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Your first mistake was to let an Israeli sell to you.

That's where you lost brother. For that matter, I'll expand that to Middle-Eastern. I have a lot of friends from Israel and some from other ME countries. A lot of them tend to be very good at selling. I never got to the bottom of it. Maybe it's something in the water? I don't know.

I've gone on sales calls with Israeli friends (yes, as an engineer I decided I needed sales training from the best when it came time to sell my own products). We used to play this game that we loosely referred to "Shut-up and sell something". The idea was to see how little you could say and still close a deal. In my early days I tended to talk too much. And, as an engineer, I'd get lost in long explorations of features and even stuff we were planning on doing. I'd loose sales right and left. Then came "shut-up and make a sale". It is amazing how sometimes you can say absolutely nothing. Zero. And make a bigger sale than when you start flapping your jaws. The art is in knowing when to speak and when no to.

Hey you! Yes you. The one reading this thinking that it is a pejorative comment. Stop it! It isn't. It's more of a compliment than anything else.




I think Turkey has the most of this type of sellers. Especially the towns that are on the sea and get a lot of tourists.

It usually goes like this:

1. Hey my friend, where are you from? — So that he can set an initial price for you. None of the items ever have prices on them because of this. If say you're from Russia or Germany and the like you'll get the big initial price, if you're from Serbia like me, you'll probably get a smile.

2. Let's say you are from Germany, and were looking at a shirt, he'll tell you €40. — You simply can't allow yourself to buy it at this price, neither is he expecting you to (although I'm sure that happens). At this point he just wants you to pile up the stuff you like from the store.

3. When you're done, he'll sit you down for "the deal". Now's the time to haggle, and you should have been thinking of ways to cut the price while you were picking up the clothes. He'll probably give you a small discount "for bulk" that you should dismiss at once, and aim for at least 30% off of everything (50% is standard somewhere, some parts is less), and don't be afraid to return some things you don't want to buy.

So yeah, if you want some schooling in direct sales, go to Turkey (Alanya is very nice) and go shopping. Be prepared to come back with many knock–off Armani shirts and sweaters.


It can also be a good idea to go to a shop without buying anything, but just to see how low the price will go before the vendor stops going down. That gives you a rough idea of the typical markup in that neighborhood. I've known street vendors in thailand to give 90% off.

But the thing is that these people need the high margin sales to make a living. They'll sell at the lowest price that they're still making money, but if all of their sales are like that they're not making a living. That's why you shouldn't haggle all the way down if you like the vendor.


I was in the grand bazaar in Istanbul with a bunch of Israelis and Russians. They specifically told me not to open my because the second then knew I was an American the price would get jacked. Truth.


I visited Istanbul earlier this year, and it amazed me how bargaining and selling was so ingrained in the culture. Every store, every restaurant, even the hotel... it's just a different way of dealing with customers.

And here in Canada/USA, some stores have sales people that don't want to disturb you. They sit quietly in their chair in the back of the store, don't dare approach you, and don't speak until spoken to. That's not sales, that's "question answerer".

Real sales has an active component.


Uhm, try that "active component" in Germany. Even Walmart greeters make them nervous.

I dislike going to places where people work on commissions unless I'm really sure about what I'm getting; information asymmetry combined with a party out to get you for all they can is a bad combo. So those guys at the back of the mall store ignoring me is perfectly fine!


I had a colleague that was trying to buy an expensive stereo in a store in Zurich once. He was just about to choose the model when a bell rang.

"I am sorry, it is 5pm. You must leave the store now."


> even the hotel

Hotels are one service that I've found you can always haggle over the price, wherever you are. You're wasting money if you don't try!


Turkish, living in Istanbul here. I absolutely hate the bargaining culture. Not so much in the blood after all :)


In Canada at least, in most retail places I go, I tend to know more about the product than the person selling it. Most recent example, cell phone service store - the guy told me the incorrect SIM card for an iPhone 4S. When I corrected him, he still insisted the incorrect one was the one I needed. I just said thank you and left.

In my experience, most people know very little about their job, and they are not interested in learning more. But they're happy to complain about their economic spot in the world and how they're not getting their fair share of the pie.


I think it comes from living in countries where haggling is just what you do.

You get used to the techniques.


Please elaborate on when to talk and when to remain silent. East med has been a commerce route for centuries, if not millenniums, is not strange that it is embedded on the culture.


I don't think that this can be fully communicated in a few lines on a post in HN. Selling is a contact sport. You really need to be there with the customer and develop a feel for how things are going.

For example, I've had sales calls where it makes complete sense to say very little and force yourself to be respectful of what your customer might be saying during the conversation, even if sometimes what they are saying is wrong. I've also had cases where I've had to put one of the people in the room down hard because they'd come off as "experts" when they really didn't know the subject very well. So, you have to forcefully (verbally, I mean) establish yourself as the alpha dog and then the rest of the pack calms down. I've also had cases where not a bit of business was discussed at all. We'd go grab a cup of coffee or lunch talk about all manner of things personal but no business. And then you go back to the office. The next day a purchase order shows-up along with a thank-you email.

You can't teach these things in a few hundred words. You have to experience them and, depending on who you are, your personality and your upbringing it could take anywhere from six months to two years to pick it up. Because I spent a good part of my young life in Argentina I picked it up very quickly. Argies are pretty fast.

I should also say that I saw this cultural thing play out when it came time for me to hire sales people. I really wanted to focus on engineering so, eventually, I set out to fire myself as a salesman and hire someone in. I must have gone through seven or eight people. Men, women, younger, older, with and without experience. They all sucked. It was frustrating. That all changed when I found this Iranian guy who was hell-bent for selling. He had that middle-eastern drive to make a deal and he delivered. He wasn't super-polished, but he could certainly sell. On more technical sales I'd just tag along to deal with whatever he couldn't handle.

Hiring a good sales person has been one of the most difficult experiences in my entrepreneurial career. Most people who call themselves sales-men are order takers. They can grab fish if they jump into the boat. A real salesman knows how to find and catch fish. Huge difference.


muchas gracias!, it is a very useful pointer.


As somebody who lived in Israel, I recognized it instantly. After you live for some time there, you get immunity to such kind of things, but on un-immunized person, especially of character susceptible to pressure, it may have strong effect.


I was coming here to post something along those lines. After having spent several weeks in Egypt, I came to realize that the guys who run the kiosks in American malls, who I used to consider pushy, are probably the amateurs who couldn't cut it back home.

We came across a Fair Trade shop in Luxor two weeks into our trip, where not only were there were price tags, but the shopkeeper just hung in the back until we approached them. It was such a relief, as I'd gotten sick of bargaining for absolutely. Everything.




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