Cambodia bamboo train line

As remote as it gets… What could I possibly learn about Sales and Marketing out here?

Then I met Maia.

Bit of background – we’d been out cycling all day and feeling pretty hot, dusty and tired – the “train” was a fun end to the day and tends to attract tourists of a more adventurous nature.

And of course we all know where there’s a tourist, there’s a selling opportunity.

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Except I had no money (it was in my backpack in a tuk-tuk somewhere near our bikes).

Upon alighting from the “train” our group was inundated with offers from little stalls that seemed to spring from nowhere, selling everything from scarves to cold drinks – but more persistent were the hordes of young girls selling friendship bracelets they’d made themselves.[/tw-column] [tw-column width=”one-half” position=”last”]Cambodia train[/tw-column] I had no money. Try telling that to a gaggle of girls in Battambang for whom a tourist without a dollar just doesn’t compute. I was hounded relentlessly and being a bit of a soft touch, could only apologise profusely for my lack of dollars, but their minimal English was sufficient to indicate they simply didn’t believe me.

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Enter Maia, who, upon hearing I had no money, decided that wasn’t a problem and she would practise her English on me instead. She was charm personified and asked me where I was from and how I’d ended up there. We then chatted about her and her family and she told me she was 12 years old and only and went to school 2 days a week – she learnt her English from the tourists.

She gained my attention further by teaching me a fun hand shake and we laughed as I struggled to get it right. I then asked if I could take a few portrait shots and she happily obliged and thanked me for showing the results to her.

Of course by this time I was totally engaged, so I sought out one of my travel buddies and asked if I could borrow a dollar, in order to buy three of Maia’s friendship bracelets (they were on promotion –           3 for 2 – yes really!)[/tw-column] [tw-column width=”one-half” position=”last”]Maia Cambodia with her bracelets[/tw-column] I asked her to choose which three she thought best for me, which she carefully did, and tried them on me to make sure they fitted.

Cue all the other girls crowding round accusing me of lying by saying I had no money – I got it all; sulks, tantrums, downright rudeness.

But I had no more dollars. And I don’t appreciate a bad attitude.

Maia just stood back and smiled.

My friend Ruth then joined me and I introduced her to Maia and being similarly charmed, she bought 3 bracelet from her too, as she was also affronted by the other girls’ accusatory approach.

Maia was of course delighted, and made us both a “ring” out of bamboo leaves as a special thank you. More photos and conversation ensued and when it was time to leave she gave us her very best wishes for the New Year.

So what can we learn from Maia?

A reminder about the fundamental principles of selling, that’s what…

  • Build a relationship and gain my trust – people buy from people (engage me, make me like you)
  • Show an interest in me, my situation and my challenges (listen more than you talk)
  • Demonstrate something I don’t know but might find interesting (the fun handshake)
  • Be single-minded with what you’re offering me (just the bracelets)
  • Show me an example of what you’re offering (the bracelets were clearly displayed)
  • If I decide to buy, offer me value but not cheapness (3 for 2 was competitive)
  • Give me your recommendation, based on your experience (selecting specific bracelets for me)
  • Confirm what you’re selling me is fit for purpose (trying the bracelets on to check they fitted)
  • Give me added value in other ways – “surprise me and delight me” (the bamboo ring)
  • Welcome an endorsement or referral (I introduced Ruth)
  • Make the experience memorable and a win/win (we had fun, I got my bracelets and Maia made a profit and practised her English)

It was the best dollar I ever spent. David Maister would be proud…


Posted by

Rosy Parker-Blair


4th February 2015
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