4 sales lessons from Bali

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I am not a comfortable sales person.

This might seem counterproductive for someone who runs their own business, but from my conversations with clients and other small business owners, it isn’t uncommon.

Now while it might seem like some people have “natural” sales skills, I’m a firm believer that it isn’t just a case of “being born with” or “having” particular skills. None of us come out of the womb as an entrepreneur who begins seeing opportunities and closing deals in the hospital.

While some skills might appear to come more easily to some than others, we all have the potential to try and learn or improve anything we put our minds to.

I became strongly aware of my lack of sales skills during my recent visit to Bali. AND determined to improve them.

I’m not saying that the Balinese are natural born sales people, but many of them seem to be raised with an understanding of the importance of identifying and leveraging any opportunity to make money.

While I was initially taken aback by what felt like being constantly sold to, it made me appreciate their entrepreneurialism and tenacity, and I left with not only a great tan, but these 4 sales lessons:

1. Everyone is a sales person (and they’re always selling)

If Alec Baldwin’s character’s catch phrase in Glengarry Glen Ross is “Always Be Closing”, then the Balinese’s is “Always Be Selling”.

Yes, there are the obvious scenarios where sales offers are expected, like in markets, and walking past massage parlours and restaurants; but there were a number of other occasions where I soon realised that what initially seemed like a generous offer, was actually a sales offer (like being shown around a temple).

In a location that is fuelled by tourism, it is essential to offer your wares to everyone you can, as the emphasis is on constant, high volume, low margin sales.

For professional service-based businesses – with high value services, long sales/business relationship cycles or those with a niche target – this isn’t always the best strategy.

However, it did highlight to me the importance of taking every opportunity to tell someone about your offering (and indicating who it is best suited to).

Not everyone will necessarily be a potential customer, but they may know someone who would benefit from your services, or keep you in mind for when an opportunity arises. Or it may give you a great opportunity to practice  your delivery.

It’s really just the “elevator pitch” approach.

For me, it’s being aware that when there is an opportunity to share what I do (either when asked directly, or it’s suitable to volunteer the information), not to just say: “I work for myself as a digital marketing consultant” and move on.

Instead I could say: “I’m a digital marketer. I work with small to medium businesses – usually in the B2B, construction and technology space – to help them better use, understand and get great results from their online channels.”

2. If the deal isn’t good, don’t take it (and move on quickly, there’s always another one coming along)

Perhaps being uncomfortable with sales, also makes me more inclined to be uncomfortable with the process of haggling… but in Bali, it’s a natural part of the process.

We were reminded at the start of our coding bootcamp to be prepared for it, and that the Balinese find it a fun, natural part of the sales process. The important thing for Westerners to remember though, is that we are already in a position of privilege by being able to travel to Bali, and are often getting great deals compared to what we would pay in our home countries, and not to get caught up haggling over $1.

We are also told that we would know if our offer was too low if the sales person didn’t come after us if we walked away during the haggle.

This struck a chord with me. From both sides of the sale.

As business owners, we often feel like we have to take every offer that comes our way. But if it’s not a good deal, we need to let it go.

Good deals aren’t always money-related though.

It’s also not a good deal if you get a bad feeling about the person you are negotiating with, that they might be difficult to work with in the future, or the offer comes with unrealistic expectations or conditions attached.

It’s important to be able to recognise whether an “opportunity” is going to cost you more than it’s worth

When you do decide to pass on an opportunity, don’t wallow in what might have been.

Move on quickly.

In my experience (and that of Bali) there is always another, often better opportunity ahead.

3. Always repeat the order

Now my husband did suggest that this is likely more to do with managing language barriers rather than being part of sales, but I was incredibly impressed by how the servers in every restaurant, cafe or bar that we visited, repeated our order back to us for our confirmation before fulfilling it.

Whether you are in a product or service-based business, it is hugely valuable to repeat your customer’s order back to them. This confirms expectations about what is being bought and sold.

I find that in service-based businesses particularly – and those where there is a lot of specialist or varied lingo – it is easy to get caught up discussing options during the sales phase, assuming you are both on the same page, then discovering down the track that one party thought something was or wasn’t included.

This is where it is valuable to use clear and consistent terminology, provide detailed proposals, clearly list inclusions AND exclusions, and query any potential confusion sooner rather than later.

And if something isn’t included or is asked about later, it’s a great opportunity to up sell!

4. Have fun and enjoy the sales process
!

As I highlighted about the haggling part of the Balinese sales process, this is usually undertaken in a jovial way, which reminded me that sales can be fun!

It’s NOT all serious.

Meeting potential clients, discussing your services and their requirements, considering different solutions, developing new business relationships – many of us naturally enjoy these actions, as they allow us to do what we love: help others by providing our product or service.

We just need to remember that our products and services have tremendous VALUE! So let’s enjoy the opportunity to provide them to others (but if the deal’s not good, let it go).

Your turn:

  • Do sales come easily to you? Or not?
  • Do you have any tips or techniques for making it feel easier?

Please share them in the comments!

 

Feature image by Kevin Poh on Flickr. It has been cropped to suit this format. Creative Commons license can be viewed here

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