If you spend any time with me at all, you’ll soon discover I love to travel.
Of course, I adore the typical places like Paris and Venice. But I also love the weirder places like Budapest and Jakarta.
Over the years, what I have learned from traveling has also helped me sell a lot more in my business.
Here is my list of lessons travel teaches you that will ramp up your sales, too.
1. Get over your fear of looking silly.
The first thing they told me when I arrived in South Africa was “do not go into the townships”.
It is a fast easy way to get your car stolen and possibly get seriously hurt.
So, what did I do day one in South Africa?
Get lost in the townships outside Springs.
I finally found the police station (behind a 10-foot high concrete wall and barbed wire) but the police didn’t speak English.
Given our lack of common language, I was left with body language.
I waved my arms, trying to explain I was lost, needed to find highway 17 and that I was headed to the coast to go on a safari.
Yes, I made animal noises and everything.
I looked like an idiot, but it got me where I needed to go.
If you own a business or you are in sales, you can’t let the fear of looking silly derail you.
You have to be ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Tell people what you want.
Just get your point across.
2. Take the road no one else is on
Without a doubt, my worst travel experiences occur at tourist sites.
The Acropolis is an amazing place but it is covered with tourists like ants in a bowl of honey.
Ephesus is the same way.
The best travel experiences happen when you leave the beaten path and explore.
Like the time my friend and I discovered a delightful bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa.
The 90-year old lady who ran the working farm had lived all over southern Africa, been through multiple wars and uprisings.
She told the best stories.
And her food!
I could have stayed at her place for weeks and never been bored for a second.
It’s the same with running a business.
You can’t go where everyone else goes.
There is too much competition and you’ll never get what you are looking for.
When everyone in your industry is zigging, you should zag.
The riches are in the niches.
Go find a market you can dominate, not one you are marginalized in.
You’ll have a much better experience and you’ll get what you came for – the sale.
3. Try new things
If you’ve ever been to Hungary, you know the language is unintelligible to anyone who isn’t Hungarian.
It’s like they took the alphabet, shook out most of the vowels and then started making words.
Seriously, here is how you say hello: Jó napot kívánok.
Needless to say, simple tasks like reading a menu were practically impossible.
But, a girl has to eat, so I would simply go into restaurants, take my menu from the waiter and randomly point to something.
Most days I was served deliciously enjoyable meals.
Every now and then I ended up with something that I didn’t love, but not once did I order something inedible.
And I tried lots of things I likely wouldn’t have ordered had I known what they were.
Do the same in your business.
Try a new sales script.
Use a new marketing method.
Reach out to a new market.
Shake things up.
You don’t have to know exactly how they are going to turn out.
Just give them a go!
You might be pleasantly surprised at what you uncover that really works.
4. A little preparation goes a long way
I’m all for new experiences and wandering a bit when I’m traveling.
That being said, one rule I live by is learning a few key words of the local language before I visit a new country.
Knowing the local words for please, thank you, bathroom, yes and no are essentials.
If you can learn how to say, “do you speak English?” in the local language you will quickly make friends who are happy to help you.
It also helps to learn a bit about the local culture.
What are the current challenges in the area?
What is the history of the place?
What are some of the local political issues?
You can have amazing conversations with locals if you show you have taken time to learn a little before you tromp through their world.
I once got invited to a shadow puppet performance in Jakarta because I knew a few words of Bahasa Indonesia and knew that puppetry was an important part of Indonesia oral traditions.
Prepare in business, too.
Take the time to prepare for your next sales appointment.
Learn some industry lingo.
Read up on the industry challenges.
Come prepared with really good questions, not just the surface garbage everyone else brings in the door.
You will be remembered more for what you ask than what you tell.
If you’re a traveler, too, what lessons have you learned?
What fun stories do you have about wandering in other cultures?
If you see me around, ask me about the time I needed my switchblade while hitchhiking or the time I got asked to speak at a Rotary meeting 10,000 miles from home with ten minutes notice.
There are business lessons in there, too!