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The 5 Most Effective Online Sales Techniques I Learned from Two Girls in Indonesia

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Indonesia is a funny place.

On the one hand, you find some incredible artisan craftsmanship – stuff that would cost 10 or 20 times more in the States (minimum).

On the other hand, you have someone trying to sell you something (anything) every ten feet.

*true story: as I was walking down a street in Bali, amongst the offers of lunch, massages, and places to stay, a guy asked me if I wanted a tune up for my car.  I was walking… I had no car.

I’m not going to lie: I definitely got sold more than I’d like to admit while I was there.

Most of the purchases I wanted or needed, of course, but still – I was impressed by this culture of people who are so willing to – and so skilled at – closing a sale.

But nothing tops the two 5 year old girls I met in Kuta, Lombok.

Learning Online Sales from Two 5-Year-Old Peddlers

We just arrived in Kuta after a full day of travel (no, not your conventional travel– think: 1 hour boat ride in a rickety boat that almost capsized multiple times, negotiating a ride with middlemen who triple the rates to get their cut, and finally getting a ride only to find out he’s not taking you where you want to go, etc.).

Needless to say, we were pretty tired and just wanted to relax for a little while before another day of travel the following day.

After finding a place to stay, we dropped off our luggage and decided to explore the small beach town of Kuta.

It didn’t take long after hitting the main road for these two to find us:

I never did get their names, but I do have their bracelets (yes, plural).

And while the value of the bracelets is probably only a few cents, the lessons on selling I learned from them are priceless.

1. Be First

These two girls didn’t wait to swarm: they were on us the first moment we stepped foot on the main road.

They literally raced ACROSS the road in traffic (albeit light traffic) to get to us first.

Why does this matter?

Simple – because I had never been to Kuta before, I had no idea what the town was like.  I would come to realize (just a few minutes later) that the town is full of little girls trying to sell you bracelets.  If I had known that, I probably would have ignored them.

But because these two got to me first (before I knew what I was getting into), they got my cash.

Me saying no to dozens of more salesmen (it pays to be first)

How to Apply This Online

There are millions of people searching for things every day online.

The majority of these searches are for things that are brand new to the person searching.

If we already have a trusted website for something, we go there first.  If we’re unsure, we search.

If you don’t recognize the power of being first (in rankings, in someone’s inbox, and as the first person people recommend for service X or product Y), you’re missing a great opportunity to increase your sales.

*note: being first is mandatory for selling commodities, but it’s also important when it comes to more premier items because exposure to your name, brand, and ideas matter (see: the exposure effect for reasons why).

2. Get in Front of the Customer

These girls didn’t wait for me to come to them.

They ran to me.

If they had waited, I would have walked right by – but because they got in my face (in a polite but demanding way), I felt compelled to stick around and see what they had to offer.

They closed the sale precisely because they instigated the conversation.

But more important than this simple action (getting in front of the customer) is actually understanding WHY and HOW it works.

It works because these girls KNEW their target demographic (white adult males – we’re suckers).  At a young (but wise) age, they knew who they should approach, who they should spend their time ‘selling’, and who they should avoid (time wasters – people not in their target demographic).

These little girls understood the 80 / 20 principle of selling to a T: the top 5% of your customers will bring in the most cash.  Focus on them.  Ignore the rest.

How to Apply This Online

Simple: you need to get in front of your customers.

As in ACTIVELY get in front of them.

A newsletter (like The Resistance Broadcast) is a great place to start – it allows you to get an ‘okay’ from your reader / customer / client to start a conversation in their email inbox.  If they’re on your list, they want to hear from you (or they can unsubscribe).

This is Permission Marketing 101.

Taking this a step further: sending direct messages / emails / video messages makes things even more personal (and therefore even more powerful as a sales tool).

I can’t tell you how many ebooks, programs, and other digital media I’ve bought because someone approached me and asked me to buy.

And honestly, the reason they asked wasn’t as important as the fact that they asked me – directly.  Not a mass email – a personal email, or a personal message.  That closes a sale better than being passively on top of a search engine.

*note: I’m using this technique right now when I promote this blog post to The Resistance and to my social networks – I’m actively getting in front of my target audience – something anyone trying to sell anything (from art, to widgets, to ideas) ought to do.

3. Be Attractive

Looks matter.

They do.

If you like your facts backed up with scientific studies, here you go.

While some might be discouraged by this, it really should be seen as a positive because ‘looks’ are highly controllable (whether we’re talking about how you dress, to your webdesign).

These little girls obviously didn’t deliberately plan this, but because they were so cute (even the one in the hijab – I mean, come on!), I couldn’t help but pay attention.

How to Apply This Online

Make sure your website looks good (enough).

Make sure your sales page is easy to read, your products look sexy, and spend more time than you think you should on the visual aesthetics of whatever you’re working on.

This isn’t just important for closing a sale, but for charging a premium.

The same beer in a high-end hotel sells for double (or more) what it sells for at a gas station (this is true even if you’re not in the hotel, but simply told the beer CAME FROM the hotel).

Is your website (product, or service) a high-end hotel or a gas station?

4. Get the Product in Your Customer’s Hand

The first thing these girls did, once they stopped me in my tracks, was get the bracelet they wanted to sell me on my wrist.

It’s still on there months later.

Me forking over cash…notice the bracelet already on my arm.

Getting the product on the customer’s hand (or back, head…whatever) matters because it increases our perceived ownership of the product.

Once those girls got their bracelets on my wrist, it wasn’t a matter of ‘do I want to buy this?’ but ‘do I like wearing with / could I see myself wearing this?’

And yes, that question changes everything.

How to Apply This Online

Give a piece of whatever you’re creating away for free.

It doesn’t have to be the whole eBook, or the whole collection of digital comics, or the whole program / manual / guide / whatever.

Just a piece of it gives me ownership over the product.

Software companies do this with free trial periods and the ‘freemium’ business model (basic use is free – if you want the good stuff though, it’ll cost you).

Point is, I’m (and human beings in general) more likely to buy when I get to hold the physical product in my hand (and whatever equivalent that looks like in the digital space).

5. As a Last Resort: Use Sympathy (warning: use with caution)

I only agreed to buy one bracelet – from the girl on the right.

She got her money and was very happy.

Then the girl on the left said: “What about my bracelet?”

Me: “I just bought one and it’s great but it’s all I need.”

Girl: “but you bought from her, not from me.  Be fair.”

She got me.

I had to be fair.

How to Apply This Online

I wouldn’t recommend this except as a last resort.

If you’re product isn’t selling, it could be because it’s boring, bad, unnecessary, lame, or something else people don’t want to buy.

In this case, you can use sympathy.

The only problem is sympathy-purchases canabalize sales (and customers), which is to say: once you made a sympathy sale (someone bought because they feel bad for you), you’re not making another sale from that person.

Sympathy sales only work once.

Once your Kickstarter campaign is over, don’t try going back to the same customers to back another product launch.  I’ve seen this done many times before, and every time the second launch is weaker (or fails).

Again, use just for last ditch attempts and realize you’ll be ignored afterward…so count the cost before you decide.


These are, hands down, the 5 most effective sales techniques for anyone trying to sell anything online (or off).

Nothing beats the hard work and hustle of someone interacting DIRECTLY with her customer.

Is it easy?


Are there other techniques that automate the sales funnel, transactions, etc.?


But realize this: none of the big players you see got to where they are by starting with automization.  Even Bezos started in his garage, making calls and closing sales – one at a time.

So if these techniques seem old-school, it’s because they are.

And they work.

* * *

From New Zealand, to Indonesia, to Australia, to South Africa…

So I’ve been on the road for a while now – for the past 6 months, actually.

The Resistance Headquarters is now in South Africa, based in Cape Town for the next month.

If you’re in South Africa, reach out and let’s connect!

If you’re not, stay tuned for more lessons on selling, marketing, artisanship, and entrepreneurship from the road.

Started, finished, and shipped in Cape Town, South Africa.

Writing time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Formatting time: 55 minutes

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  • Tom, this is incredible!! Thanks for sharing your learning with us and helping translate it to the online space. You had me thinking from point #1. I’m nowhere near Cape Town, but I do have a friend there that I’d like to introduce to you…I’ll catch you on FB. (Love bracelets on you!)

  • Still amazed at how simple experiences can turn out to be valuable lessons.

    Those two little girls just cute. If I were in your position, I could have also purchased the bracelets even though there are tons of the same kind here in the Philippines. LOL!

    I learned a lot about Sales through this post! Thank you

    • Jon, thanks a million. So glad you liked the post!

      I’ll definitely be swinging by the Philippines (probably next year), so I’ll keep you posted when I come by 🙂

  • Great article! Loved how easily you explained the analogy of girls selling the bracelets on the street to online sales. I grew up In India and had similar sales experience but never associated it with our online sales.

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