What a Turkish Merchant taught Me about Sales and Marketing

In 2011, Adelina and I decided to have our first real vacation as a couple. We picked Turkey as our destination, and after 5 days in Istanbul we landed in Bodrum, on the shores of the Mediterranean sea. But unlike in Istanbul, where we were staying in an amazing hotel with a stunning view and we had an infinite variety of things to do, Bodrum seemed like a crowded place with nothing to do. There wasn't a beach and our hotel sucked. Ohhh .... and we were staying there for a full week.

As we were walking the narrow streets of Bodrum, hoping to find something interesting to do for the next 7 days, we started to bump into sellers of all sorts of attractions. Some were offering boat trips, some were selling tickets to the water park while others were tempting us to swim with dolphins.

If you have never been to a Turkey bazaar, then you don't know that shopping in Turkey isn't like going to the mall. You know when you go in a shop, look around, see if you like something, pick something out and quietly go to the cashier to swipe your card? It's not like that at all. Actually it's the opposite. Sellers yell at you. They try to establish rapport by trying to guess where you're from and making loud references to some city or personality they know from your country of origin (usually a football player). They will all have amazing offers and present great discounts before you even realize what they are actually selling. It's something you need to experience to fully understand. But for us the whole experience seemed confusing and aggressive.

Not to mention that after a few hours we were sweaty and lost. Here is where the merchant from the title comes in. He tried the same approach as everybody else but then stopped, looked at us, and said: "You seem to be lost. Do you know your way around?"

"No", we said. "We just got here, trying to find our way around this place"

"Well, let me give you a map", and he quickly offered a handy map. "You are here", he made a big X on the map. "Where are you staying?"

We told him the name of the hotel and he proceeded to highlight the correct location on the map. He congratulated us for the choice and highlighted some attractions we should check out around our place. He then gave us walking instructions on how to get from here back to our place. He handed us the map with a few leaflets and we parted ways.

The next day we woke up and tried to make a decision on what to do for the rest of the week. We had piles of leaflets with promotions and special discounts, but only one of them had clear instructions on how to easily find them. Our friend with the map. I don't know if that guy had a strategy or if he just had a very good instinct, but I remember taking a minute to think about it:

  • He noticed that we weren't going to make an impulse decision so he adapted his strategy.
  • He offered something that was instantly valuable to us. By telling us about the region he created trust that all his other competitors were not pursuing.
  • He made sure we could make the decision later. After all we had a map with a clear path from our hotel to his shop.

We bought a lot of things from him and our vacation was a blast. Here are a few pictures to prove it: