“Suit for you Boss?” Sales lessons learnt in Bali

I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks in Bali, and although I am an avid surfer and have done a fair bit of traveling to other parts of the world, this was my first time to the island of perfect surf, nasi goreng and fake Ray Bans. Now I’m always one for a good bargaining challenge and often enjoy testing out different sales people’s approach and skill level, however I soon came to realise that bargaining in Bali is at an entire different level than that of Australia.

The primary aim of this blog is offer ‘Top Shelf’ sales advice about high-end B2B solution selling, however there are still some basic sales fundamentals that are consistent throughout every type of sales interaction and right now I would like to take you into the ally ways of Kuta, Bali, where there are hundreds of tiny garage-like stores side by side, jammed pack full of every type of clothing, accessory and novelty item you could think of.

A pair of sunglasses that looked identical to pair I saw in a Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan grab my eye. As I turn my attention to the rack where they are hanging, I hear a voice behind me asking, “Very good aren’t they? Best of quality.” Before I had a chance to turn around to put a face to the voice, a short Balinese man with a grin bigger than the great wall of china appears under my arm. “For you boss, and only you, I will give you the best of deals. 200. Yes. Just for you” (200,000 rupiah- they don’t add the thousands – is equal to about $AU25.  Apparently far to much to pay for a pair of fake Ray Bans in Bali). Lucky one of my friends, a seasoned Bali visitor, jumped in before I could utter a word and said cheekily, “Haha 20,000. I bought a pair just like these from the guy down there for 20,000.” The Balinese man instantly shakes his head, repeating “no, no, no” and begins to put the sunglasses back on the rack. So my friend grabs me by the arm, turns me around and begins to walk away until I hear that same voice… “wait, wait, wait. OK, OK, OK. 100? These are better quality. Very good.” My friend again fires back “40,000. That’s our last offer”, to which the shop owner takes a big sigh and replies, “Ok. 60. Yes. Ok.” My friend looks at me and says, “OK, that’s a fair price now.” So I hand over 60,000 to little shop owner and he passes me the sunglasses while flashing his giant smile in the process and saying, “Thank you very much. Have a nice day” and that was it. All of this happened in about four minutes.

Stunned and quite amused, I walked away with my friend and my new pair of fake Ray Bans, trying to process what just happened. Over the next couple of weeks, as I saw more and more of Bali and became more comfortable with their culture, I learnt a few valuable lessons (in life, business and sales) that I thought would be appropriate to share here.

  1. Make your attitude right and suddenly your world becomes right too. One thing I kept noticing was how happy the Balinese people always were. Most of them live in what is considered to be poverty. A tiny shack made out of scrap metal and river wood, limited running water that would need to be boiled first to drink and dug out sewerage systems. It is also not uncommon for three generations to be all living under the one roof and up until 1990 (when the government introduced a limit of two children per family) each family would have around 7-9 siblings. However, I never once heard a Balinese local complain about their living standards. How does all this relate to sales? Well, we all know how hard sales can be as a profession. Dealing with rejection after rejection. Now, instead of feeling disheartened when a sale falls through or getting frustrated for not hitting target for the month, I think about what those Balinese people have to live through every day and how their attitude is always so positive. By doing this, it instantly makes my situation insignificant in comparison and my attitude becomes more optimistic.
  2. Never give up. It is not in any of the Balinese people’s nature to give up. That little shop owner could of very easily let my friend and I walk away and wait for the next tourist to barter with. But he didn’t. He called out to us again and did his very best to work out a deal.  Often my sales team come to me and say, “Unfortunately things have fallen through with that prospect.” to which I always reply, “Tell me what happened.” Once we start to talk about the reasons why things didn’t work out and drill down to the real cause, 4 out of 5 times it was something that ‘WE’ could have done better. Something we could of been more transparent with. More belief in ourselves or just making sure we explored all possible solutions. You’ll be amazed when you deleted the ‘No’ from your vocabulary or start seeing it as an opportunity to provide a better solution.
  3. Developed countries better watch out. On a higher level, it is no wonder emerging countries are overtaking developed countries in terms of growth and opportunity. Gone are the days of the USA, Europe and Japan dominating the world economic forum. Now it’s the developing countries’ turn! The likes of Brazil, India, China and Indonesia are the ones who are now dictating what happens next. In the latest  Financial Review (Oct 22-23 ed.) these emerging markets are forecast to grow at an average of 6% in GDP compared to that of only 1.8% in developed countries. Michael Power a world leading asset management strategist says that by 2020, Indonesia will be the 10th largest economy in the world and by 2030 it will be vying with Japan for 5th largest. Again, what does this mean for us Australian sales professionals? One word. Opportunity!  We are already blessed to be working in one of the most stable world economies, now we’ve also been handed a bonus golden ticket in that we are surrounded with massive opportunity. So pack your suitcases folks, because if you’ve got the right sales skills (and I assume that if you’re reading this blog you do) the next couple of decades are going to be one hell of a ride!

Posted on October 26, 2011, in Sales Advice, Sales Management and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Very true – the same mood in Thailand as well. Similar lesson from Bethany Hamilton – It’s all about getting perspective and determination.

    • Thanks for the feedback Kobie. Being able to view different situations (especially if they are foreign to you) form other people’s perspective, is extremely powerful. In fact so much so that in the near future I’m going to write another blog post all about it.

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