It’s a perfect sunny Saturday afternoon. You amble along, nonchalantly browsing the stalls at your local flea market. Walking past throngs of curious-looking people. Several look like they might have just finished recording the latest season of the Walking Dead, forgetting to change.

What could you possibly learn from this place?

Take a deeper look into the hustle and bustle. Deeper. Really, look around. Notice that beneath the oddity of its inhabitants, there is a fundamental process unfolding every minute. The flea market is a test-tube analysis for every entrepreneur of a basic sales-cycle. Things are being sold, every minute of every hour. From the tasty boerewors roll I purchased this morning to a collection of old coins on display for the benefit of the curious connoisseur.

Focus your attention on the vendors plying their trade. Start by watching the stalls where nothing seems to be happening, no visitors, no sales. Think you could learn from them?


A Complete Sales Ecosystem

The flea market is a petrie dish for the observant entrepreneur. Hundreds of micro-transactions happening at any given moment.

  • We have potential customers, walking along the rows of car-boot stalls.
  • We also have products and services being plied from behind rickety tables.
  • We have the marketing tools – such as signage – that the wiser vendors make use of.
  • We have the buyer-seller interaction where the experienced vendor finds his groove and can be heard hustling his tasty wares to the hungry passer-by.
  • We have happy customers walking away with a hand-full of, something.
  • We also have the unhappy customer who, deterred by price, presentation or promises made by the seller, scurries away.

Try watching from a safe-space for a few minutes. See if you can easily identify the points of the sales-cycle above.

Right, now back to my Saturday spent strolling through stalls at my local Milnerton Market. I entered the market grounds, my stomach growling in antici….pation. (Couldn’t help it, sorry.) Images of a tasty breakfast, sizzling. I was the ideal customer for several of the food-stalls present. However only one particular stall – selling boerewors – ended up collecting my coins, why was that?


The Good



  • The price for the boerewors was reasonable. The vendor had judged – fairly accurately – the amount of money I would be willing to part ways with.
  • The pricing of the food was prominently displayed. In these busy spaces where the customers attention is a limited resource, making prices hard to find is the equivalent of flea market hara-kiri.


  • The stall had freshly-cooked food openly displayed, calling to the peckish pilgrim.
  • The area around the stall was clean and shaded. Perfect to keep the food fresh and prospective customers cool.


Once I was within the stall-borders I was greeted by a friendly vendor, neatly dressed and courteous. This is a big thing for me, many of the stalls I frequent are the ones where the vendor strikes up a conversion prior to the purchase. I think that this is the single biggest factor for me in deciding who receives my Saturday morning spend.


My wors roll was delivered after a few minutes. It looked and tasted great, exactly as I had been subconsciously promised. I walked away a happy customer.


The Bad

Conversely, many of the stalls were fronted by despondent denizens. Let’s look at the a few of the reasons why that might be:


  • Pricing indicators like a basic tag, poster or sticker were hard to find.
  • Several stores had misjudged the pricing of their wares. Audible gasps were heard as potential customers – shocked by the price – started choking on their samoosas.


  • These stalls did not really seem to have a logical grouping to their products on display. If a phone charger is being sold alongside hair-products it makes it harder for me to browse your stall.
  • There was no love permeating these stalls. From dirty products through to dirty people selling dirty products. A quick polish for the product and shower for the person doing the selling would have really gone a long way.


  • Several stalls had the owners slouched within an obvious car home. To be clear, living from your car is none of my business however the several bits of underwear trailing out the passenger seat did induce an involuntary gag.
  • These vendors also seemed fluent in the language of the orc, grunting at customer-queries. Those hawking from these unvisited stalls-of-sorrow made no little or no attempt at small-talk with the customer.


What Could You Learn?

The interactions playing out at the market are indicative of a sale-technique made famous by us Africans and known as hustling. Highlighted by its fast pace and negotiable pricing. We could all learn so much from watching these valiant vendors.

Never forget, sales is just a game.

Certain rules cannot easily be changed, whilst others can (and should) be bent. The art of connecting to a customer is a tool that every entrepreneur should learn to effectively wield. Ignore fancy sales-courses costing thousands and requiring you to spend days at a retreat walking across a few warm coals. Spend an hour watching the busy people at your local flea market. Notice the deserted stalls where the vendor sits by, dejected. Then appreciate the busy stalls noticing the small nuances that make the busy stall, busy.


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