Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Leah / Coco / Crystal / Elle…. or whatever name wasn’t already taken at whichever new club I was trying out. It was always some kind of bizarre pot luck game when I started somewhere new to pick a name. Standing there raring to go, firing potential names at an impatient house mother until … jackpot you find one no-one else has. Starting with the pre-prepared cute and sassy names you picked in the car on your way, and working down to your great great great aunt’s name because that’s the only female name you know by the end of the ordeal. Most of the time I was Elle, so that’s who you get now.
I set foot in my first strip club when I auditioned at a tiny little venue hidden down a Harrogate back lane, and worked as a stripper on and off for the next 15 years or so. Looking back, I learnt a lot over the years as I quickly realised success in my new venture had nothing to do with dancing ability. The most interesting thing for me has been following that up with professional development through my HR masters degree, NLP training and more – the skills I discovered and honed accidentally through my nightly trial and error in 6 inch heels actually has strong scientific foundations…who knew!!! So hopefully I can save you the years and blisters with a few of my stripper tips for success.
The Worst First Night
There I was, full of equal measures of hope and absolute fear in a tiny dress and huge heels. Safe to say by the time I paid my house fee that night I went home with less money than I started the night with! What went wrong? I massively underestimated the need to know how to sell yourself. Looking back my approach was similar to that of a cold caller trying to sell you a new front door and consisted of nothing more than the constant repetition of ‘Hi, would you like a dance?’ in my most enthusiastic voice. I had a room full of customers who had specifically come to see a naked lady… but I had no idea how to make them part with their cash. I needed to learn fast and it was a steep learning curve.
It’s a No From Me – The Burn of Rejection
From that first night the one thing I could be sure of is rejection. Some of you will also be best friends with rejection in its many forms, but I have to say throughout my many jobs the rejection faced in clubs was some of the frankest, most frequent and hardest to take. Yes, you will always get 80% of polite customers who let you down gently (or make up a thinly veiled excuse) but there’s always that hard-core 20% that will delight in telling you exactly what is wrong with you. Well isn’t that a gut punch to your self-esteem!
What if I told you rejection isn’t the problem at all? Rejection won’t hurt you, but fear of rejection definitely will. Through my early stripper years while I was growing my thick skin, it was the fear of rejection that fuelled my inner imposter and cost me cold hard cash every night. The best way to reduce the fear factor is to face it head on, keep getting rejected and dealing with it. How much money do you suppose you make sitting in a changing room reapplying your lipstick for the 20th time because you don’t want to be rejected by customers? I’m all for taking a break and regrouping to get back out there if it’s hard going but remember what you came for!
The biggest change came for me when I started planning for rejection and looking at it differently. Please don’t take this as a defeatist attitude, I absolutely don’t mean expecting rejection because that will show all over your face and just become a self-fulfilling prophecy (not matter what The Bloodhound Gang say, the lap dance is NOT better when the stripper is crying!). However, prepare to process the information given to you during the awkward ‘no’ in a positive way and you will come out the other side better than you think.
A ‘no’ is not a reflection on you and can mean a million things, it’s not always a straight no. It can be a ‘not yet’, ‘not right now’ or even a ‘not tonight’. Your response here can make or break any future relationship with this customer. Throw them a killer genuine smile, wish them a good night and leave with your head held high and that doorway of opportunity still open. Remember that 20% who thought it was appropriate to be mean? Even they have their uses, a direct no can actually be more helpful than an excuse. Don’t waste your time here, they are not your customer and that is ok. Save your time and talent for someone that sees how fab you are.
If you want to take it to a whole new level, being rejected it actually an amazing thing because it means you put yourself out there in the first place. So go big like your heels or go home, play the odds and do it more than feels comfortable.
You Are The One and Only
Let’s jump forward in time a few months from the first night and you will be pleased to know I had ditched my ‘do you want a dance’ on repeat approach. Unfortunately for me its replacement was something equally useless. For a good few months all I did was try and copy the girl who did well the night before, even down to her outfit and conversation choice. There is no denying that everyone who stepped through the door had a ‘type’ and I was failing because I had no identity and was trying to appeal to everyone and none of the characters I tried on for size were me. I would always be a bad imitation of the tall, sun kissed blonde who loves any kind of sport. However, the freakishly pale girl that will talk about serial killers and has seen Jaws 1000 times…that I can do. Once I started being more me, I felt more comfortable, customers seemed more approachable and the money I took home at the end of the night improved. Turns out authenticity is infectious and attractive!
Thanks Mate, I Owe You One
One of my favourite influencing tools over the years was to utilise the most powerful law of human nature, the law of reciprocity. This is the social norm that compels us to respond to a positive action with another positive action. If we take a common example, research has shown that if your waiter gives you a mint along with your bill, the likelihood of a tip and the amount you tip increases by around 3%. Let’s say the waiter gives you two mints, that 3% has now increased to 14%. However, the awesome stuff begins if the waiter leaves one mint, starts to walk away and then says ‘you know what, because it’s you I’ll give you another one’. This shift in the way the positive action is presented to a more personalised version shifts your likelihood of a tip and the amount up by a huge 23%.
How did this play out in the club? Im pleased you asked. There were loads of ways to give things a gentle nudge in your favour. I don’t smoke and never have, but I always carried cigarettes and chewing gum with me at work. If a customer asked for a cigarette I’d happily give them one, then as they came back in from smoking I’d offer them a chewing gum and at the same time suggested ‘a guy/girl like you would be more comfortable in the VIP area’. Alternatively, if a guy or girl said they were looking for a tall, tanned blonde (remember that’s definitely not me!) I would go and grab their perfect dancer for them – then the good old law of reciprocity kicks in when they pay for a dance for their friend with me, or the fellow dancer pays you back with a referral later in the night. People also have long memories when it comes to this kind of thing, sometimes I would find a customer remember and repay my ‘good deed’ months down the line or multiple times over.
Curiosity Saved the Stripper
The final stage of my stripper evolution was getting more comfortable in conversations. Specifically listening and asking lots of questions. Instead of the cringe fest single question repeat of that first night, I began asking more questions about my customers to find out what makes them tick. Using open questions to get them talking about their lives and why they are there helped build a profile in my head so that I could sell and upsell better. Apart from the bonus of resting tired feet while having a chat, it’s impossible to know too much about your customer! Have they been to the club before? What do they like about the club? Are they local? What are their plans for the rest of the night? Are they in town on business? The list goes on, and it’s all useful to frame your sales pitch when the time is right. Suddenly I had moved from annoying cold caller trying to sell you a new front door to some friendly lass offering your favourite chocolate bar… but naked.
It took me time and practice to get there but finally Elle was in the building, and she was kicking ass and taking names. I’d love to hear if any of these stripper tips were of use to you and your business, or if you have any questions just get in touch.