Master crafts and salesperson Tia Beckford.

How to jumpstart sales with CPR

By Gordon Hecht, Contributor

One of the perks of living in Florida’s Del Boca Vista (Phase III) is access to inexpensive midweek trips for less than the cost of an early-bird dinner.

The other week my ever-lovin’ bride and I took advantage of a bargain-basement-priced trip to the Bahamas. Freeport is a lovely town with friendly people and sugar-sand beaches. But you can’t go anywhere without passing the Straw Market.

The Straw Market is a local craft bazaar where savvy U.S. tourists can negotiate the price from $50 to $35 on a $10 souvenir. It’s a series of small booths brimming with baskets, hats, t-shirts and assorted trinkets. There’s hardly any variation in merchandise between the different shops. It’s mostly women working the market. And they’re not afraid to hawk you off the sidewalk to draw you into their stall.

The ever-lovin’ and I were attracted to one particular spot. The woman working there did not wave us in. Rather, she sat on a chair, silently weaving a basket. We strolled over and she introduced herself as Tia Beckford. She asked our names and where we were from. She asked what kind of item we were looking for and the price range we had in mind.

Before showing us anything, Tia explained the method that the locals use to weave baskets and the history of the art. She told us that she inherited her shop from her mother, and how basket weaving was relaxing and therapeutic for her.

Tia graduated with a degree in English and worked stateside for several years. After her mother passed, she moved back to Freeport and tried for a career in different areas. Many interviews and no offers later, she decided to reopen her mother’s store. She struggled at selling until her husband gave her a golden tip: perform CPR with every shopper.

No, she didn’t throw us to the ground and pound on our chests. CPR for selling means create personal relationships.

Unlike the other vendors, Tia learns who her customers are and what common experiences she shares with them. She is an excellent listener. I told a long story and she listened and understood it all. And she matched our expectations with her merchandise. In the end we purchased a small woven purse for my ever-lovin’s mom, and for a slight extra cost Tia made it special by stitching it with mom-in-law’s name and adding fabric flowers in her favorite color.

She later followed up with an email to make sure we were happy with our selection and to thank us for stopping by.

Tia followed longstanding practices of successful salespeople:

  • Make a friend before you make a sale.
  • When people are talking, people are buying.
  • “No” means “tell me more.”
  • All things being equal, people buy from people they like.
  • All things being unequal, people buy from people they like.
  • All things being equal, the best story wins.
  • When you build value, you don’t need to negotiate price.
  • Everyone likes to get their money’s worth, and a little bit more.

We went to Freeport for rest, relaxation and a few of those tall drinks with fruit and an umbrella. I came back with a lesson in selling, a cool gift and a new friend. 

I also made one additional purchase — a beaded bracelet in Bahamian colors. I call it my CPR bracelet. I wear it as a reminder to create personal relationships at every opportunity.

(Click here if you’d like to see a short video about Tia and her business philosophy.)

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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