I just returned from a terrific spring break trip with my family to the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is a wonderful place to visit. The beautiful clear blue water, sandy beaches, helpful staff and wonderful accommodations all set the stage for a memorable week away from the office.
One thing that stood out for me was my visits to the local stores. Small hut-like stores selling anything from clothing to jewelry to artwork to cigars to accessories lined the beachfront and on the paths that separated the hotels. Have you ever walked into one of these stores on one of your vacations? Of course you have. Can you resist buying something? Of course you can’t. And therein lies the selling lessons for all of us.
Captive Audience – If you’re like me, you can’t read or eat your entire vacation away no matter how hard you try. Although I devoured two excellent books on this trip and spent more time that I care to admit at the all-day buffets and open bars, I did find time to walk the beaches and visit the neighboring hotels. The hut stores offer a desired break from the sun and the sand. Once we walk in, we’re at their mercy and boy do the sales people know it. We’re relaxed, comfortable and our emotions are positively charged. It is the perfect time to make a sale and no is never part of their vocabulary. You tell them you have no money on you. No problem, they say as they notice the color of your all-inclusive bracelet on your wrist. They know where you’re staying and they are confident you will pay. After all, where are you going to hide if you don’t?
Persistence Always Beats Resistance – From the moment you walk into their store, the sales person is working you. They might ask, “Do you like what you see?” or, “Did you know that everything is handmade?” Again, no is not an option and they know it. Have you ever felt ignored when you walked into a chain store in your local mall? The opposite feeling exists whenever you walk into a store on an island. You feel like you’re the only customer that matters and boy does that feel refreshing.
Develop rapport – As soon as you set foot on their turf, the sales person develops a connection with you. It starts with eye contact and a friendly smile. If you reciprocate, you’re done and they know it. I was wearing my fitted Yankees hat and, not surprisingly, everyone I met was a Yankees fan. “My favorite player is Reggie Jackson,” the sales person blurts out. He must be 20 years old. How does he even know Reggie? When my wife was with me, everyone said that I was a “lucky man to have such a beautiful woman”, again knowing exactly what to say to develop rapport. They had me in their grasp and were not letting go until they closed the deal.
Masters of the pricing game – Once I picked an item that I was interested in purchasing, the fun really began. To start the bidding, they ask what I would pay. Always up for a good negotiation, I say no. They want me to look at the product through my foreign eyes and establish a high opening price. Not my first negotiation, I confidently told them to start the bidding, knowing that I would counter at roughly 20% of that amount. Reluctantly they agree, we haggle, eventually arrive at an acceptable price and do the deal. Funny thing is that the store inside the hotel sold exactly the same “original” product and at a lower price than I negotiated at the hut store along the beach. I smile knowing I have been one-upped by the masters of the pricing game.
Upselling – No one in a beach hut is ever satisfied simply selling you one item. The game continues after you zero in on your first item to purchase. If your wife is looking at a necklace, she must have the matching earrings and bracelet. The towels happen to come in a set and the best deals are made for 3 shirts, not just one. These are all classic upsell strategies and the island salespeople are the masters.
I enjoyed my vacation. Spending quality time with my family and close friends traveling to a new place always recharges my batteries. I also enjoyed the lessons learned from the people working in the hut stores. What lessons apply to our respective businesses? All of them!