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Learn a lesson from the lady in the St. Lucia straw market.

I was on a Caribbean cruise last week – first time away from email in years. The first stop was St. Lucia, home to one of the larger straw markets (local crafts, etc.) in the region. Let’s just say I’m not a shopping fan, but I negotiated a morning of ziplining for an afternoon of shopping – and received $50 in free sales training.

As I was moping around the market, a woman walked up to me and started up a conversation about St. Lucia. Did I know that this market was originally supposed to be the site of the first Catholic Church? How many types of mangoes did I think were grown on the island? (Over 100) She also asked about my family, and told me about hers.

We walked to her stand, where she told some very interesting stories about how and where some of the craft items were produced. By the time we were done, I had purchased a hat made of palm tree leaves and about $50 worth of other stuff.

What a great sales job! I have no idea if the stories were true (the church one was), but in 15 minutes an introduction was made, relationship built, and sale closed. Here are three things we can learn about sales from that lady in the St. Lucia straw market.

  1. Be Unique – While I just said “no” to the hundred other nice people who asked me if I wanted to buy anything, this woman used a creative approach to engage me in a conversation. Instead of asking your usual list of questions at your next meeting, try striking up an open-ended, off-topic conversation that may also help establish a more personal relationship. Any recent or future vacation plans? Business (or personal) goals? Penn State football opinion? You can then steer the conversation toward the business at hand.
  2. Engage and Educate – During my visit to the straw marketing, I learned about the island and people of St. Lucia. I felt like I gained value beyond my purchase. What information, knowledge, and experience can you share with your prospective client that would be valuable even if that person never becomes a client? Let your prospect know that you are providing this advice simply because you want to help. If all other things are equal between you and your competitors, that added value may tip the scales to you.
  3. Pull vs. Push – The woman in the straw market never asked me to buy anything. I purchased so I could share the experience with my family and friends back home. Think about what you can do to “pull” the prospect toward your services, rather than having to press for a signature. Focus on the steps after the contract, and even the potential end results, so the prospect feels compelled to engage you in order to achieve that desired outcome.

It seemed like the woman really enjoyed our conversation, and this approach makes her job a lot more interesting than just asking a bunch of cruise ship tourists to buy something. I learned a lot in St. Lucia, and even more when I got back home – US Customs didn’t like the palm leaf hat.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

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