It’s going well. You’re ready for the big close.
“You ready for VIP?
Then you hear it. Thunder. Lighting. A howl in the background. The scariest question in show business:
“So, What Happens in the Back?”
Most dancers: [INTERNALLY SCREAMING]
To sell private rooms, you will have to establish why private time alone with you is worth however many thousands of dollars your club charges for the privilege. Now, I will cut through the self-worth talk, because we’ve already been doing that. This is about the mental blocks that pop up when it comes to “the back.”
Let’s tackle one of the biggest issues that dancers identify about private rooms. Here’s a couple of ways I’ve heard it asked. By the way, these are real messages:
“When they say “oh can you have sex in the VIP” what’s a good way to trick them without them seeing through and then backing out of VIP because they figured out you aren’t actually gonna have sex with them?”
“Am I not selling as many VIPS as I should because I don't use sexy talk or lead customers on to think sexual services will occur in the rooms? Do I need to do that?”
“Here’s my question: How to get a guy to pay for a VIP room when he is asking very specific questions about what will happen in there (i.e. he wants extras), you know if you tell him the truth (that there are no extras) he won’t pay but you don’t want to lose the sale.”
They're all ways of asking: how do I handle “what happens in the back?”
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the reality of the vast set of services that customers can get inside and outside of the club. Strip club rules dictate that there will be no sexual services sold. That’s not what all club policies are, and certainly not the rule that all dancers follow. This is just the legal status of full-service sex work in the US: it is, on the books, illegal to do it, to sell it, and even to imply it.
This isn’t an “on the books, not enforced” law, either. There have been raids all over the country just in the last year looking for solicitation—and the laws are willfully over the top about their definitions of prostitution.
Here are just some of the ways that prostitution is defined at clubs across the country:
- Dancing closer than 18 inches from a customer.
- Dancing without your shoes on.
- Dancing without two pairs of underwear on.
- Agreeing to statements like “will the back be more fun”? or “can we do more in the back?”
- Agreeing to offering additional services even if you didn’t mean it and never acted on it.
- Simulating sexual acts with customers or with other entertainers.
These are standards that change from club to club, city to city, and state to state. The rules are confusing, they often don’t go enforced (until they are), and the impact of getting caught up in a raid or a sting can be deeply life altering. It can affect your permanent record, cost you your job and your legal status, and even get entire clubs shut down.
These facts are the stark reality of sex work in the United States; facts that are deeply frustrating and quite scary for a lot of people. And while we’re here, let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between sex work, stripping, and how it affects your answers to “what happens in the back”.
If you haven’t heard about the discussion and massive passionate debates over what sex work is, what does and doesn’t fit into it, and where stripping falls into this whole discussion: Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you should probably look around on the internet more often.
I’m going to start by letting you know bright and clear: I am NOT a leading authority on these distinctions, and you will find far more eloquent and nuanced descriptions elsewhere. This isn’t meant to be a thorough analysis, so please don’t take it as such.
So, sex work. The all-knowing Wikipedia defines it as "the exchange of sexual services, performances, or products for material compensation.” Now, that definition certainly seems to include stripping- as well as camming, sugar babying, escorting, and porn acting. End of the day, stripping is inherently a sexual performance. Without the nude or semi-nude entertainment, we’re just an overpriced sports bar.
And despite what managers, audition introductions, and employment contracts may say, there is a massive spectrum of services offered at strip clubs.
There are clubs that stick to no-touch policies. There are clubs with light touch dances. There are lap dance clubs. There are clubs where you can purchase extras without managerial knowledge or approval. And there are clubs that offer full-service options, with the full knowledge and consent of management and corporate.
Most importantly: there are entertainers with different boundaries, expectations, and service options at every club. What’s common between all of us is that we are all there to work, to provide for ourselves and for the people we care about. And that we are all sexual beings with different needs, wants, and lines in the sand—regardless of how much of our sensuality or our sexuality we choose to bring into the club environment.
If you heard some strippers talk about it, you wouldn’t know it though. Some of the reactions I’ve heard over the years about other dancers who are selling “more” (read: who have different personal boundaries) are:
“disgust”; “frustration”; “unfair competition”; “gross,” “dirty,” and more than one loud angry rant about losing out on sales to different services.
Full-service sex workers aren’t some abstract group that lives in a different dimension. They’re your friends, they’re your colleagues, and they deserve your respect and support. And if you don’t think that you know someone who offers different services than you at the club, it is likely because they don’t feel comfortable sharing that information with you. They likely feel that you wouldn’t support and love them in the same way.
Do you remember what it was like to tell the people in your life that you were dancing?
Even if you got a great reaction, the lead up was probably really hard. Hearing others discuss strippers as “less than,” “dirty,” “stupid,” “disgusting…” for years before you even started probably crossed your mind hundreds of times. You’ve probably heard a lot of other choice words used to cause a reaction, and likely for a very long time before you thought about this job. “Slut,” “wh*re,” “b*tch”—there’s a million more like these and likely very few of us that haven’t heard them long before we chose to dance. So, when you choose a career that puts you in control and lets you monetize on your sexuality—well, the public reaction is often less than great.
You may have been alienated, asked if you were sure about your decision, or even told (like I was) that you’d fall into a life of drugs, get a pimp, and end up dead in an alley somewhere. If you haven’t heard any of these, I am so glad for you. Buy the people in your support system a coffee sometime, because they’re doing a better job than most. But also realize that you are in a tiny minority.
If you have heard some version of these, you’re in the overwhelming majority.
Even while stripping has become more and more popular and accepted, it is still hard as h*ll to secure housing, quality mental healthcare, to explain “gaps” in our resumes (as if dancing wasn’t work), to win custody battles, and to get credit for businesses and acceptance into quality schools.
This job can affect every part of your life- which is why so many of us choose to keep it private. It’s just so much easier than dealing with the social punishment put on us for doing a job that has some of the best earning potential (especially for women and people of color relative to other employment opportunities) and the most day-to-day freedom of almost any position out there.
Ok…now read back through the fears we face when coming out as dancers and think about what someone who offers additional services has to go through. Not just the stigma. Not just the job difficulty. Not just the massive struggles to maintain your health and self-esteem that we all face.
All that plus constant, never ending persecution from the government, their banking institutions, every social media platform, and oftentimes “friends,” family, difficult partners, and customers who may know they can’t go to "the authorities" for help if something goes wrong.
And then go back and think about how you’ve described people who “do more” in the back, or what kinds of rants you go on when you miss a VIP sale. Think about how full service gets described at clubs. “I can’t believe that dirty b*tch.” “She does hand jobs, that’s disgusting.” “She’s only making money because she does extras.”
Stop for a moment and think about what you’re reinforcing. What interests are you serving when you go out of your way to isolate, stigmatize, and disrespect fellow sex workers? Stop passing along the negative, hurtful, and ignorant things that have been told to you as a stripper to others who choose to sell other services than what you offer. Stop bullying, disrespecting, and harming the people who work next to you every day.
This is a heated and serious conversation with a lot of implications; and this chapter is not meant to be taken as my overall opinion on the matter. At the end of the day, my opinion shouldn’t matter here. It’s not my opinion that’s coming to the club with you- it’s your own.
And if you haven’t given this thought, it’s likely affecting your room sales more than you know.
How? Because if you feel like this question is truly stopping your money, then you’re not bringing in enough customers who share your expectations, you’re not controlling sales from the start so customers aren’t basing their decisions on extras in the first place, you’re not staying in control of where and when you’re working, and you’re not entertaining customers long enough or with enough focus and energy to keep them focused on you instead of “what happens next.”
And you’re blaming other entertainers, services, club policies, and customer preferences for your lower sales, instead of taking responsibility for what you earn at the club.
Look, I can only speak from my own experience. But I can tell you this: I’ve worked clubs with strict no-touch dances. I’ve worked clubs where the expectation that was set by management was that full service came with buying a room. I’ve worked at clubs with expectations everywhere in between. And I’ve made money selling conversation, dances, and time at all of them. Without going beyond my boundaries. Without tricking customers into buying. Without insulting or arguing with other entertainers that sell more or less.
And I’ll tell you some things that the entertainers who walk around complaining about other services don’t point out often:
- You can close customers to buy the services that you’re offering at any club, regardless of what anyone else is selling around you. You will close the majority of your deals based on your sales skills, not on what other entertainers are doing/not doing.
- Customers do not know what everyone else is offering at your club. If you control the sale, customers will not care about what anyone else is offering. Customers will want to buy, buy now, and buy from you if they feel that you can provide them with a quality experience.
- What most customers ask for isn’t what most customers are stuck on buying. Many customers are just scoping out what you offer; not setting an unshaking expectation. Just because your customer tries to sell you on the idea that he’ll only go if you do “more” doesn’t mean you have to believe him, act on it, or trick him into buying.
- For the most part, most customers looking for full service aren’t hanging out at your club. They’re booking providers outside of the club- and many of your most respectful customers in the club likely buy additional services when they’re not there. You’re not in competition; wanting one service doesn’t mean you can’t want or buy another.
- When you shame, scold, or guilt your customers for asking for other services, you’re losing out on any sale with them whatsoever and disrespecting them (and likely some of your co-workers) along the way. Would you buy from someone that responded to a question with disgust, shaming, and rudeness?
- If you’re worried about losing one client because of your boundaries, you are not bringing in enough clients. Take responsibility for bringing in customers that show up just for you—market on social media, follow up with regulars and prior customers, or go to a club with different set rules.
- You can’t sell everyone all of the time. Some customers show up for blondes, others for brunettes. Some want girl-next-door; some want pin-up princess. Some want full-service, others want conversation and snuggles. Others want to lick your toes. Others want to nap for five hours straight in a champagne room with their head in your lap while you eat a cheese plate and watch TV. You won’t click with every customer every time.
Regardless of what services you offer, you can always up your numbers by learning how to close, how to identify what your customers want, and understanding that you cannot sell everyone all of the time. Stop buying into the idea that you are somehow “better” or “cleaner” than someone else because of the services you offer. Don’t mind their business, mind your own. And start selling your time and your company with confidence- regardless of what anyone else at your club is doing.
Put in the work. It begins outside of the club. If you have a highly entertaining personality, then practice clever lines, develop a heightened version of your personality for work, and craft games and jokes to entertain customers with. If you’re a great dancer, up your game some more. Come up with the most entertaining ways of doing pole work, lap dances, and command the stage with your presence. Work on creating the best dancer that you possibly can be and bring everything to the table when you show up to work. Build a persona that customers can’t help but buy from. And bring those skills to a club where your skillset will win out over other options. Be strategic about where you work, and about what kind of customers show up there. And on customers…
This is about your customer, too. To figure out how to sell more, you also have to figure out how to provide more service and more value. Which requires that you...
Build empathy. Why did your customer show up? What value can you bring to the table for him? Don’t just gloss over this; stop right now and figure out what reasons your customer may have to go to your club. Don’t make lazy assumptions like “every customer is here because they want sex.” Write down all the possible reasons someone would be there- both that you’ve seen and that you can come up with. Then figure out what you uniquely offer to your customers that will solve their problems.
If you cannot answer this question quickly and clearly, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you can’t sell customers on VIP rooms. The first step of any sale is building confidence in your own product and in your own ability to sell it. If you don’t have confidence that you can bring value to your customer, he will not have it either.
What makes your time worth paying for? The closer you align the value of your time with your short- and long-term goals and purpose, the easier it will be to leverage this self-awareness at work as motivation to close difficult sales. When you are focused and motivated, it is easy for customers to sense it. And when you have a bigger purpose in mind, you are nearly unstoppable.
The patrons of your club are making calculations of value based on their own wants and needs, but for you to navigate their needs gracefully, you first need to define your own. If you cannot articulate why you are pushing a customer to buy a higher priced item, other than “I get more money if he does,” then you will lose out on sales when your customers push back.
Customers will be inserting their own valuation of your time and they will push back against your demands, so you need to have a crystal-clear sense of why your time matters to you. This will be the anchor that guides your timing, pitches, and decision making at work.
If you feel that you have 4-5 hours to spend sitting at a bar without being compensated, this is exactly what customers will do for you. If you treat your time inside and outside of work as your most precious, most valuable, only non-renewable resource then you will be more confident in asking for exactly what you want. Others will sense that you didn’t show up to waste your time, and they will either help you move forward or they will get out of your way.
What makes your time worth paying A LOT for? This may sound similar to the last question, but it adds the very important factor of cost, which brings in the other decision maker in closing the sale: your customer.
Let’s face it, for a lot of people the cost of an hour in a private room may intuitively feel like "a lot". And for some customers this may be the case. But in the age of credit cards and impulse buys it's rare that a customer is truly unable to purchase at least a limited option from you. If they're choosing not to, it’s not just because your customers are "all broke” or because "all these girls sell it so cheap I can't make money."
As if the Lamborghini dealership is running out of customers because there are other options on the market, or Tiffany's is short on customers because your local variety shop is selling mood rings. Come on. By the way, the point isn't that full service is "less valuable." It's not. It's that it's a different service and product. If we're comparing two service providers a stronger analogy is more like: Lamborghini is making money AND private jet companies are making money AND the Four Seasons is making money. They're all luxury experiences. They all fulfill different needs. One customer can buy all of them, some of them, or none of them every time they go shopping.
The truth is even people who have amassed a lot of money may still be uncomfortable with spending it generously; or they may want to spend generously, just not on what you've offered.
If you aren't ready to address those other concerns, you may find that no answer to “what happens in the back?” gets him to budge, even when you feel that you're being reasonable, or when you resort to lowering your price or offering services that you’re not really available for, as if that will resolve his bigger concerns.
Even when a customer is ready to buy from you, they will often ask you questions about the price of your services to convince themselves it’s a good idea.
“What will you do for me in VIP?”
“Why should I go back there when I could get dances out here?”, and
“Woah! That’s way too expensive!”
These are all ways that your customer is asking you:
“Can you help me make sense of this number?"
"How can I justify paying this much for your time?"
"What do you bring to the table?"
"How can I trust that you’re going to do a good job and look out for my wants and needs?”
In order to help them make good decisions, you need to establish the value of your service relative to the other services and products that your customers are already comfortable with paying full price for. If you don’t believe your time should be valued highly, your customer will be left to make this decision alone; a recipe for shorter rooms, stalling, indecisiveness, and mutual dissatisfaction.
Your challenge? Figure out what happens in the back! Use the skills listed above to communicate value to your customers.
Stop using excuses about what other people do in your club to justify your sales.
And keep looking for ways to up the value of your services, so that customers can’t help but buy from you!
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 Yes, this really happened.