I never knew my visit to the beautiful Dal Lake could teach me powerful lessons in selling. When I received an opportunity to conduct a workshop for one of the world’s leading chemical companies I was thrilled because it was also my first time visiting Kashmir. Before I could plan for the program, I planned the places to visit near my hotel – one of them being the beautiful Dal Lake. The shikara (a type of wooden boat) ride was one of the attractions that I didn’t want to miss because of the experience of the boat ride amidst the scenic view of the valley.
After the workshop, my team decided to take the shikara ride which takes you across Dal Lake to the famous floating market. Our shikara moved across packed waterways surrounded by houseboats and at last, stopped at a wood craftsman houseboat. A fragile, lean old man stepped forward to greet us and I got my first lessons in selling –
- Be Enthusiastic:
I never knew this old man would have so much energy up his sleeve –he acted with a sense of urgency to welcome us. He lent his hand to welcome us on his houseboat and we were filled with warmth about the place. I learned that it is not how much you know but how much you care that makes the difference.
- Be Engaging:
On his houseboat, I could see a variety of products ranging from a nut cracking machine to a five-foot large model of a shikara. As he was showing us around the place, he engaged us during the entire process. At one moment he asked me “Cigarette peete ho? (Do you smoke?),” to which I answered “Nahi (No).” Then he handed over a cigarette box and asked me to open it. I tried my best, raking in all physical effort, but failed. Next, he asked my friend if he smokes and handed over the cigarette box. He said, “Haan, mai cigarette pita hu (I do smoke),” so he asked him to open the box, and within a millisecond, my friend opened the box. I was shocked! He followed up with a joke that, “Only the ones who smoke cigarettes can open the box.” We all laughed at that moment. How that was possible I will share later in the article, but the lesson is when you make the buying process fun, you tend to drop the customer’s resistance.
- Be Educated:
When we asked him about certain craft products, he was able to specify which wood was used in each product. He shared the differences between walnut wood and ordinary wood, educating us on how to find the difference between the two and not to be duped by shops in the local market. He was the Einstein of his houseboat. It was as if he used his knowledge to become our friend and not a salesman.
- Be Expansive:
At last, we wanted to take our leave, so he asked if we liked anything in specific. We said, “We liked a lot of things, but we would not like to buy anything specific.” To my surprise he was not at all disappointed, but rather he became happy! He said you are here in Kashmir so don’t go home empty-handed, I will gift you something for your family. He took a piece of wood, asked my family members names and chiseled the wood piece while smiling. He took a minute and handed over the most beautiful wooden piece I have ever seen. He had chiseled a lotus on the piece, with my family members names on each petal and leaf. He smiled and said, that’s a gift from the people of Kashmir. It was such a special piece because he personalised it and gave it with his blessings. It took him only a minute but he touched our hearts. What am I trying to say here is if you are expansive and not pushy you can win over your customers! It is not always about selling, sometimes it is about making people feel special.
Seeing that gesture, not only me but my friends also purchased a whole lot of wooden craft products from that houseboat. He taught me some classic lessons on how to treat your customers and win them by living the 4 Es – Being Enthusiastic, Engaging, Educated, and Expansive.
Now the story of the cigarette box – when he took the box from me and handed it to my friend, he did his magic. He covertly pressed a small wooden slot on the box before passing it to my friend, which opened the lock of the box. And my friend was able to open it without any effort. I still laugh thinking about his sleight of hand and his humor.
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