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10 Impactful Takeaway Business Lessons From The Locals

Michelle Dale - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Most people would think that travelling could teach you lots of things, but how to do business would probably not be on that list (I didn't think it would be on mine anyway!) My time in Crete, Greece, has proven me wrong. We embarked on a life experiment in recent months to stop using chain supermarkets for purchasing food, and we were delighted at what we learnt about doing business from the locals.

So you might first be wondering why we stopped using supermarkets to purchase food, well primarily for a series of experiments on health, but that's another topic for another day.

In the meantime, we'll move back onto the locals and how shopping with them has been such a different experience than the traditional supermarket "trolley style" of shopping.

The Health Food Shop

I literally don't know the name of this shop in English or how to pronounce it in Greek, but it's a shop that primarily sells organic, bio and whole foods, amongst a few other things. When I first went into this shop I was greeted by a lady named Anna. I told her I was embarking on a series of experiments to do with health and that I was curious about organic foods - Anna immediately showed a genuine interest. She has been so helpful and instrumental in my journey through health foods. She is always smiling, she always recommends different things for me to try, and I also share my experiences with those foods when I visit the shop. I am so impressed with the service here that this is my #1 stop now for my kitchen cupboard staples.

TA #1 Know Your Products

Anna I think has pretty much tried every item on the shelves in that shop, and I can always ask her what she thinks of things, or how to prepare them. Plus most products and their ingredients are written in Greek and Anna is always able to help with my questions.

TA #2 Use and Believe in Your Products

Anna knows her product best, because she uses it. When you're selling anything, sell because you believe in it, and you use it, or if it's a programme or course of some kind, you created the product from personal experience.

TA #3 Know Your Customers

Once we visited a few times Anna always automatically knew what type of things I would like, and was keen to tell me about new products that had just come in - she took an active interest in wanting to learn more about me, and my health project, and she remembers details about me.

TA #4 Embrace a Holistic Sales Process

By naturally embracing these 3 different areas of the business Anna could pretty much recommend anything to me and I'd try it at least once - that's a very powerful position to be in with a customer base, it makes the sales process entirely holistic.

The Food Cooperative and Cafe

One day when I was looking for a restaurant I used to go to, I discovered it was closed for the season, so went a couple of doors down to a cafe which I had never been in. I sat down, ordered wine and a Meze. Meze is a traditional Greek dish made up of small portions of different foods, a bit like tapas, but all on one plate. I've had a fair number of these, but what came next I couldn't have predicted...

When the plate came out it looked awesome, the presentation was amazing, and looked very appetising - I tasted it and it tasted just as good as it looked. I was with someone at the time and said "this is the best Meze I've ever had', it was also the best price I have ever paid, and opposite the cafe was a small shop, so I went in and was astounded that it was a cooperative of the cafe I'd just been eating in - much of the food they cooked was from the little shop, locally grown and organic, not to mention beautifully presented with vegetables that looked like they were going to be presented in some sort of prize winning vegetable show. I came away feeling so overjoyed I had found this place, it was in a lovely location and I took my husband there as soon as I could so he could see for himself.

TA #5 Make Your Presentation Amazing

They clearly took pride in their work and it showed, from drinks, to food, to atmosphere, the cafe itself was tiny, but there was clearly a lot of love gone into it. It felt relaxing, unpretentious, familiar and comfortable. 

TA #6 Make Your Quality Superb

By far I was impressed with the quality, fresh produce which looked like it had been home grown, and obviously they are also eating their own products. The taste of the food and drink was far superior because of the quality and sheer care that went into it.

TA #7 Get Business Cards for Word of Mouth

As I mentioned above, I was so impressed I immediately came back and said to my husband I wanted to take him there. I would also recommend it to any of my friends as being the place to go for the best ever Greek Meze. By combining amazing presentation and superb quality, it's an instant two ingredient recipe for word or mouth referrals. It's times like these business cards are awesome.

TA #8 Be Unique and Tell Your Story

One thing that really stood out about this place was that it was different, not just in the atmosphere, but how the business was operated. They told their story in their little menu, which was a nice touch, I thought I'd share it with you below.

The Vegetable Truck.

In Crete, especially around the rural village areas where we currently live, there are trucks and vans that come around selling bread, other produce such as vegetables, and household items. My kids basically live outside all summer and we always knew when this one particular vegetable truck man would come around because our kids would always run in with oranges or bananas or some other fruity gift. Being prompted by the children (and warmed by the vegetable truck man's kind gesture) I'd feel compelled to immediately look through my fridge and vegetable rack to see if I needed anything while he was out there.

TA #9 Offer Samples 

By giving away a free sample or a 'try before you buy' it made my kids happy, but we also got to try some of his produce. He was clearly quite proud of what he had to offer and he knew that by giving a little he'd get a lot more in return.

TA #10 Offer Ease and Accessibility 

Because the truck literally comes to your door, it makes it super-accessible and easy to buy - keeping things simple and easy for the customer is always a winner!

So this has been my experience and lessons from the local businesses in my area, have you had any good experiences to share in the comments below?

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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