Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How To Sell Like A Buddhist Monk | by @kabaim

How I learned how to sell from a Buddhist monk
Yesterday, I learned the fine art of compassionate selling from a Buddhist monk.

Right on Union Square.

In about 30 seconds.

Imagine this: you're walking to work on a busy weekday morning, in the heart of the busiest part of town.  You decide to look up, instead of down.  It's going to be a good day, you think to yourself, so you put on a smile, and you mean it. Your eyes dart around, looking for other smiles to connect with.  No such luck - everyone is looking down, too preoccupied with what the day ahead has in store for them, or absorbed in an parallel musical universe powered by their iPhones and world-canceling earphones.

Then, about 30 yards ahead, your eyes lock with the other solitary smiling eyes, heading your way. In the form of a Buddhist monk in full garb.  He's acknowledging your smile, he's acknowledging YOU.  He walks straight at you, and his demeanor and attire disarm you.  He is trustworthy, and he knows you.

As he approaches you, he hands you a golden card.  Of course, you take it.  On it, it says, "Work Smoothly, Lifetime Peace".  A little cheesy, you think, but it has a quality feel to it.  As you look up, his right hand comes up to shake yours, and you reciprocate, and shake his hand.  A warm, sincere handshake.

Work Smoothly, Lifetime PeaceIn his accented English, he says something that sounds like, "would you consider a donation?"

You're thinking, sure, why not, I have a few bucks to spare.  As you motion for your wallet, he gets out a spiral notepad and opens it up.  On it is a simple form, and you see other people's names on it.  He hands you a pen and the pad, and gestures for you to fill it out.

The first column has the heading Name, so you write down your first name, like the others before you have.  The second column says Location - there's just enough room to squeeze in the two letter code for your state.

The third columns asks: 'What do you want?'  You pause, not quite sure what to write, and the friendly monk tells you to just write 'Peace', like the others before you did.  Wow - I want peace, you think.  Yes, you really want peace.

The last column has the amount donated.  You look at what others before you gave - whoa, $20, $50, $10,...  you don't write anything in the column, and tell the monk you need to check how much you have.  You hand him the pen and pad, as you get out your wallet.  You look and realize you only have three singles and one $20 bill, which you pull out of the wallet, while pondering what you're going to do...

You mumble something like "I've got a $20..." at which point the monk says "Twenty is good", and takes the $20 bill, writes $20 on the amount line in the notebook, and pulls out a wooden bead bracelet which he places on your left wrist, lingering to hold your left hand for a moment, in gratitude.  He does this all in one continuous sequence, in the blinking of an eye.

He bows with a "thank you", turns, and continues on his way.

This all took 30 seconds.  You stand there, wondering if you've just been 'had' or if that is the best $20 you've ever spent.

Then you realize the monk is your Zen Master, and that he just taught you the fine art of compassionate selling.

It's going to be a great day!


So here's the monk's hot selling tips, in 12 steps (and sequence is critical!):

  1. Target your audience.  In this case, people willing to make eye contact.
  2. Be approachable.  Be likeable.  Smile.
  3. Be credible.  A monk's garb will do it in this case.
  4. Offer something of perceived value.  How about a golden card?
  5. Ask, at a low commitment level. As monk did:  "Would you consider a donation?"
  6. Spend time building up perceived value. Filling out a form will do.
  7. Give people what they want and heighten perceived value, by promising "peace."
  8. Social proof. Show how others just like you (fellow SF residents) are making substantial gifts.
  9. Make the real ask, commensurate to the giver's ability and perceived willingness.  "Twenty is good!"
  10. To seal the deal, thank them with a gift, something of value (bracelet in this case).
  11. Thank them in words. "Thank you." Be sincere.
  12. When you've completed the deal, leave.  Fast.  As quickly as you came.


Addendum: I've been getting feedback from a variety of folks that point 12 really rubs them the wrong way, and now reading it again, I can see how this can be taken badly.  The real point is "do not linger", not so much "take the money and run."  Once a transaction is closed, making small talk is really not a good idea, so graciously thanking someone and allowing them to move on and appreciate their purchase (rather than hanging out with a sales person that just won't stop) is an appreciated move - just make sure the customer understands how they can reach you if they have any issues or questions (the monk left me his calling card - I know where to find him).


  1. I am in speechless awe. What a story!!!!! What lessons! Loved Loved Loved it!

    1. Thank you Lisa! Funny that my Zen Master turned out to be a.... Zen Master!

  2. It was amazing how you learned so much from such a short encounter, you were truly present :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Best $20 you ever spent! Thank you for sharing this story with us, and I LOVED your hot selling tips in 12 points at the end. AWESOMENESS. xox

  4. What a great experience! So glad you shared. Love your ability to not only paint a vivid picture for your readers to walk into, but your ability to translate its beauty into a business lesson is priceless. Thank you.