Thursday, June 3, 2010

From Strangers to Friends in a Minute or Less

This is my friend Hussein. We met in Siwa - a tiny desert oasis in the North West of Egypt.

After one meeting we went from being strangers to friends - such good friends that I insisted everyone on my group tour of Egypt went into his shop (and most did, many spending 2 or 3 times more on items we could purchase elsewhere in Egypt).

Why was I such a huge advocate of Hussein's after just one brief interaction?

He took an interest and not just in getting my business
Hussein took a real interest in getting to know me, he wanted to know about where I was from and what I was doing in this tiny town. After seconds of chatting we'd formed such a great dialogue that he insisted there would be no talk about business - and instead we'd have tea instead. Sugary delicious Egyptian tea followed and our conversation expanded.

He shared his own story
While he was born in Egypt, Hussein had lived for 32 years in the USA and was actually from the South East of Egypt originally. I found out about his wife who had sadly passed, his son who was getting married to a Swedish girl soon and about his shop. And then we drank more tea.

We found common ground
When I asked Hussein how he had ended up in tiny Siwa - he pulled out the book he's holding in this photo "1,000 places to see before you die". It was the very book I'd used in planning my trip to Egypt. On different continents and being from different generations, not to mention the other differences, this one book had still meant we were in exactly the same place at the same time. Our connection was cemented (and then of course, we had a bit more tea).

I never felt pressured
While I did end up buying from Hussein's shop he never asked me to buy. He never even asked me to look at the goods! He simply had a great interaction with me and I felt comfortable in his shop even on the 5 or so visits where I bought nothing but just came in for a chat.

It wasn't about price
I've mentioned already that Hussein's prices weren't the cheapest even in the town, let alone in Egypt. We were happy to pay more because the purpose of the purchases wasn't about getting the cheapest price. They were part of an entirely great experience, they were quality goods and as such price wasn't the determining factor.

He gave without asking
When I mentioned to Hussein that we were going sand boarding he offered me, at no cost, a sand board to take from his shop. This meant that the 6 of us who braved the dunes had 3 boards instead of 2 - which added lots more time hurtling ourselves down the sand, a great benefit to us that cost him nothing.

He thanked me for my referrals
When Hussein saw me crossing the street later on our first night in town he called out to me thanking me for sending my friends in to his shop. What did this do? Well it made me send more people to him after my dinner that night.

Now the challenge for me is to find ways I can incorporate the lessons I learned from Hussein into my every day business practices. What common ground can you find with a client today?

Disclaimer - This photo was taken after I'd spent about 8 days in the desert sleeping on the ground at times, comments about my fashion choices or how tired / dirty I look will be met with disdain.

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By Kirsty Dunphey with No comments


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