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The Short Tale of a Kashmiri Salesman

5 things a Kashmiri Pashmina shop owner can teach you about sales

in Musings · 3 minutes read

The last time I remember reading formal sales material was when I was 19 during an internship. An internship so boring I couldn’t resist leafing through a dusty sales manual forgotten on someone’s desk. I read it cover to cover. I don’t remember much today, but I’m sure I’ve internalized some of its lessons.

Fast forward 7 years, and as cliché as it sounds, the most powerful sales lesson I’ve learned to date took place at a random garment shop in the Muttrah garment and jewelry souq of Muscat, Oman. There, I met our local salesman–let’s call him Bashir–who claimed to be directly from Kashmir the international capital of cashmere wool garments (some of most expensive wool).

In the span of 15 short minutes, Bashir effortlessly swept us away with his smooth and enticing talk. It’s only after leaving his small shop (with scarves in hand, of course), that it hit me. Whether intentional or not, Bashir was one effective salesman. I was so mesmerized, I took a moment to reflect on this experience, and jotted down some thoughts. I knew there was something to learn from this man.

Sales Lessons Straight From Kashmir

Kashmir Sales lessons

Here are the 5 things our Kashmiri Pashmina shop owner did to captivate us.

Where else?

You may have already noticed, but one of the first things Bashir told us was that he was from Kashmir. Instant credibility. The man’s from that city that gave its name to cashmere wool. It was done subtly; but passionately.

“It’s like paradise over there. I miss it.”

And that just drew us in. “Please, tell me more about your home…”

Surprise and sacrifice

That was, in fact, the second thing he told us. The first–after noticing some of the scarves we had in hand, purchased earlier in the day–was inquiring (not so innocently) about their origin and price. He knew, on the spot, we had bought “the cheap stuff”. We didn’t know any better. But soon we would.

“What you have is cheap low quality Chinese scarves”

He walks to the side of the shop, picks out an identically branded scarf, brings it over to us, then takes off the information tag stuck to it. The scarf deforms easily, and irreversibly.

“See, what I mean? These scarves barely withstand any manipulation.”

WHAT? Why did you just destroy one of your scarves to make your point? Regardless, not only do I now feel ripped off by our previous scarf seller, but I am blown away by Bashir’s “sacrifice” to prove his point. Dramatically. Somehow, I now felt like I could trust him. Tell me even more, I’m all ears

There’s so much more to know

Now, we are bitterly acquainted with the cheap material.

It’s the perfect time for Bashir to walk us through all the different grades of scarf material (cotton, silk, wool, etc.). One by one, he takes out scarves from different drawers, shelves, cupboards, etc.. Starting at the lower end, he shows us scarves selling for a single Dinar. Goes up to $10 Dinar, $20, $50, $100, and more. He doesn’t stop.

Not only does he shows us the scarves. He urges us to touch them, feel their material, admire their embroidery, look for the details, and so on. By the time we were hitting the $100+ Dinar scarves, they felt so good to the touch (whether physically, or psychologically) that I just wanted to wrap myself in them.

Bashir was getting into my head.

Be Badass

It may be enough to show your customers your most expensive products to make them understand what they’re missing out on; but Bashir wasn’t satisfied with this. It was time to take out the big guns.

He walks to the side again, bends over behind the counter, struggles a bit, then pulls out a large worn-out suitcase! He throws it over on the table in front of us. And I’m thinking “What kind of crazy stuff is he going to pull out from this?”

This, my friends, are $800 Dinar scarves. Made from Tibetan antelope down hair.

At that point, I’m sure our jaws dropped. Not only was that such a badass move, but we now had $1000+ USD scarves in our hands.

Stories that captivate

And then, came the mesmerizing part.

As he walked us across his shop, he walked us through the story of the many scarves. Pictures from his hometown were displayed modestly everywhere. No fancy photography or frames. Just pictures of people skinning goats, spinning wool, weaving scarves with traditional manual tools, and so on.

We followed intensely, and were fascinated by the effort and dedication required to create such works of art. This, in my opinion, was the most effective way of increasing the perceived value of his products.  Surely, we now were much more willing to pay a premium for pieces that had such a rich and intricate history.

By the end of these emotionally filled 15 minutes. We bought scarves. Walked out and away from the shop. Then realized. Bashir is good, very good.

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Published on:   August 3, 2014