… alive and well in Progreso, Mexico

The Selling Concept. Get enough well trained sales people on your team and you can sell ice to Eskimos, honey to beekeepers and even genuine “handmade” Mayan beach toys to American tourists on la playa de Progreso, Mexico.

I recently had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon first hand while relaxing on the beach (with the help of a few Sol’s) on a cruise to the western Caribbean. There, the locals thrive on the tourist trade. When a cruise ship docks, the guests flock to the beaches and the fun begins. I taught my kids to reply, “No, gracias” when approached by the vendors who were pawning everything from woven carry-all bags to churros to temporary tattoos. That seemed to deflect the vendor, until the next one approached.

It was truly a war of attrition. Whoever manufactured these goods had a literal army of locals who piled baskets on their heads, slung hammocks over their shoulders and dragged plastic beach toys through the sand, stopping at every chair or blanket occupied by a tourist, touting their wares.

For those who hate saying, “No,” it was death by a thousand cuts. Some tourists made purchases out of sympathy, only to be inundated by more and more beach vendors who could hear the opening of a wallet halfway down the beach. But whether or not you patronized them, they kept coming at you in waves, a strategy that wore down some and strengthened the resolve of others.

So the strategy here, whether the vendors knew it or not, was one that represented the Selling Concept, which assumes that consumers typically show what is called “buying inertia” or resistance and must be coaxed into purchasing. In my estimation, surely this concept served these people well but I couldn’t help but wonder one thing: are any of these vendors, who were all selling the same trinkets from the same factories, able to differentiate themselves at all?

In other words, why would I buy from one and not the other? Maybe based on how they appeared, or if they spoke better English than their fellow vendors? Or perhaps the greatest spoils went to those who were the first on the scene.

It would take a few more days of observation to see if there are any trends (something I’d love to volunteer to do) but in the end, most likely there is very little differentiation for these poor vendors, whose offerings were truly commodities, as numerous as the broken shells along the shore. But wave by wave they came, wearing down just enough of us to scratch out a living in the sand and by the sea.

The lesson: selling is effective, but boy is it a lot of hard work. What if you could differentiate your product or service just enough to make selling easier? To give someone a reason to patronize your company over other options? To provide a sense of value that separates you from the crowd. To change that “No, gracias” to “Si, mas por favor!”

The answer is: You can. Find out more: paul@yankandlimey.com.