The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, October 23, 2015

What kind of tie to wear in the Sahara?

by Dr. Greg Chapman

A man lost in the desert was wandering aimlessly becoming more and more dehydrated. After crossing endless empty dunes, he sees a dark shape moving in the distance. He started shouting and running toward the speck in the distance. After a few minutes, the speck seemed to have changed its course and started moving towards him. As it came closer, he could see that it was a man in traditional Arab attire apart, from a very colourful tie, on a camel. Within a few minutes, he was standing at the camel’s feet begging the Arab seated above for water.





“I am sorry,” the Arab said, “I don’t have any water, but I do have these beautiful ties. These are all of the finest quality. Would you like to buy one?”

“No,” said the man who had now collapsed at the camel’s feet. “I just want water.”

“I am very sorry, but I just can’t help you.” The camel with rider wandered off.

The man staggered to his feet and started dragging himself over the next dune. At the bottom he noticed what seemed to be a small store. He staggered towards it. Behind the counter was the most spectacular array of ties he had ever seen. The Arab storekeeper asked him if he wanted to buy a tie, and proceeded to explain the differences between the Egyptian cotton and the silk ties on display and the origin of the different motifs they displayed.

“Please, please, I just want some water,” the dying man gasped.

The storekeeper shook his head and said he didn’t have any.


The man staggered onwards in his search for water, until he saw, in the distance a large building on its own in the middle of the desert. As he got closer, he could see it was a hotel. He began to run, as best he could, until he reached the bottom steps of the hotel. He could he splashes from the swimming pool inside. As he crawled up the steps, a doorman started to walk down to meet him. He looked over the rather dishevelled wreck before him, who pleaded in barely a whisper, “Water, water.”

The doorman blocked his path. “I’m sorry sir, you can’t come in without a tie.”

Okay, this is a rather old joke, and the point is….? You might ask?

The point of the story for Marketing Moments readers is about the sales skills of the Arab tie salesmen. They were singularly unsuccessful in selling ties, irrespective of the quality of their product, and price was not even discussed.

Yes, yes, no one wants to wear a tie in the Sahara, but if the salesmen took a bit of time to sell the benefits of the tie- you need to have a tie so you can get into the hotel to get water, rather than the features, silk vs cotton, no doubt they would have easily made the sale (and there would be no joke).


The moral of this story is features tell, benefits sell.

Are you selling the features or benefits of your products and services?

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Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.



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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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