Sales Mistakes Know No Borders


I recently returned from a relaxing, refreshing 7-day cruise through the Caribbean with my wife. We’ve been on several cruises, but the last was a little over seven years ago so we were more than ready.

With ports-of-call in Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras and Belize City, Belize we got to see some Mayan ruins, do some snorkeling and had a great time on a cave tubing trip through the Central American jungle. During these excursions we were greeted and treated by locals who were in some cases our only contact with that country.

Just as you (or your salespeople) are sometimes the only contact your customers have with your company, these people were the faces of their respective nations.

They were the country. Ambassadors. Chief Sales Officers.

I met a good salesperson, a great salesperson, a master salesperson and one who made one of the most elementary sales faux pas in the world.

A Good Sales Person

We learned about the Mayan people, the history of the island and enjoyed a chocolate factory tour with Bianca in Cozumel. She was more than capable–with a great attitude and friendly manner. She was a good salesperson.

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A Great Salesperson

In Roatan, we met Raul–our cab driver. He was basically our tour guide and mode of transportation–at our whim all day. We traveled from one end of the island to the other as he narrated the trip, pointing out schools, key businesses and other things we “foreigners” found interesting. He knew where to take us for the best local lunch and knew the best place for us to be able to go snorkeling right off the beach.

He took us to a scenic overlook of the beautiful island where a few locals had set up small, primitive stalls to sell their crafts and wares. Here we met Amador and his 11-year old son. Amador is a painter–and a very skilled one. While others were “hawking” their merchandise, Amador had his young son greeting customers with a gregarious, “Welcome! Best prices on most beautiful paintings on the island!”

That’s an impressive elevator pitch! This young man had it down and he was reeling them in one after another.

My wife and I visited with Amador for a bit and he related how he’d moved his family from the mainland of Honduras to the island several years ago. Even though it was more expensive it was his opportunity to provide a better life for his children.

His paintings depicted island life and he took the time to educate us on some of the nuances of how his people lived and worked on a daily basis. He asked great questions to find out what my wife liked about each of several scenes and gave her the back story of each–simply helping her to appreciate his artwork more.

He was not only a great artist, but a great salesman, as well.

When it came time to buy, I neither wanted to or chose to negotiate the price–even though everywhere else we’d stopped seemingly everything was negotiable. He told me how much it was, showed my wife how to assemble the frame he’d provided and I paid him.

I wasn’t concerned about getting a better deal. Price wasn’t a factor because he’d built the value so well.

As my wife was admiring her new painting, I couldn’t help but be impressed by this gentleman’s sales ability.

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A Master Salesperson

In Belize we met a master. While I didn’t get a chance to ask him, I’m sure he’d been called a natural-born salesman. Whatever “it” is, he had it. His name was Stanford–or Stan and he and his counterpart Elio were our guides for a half-day of cave-tubing.

Stan was working the room–okay the bus from the start. He gave our group a detailed history of Belize City, the nation and his culture. He was building rapport and establishing value from the time we arrived.

From Charles Lindberg’s landing on this island (when it was still known as British Honduras) to the nation’s Declaration of Independence in 1981, Stan made us all fall in love with Belize. He kept everyone involved and entertained as we made our way to the cave tubing site.

On the return, he handed out samples of Belize coins he had put together himself—a free souvenir for people to take back to remember their time in his country.

I was more than impressed.

It was easy to provide Stan with a healthy tip as the tour ended. Heck, we really hated to leave him, but we had to get back to the ship. I have no idea what he made off tips from the forty people on our bus, but I think he did quite well.

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Uh oh! The Biggest Sales Mistake

As we were taking the tenders back to the ship after a brief stop at the pier, we met another local (who I won’t name). He was acting as our guide for the brief boat ride back to our cruise ship and providing safety information and again entertaining the passengers.

He was doing a fine job and didn’t miss the opportunity to mention that gratuities were appreciated. Afterward he sat quietly at the back of the tender until we were just about at the ship.

Then he did it.  He screwed up. Big time.

As if he couldn’t help himself, he got everyone’s attention on last time and announced, “Oh by the way, what ever you do, don’t vote for Donald Trump!”


Where did that come from? And what is it doing in the middle of my vacation?

We’ve all heard you never talk about sex, politics and religion with prospects—and yes, I know the old joke about the reason you don’t talk about sex and politics is because they are easily confused.

But, what did this young man expect to gain by making this statement?

I don’t care which side of the political spectrum you’re on, it was a no win situation for him. If you are against Donald Trump, I doubt seriously if you were going to dig deeper and give him a few more dollars. But, from the grumbling I heard, he certainly cost himself money from those who were leaning the other way.


There was no need for it—unless he simply wanted to have his opinion known which is perfectly fine. Just don’t expect it to not come with consequences.

Needless to say, he likely cost himself several dollars in order to make his “statement”. And, if that’s what he wanted to do he succeeded.

But, I cringed.

I looked at my wife and said, “Un-Belize-Able!”