Don't spill your candy in the lobby… and other sales lessons

This past weekend was one of the funnest and most productive weekends to date this year. And not always do fun and productivity meet. I spent three days in Tallahassee (a city I can now spell), at Florida State University, in sales training. That was the productive part. The fun part was the group of people I attended this training with, the Neill Technologies team.

I have been wanting to write about this since Friday evening but it is only tonight that I feel that some of the information is starting to settle and make sense in my head. This training made me realize I somehow was in this very dangerous place of not even knowing what I didn’t know. (Thank goodness I am surrounded by people who know better.) Somehow, I thought I knew how to sell. Somehow, I never thought this was an area I needed any training in. Somehow, in my mind, selling wasn’t like accounting, marketing, skiing, or product formulating. For the latter, it would never occur to me to “just do it” without any class, professional instruction, or training. Somehow, sales wasn’t worthy of training. Boy was I wrong.

The three days of training covered so much material that I am still digesting the information. We discussed the theory of selling. We did role playing. On video. We had homework assignments. We had a book to read prior to class. A book with exercises.

While I don’t yet understand everything I learned, here are my most immediate takeaways.

  1. Money does grow on trees. Make your own tree: existing clients are the branches, they connect to other branches. Ask existing partners for referrals and for testimonials.
  2. Never do a cold call again. If you develop your network enough, and implement rule #1, your cold calls will really be “warm calls.”
  3. You have to learn to fail to win. Even when replacing cold calls with “warm calls,” selling will involve rejection. Use rejection to hone your skills. Debrief your own sales calls and meetings to continually improve.
  4. You never have to like prospecting, you just have to do it. While money grows on trees, trees don’t grow without water. Prospecting is to sales what water is to trees. Just do it.
  5. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Plan every sales call. Plan every sales meeting. Figure out at least 5 “advances” for each phone-call or meeting. Not continuations (i.e. “I’ll get back to you), but steps that will truly move the sales process forward.
  6. Don’t spill your candy in the lobby. A sales call is not an opportunity to show off the features and benefits of my products. A sales call is an opportunity to learn about someone’s business; about someone’s needs; about someone’s pain points.
  7. Don’t “product puke.” Refer to rule #6. Aim to understand rather than to persuade. I have two ears and one mouth… I should use them accordingly.
  8. Buyers want to buy, not be sold. By discovering needs, by listening instead of speaking, I will better understand how what I offer can be a solution. And if I really become excellent at this sales thing, I will enable the buyer to convince herself that she really needs Alchimie on her shelves by asking “need-payoff questions.”
  9. 80% of training fails, largely because of a lack of post-training implementation. Hence I am writing this, so I can refer to it and remind myself, in particular when old (bad) habits creep up again.
  10. Sometimes, it’s not about how good you are, but about how bad you want it.

Today, I hope to resist the temptation of the King Cake…

I know sugar is bad for me. I know it is bad for my waistline, and most likely for other reasons also. I am sure you know that too. Yet sometimes, I need a reminder. In particular on days such as today, Mardi Gras, a day that will be filled with sweet, sugary foods such as King Cake. I thought it would be good to remind myself of how sugar not only expands waistlines, but also accelerates aging. Today, I hope to resist the temptation of the King Cake.

When sugar enters the body, it has many both short and long-term effects on the cells. One of the effects of sugar exposure involves a process called glycation, in which over time sugars become irreversibly cross-linked with proteins or lipids forming Advanced Glycation End Products, aptly called AGEs (they even sound bad even before you really understand what AGEs do!).

Glycation and their resulting AGEs:

  1. Change protein structure making it rigid and abnormal (think of broken down collagen, and those pesky wrinkles).
  2. Induce Free Radical production (more free radicals = older-looking skin more quickly).
  3. Interfere with a cell’s metabolic activity.
  4. Deactivate our natural antioxidant defenses (less antioxidants – older-looking skin more quickly).

Glycation changes a protein’s structure resulting in AGEs, tissue damage, and inflammation, and also induces the creation of free radicals which are associated with many diseases and aging. Collagen and Elastin, key proteins in skin tissue quality, strength, and flexibility are particularly vulnerable to glycation. Free radicals take a toll on the skin’s structure and elasticity. We can physically observe AGE accumulation in the form of aging signs such as wrinkles and change in skin elasticity and quality.

To add to this issue, excess sugars and UV exposure work hand in hand to create havoc for our skin. UV light induces the cross linking process between sugars and lipids or proteins. Glycation induces sun damage: glycated skin cells exposed to UV exhibit significantly more UV damage than normal. As UV light is the main source of premature aging, exposing skin suffering from the effects of glycation ages the skin at an even faster rate. Conclusion: eating ice cream on the beach is the worst possible plan…

So – what can (should…) I do?

  1. Avoid excess sugar; even better, avoid sugar in general…
  2. Glycation also occurs by cooking sugar and lipids or proteins together, so avoiding foods that are both high in fat and sugar (therefore high in preformed AGEs) is important.
  3. As glycation interferes with the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, antioxidant levels play a key role in counteracting damaging free radicals formed by glycation. Ensuring the intake of highly antioxidant foods and the application of antioxidant-rich topical products will ensure that antioxidant levels are replenished and subsequently prevent the negative effects of glycation on the skin.

A final note about glycation: quercetin, an antioxidant molecule naturally present in blueberries, and a key ingredient in Alchimie Forever products, has been found to be instrumental in preventing free radical creation by the glycation process and preventing structural changes in the properties of glycated components.

So today, if I am craving sweets, instead of eating King Cake, I will eat blueberries…


(Thank you to my fabulous Geneva intern Rachel for your help researching this blog post; references available upon request.)

My blog needs a name, and I need your help…

A very smart friend of mine brought to my attention recently the fact that most blogs have a name. (And some of these names are really great: Politics of PrettyCupcakes and CashmereIf the Lipsticks Could Talk. So much creativity…) It occurred to me that if I was going to be serious about my blog (which focuses on beauty, skin care, entrepreneurship, small business, and sometimes football or champagne), I needed to name it. I reached out to my colleagues, partners, and to some of my most creative friends for suggestions, and we have narrowed it down to 19 possibilities. Please help me choose and let me know which name you prefer (in the comments section below). Even better, if you have a 20th suggestion, I can’t wait to hear it!

Alchimie-related names

The Alchemist


Forever Beauty

Ada the Alchemist


Ada/Polla-related names

Ada Forever

Ada’s Alchimie

Alchimie by Ada


Polla Pretty

Adamant About Beauty



The Ada-vantage

The Beauty Pollatician


Beauty-related names

Beauty and Business


Beauty secrets


Swiss-related names


Swiss Made

My cold weather skin care tips

Maybe it’s a Swiss thing, but I love the late fall and early winter, which bring with them the holidays, the cold, snow, and cashmere sweaters. My skin, however, suffers during this time of year. Colder temperatures, the dryer air, and heated interiors leave it feeling dry and flaky, sometimes even uncomfortable, rough, and red. Here are some tips I follow year after year to help my complexion remain calm, hydrated, and radiant throughout the winter.

  1. I switch to our gentle cream cleanser. While I love a foaming cleanser and the feel of “squeaky clean” skin during the warmer months, this does not work for me in colder, dryer weather.
  2. Even though a hot bath or shower is oh-so tempting in cooler temperatures, I try to resist. Hot water breaks down the skin’s natural moisturizing lipids and leave it feeling even dryer.
  3. I switch to our Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream. Year-round, this is my go-to cream when I travel by plane, which is so dehydrating to my skin. In the winter, I love this nourishing cream every day. I keep one at home and one in the office, as I like to reapply throughout the day, in particular before going outside.
  4. I also switch to a more hydrating body cream. I love the thickness and scent of Aveda’s Caribbean Therapy cream to ensure no “crocodile-like” legs.
  5. As a hydrating-booster treatment, I like to use our Kantic brightening moisture mask at least twice weekly. I apply it first thing in the morning upon entering the bathroom, and remove it at the end of my shower. It doesn’t add any time to my routine, and gives me instant hydration and radiance.
  6. I like a good humidifier to help combat the air’s dryness. A low-cost alternative is to simply place bowls of water in the rooms you spend most of your time in. As the water evaporates, it will add moisture to the air.
  7. I protect my hands with gloves when going outside, and use hand cream religiously, at least after every time I wash my hands. Of course, I love our antioxidant relief for hands and feet.
  8. I also protect my lips, which are always dryer in the winter. I carry Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour cream in my purse at all times. It is super hydrating, and doubles as lip gloss.
  9. On the ski slopes in particular, I remember to use a high SPF sunscreen (I love Anthelios), as the snow reflects UV rays and makes them even more damaging.
  10. Finally, I try to remember to hydrate from the inside out by drinking a lot of water – either with my favorite Super Orange Emergen-C, or as a cup of hot, freshly-brewed green tea.

An interview with the Swiss Doctors Polla

People are always asking me about Georgetown, about my favorite beauty tips, and my favorite Alchimie Forever products. For once, I thought I would take advantage of my parents’ stay in Georgetown to ask them these questions (in addition to being my parents, they are the co-creators of our skin care line, Alchimie Forever, and both medical doctors). Indeed, while I could have picked their favorite products correctly, I would not have been able to guess at their favorite Georgetown spots!

What do you love about Georgetown? What is your favorite place in Georgetown?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

I love Georgetown because it is so filled with the history of the United States. I love the harmony between the urban feel of this neighborhood and the tall and lush trees. When I am in Georgetown, I feel at the same time in a city and in the country.

My favorite place in Georgetown is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on South Street, where I always stay when I come to D.C. The space and architecture are beautiful, again bringing together the past and the present, conveying both a feeling of history and of contemporary style.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

I love Georgetown because to me it represents the perfect blend of the best of Europe with the best of America. The people in Georgetown look beautiful and happy. There are no McMansions here, but houses that are small and that touch each other – I love row houses.

I love Georgetown University, one of the best in the United States (which is why two of my daughters went there). I love it because there are as many squirrels on campus as there are students, which brings a lightness of spirit to the campus. Specifically, I love the University’s writing program. As a writer, I am fascinated by how many writers are Georgetown University alumni. I want to read all of the books they have written!

My favorite place in Georgetown is the Alchimie Forever showroom, where art blends with beauty, where I love to work while in DC, sharing the space with my daughter Ada, whether in person, or just looking at her portrait by contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft.

What are your top tips for beauty?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

1.       Eat healthy, which to me means eating real food, mostly vegetables and fruit, and stay away from processed foods.

2.       Work out to enhance the strength and suppleness of your body. I work with a strength training coach for specific strength and muscle group, and I also play golf twice a week, never with a golf cart however – walking is one of the most essential parts of the game of golf.

3.       Have a positive outlook on life. Visualize positive outcomes and events. This may sound non-scientific, but I truly believe in the effect of such visualization not only one’s own happiness, but also in how good someone looks.

4.       Work to preserve the health and beauty of your skin, in a harmonious way. Avoid the sun, use antioxidant products, visit your dermatologist regularly for various non-invasive procedures, but never go too far. I always tell my patients they want to look the way they feel, not look like they are 20 when they are 50.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

1.       Smile. A beautiful face with perfect skin and a flawless complexion cannot be beautiful without a smile. Smile to yourself, smile to strangers, smile with your eyes and with your lips. Smile lines are so much more beautiful than frown lines. (A corollary to this, wear lipstick … that is the one makeup item I never leave the house without. I am loving the glosses from Haughty Cosmetics for the summer.)

2.       Move every day. Walk fast whenever possible. Leave your car at home, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Dance. I also think moving is energizing in terms of moving cities, moving jobs.

3.       Take baths. I have never gotten used to bathrooms without bathtubs. I don’t like showers, I treasure my time in the bathtub. I take the time to exfoliate, to put a mask on my face, and oils in the bath water. The time in the bath is a time of wellness, but also a time of reflection, a time of quiet, a time for you to take care of yourself. When stepping out of the bath, massage every inch of your body with your favorite lotion, from the tip of your ears to the tip of your toes.

4.       Look at yourself in the mirror. Every day, twice a day. Really look. Looking at myself in the mirror with love and attention enables me to see the subtle changes in my skin, in my face, so that I never wake up and feel that I have aged 10 years overnight. And of course, smile while you are looking at yourself …

What is your favorite Alchimie Forever products?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

1.       As a dermatologist, the products that I recommend to every single patient are our Brightening Moisture Mask and our Firming Gel for Neck and Bust. The mask is a treatment product that I use on all of my patients after peels and injectables, and it truly helps to heal the skin, give it an immediate glow, and minimize redness. It is a product that is both effective and results-oriented, and a sensorially delicious product to use. Our gel for neck and bust is the best product to maintain the health and youthfulness of an area of the body that women tend to neglect, namely neck, décolleté, and arms. It is both tightening and helps to even out pigment.

2.       As a man, I love our Antioxidant Defense Gel. I use it every day after shaving. It is oil free, it penetrates immediately in my skin, and I love the fresh, masculine scent. I truly believe this is one of our best products.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

1.       I love our Gentle Exfoliating Scrub. It is a face product, but I use it all over the body. The beads of cranberries and jojoba, and the papaya enzyme, physically exfoliate my skin and leave it soft, and the shea butter nourishes it. I use it up to four times per week.

2.       Our Brightening Moisture Mask is also one of my favorites, indeed I believe it is our hero product. I follow the scrub with an application of the mask to treat my skin, nourish it, and keep it supple and youthful-looking.  I love this product so much that I even mix a little bit of it in my favorite moisturizer, our Intensely Nourishing Cream.

3.       Our newest product, which we are launching next week, is a professional-only peel. I have been testing it on myself for the last two months, and I have to admit I am in love with it. It will be available at the end of the month in D.C.’s best spas, it is a fabulous treatment to help heal the damage of the summer, even out pigment, and prevent signs of aging.

What do your lips and lip contour say about your age?

One of the questions I get most often about caring for one’s skin is if it is ok to use an eye contour cream on the lip contour. Indeed, both contours give away our age: the former (eye) through the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, droopy eyelids, and dark circles; the latter (lip) through the appearance of those “smoker’s lines,” bleeding lipstick, loss of volume and sometimes even loss of color. How can we best protect and enhance our lips and lip contour?

First, a review of vocabulary:

– The vermilion border is where the lips (upper and lower) meet the surrounding skin of the mouth

– The vermilion border of the upper lip is often referred to as Cupid’s bow (given its shape)

Second, an anatomy lesson:

– The skin of the lips is much thinner than any other skin on our body, containing many fewer layers

– Because it is so thin, the underlying blood vessels are highly visible, which is what gives lips their pinkish or reddish color (this effect is less pronounced on darker skin types)

– The skin of the lips contains fewer melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) than the rest of our skin (again, this is less true of darker skin types)

– There are no hair follicles on the skin of the lips (gross!)

– There are no sweat glands on the skin of the lips (re-gross!)

– There are no sebaceous glands on the skin of the lips (ok, stopping with the gross now)

– As we all know, the skin of the lips is very rich in nerve endings however…

Because of all of these differences (fewer layers, no protection via sweat or oils), the skin of the lips dries out faster.

The skin of the lip contour, however, is not that different from the rest of our facial skin. It is, however, much thinner than the skin of the eye contour area. While using an eye contour cream in the lip contour certainly will do no harm, it is not that different from using your anti-aging facial moisturizer on your lip contour.

In terms of protecting and enhancing lips and the lip contour area, here are a few of my father’s (dermatologist Dr. Polla) favorite tips:

Lip contour

  1. Avoid smoker’s lines by not smoking
  2. Don’t drink with a straw: did you ever notice the shape your moth makes when you drink with a straw? Very comparable to the shape you make when you smoke… (the same thing could be said, although to a lesser extent, about to-go cups with lids)
  3. If need be, don’t hesitate to turn to electrolysis or laser hair removal (rather than plucking any pesky hairs in the lip contour area)
  4. When need be, given the potential appearance of the vertical lines in this area, do go to your dermatologist to explore the option of filling in these lines


  1. Exfoliate your lips with your facial scrub, as you do the rest of your face
  2. Protect your lips with an SPF during the day, as you do the rest of your face
  3. Don’t lick your lips repeatedly, as this will dry them out
  4. Don’t believe the myth that is you use lip balm regularly, your lips will end up drier than if you didn’t
  5. When need be, given the usual loss of volume with age, do go to your dermatologist to explore the option of adding volume back with fillers
  6. Do not go overboard with fillers and end up with “duck lips”

And, as my Mom always said and continues to believe, when all else fails (bad hair day, bad heart day, overall bad day), wear bright red lipstick. My current favorite: Cruella by NARS.