The Fine Art of Prospecting in Dubai

Selling $25k Rugs to Exhausted Tourists

As we were wrapping up the first day of our personal tour of Dubai, we were asked, “Would you like to visit the government store which contains goods from around the world?”

I replied, “We have been to the spice market, textile market and gold market. Haven’t we seen it all?” Our guide told us the government encourages every tour to stop by this store before concluding any tour. We were exhausted but said, “Let’s do it.”

As we approach this mega store, we noticed tour buses parked everywhere. I asked our tour guide who owns the store. He said, “It is sixty percent owned by the government and forty percent owned by families from Kashmir.”

Being Sold by the Best

“This sounds a bit like we are about to be sold by the best of the best,” I said.

He answered, “You are correct.”

We left the car, and our tour guide took us to the entrance of the store and said, “We will wait in the car for you.”

We entered one of the most beautiful retail stores on the planet. It is called Saga World Dubai. We were greeted by the store manager, Bobby, who offered to give us a personal tour. We didn’t get far when a very handsome man, continentally dressed, began speaking with the manager in Arabic. This man then introduced himself as Emmert and welcomed Kathy and me. He was very ingratiating.

He asked, “Would you like to see our rug collection?” I don’t think we answered, nor did he wait for an answer but instead said, “Follow me.”

He walked us to a special showroom off the main thoroughfare of the store. As we approached, the large showroom was blocked by one of those round red velvet barriers supported by two brass stands. The kind you encounter at the opera and upscale theaters.

He asked, “Would you allow me to show you our collection of fine, handmade rugs?” Kathy and I hesitated, looked at each other and timidly agreed.

He removed the barrier and we entered the showroom, his lair. After we entered, he reinstalled the barrier. Out of nowhere, the store manager and an assistant appeared. Emmert showed us a seat and took off his jacket as he got ready for business. We were immediately served a cup of Arabian tea, and then the selling began.

He started by telling us these rugs are, in fact, art. “Families in Kashmir have been weaving these rugs by hand for generations. The designs are created by the father, and the family will work three to four years on each rug.”

He said, “Allow me to show you.”

Immediately the assistants reached for a shelf, picked up a rolled rug and gracefully unfurled it onto the floor in front of us. It was a large carpet of twelve by twenty feet, and it was the most beautiful carpet I had ever seen. The design, colors and feel bespoke its quality.

Emmert told us about the number of hand-tied knots per square inch. He flipped up a corner of the rug and showed us exactly what he was talking about. You could clearly see the tightness of the weave and its complexity. He then had his men turn this huge rug in a complete circle so we could see how the light changes the look of the rug from different viewing angles.

I must admit, I wanted one.

The Pitch Doesn’t Stop

He said, “Although these rugs are works of art, they are durable. By walking on the rug, you actually tighten the knots over time. Through use, the rug becomes so durable you will come to realize why these rugs are heirlooms passed down to at least four generations.”

“In fact,” he continued, “you can even turn the rug over when you have people over and use it as a dance floor. Don’t you agree that it looks as good on one side as it does the other?”

Then he asked his assistants to select and roll out more rugs. All beautiful and all differing in sizes, patterns and colors. They just kept coming.

I said, “That’s enough.”

He then told us, “Please walk on these rugs. You will feel the quality even through your shoes. You have not stepped on any carpet of this quality.”

So we took a stroll on the rugs, and he was correct. He even had us draw our finger nail across the bottom of two different rugs to hear the difference in the density of the knots. He engaged all our senses.

“So how much are they?” I asked.

He said “Price is a function of the number of knots and size of the rug. The number of knots per square centimeter, like pixels on a computer screen, determine the cost. For example, this large rug I showed you first is $23,000. The small rug, with an even tighter density of knots is $38,000. So it is difficult to tell you a price until you choose.”

Sixth Sense for Selling

Then the soft close came, “Which of these colors and designs do you find most appealing?”

We were in this presentation for over an hour when I asked him, “Of all the people who enter this beautiful store, why did you identify Kathy and me? Why did you think I was worth your time?”

Emmert said, “When I saw you and Mrs. Paparelli, I had a feeling you would have an appreciation for the quality of these rugs.”

So I said, “It was like a sixth sense?” He agreed.

“How often are you correct?”

He said, “Maybe one in a thousand.”

I then told him we had just finished decorating our home and have no need for a new rug. He said, “Surely, there is a place in your beautiful home for one of these multi-generational works of art.”

I disappointed him with a “No.”

“Although we appreciate you informing us, and teaching us about this family art of rug making, we are not in the market for one today.” I also complimented him on his selling skills and how honored we were that he spent his valuable time with us.

After this, he pressed no further and he escorted us out of the showroom, passed the barrier and back to the normal flow of the store. Emmert then disappeared and the store manager continued the tour.

Wherever he took us, he never stopped selling. When we finally said, “No,” for the last time, we asked to leave. He took us to the front door and presented me with his personal card.

He said “If you would like to return to my store, I will send a Lincoln Town Car or Mercedes to pick you up from your hotel. And I will personally take care of you.”

I’ve been thinking about this encounter for the last couple of days. It is clear to me I must meet “the profile.” He thought I would make a $25,000 impulse purchase, and maybe some other time I would have.

Although he said his hit rate is one in one thousand, I don’t believe it. Emmert was good. Really good. I believe he could size up a prospect and close them with regularity. I believe he is an excellent prospect qualifier.

On the way back to the hotel, I asked our tour guide if other tourists have made significant purchases there. He gave me an unequivocal, “Yes.” He went on to tell me about an Italian lady who purchased one of those rugs and an antique chair. She had it shipped to her home in Rome. She too must have met Emmert’s prospect profile.

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