A Lesson in Value from a Flea Market

My wife and I recently visited Cape Town, South Africa. It was a wonderful, once in a lifetime trip. As we often do on holiday, we sought out the local street markets. Cape Town is beautiful and friendly, but like any large city it has a seedier side. You take care where you go and keep your valuables tucked away. We wandered up to a square of souvenir sellers with the hopes of finding something to take back for gifts. We are pretty seasoned travelers, but found ourselves immediately uncomfortable. The vendors were aggressive, the pathways too small, and the merchandise in a majority of the booths was nearly identical.

We were ready to turn around after wandering in only two booths deep when we saw a vendor with stone figurines instead of the African kitsch everyone else seemed to have. The seller stood quietly and slowly waved his hand over the uncluttered, organized table to draw our eye towards his selection. Then he pointed to a set of the “Big Five” game and said, “These are popular.” We stopped. This was the sort of tasteful souvenir we were looking for.

Now we also had the attention of every nearby booth vendor plus the dreaded panhandler with small child tugging at our shirts and blocking our shortest escape route. There was a man blocking our other exit, watching intently. Our discomfort was increasing and the figurine seller could clearly sense this. He just smiled and proceeded as if all were normal. I could tell that he was confident that if we were to buy anything, we would buy now – and get the hell out of there. We barely negotiated, he wrapped up our purchase, and we fled. We paid what we were comfortable paying and frankly don’t care if someone else could sell us for a few dollars less.

The market looks quiet from the outside

I know you are thinking, what does this have to do with me and my company? Well, everything. There are many vendors that do what you do. Your business may not be in a physical flea market, but what is the Internet if not a display of very similar companies, value propositions, and products? Aren’t your salespersons laser-focused on getting the sale? Aren’t there distractions invading the customer’s space? Isn’t the marketplace confusing? The customer uncomfortable?

What are you doing about it?

  • Rise above the market noise. Deliver a clear message where your ideal customer will find it.
  • Keep your product line focused, simple. Eliminate the noise of trying to be all things to all people.
  • Sell and deliver faster. Listen to what your customers want to buy and ignore the rest.

It was luck for our figurine seller that we came across his booth – or was it? Was he not strategically positioned just inside the fray? Didn’t he look and act differently? He seemed more civilized, his products were less common, and he identified our pain and solved it – at a premium. He knew he was an oasis in a sea of scary hucksters. His moves were intentional.

He was brilliant.

The Big Five, plus a hippo because I like hippos.

Tom Stimson MBA, CTS helps owners and management teams rediscover the fun and profit that comes from making better decisions about smarter goals. He is an expert on project-based selling and a thought leader for innovative business processes. Since 2006, Tom has successfully advised over two hundred companies and organizations on business strategy, process, marketing, and sales. Learn More at TRSTIMSON.COM

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