salon & beauty school owner. Author of The Thrifty Cosmetologist, a video-based approach to money smarts tailored to salon pros, and Letters to Young Carlos, a novella about a gay boy growing up along the border in the 1960s


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