There's no really new sales technique. That was the lesson I learnt when I explored the carpet soukes of Morocco.
The AIDA sales sequence, closing techniques, spotting the buying signals.. they have all been in place for hundreds of years!

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Lessons from the carpet soukes of Morocco
by Ian Traynor

There's no really new sales technique. That was the lesson I learnt when I explored the carpet soukes of Morocco. The AIDA sales sequence, closing techniques, spotting the buying signals.. they have all been in place for hundreds of years!

It was our first visit to Taroudante, in Morocco, and that must have been clear to the hotel touts on mopeds as they accompanied us as we drove through the narrow streets, shouting the names of "the best 'otel in town, M'sieu". Wrong targeting - we'd already settled on staying at the old and rather tatty French-colonial style hotel in the town square.

After unpacking, we sipped mint tea in the hotel cafe, fending off a stream of 'guides' - "No fee, M'sieu, I am a student wanting to improve my English". Eventually and inevitably, we succumbed to an older 'guide' "I'm a farmer on my day off - I like showing people round our lovely town - no fee" - thinking correctly that at least he'd have the experience to keep the younger touts at bay.

"No carpets, Mohammed"
We made our intentions clear. "No carpets, Mohammed", (what else would he have been called) - "Definitely no carpets!". "No, M'sieu", he replied, as he steered us in the general direction of the souke - the town market. A few stalls later, having accepted some free gifts - and some other gifts, which turned out not to be free - we ended up outside the inevitable carpet warehouse.

"We said 'no carpets', Mohammed", said Ruth. "Non, non, M'selle, no carpets, this a fren' of mine. He ask me take tea with him when I visit Taroudante. You are my guests". "Right", I thought, "Now I understand the ground rules, I can learn first-hand about Arabic sales techniques." In Internet marketing terms, this is what we call an 'Associate' or 'Referrer' program.

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A captive audience
We went inside and I settled back to enjoy the sales show. And what a skilful show it was! The mint tea arrived; Mohammed's 'fren', Abdul (I think it was), was a good host. He only spoke a little in Arabic to Mohammed (probably confirming his commission rate), and then launched into an enthusiastic, and reasonable coherent description of traditional carpet making techniques. "OK", I thought, "we're into the first phase of the 'AIDA' sales sequence - Attention. He's got that - and, because of the mint tea offering, we're a captive audience".

The next phase of AIDA - Interest - flowed smoothly on. Web site terms? - give plenty of free information. Abdul showed us some historical carpets "Not for sale", and demonstrated how the stitching and backing were carefully constructed for long life - and how that tradition had been retained in good-quality modern Arabic carpets ("Not the rubbish we would have seen in the 'open' souke").

"Here comes phase three of AIDA", I thought, "Build the Desire for the product". I was not wrong (clever knowall that I am). "Think of your own living room", said Abdul, "and picture one of these carpets there. Which colour would look best in it - a pink, p'raps or maybe a green. Can you see one of these beautiful carpets there?". "Ah!", I thought, "get the prospect to build a 'word picture' in their minds. Nice one, Abdul, you don't know what we want, so get us to describe it". Ruth went for it. "Maybe a green", she said. Out came a small selection of beautiful green-based carpets - and yet more mint tea. We were still captured!

"No problem, m'sieu"
Phase four of AIDA, the call to Action was carefully delayed as Abdul went into his objection pre-handling routine. Using what seemed to be mind reading, but was obviously based on what many previous prospects had raised as a prime objection, Abdul showed us how a carpet could be folded into a very small package, easily handled by tourists. "No problem, m'sieu!"

Finally, came the crunch - and the disappointment for Abdul. Skilfully, he tried to close the sale, when he drew Ruth's attention back to the small selection of green carpets. Carefully he selected a mid-priced one (he'd guessed our price range), and folded that carefully into a small package, then unfolded it again to show to Ruth. "It will look pretty in your living room, yes?", he said, trying to lead the prospect to give a positive answer. After all, she could hardly say "No it won't". Then he turned to me and mentioned a price, expecting me to start the process of haggling - the call to Action.

And at this point, I put my foot down and after some small courtesies, we left. No sale for Abdul on this occasion, because he'd not appreciated that my main reason for staying so long was to see him at work! Mind you, Mohammed didn't entirely lose out, because he had more than one 'associate program' in place. Before we knew what had happened, we were in the studio of a sculptor, and I let myself be sold an attractive statue at what was, after some haggling, a mutually agreeable price!

And the moral of this traveller's tale? "There's nothing new under the sun!" What works in the soukes of Morocco works, with modification, over the Internet, and in high-tech face-to-face selling in our high-pressure competitive world. Why? Because we are still dealing with people


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