I'm writing this article on
the flight back from a week-long trip to Istanbul, Turkey. My wife Kirsten is
an amateur rug collector and we decided to celebrate her birthday in Istanbul
where the 11th International Conference On Oriental Carpets was being held.
(Candidly, until earlier this year, I didn't even know there was such a
conference -- let alone the fact that it drew hundreds
Loving husband that I am,
I accompanied Kirsten during her visits to a variety of rug dealers in
Sultanhamet (the old district of Istanbul which is the carpet capital of the
world). This is where The Grand Bazaar is located. If you've never been to
Istanbul, I highly recommend it. It's a great city.
In any case, here are
some of the insights I gained from my experience.
Sales Tips From Turkish Rug Dealers
1. Make your
customers smarter: I was very impressed with the amount of time
various dealers spent with Kirsten educating her on the various types of rugs,
their histories and the regions from which they came. Of course, it shouldn't
be surprising that these dealers would try to sell their wares, and it would be
easy to dismiss their efforts as not much more than a form of selling.
But, at the best dealers, this went well beyond just selling. Even when it was
clear that certain rugs were outside of our budget and there was close to a zero
chance of a sale, the passion some of the dealers had still continued to show
through. They were genuinely pleased to share their knowledge. If you're a
startup founder, chances are that you know a lot more about the problem your offering solves than the customer does. I'd suggest you share some of
your knowledge and do everything possible to make your customers smarter
(without sounding patronizing).
Pithy Quote: If your offering is clearly the "smart" choice for the customer, helping the customer get smarter is a great strategy.
2. Focus On
Relationships, Not Transactions: The rug dealers did not behave in a
way that I expected when it came to their selling process. Rarely did I ever
feel pressued to purchase anything. Once it became clear that Kirsten was a new
(but passionate) amateur collector, the dealers seemed to recognize that there
were going to be a lifetime of future opportunities. They sought to build a
relationship, not close a transaction. I'm guessing that this strategy has
worked for them in the past as many avid collectors and U.S.-based dealers make
regular trips back to Istanbul and become lifelong customers. As a startup
founder, even though you may only be selling a low-end (or even free) product,
your early customers should all be oriented around relationships. These first
customers will help shape the product and give you insights into future
opportunities. Don't get overly maniacal about "closing the transaction". Take
the time to forge the early relationships.
3. Make It Safe and Easy To
Leave: Every dealer we encountered was supremely polite and
courteous. Even at that most crucial of times -- when we were ready to walk out
the door without having bought anything (which was most of the time). They
thanked us for stopping in. I kept waiting for the hard-sell, but it never
came. I think startups can go even further. Send signals to potential clients
that you will make it just as easy to walk out the door as you made it for them
to walk-in. Go out of your way to reduce the customer's barrier to exit. This
is counter-intuitive (you would think it would be smarter to erect higher
barriers to exit). The easier it is for customers to walk out, the more likely
it is that they'll walk in.
Pithy Quote: By making yourself easy to leave, you make yourself easy to love.
4. Don't Disparage
The Competition: Not once did we have a dealer state (rightly or
wrongly) that another well-known dealer in town had higher prices, inferior
quality or offer other forms of criticism. Instead, they focused on what their
particular specialty was and what made them different.
5 Don't Judge
The Customer: Kirsten and I are not the typical rug shoppers. When
walking in to a high-end dealer, it would be easy to immediately dismiss us as
being "non-buyers". Or, it would be even easier to assume that I was the
primary buyer (it seems that most antique rug collectors are men). But, the
dealers did not make the mistake of assuming anything. Kirsten was greeted with
much energy and enthusiasm. It seems that the Turkish rug dealers had learned,
after decades of experience, that you should treat every customer that walks in
the door as if they were a serious buyer, because there's really way to really
tell for sure. I contrast this to my first car buying experience in Boston. I
went to a high-end dealer ready to make a purchase and was treated as if I were simply there to admire the cars, but couldn't afford one.
Pithy Quote: Your best customers unfortunately do not walk around with convenient labels on their heads. You'll actually have to try and get to know them.
For those of you that have been to Turkey or shopped for rugs, you may have had a much different experience than I did. Could be that we just got "lucky" and wound up in shops that had a disproportionately high level of professionalism. I don't think any of the above insights are particularly controversial, but if you have comments or criticisms, please share.
Like this article? You can now find more popular articles as part of the LinkedIn Influencers program.
comments powered by