Could You Sell Ice To An Eskimo?

It is often said that some people are naturally born salespeople, they have a talent, a gift to sell or convince people to buy from them, but in the modern world is this enough to sell and close a deal?

Think of the old adage “They could sell ice to an Eskimo” or “They could sell sand to an Arab”. I’m sure it is possible to do this, but how would a good salesperson do it?
You probably think that the salesperson would use their charm, wit and patter to make the sale and close the deal, convincing their customer that they have to buy it, sometimes even forcing the deal and closing aggressively, like an animal hunting its prey. Naturally gifted salespeople have the ability to come across as being a confident, smooth talking person and they are often great relationship builders, but would this be enough to convince the Arab and Eskimo? i would say possibly not, unless the salesperson was creative, thought out of the box, identified the true opportunity and exploited it. I will give you a great example.

Just before Christmas a salesperson from England was in Finland trying to sell some ice to a new potential customer, an Eskimo called Jordin who owned a number of hotels. Because of the flight times the salesperson (We shall call him Graham) was due to spend the evening in Finland. Graham had planned to spend the first afternoon with Jordin to sell him some ice and then spend the next morning travelling back to the airport, he had to leave for the airport before 10.30. Jordin and Graham met upon arrival, went through the usual pleasantries and eventually Graham opened his pitch, gave Jordin his best patter, smiled and smoozed, talked about ice and how good his ice was. They both got on really well, but when it was time for the close Graham was kicked back “Graham” Jordin said, “why would I want to buy your ice? there is so much ice here in Finland I could sell you some, look out of the window it is everywhere, even the Polar Bears get sick of the ice, I’m sorry but the answer is definitely no”. Graham was devastated, he had promised his boss that he would sell some of his ice, he didn’t know what to do, he had given it his best shot and had failed. Jordin was a straight guy, he told Graham that if he could find a compelling reason for him to buy some ice, he would meet Graham in the morning at 10am. Graham went to his hotel, checked in and went to sit in the bar and phoned his wife, they talked for a short while and Graham watched the people around him, suddenly he had a moment of pure inspiration, the creativity process had begun and he realised how he could sell some ice to an Eskimo. Cutting the conversation short with his wife Graham went off for a walk via the shops, before returning to the hotel and getting a good night sleep.

The next morning Graham met with Jordin at 10am, by 10.15 I was on my way back to the airport with an order for 20,000 bags of ice. He didn’t need to hard sell the ice, he just had to open Jordin’s mind to his way of thinking, seize the opportunity and capitalise on it, how did he do this?

Earlier that morning Graham had walked into Jordin’s office, sat in front of his desk and opened a bag that carried 2 items that had been purchased from the shop the evening before. Graham firstly placed a bottle of fizzy drink in front of Jordin, he looked at Graham quizzically, then Graham placed a green bottle in front of Jordin, again he looked perplexed. Graham took 1 minute to explain that on the previous evening he had been sitting in the hotel bar, and noted that a lot of couples had come to the hotel for dinner. Before being seated for dinner the vast majority of customers had taken a drink in the bar, and most of them took a Gordon’s Gin and Tonic, his closing line to Jordin “You may have lots of ice, but do you have English Ice, to give to your customers with their English Gin and English Tonic? If not, why not, you would be the only hotel chain to do this in Finland, a fantastic USP, you should place an order now before your competition does” Jordin was hooked “No Graham we don’t have English ice, it would be great to have such a different USP, what a fantastic idea”.

As a salesperson myself, I know that we all struggle for time, we probably spend 15% of our time planning for meetings, 35% of our time selling in the meeting and 50% negotiating the deals afterwards, salespeople should think rationally, if they spent 50% of their time planning for meetings, 35% of time selling in those meetings and that would mean they potentially would spend 15% negotiating afterwards. More time planning allows more time for creativity, out of the box thinking, time to find solutions before a problem is raised. It is always difficult to think out of the box during a meeting as this is usually a stressful time, and stress inhibits creativity, plan ahead at a time where there is freedom to be creative and this allow your inspiration to flow and come up with a killer sales pitch that will impress and delight your client, compelling them to buy from you.

Graham is off to see Prince Abdullah next week, he has already been told that their is so much sand in the desert that even the Camels are sick of it, and there is no way he will buy English sand. But, Graham is prepared and has spent some time researching, finding that Prince Abdullah is building a new palace soon, and that desert sand is too fine when mixed with cement and quickly crumbles when dried, English sand is a far better product for building and will make his palace walls last 10 times longer.

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