Exhibit Sales Lessons Learned from a Turkish Carpet Salesman
©2007 Corbin Ball Associates
I have had the good fortune to travel to more than seventy countries. I consider myself a “savvy traveler” and am adept at deflecting sales pitches from street vendors. That is, until I visited Istanbul this past fall.
While walking the streets of this beautiful and exotic city, I was repeatedly enticed with some of the best sales techniques I have ever experienced. From the sidewalk food vendor, to the small shop owner, to the street artist, to the carpet salesman – all were able to engage me and make me inclined to buy what they were selling.
How did they do it?
I was frankly astonished. How were they able to penetrate my armor? I have reflected on this and have come up with several tips they used that I believe could help everyone in a seller-buyer relationship:
1. Greet potential clients warmly and genuinely
These successful Istanbul street salespeople greeted me with a friendly smile - they acted happy to see me! Although this seems obvious, I can’t count the exhibitors at the many tradeshows I attend each year, who act disinterested; who are seated behind a table not engaging people; who are eating at the booth; or who are otherwise disengaged.
2. Know your client and meet them on their level
A common question I was asked by the Istanbul salespeople in good English is “where are you from?” When I replied “from the US,” they would ask where? Usually, they had knowledge of the state and region I lived in. The carpet salesman smiled and said he had a cousin who lived in Mt.Vernon (a town 20 miles/30 kilometer to the south of my town). All were multilingual, and I got the feeling that they could have responded in a similar manner to visitors from countries around the world. They had taken the time to learn about their clients, and in doing so were able to quickly establish a relationship.
Exhibitors should similarly establish a connection with prospective buyers before even thinking about selling them something. The name badge typically has name, company and city or country. These all can be used to establish a connection or to start a conversation. Tune into the booth visitor and meet them on their level.
3. Tune into what buyer’s issues are and become the expert who is there to help.
I noticed that the successful street salespeople were sensitive to what my needs where. What are you looking for? A restaurant? Something to eat? A point of interest? The way to a specific location? They seemed sensitive that my main goal was not to buy things -- that I a visitor wanting to see the city. One trinket vendor noticed my glance at the grilled mussels for sale in the booth next door. He offered detailed information about the type of mussels, their freshness and the cost. He was not selling them, but he established himself as an expert on the subject of my interest… by the way, would I be interested in he was selling? The carpet sales person, whose family sold carpets in the same location near the Blue Mosque for over 100 years, offered detailed information about the restaurants and even offered to drive my companion and me to them. All offered helpful suggestions establishing themselves as “trusted” experts.
The exhibitor should similarly tune into the needs of your booth visitor. What are they looking for? What are their challenges? Listen to what their issues are to find a match to what you are selling.
4. Sell the sizzle in a low key manner
It was only after they greeted me warmly, established a connection, and established themselves as a “trusted expert,” did they even begin to breech the issue of selling. This was never done in a high-pressure manner. All sold the sizzle – the benefits, the quality, the ease of getting home. All tuned into my needs/wishes and sold from that basis.
These simple sales techniques worked on me as a savvy buyer and traveler. I recommend them to anyone who wants to improve their sales skills, or better yet, spend a week walking the streets of Istanbul to experience them for yourself.