I’m going to tell you a story about a beautiful rug that I purchased in Istanbul, Turkey a while back.
Why? Because of the entire process that eventually led up to the purchase. It’s a story of pure marketing and sales effectiveness.
Back in 2014, I went to Istanbul with two of my buddies from Entrepreneur’s Organization.
Imagine two white guys and an Asian dude showing up in Turkey. We stuck out like sore thumbs everywhere we went.
As we started to explore on our first day out, a young man approached us and started to make small talk.
I didn’t think much of it since I was more interested in finding out things we could do around the area. I thought he would go away eventually, but he kept the small talk up. Sales lesson: be persistent.
Eventually he asked us if we would like to see his parents’ store. We reluctantly agreed since we couldn’t come up with anything better to do.
The store was a combination of family stores all connected to each other. We walked into a shop filled with beautiful rugs and immediately saw a worker diligently weaving a rug.
Here’s the ‘scout’ that managed to get us into the rug shop.
I’ll be honest—it looked like a tedious process and opened up my eyes to the amount of effort it really took to produce a quality rug. Much respect.
Having the process on display was clearly no accident—think of it as an explainer video in today’s world. When explainer videos are in play, visitors typically land on a webpage and click on the video to learn more about the product/service.
Before we continue: do you remember the sales framework from Glengarry Glen Ross?
A – Always
B – Be
C – Closing
If you don’t, let me refresh you with this masterful scene:
To recap, here’s the sales framework from the video: AIDA
- A – Attention
- I – Interest
- D – Decision
- A – Action
Keep in mind that our objective for the day was to go find activities to do. Now we were sucked into the vortex of Turkish rugs.
I’m not gonna lie: they had our attention.
When the novelty of watching the rug weaving process started to wear off for us, they pulled another secret weapon out of their arsenal: food and drinks.
They asked us to stay a little and they’d give us tea. By the way, if you haven’t had Turkish tea, it’s delicious (I’m a tea guy!).
Key Takeaway: If you’re selling something that seems to be a commodity, bringing in other tantalizing elements (such as food and drink) can be your loss leader in drawing in a cold prospect’s attention.
By this step of the process, their main sales guy had entered the picture. If you’ve seen Boiler Room or The Wolf of Wall Street before, this guy’s personality would’ve been the perfect fit.
He was aggressive and used every tool in the shed to push us further down their sales funnel.
If you’ve read Robert Cialdini’s Influence, you might remember the chapter regarding reciprocity (and if you haven’t, it’s a must read). The basic premise is this: if somebody gives you something, human tendency is to respond favorably with a favor in return.
By offering us tea, they were betting that they could leverage the norm of reciprocity. As entrepreneurs, the three of us had a good idea of what was going on and intended to bounce out of the funnel at some point, but the sales guy was the glue that held the process together.
As we drank our tea, the salesman (we’ll call him ‘Jack’) asked if we wanted to see some of their beautiful rugs. Again, none of us were truly interested…that is, until I realized something: I would be purchasing a home pretty soon and needed a nice rug for the place.
Fortunately, one of the guys in my group used to sell rugs and could differentiate world-class quality from duds. So we agreed to entertain them for a few more minutes.
Delighted, Jack shouted out the names of two young children and they ran in carrying rugs over their shoulders. One by one, they methodically dropped the rugs in front of us and watched our facial reactions to see if we had any interest.
To be honest, nothing really caught my eye in the beginning and I was ready to leave. However, one of my counterparts wanted to see more rugs.
At this point in the funnel, Jack could smell our interest starting to grow (at least a little bit). But he knew it wasn’t enough; he had to continue to push us further or else he would soon lose us.
That’s when he unloaded his second weapon on us: FOOD!
Remember, these guys had a collection of stores connected to each other: a restaurant, a clothing store, a rug shop, and more. They were using every advantage they had to keep us hooked.
Bravo on this one because the food was incredibly delicious. Imagine getting authentic chicken and lamb skewers with rice, tomatoes, peppers, and PERFECT seasoning.
The picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but trust me when I say the food was to die for:
Before we continue on with the story, let’s quickly recap the funnel:
- A scout from the rug store goes out to find tourists.
- The scout engages with the tourists in an attempt to draw them into the store.
- Upon entering the store, the tourists are greeted with an in-person demonstration of the process (the ‘explainer video’).
- The group is then asked if they want to have some tea.
- After agreeing, the group is sent into a private room. This is where the salesman, Jack, enters the picture and starts to persuade the group to at least take a look at some rugs while they sip their tea. “Don’t worry! We are all friends! No pressure!” Uh-huh, sure.
- Jack gauges the group to see if there is any real interest. If there is, boom. Time to go deeper into the funnel.
- Jack orders his team to bring the tourists food and takes them to another room.
Ok, let’s keep going.
Key Takeaway: The rug salesman did an excellent job of maximizing the resources he had around him—he squeezed every ounce of juice out of the restaurant and the children and it was 100% necessary to get us (the prospects) on the hook.
I think it’s really smart that the process involves moving people around to different areas. It’s almost akin to how presenters are always changing slides or angles during their videos/talks to keep the audience engaged. In this case, they were changing our environment every now and then (and even giving us different types of food and drink to consume!)
By the time they served us a full meal, we found ourselves on the highest floor of their building—they really were driving us up the funnel! Perhaps this is where they typically take customers to close them on the sale.
By this point, Jack had a look of doubt on his face because he started to realize that the friend who initially showed interest wasn’t really going to buy anything. It almost felt as if he thought we were taking him along for the ride. To be honest, that’s what I thought we were doing. Oops.
That all changed when one of the rugs caught my interest. Jack jumped up like a kid and focused 100% of his attention on me.
As a salesman, you obviously want to focus on the low-hanging fruit. An easy way to remember this is to use the standard BANT framework, which means to qualify a prospect based on:
Let’s analyze my friend who feigned interest:
- Budget – Check. As a successful business owner, he clearly had the budget (if he really wanted to get a rug).
- Authority – Check. Only two decision makers in his household, so no problems here.
- Needs – No go here. He already has rugs in his home. The only time he would need a new one would be for an upgrade.
- Timeline – No go here since he already has a rug.
Now let’s take a look at me:
- Budget – Check.
- Authority – Check. Single guy so the decision is 100% mine.
- Needs – Check. In the market to buy a home so I’d eventually need a rug.
- Timeline – Check. Within the next 90 days.
Jack was very smart to go all-in on me because although I was on the fence, I was his best shot at getting the sale.
He started to pare down the rug selections to the type of style that I wanted and continued to shout orders at his boys (no more than 13 years old). At this point, they were sweating profusely because of all the running around they had to do to find the right rugs, drop them in front of us, roll them back up, and then repeat the process.
Just goes to show you how much hard work goes into getting someone to buy a damn rug. =)
Now I know you’re probably thinking that I’m the sucker for getting dragged this deep into their funnel, but we weren’t caught with our pants down completely.
My friend, Adam, happened to know rugs really well. He used to sell high-end rugs, so he gave me the scoop on the products and told me that Turkey was in fact known for their high-quality rugs and he could tell the difference between quality and garbage.
It’s always good to have an Adam when you have no idea wtf is going on. =)
He told me that the rug I had my eye on was easily worth $10,000 in the United States due to the quality.
As a bachelor, that was totally mind-blowing because I’ve never spent over $200 on a rug (which I purchased from Ikea).
Key Takeaway: Jack did an excellent job of pinpointing the prospect who was most likely to close using the BANT framework.
Now, it was time to begin negotiations. We were down to two rugs: a medium-sized version and a larger one. Jack told us that the medium-sized rug would be $3,000 while the larger one would be $5,000.
“But since we are all friends, I give you discount: $2,500 for smaller one and $4,500 for larger one.”
Lol. Yeah man.
Jack was employing the classic price anchoring strategy where he would give us a higher price initially and then throw in a discount to make us think that the new price was reasonable given the ‘original’ price.
First, give me a break: feeding us and showing us a bunch of rugs over a 45-minute time period doesn’t make us friends. Don’t be fake with your generosity—people can see right through it.
The only reason I was still engaged was because the product quality was excellent and I thought I could negotiate the price down. Always remember the points that you’re unwilling to compromise on. For me: #1 was product quality and #2 was price. For him: it was about selling at an acceptable price.
Good negotiation is all about conceding certain points to make both sides feel like they ‘won’. I highly recommend reading Getting To Yes by William L. Ury to get better at negotiating. It’ll help you get more things that you want in life ?
My friend whispered to Jack that I was not willing to pay more than $3,000 for a rug to set a new anchor price for Jack. After pacing for a few moments, Jack told me that he would sell me the smaller rug for $3,000.
The guy was clearly acting with his stalling—almost as if it was a really tough decision. But for some reason I could smell his Hollywooding.
So I decided to take action and do some acting of my own. I got up and whispered gibberish to my buddy and then sat down again. Then I got back up and walked around. Then I sat down again.
“I will pay $2,500 for the larger rug. That’s my final offer.”
Jack looked taken aback and had a ‘fuck you, boy’ smirk on his face. This time, he really looked pained.
Or perhaps he was acting.
Who cares, I thought. I was getting a steal.
- $4,500 for the larger rug
Final sale price:
- $2,500 for the larger rug (a 44.44% discount!)
Whether I really got a steal or not, I’ll never know. But in negotiations, FEELING like I won matters a lot. Although Jack put on an act while we were negotiating, he probably made a 2-3x return on investment.
Here’s what I liked about his acting: whether he was feigning it or not, it at least slows down the other party’s negotiating willpower a little bit. In negotiations, when your offer is hugely unfavorable to the other side, it’s offensive and both sides might end up walking away from the deal.
Key Takeaway: Negotiation is all about making both sides feel like they ‘won’ the deal. Everyone has their ‘must haves’ and points that they’re willing to concede on. My ‘must have’ was on price because I knew the quality was already there. For them, it was all about selling for an acceptable margin.
So I got my rug. End of story, right?
Nope. The Turkish rug funnel goes further!
After we completed the transaction, Jack asked us to stay a little longer for more tea and Baklava! Just for reference, Baklava is a delicious Turkish pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and held together with syrup or honey.
See how food plays into each step of the funnel? Let’s take a step back:
- Tea – used to gauge our initial interest. If we show any sign of interest, we get…
- Kebabs – always delicious to eat authentic food from any country. So good.
- Baklava – used to further the conversation and continue our journey down the funnel.
Jack asked us to go downstairs with him so he could ‘show us something’. It’s always an ominous sign when someone just wants to ‘show you something’.
And what do you know, we walked straight into another one of his stores. This one had leather jackets, home decor, and beautiful silk scarves that immediately caught my eye.
And guess what: I ended up buying four scarves. My buddies ended up buying two each.
Key Takeaway: After a customer has purchased, they’re much more likely to buy more from you. Especially RIGHT AFTER the initial purchase. Upsells/cross-sells are a must if you want to expand your revenues and Jack did a good job of adding them into his funnel.
A few days later, we happened to walk by the same store and what do you know: Jack was outside. He saw us and rushed towards me, grabbing me by the arm and saying they have more beautiful rugs for me to purchase.
Talk about not being practical. I already bought a rug from you two days ago, so what makes you think I need more rugs??
Key Takeaway: Selling is about relationships as well; don’t make it 100% transactional. I do applaud his aggressiveness though.
Sales and marketing funnels are in play everywhere you go. However, it’s not every day that you get to see a funnel work from 0 initial interest to a final sale (plus upsells). Pay attention when you’re being placed in a funnel and try to extract the key points that caused you to take action. What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about the funnel? Whether or not you buy something, are there any takeaways you can use for your own business?
At the end of the day, all you really need to do is pull one or two nuggets and implement them for your own business.
What are some interesting real-life funnels that you’ve seen?