Can I really sell ice to an Eskimo?
By: George Ohan
In 4 Lines:
“I AM the world’s greatest salesman!”, I said to myself on this morning of August 11, 2015. I had a huge smile on my face as I walked away from Tio Luis on the side of the road in Santa Juanita, Bayamón…. 4 bags lighter, because I just hustled about 200 Mangos to a street side fruit vendor in Puerto Rico.
What is this Blog about?
This is a short story about overcoming a challenge that I (George Ohan) was facing and accomplishing a personal goal at the same time.
*A good read for any open-minded entrepreneur seeking professional growth & development in the area of SELLING. Educate and Accelerate, LET’S BUILD!
You can sell ice to an Eskimo. Who in the heck came up with that saying?!? Well, I’ve heard it several times throughout my life and I’ve always wondered if I really could sell ice to an Eskimo. I mean, why would the Eskimo person need more ice? What pain would I be relieving with my special ice? Do Eskimos use ice for anything besides being cold? Is there special ice? Who rides the dog sleds to bring the fish and meat back to the igloo; Do they need small blocks of ice for that? Do you think Eskimos would buy shaved ice? What kind of money do Eskimos have?....U.S. $ if you’re in Alaska, right? Does it have to be ice to an Eskimo? How much is a plane ticket to Alaska? …..this is what happens in my head when I plan on selling something. I try to dream up any possible question that could be asked, then I try to answer them…. ALL of them.
*You can breach an obstacle, or you can by-pass an obstacle. It’s your choice.
Can it be Mangos to a Puerto Rican street side fruit vendor instead of ice to an Eskimo? Recently, I moved to Puerto Rico and I noticed that there are huge mango trees all over the island. These trees have hundreds of low-hanging fruit for anyone to pick and eat fresh from the tree. I had a vision of trying to sell these to Puerto Rican fruit sellers and that would be my version of “selling ice to an Eskimo.” When I ran this idea across my Puerto Rican friends, and they all laughed at me…. Out loud…… for a few minutes…. But, whatever!
“How the fu*k is a GRINGO gonna sell mangos to a Puerto Rican?”
It was a great question, actually. So, this became my “selling ice to an Eskimo”mission. I started by doing research using my eyes and observing the external environment. Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. My initial surveillance showed that most fruit vendors did not sell mangos. However, in Cosco the cost was about $1 each. Why did the local fruit vendors not bother to carry mangos? Too little demand? Did Puerto Ricans refuse to pay for something that grows so readily on trees? There was only one way to find out. I had to come up with a compelling pitch to sell mangos to professional fruit sellers.
I started to notice the age of the fruit sellers. The younger guys would have more avocado, bread fruit, and coconuts. My conclusion was that they were gathering these items themselves, or they had other young crews that could easily gather fruit for them. However, most of these guys still did not sell mangos. I decided that my target would be the oldest looking fruit seller on my general route. I chose this person, because I’d be helping him the most. I gathered up 4 bags of the BEST mangos I could find and I took them to the fruit vendor. I was going into the transaction as the mangos being my “Loss Leader” product. I invested 20 minutes picking the mangos and 20 minutes delivering them, plus travel and fuel costs. Here I am with about 200 mangos filled in 4 black trash bags. I show the fruit to the street side vendor as if it’s GOLD! …..He does NOT look impressed. I use my almost non-existent Spanish-speaking ability to convince Tio Luis to give me $35 for the 4 bags. He finally agrees after haggling down from $50.00. I shook his hand and gave him his money back and let him keep the mangos.
I told him that I picked those for free and he told me the exact tree that I picked them from. He knew by the size and color where I got those exact fruits from. It was amazing to do business with a person that KNOWS his craft so well. He also knew that he got a great deal! I gave him his money back because I wasn’t doing this for a profit; I was doing this for the love of business. The reason he doesn’t carry mangos is because they sell too fast and take up too much room for other fruits that he sells for more money throughout the day. The basic rule of “shelf space” and who gets it?
Ice to an Eskimo, We will never know for sure? Mangos to a Puerto Rican, YES! I’m more of a warm weather person anyway.
When you want to sell anything you must make a plan and take action. That’s it. It’s the only way to find out if people will buy what you’re selling. Do it.
George Ohan - U.S. Army veteran
Puerto Rico, 2015
George Ohan - Pebble Beach -Concours 'd Elegance