Tim Huffaker 2017

While traveling in the Caribbean, I experienced four sales encounters I found to be quite interesting and universal in both application and effect. 

The first sales situation involved two very young boys, about eight years old. They introduced themselves as twins but later explained that they were cousins born in the same year.  From what I could tell, they were the best of friends. Our tour bus had stopped halfway up the road to the summit on the island of St. Thomas so we could take pictures of the beautiful harbor.  These two boys came running towards us as we were taking pictures. With all the enthusiasm I have ever witnessed and in perfect unison, they asked me if I wanted to buy a hat. One boy had a stack of baseball caps in his hands and the other had one on his head.  I said, of all the hats, I like the one on your head best. The little boy took it off his head, handed it to me and said he would sell it. He said the hat was new, he had just put it on to display its beauty. When I asked how much, the two boys blurted out, seven dollars!  I responded by saying that was a lot of money for a baseball cap, just to see how they would respond. One of the boys came up close to me and in a low voice explained that the hats normally sell for five dollars, but when our bus pulled up at the overlook, his mother told him to sell the hats for seven dollars.  Now, here is the universal lesson I witnessed. Inexperienced salespeople often talk too much and by so doing, reveal excessive information. Don’t lay all your cards out on the table. Hold something back that you can offer only when you need to.  

My next sales encounter was with a man in his mid-twenties.  He was a hustler in every sense of the word. We had stopped at a local beach when the “hustler” approached me.  He explained to me that there were many vendors selling their wares on the beach and they all sold basically the same products at the same price.  However, since he was the first to make contact with me and to show me the “lay of the land”, I should ignore the others and purchase only from him.  He tried to explain in his broken English that people buy from people they believe, like and trust and that he was my man of trust. Therein lies the universal principle, people do buy based on relationships.

The third experience involved a little girl, six or seven years old that approached me on a beach.  She had a beautiful three-inch pink-colored conch shell in her hand. With all the courage she could muster, she asked me if I wanted to buy her shell.  Who could have turned her down after witnessing her timid courage and hopeful optimism? I took the shell in my hand and examined it as I glanced at her cheerful face.  “How much is it?” I asked. She blurted out, “One dollar.” Courage made the sale that afternoon on the beach, and the courage to step outside your comfort zone, by doing the things you don’t like to do, will always generate more sales.

The fourth and final universal sales experienced occurred as I was hiking with my wife on our way to see a beautiful waterfall.  As we entered the hiking trail, we passed by a young man who had set up a table exhibiting his wares, local trinkets and Chinese made crafts.  He told us he was not going to bother us to sell his goods until we returned from our hike. However, he presented each of us with a small necklace, a gift from him to us.  He wished us well as we hiked the waterfall trail and said he hoped we would buy something from him on our return. The principle of reciprocity is absolutely universal. As this salesperson presented us with the gift, I thought to myself, “This guy is really good.”  No pressure to buy, plus a personal gift. It is still true; reciprocity is one of the most powerful human traits. When we returned from hiking to the waterfall, we looked over the salesperson’s trinkets and made a purchase.

These examples demonstrate four universal principles successful salespeople do and average salespeople don’t do consistently. Gradually reveal information as it is needed; build trust with your prospects; step outside your comfort zone, and provide something of value to your prospects even before they commit to buy.