The Marrakech Carpet Sales Process

Not buying a carpet in Marrakech can teach you a lot about selling.

I spent last weekend in Marrakech. It’s a wonderfully romantic place to go to and just three hours flight time from London; it’s in the same time zone too and about 20 degrees Celsius warmer at this time of year! I went there to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but I got some sales training thrown in. It was perhaps a little ironic that about the only thing I got for free in Marrakech was a tutorial on how to sell!

My friend, Carol, wanted to buy a carpet and so I had plenty of time to watch the process but, to be fair, most of the people trying to sell you things in Marrakech have been through the same sales training, so you can see it everywhere. The Marrakech Carpet Sales Process went something like this:

  1. Get your prospect’s attention anyway you can. It doesn’t really matter how unsophisticated you are as long as they notice you. Cockney rhyming slang shouted at any Englishman, or woman, as they saunter by, will demonstrate your cultural sensitivity; it will clearly make them stop and talk, as you obviously speak their language. Be persistent and don’t worry if you go too far as this is your one and only chance of a sale to these rich ephemerata who drift through the souk each day from quite another world. The first step in the sales process is to get your foot in the proverbial door anyway you can.
  2. Get them to enter your premises and explain why what you have on sale is different and/or superior to others, although it is of course just the same as everyone else’s. This is a necessary first step, even though it is obviously not true in many cases but, strangely perhaps, you know from experience that it will make them feel more at ease.
  3. Find any way to establish a personal connection, as a basis for building rapport. As you don’t really have any product differentiation the more of a personal connection you can make the better the chance of a sale. They will buy something from you if you have a good enough story and they can go away saying what a nice/interesting/charming/funny/curious /honest/genuine man you were, or that they got a “bargain”.
  4. If there is more than one of them, engage with them all, particularly if there is more than one person involved in the buying decision.
  5. If they don’t seem interested in what you first show them, offer them something else, until you find something that seems to interest them and you have a chance to make a conditional close.
  6. Don’t mention price until the last possible moment. They are buying you, your story, and the experience of being here, not the product, and don’t ever forget it!
  7. If you get their interest in one thing offer them a “deal”, as bundling things makes pricing less transparent and you will make more profit.
  8. When forced to give a price start at least 3x what you would consider to be a good price.
  9. Use emotional blackmail, or a heightened emotional state, if you need to close the sale, or they have unrealistic expectations of what you are willing to accept.
  10. After you have their money, move on to the next prospect; they aren’t really your friends, it’s just business.

What can you learn for all this? Well, be persistent, personal and different. If you haven’t got product differences put more emphasis on the process, or on your interaction with your prospects. Use any emotional angle you can; empathy, flattery, faux friendship, sympathy, or even a little aggression if necessary, to make sure you get the sale, or the price doesn’t go too low. Avoid discussion of price until the buying decision is made.

Of course, in spite of what it might seem, we weren’t really buying a carpet, but rather a “holiday experience and a momento of what was a really great weekend” and so the carpet was actually much less important than the process. These guys are in the service business, rather than the products business, and they are exceptionally good at it. Interestingly though, in our case it didn’t work out too well, as the guy selling to us was a little too persistent and bullying, so we left without a carpet in the end, but with a free sales tutorial instead.


p.s. We stayed here CLICK HERE and it was wonderful!

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2 Responses to The Marrakech Carpet Sales Process

  1. Jeffrey Bean December 14, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi Mark, glad you had an enjoyable weekend!

    Your story perfectly illustrates the fine line between persuasion and bullying that is the downfall of so many direct B2C sales in the UK (and this sale, too, apparently).

    Having enough empathy to recognise when you are going too far and to back off is key to progressing this type of sale. Unfortunately, the personal qualities that underpin the persistence and the ‘I don’t really care about you’ attitude are inconsistent with empathy, so most of these type of salespeople fall into the ‘too soft’ or ‘too hard’ category. Getting the balance right is difficult and one only a few are inherently ‘hard wired’ to do.

    Sounds like your friend has a lucky escape and avoided spending her hard-earned on yet another dust collector!

    Jeffrey Bean

    • Craig December 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      Jeff, a very good point about balance.

      Too many times I’ve picked he phone up to receive a hard sell. – one guy going as far as saying he “could sell water to a drowning man” and “was selling me his product to meet his sales quota and win an iPad”.

      Needless to say….he eventually scurried away

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