Sales Moves

The 'art' and 'lessons' of shopping for bargains

September 19, 2014
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I'm spending the day at Marché aux Puces, the antique flea market in Paris. Also known as the “Puces” or “MAP,” it hosts 14 named market areas that offer an authentic and one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

The market, steeped in history, brings together antique dealers, designers, artisans, artists and customers from all over the world.

It’s a powerful business location. Picture 2,500 antique dealers ready and willing to sell items ranging from bric-a-brac and advertising memorabilia, to designer jewelry and handbags, vintage fashion and furniture — all the way to museum-quality pieces dating back centuries.

It's more than the mind can imagine, and way more than the wallet can afford.

I'm bringing my “A-game” to the market because the sellers are both seasoned and knowledgeable. It’s clearly a “buyer beware” market, and cash trumps credit cards by as much as 20 percent.

Note: There are three types of sales prices at the market: retail, negotiated and wholesale. Retail prices are for the unsuspecting customer who’s willing to pay what is marked on the item or what the dealer asks for. Negotiated prices are for the savvy buyer who is able to negotiate a price and pay something he or she is more comfortable with. Wholesale prices represent the real amount the seller is willing take to part with his cherished item.

Of course, I'm trying to buy things with a price somewhere between negotiated and wholesale. Meanwhile the dealer is trying to sell at a price somewhere between retail and negotiated.

Let the games begin!

After buying a few negotiated items, as luck would have it I ran into the great Michael Andrew Wilson, a longtime friend and professional shopper. To give you a frame of reference, Michael purchased the furnishings for every Ralph Lauren store in Europe. He has spent millions of euros at this market, and every seller and dealer knows him personally. You can learn more about him by reading his blog at mawparis.wordpress.com.

I've been to the market 20 times. Michael has been to the market 1,000 times. He knows everyone. I know no one. But by walking around with him, I had “wholesale” prices wrapped up.

One other advantage that Michael has: He speaks fluent French. I speak broken French without verbs. When the buyer and the seller speak the same language, it's much easier to complete an agreed-upon transaction. It's also much easier to haggle for a lower price.

All in all, it's a buyer’s marketplace — unless the buyer wants something bad. And, if the seller is savvy, he or she will hold out until they find out how bad the buyer wants it. Luckily, those sellers are few and far between.

Most of the dealers at the market fully realize their sale is of the moment, and when a buyer walks away, it's likely they will never return. The more conversation the seller engages in and the more questions the seller asks — and the more the buyer feels like they're getting a “deal” — the more likely it is the customer will part with cash.

The seller’s fatal flaw is also the buyer’s fatal flaw: impatience and the need for immediate gratification. The more profitable sale is exactly the opposite. It’s patience combined with extended emotional engagement.

Which kind of seller are you? How would you be able to win the sale over 2,499 other competitors, all within walking distance on a sunny day in Paris? To me, the answers are obvious, but maybe that’s because I've been there many times before.

Let me share a few with you so you might be able to engage your customers in a way that they will buy from you rather than your competition:

1. Find out how the buyer intends to use whatever it is they're about to purchase. Where will it go? Who will see it? Will their family and friends admire it? Have they ever bought anything like this before? How much do they know about this particular product? How long have they been thinking about purchasing this kind of product? Do they think the value is there?

2. Try to uncover their urgency for purchase. Why do they want this now? Do they understand that this is one of a kind? How much do they love it? How much do they want it? How much do they need it?

2.5 Make certain you’ve explained affordability based on value and that their perceived value is the basis of their desire. Everyone thinks most sales are made based on price, and everyone is wrong. Sales are made based on desire, need and perceived value combined with urgency and utility.

Do this: Take a long look at your sales presentation. I recommend you record your sales presentation and use that for your review. You will see in an instant how engaging you are and how well you let the customer have a chance to buy. Or not.

I posted a few pictures of my selling/buying adventure on Instagram — @jeffreygitomer — if you want to take a look.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of 12 best-selling books. For public event dates and information about training and seminars, visit gitomer.com or email Jeffrey personally at salesman@gitomer.com.

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