Recently I took a trip to Bali for the first time and was thrown into a world where notes are worth hundreds of thousands just for a meal and everyone you meet on the street is selling something. Whilst it's a beautiful country with some idyllic locations once you get a little bit off the main tourist track, in the city where everyone is fighting for a share of your wallet it gets pretty intense. As I came to terms with my new environment these are some of the business lessons that I observed in practice and in some cases relearned.
1. Trust is key.
When you are in a completely new environment you have to make quick decisions with limited information. Even the most frequent travellers can't help but notice when there is a certificate from a recognized brand such as TripAdvisor on the wall of a restaurant in a row of equally intimidating venues. Of course people will try to take advantage of this fact and I'm sure that some of these certificates were less than legitimate. Many of the street traders were aware of this and were going out of their way to offer the familiar by wearing T-Shirts from trusted hotel brands and tourist bodies as they tried to sell you things when they were clearly not related to the organisation in question.
Even if you have no prior reference points you will start to take cues from your environment. Whilst standing out in business is often seen as a good thing; when there is a line of official taxis that are all the same colour and there is a knackered car that looks completely different claiming to be from the same company and the driver is wearing a uniform that is almost but not quite the same, you start to ask questions.
2. Networks matter.
When you are constantly being sold to, when you finally take a chance on someone and they deliver exactly on their promise they immediately get a credibility boost. When it comes to the same situation again unless you are much more likely to return to them. But it doesn't stop there. It can almost generate a type of halo effect so when they go on to recommend someone or something else, you trust their opinion even when it's completely unrelated to the original reason you sought them out.
3. Friendliness sells.
Nobody likes being aggressively sold to but they love to buy from a true sales person. Even when you want something, if somebody comes to you and puts on the hard sell, it generates the same kind of feeling as a fight or flight situation. You are forced to make a snap decision and if it isn't yes, then you are going to do anything you can to stop the person from trying to sell to you.
However when you can connect with someone and they've built rapport even over a very short time, when they go for the close you are at ease and the positive feeling they've generated forms part of the decision process. Even if you decline on the first instance, if you later decide you want what they've offered the first time and they made a big enough impression you may even seek them out again.
4. There is always more than one price.
Nowhere was this more true than in Bali where tourist packages were often sold in US dollars as well as Indonesian Rupiah with both values quite often being quite different. However beyond even this even the printed prices were variable. There was quite often an unspoken locals price vs a tourist price. Whilst I can't comment on the locals price, there was a lot of room for movement on the tourist price. Quite often the price we paid for something would be less than half of the original price printed or requested, and even then we probably didn't always get their best deal possible. As long as the product is being sold for more than the cost of producing/providing it then a vendor is still making a profit.
5. Where you sell can make the difference.
If you're looking for a painting and you're open to browsing then you will probably head to an area known as the painting district. Differentiate on your quality whilst placing yourself in the right locations and then build a relationship. This is equally true online, you place yourself on the channels, tools, and networks where customers that might want your product are already spending time.
6. Accept no as an answer.
There are plenty of leads for most businesses so work hard but be willing to accept loss and move on to the next target. If you are trying to persuade someone to buy something they don't need or want you are fighting an uphill battle. Learn to push past objections but also to recognise when the sale simply isn't the right fit.
7. Ask people what they want and give it to them.
It will be hard to argue why you shouldn't buy it if someone provides exactly what you were looking for at a good price. The best salespeople we encountered in the streets would go out of their way to make a connection and find out our plans, so they could sell something relevant and push us in the right direction. When they actually understood and delivered what we wanted we were happy to be sold.
Business Lessons Are Everywhere…
All too often there are lessons in life surrounding us if only we took the time to notice. Traveling puts you in a completely new environment and can sometimes make those lessons stand out more than usual. But there is nothing stopping you from taking the travellers mindset to your home wherever that may be and really drinking in what your environment is telling you.
Have you learned business lessons from travel? I'd love to hear some your stores, feel free to comment or tweet @danielmcclure.