Everything I Ever Needed To Learn About Sales I learned in Thailand.

Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand

I thought I was a good salesman. I really did. And by western rules, perhaps I am. In Thailand I had a great deal to learn.

The refresher course I got in Thailand reminded me of the following principles of selling:

1) Assume the Sale 

The Thai Salesman does this automatically – everyone is a customer. They address you as though you are going to buy, hand you things as if they are already yours and tell you what a good choice you have made.

The tailors are eXpecially good (X intended) at this. They see you coming and say, “Ah, hello.” (as if he was expecting you) and then, “come with me.” He then turns and leads you down the alley into his shop. This may not sound affective, BUT IT IS. People find themselves in shops with hardly any memory of how they got there. And then Mr. R Maani sells them suits they did not know they needed!

2) No Means Maybe. 

Brand Awareness
I remember from my early sales training with Kirby that a successful sales person would hear the word “no” more than any other salesman. In fact, they said, the more no’s you hear, the more successful you would be. With that in mind, these Thai salesman must be the most successful sales people ever – they have NO FEAR of the word ”no” at all. No sense of rejection (although with will pretend they have, more on this under Using Guilt.)

The fact is, they have figured out one very important thing – the people who say no quickly and easily are trying to defend themselves from buying because they are buyers. Other prospects, that browse easily and don’t reject immediately are good at defending against the final closing effort. In other words, the more you reject them early on, the harder they will work because you come across as someone that can not help themselves. They love No.

Defensive Moves:

a) Say no and walk at speed past them, averting your eyes.
b) Make an insultingly low offer – this often gets them to give up.

3) Price is No Object 

These guys are incredible.

Perhaps its in their jeans?
Perhaps its in their jeans?
It's in their Jeans
They will start with a price as much as 5 or 10 times what they are ultimately prepared to sell for. And, if you came in ‘looking for’ what they are selling, it could even be more. But, Price is No Object also means that they will not let you leave the stall without offering you their best price.

Defensive Move:

a) Act indifferent about the purchase. Statements like “Honey, this would be perfect in…” or “Ah, Honey, doesn’t this looks so cute….” Are not going to help and I heard them EVERY DAY. While acting indifferent sort of look at the item, ask again how much, reject the price and walk away. This will either get you a much better price or them begging you to make an offer. NEVER MAKE AN OFFER unless you know a clear target price.

b) Use one vendor against another. Get the lowest price you can (see defensive move ‘A’ and then go to the next vendor and make a lower offer.)

4) Reduction to the Ridiculous 

My first lesson in this came from Zig Ziglar when I was about 18 years old. Seeing these guys in These guys have little ‘innocent’ stalls on the road. Ask for something they don’t have on display, they take you to a hidden air conditioned room where the rest of their inventory of pirate DVDs and CD’s is kept.

How is Blockbuster ever going to survive this?
How is Blockbuster ever going to survive this?

These guys have little ‘innocent’ stalls on the road. Ask for something they don’t have on display, they take you to a hidden air conditioned room where the rest of their inventory of pirate DVDs and CD’s is kept.

The way this one works is simple, they will reduce the price to your own currency to make you aware of how cheap you are being for not buying what they are selling. I mean, after all, it is a DIOR, what’s a measly two dollars. And then the classic, “it is only one dollar for you, for me it is three meals.” (More on this in Using Guilt.)

5) Upsell, Crossell and Sell Sell Sell 

These guys NEVER stop. If you buy one, they suggest “one more?” is a good idea. If you buy two then, “special price for three” is next. If you have a T-shirt, you must need a matching sarong? And how about a DVD or CD? “You like EMINEM? You watch Da Vinci Code?” They understand the “buying state” and once they have you in it, they will sell you anything they can.

(List of items for sale in SE Asia so far: switchblades and butterfly knives, stun guns, pellet guns with laser sites, throwing stars, t-shirts (funny slogans and branded logos), local clothes, custom suits and dresses, food (variety including insects), DVD and CD, software, electronic goods, wood carvings of every description, paintings, bow and arrow, blow darts (lethal!), women, massage, tattoos (fake and permanent) , body piercing, beach mats, beer and other drinks, drugs of various kinds and on and on. Should I open an ebay store so you can order these items? 😉

6) Using Guilt 

This is done both in the selling and begging process. We will discuss begging first. Apparently women can ‘rent’ children that they take to the tourist areas, sit on the sidewalks, look forlorn and beg for money. It does not seem that effective.

The selling approach is different, especially when they discuss how slow business has been since the tsunami. There is even a guilt t-shirt: it lists each of the last 5 years and the disasters or challenges for each year (bali bomb, tsunami, SARS, bird flu etc) and then it says, “What’s Next?”

One they get started on what the tsunami was like (it was horrific in Patong Beach) it is hard not to WANT to buy something from them. (Okay, I own some new trousers and shirts.)

7) Overcoming Objections:

You say: I already have a watch.
They say: One more? Or Buy for friend? 

You say: I am just looking.
They say: Looking free, come inside. (Don’t do it!) 

You say: I am not hungry now.
They say: You buy now, eat later. Then I eat too.
(Combination move here.)

You say: Too much.
They say: How much you want pay? 

You say: Cheaper from other shop.
They say: Probably Tsunami Damaged. 

You say: I am not interested.
They say: They why you look? 

You say: But it is not a real [Rolex, Dior, Diesel or any other copy].
They say: Stupid to pay full price for something Same Same. 
(You should say, at this point, “Same Same, but different. “ which is also a comment used to describe lady-boys.)

You say: It is not the right size.
They say: You try anyway – sexy on you.

You say: But they are dangerous (knives etc.).
They say: Dangerous NOT to have. 

For all you NLP’ers, they are masters of the “reframe”.

8) Compliments Will Get You The Sale 

I have received more compliments in the last 6 weeks than in my ENTIRE LIFE. If they are to believed, and I have decided they are, I am sexy, handsome and smart. I have a cute face, good bum, nice tan and I look like Tom Cruise and Elvis (younger models, of course), George Michaels, Shane Richie (okay, that was Steph and Sally, but I did buy them dinner) and even David Beckham.

Oh and yes, I have bought a few things.