Professional Lessons from Say Yes to the Dress

I love Say Yes to the Dress. It is tacky, lovely, and occasionally very sweet. It is the perfect I-cannot-brain-today material. And I believe it is a must-watch for anyone wanting to know how to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

Claudia from Say Yes to the Dress
She never asked for help. ASK FOR HELP!

1. Ask for help: If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from the show, it’s that you should always ask for help. The consultants are always running up against moms with strong opinions, brides who don’t know what they want, and just plain rude people. What do they do? They ask for help! They call a manager! They admit they need help. Remember Claudia? She didn’t work out because she never asked for help.

2. There is no “I” in team: What? The Kleinfeld consultants work as a team. Related to number 1, they know that no sale is done just one their own.

3. A good manager lets their employee shine: If you manage anyone in any capacity, listen up: a good manager hears and supports their employee. Notice how the managers are not upset to be asked for help? That’s because they know they are there to make their employees shine. When you become a manager, your job ceases to be about you and becomes about someone else.

4. Always ask the price: Okay, this doesn’t apply everywhere. Sometimes price isn’t involved, but ALWAYS ASK. Not sure of certain instruction on a project? Ask. Don’t just assume you can figure it out. So many consultant appointments get derailed when they don’t know the price. So ask!

6. It’s not what you do, it’s how you connect: Camille is my favorite. Her makeup and hair are nowhere close to Cosmo approved, but she does it anyway. And she still sells dresses. Because she knows how to connect with other people. The alternative phrasing of this is that succeeding in business is about people liking you. I know that’s frustrating and bullshit, but kiss a little ass. It’ll take you places.

5. If it’s a shitty workplace, get the hell out: I am always impressed by how happy the bridal consultants are to be working at Kleinfeld’s. The job sounds pretty hideous: sell white dresses to bridezillas! But everyone seems pretty happy. I assume it’s because they work in a good environment. So if your office sucks, try to get out if you can.

6. Mistakes happen, move on: Do you think the consultants sell a dress at every single appointment? Do you think they don’t annoy the parents? You’re going to make a typo, you’re going to call the wrong person, you’re going to piss off a client: it’s not the end of the world. Move on.

8. Find ways to make work fun: Okay, not every person you work with is going to be as awesome as Camille, but you know those ladies try on the dresses when everyone’s left. Letting off steam is good!

9. It’s not about the glory: I think I could enjoy a job at Kleinfeld’s. You’re surrounded by people doing something that makes them happy and you have a good team. Sure, it’s not writing philosophy or being a high-powered executive, but it’s a job that pays the rent and that doesn’t suck your soul, and that’s pretty damn good.

10. Pnina is awesome: People love her dresses! She’s a bridal mogul. And she’s so tiny and demure, but she kicks ass and has a business that people will fly from across the country to take part in. Be a badass like Pnina.

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

5 replies on “Professional Lessons from Say Yes to the Dress”

Claudia was a mess. She didn’t listen well, either. The “Ask the Price” advice is good in a general sense: know the details of what the client wants AND the details of what you’re providing. Especially if that’s your job.

Also I think there’s something to be learned about sensing what brides/families need versus want; in some cases the consultants figure out that a person SAYS they want X kind of dress but actually they might look great in Y type, and that can work really well, or they’ll find out that the most important opinion is actually the brother’s opinion, or they’ll see that the mom really desperately wants to help, and they do a good job of managing those unspoken needs. They also do a good job of having enough staff, like having “floater” type people who can come and help; they’re not cutting corners on being sure to help their customers find what they want.

I think also the luxurious, pampered experience helps make people feel good and special and is a good investment on the company’s part. Providing a good customer experience is worth the cost, I’d say.

So many lessons!

The whole show should be required watching for anyone starting a job. It’s just chock-full of good advice. And you’re right — sensing the unspoken is a great skill and it takes a LONG time to cultivate. I think what Kleinfeld’s does well is having a lot of consultants who have a ton of experience and who have learned how to do that and they are ready to help newer consultants learn how to get that sense. A good mentorship program is essential to any business.

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