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How to Sell Without Selling: What a Cuban Pedicab Driver Taught Me About Sales

Murray and I walked out of our hotel in the Cuban coastal town of Cienfuegos and two pedicab drivers immediately flocked on us, asking us where we were from and following closely us as we walked down the street.

They wouldn’t take “No” for an answer, and our mood quickly soured.

cienfuegos, cuba

We continued to walk along the Malecón towards a promontory where Cuba dipped into the ocean, ending with a beautiful little park there at the tip. And naturally, right at the entrance of the park, four more pedicab drivers, alert, waiting. I groaned inwardly. I could see we’d have to pass by them to walk into the park and I knew they’d be jockeying for our business.

Music and pedicabs seemed to be 2 of the chief ways the young men of Cienfuegos made a living and I couldn’t fault them for that, but still, their particular style of approach and unique persistence turned me off.

Preparing for the worst Murray and I stopped before the entrance to brace ourselves, and then something different happened.

One of the pedicab guys approached us, on foot, pointed to one of the old buildings Murray was looking at, and casually informed us that Cienfuegos was in his opinion “the best example of early 19th century Spanish Enlightenment urban planning“, and had 327 buildings dating before 1900.

To say we were surprised was understatement.

He introduced himself as Adrien, and went on to talk about the boats that were moored in the harbor. And the town’s castle. And then he asked about us. What were our names? And where were we from?

There was no urgency in his voice. He didn’t seem to want anything from us. He was genuinely curious. And focused on us. Not his needs, but how he could serve us. We chatted for a moment, then we continued on into the park and watched the swimmers and sailboats.

On the way out of the park, I suggested to Murray that we take a short ride with the young man. I wanted to support him.

So we walked up to Adrien as we left the park, smiling. He piped up: “Hi Marisa. Hi Murray.

What? Again, this guy surprises us.

So I ask, “Adrien, how much for a 20-minute ride?” He smiled, “20 minutes? You can pay what you want…

We got in and chatted as he huffed us back down the Malecón towards the city center. We found out he had a son and he bused an hour in to Cienfuegos every morning to catch a few rides. He was upbeat and positive. Not a trace of victim in his voice. He just did what he needed to do every day to survive and to take care of his family.

The pedicab ride was nicer than we expected as Adrien explained the city sights and we saw Cienfuegos through his eyes.

After about 15-minutes, we suggested he turn around and he said – “Already?” gestering forward with his hands, “But we haven’t reached the park yet…”

“How much longer to the park?”

“5-minutes,” he said, continuing to gesture forward. And sure enough, 5 minutes later we pull up at a gorgeous park that we didn’t even know was there. It was late Sunday afternoon and the light was golden. All of Cienfuegos seemed to be there: running errands, playing chess on the sidewalk, offering up their confessions in the white stone cathedrals.

As he parked the pedicab, he told us – “Take as long as you want, I’ll be here. Take an hour if you like…

So we got out and explored the park and the buildings that lined the park, snapping pictures of the locals… then just as we were about to leave we noticed a crowd forming in front of the cultural center and dozens of kids dressed up to perform. First up was a 5 year old boy dressed as a vaquero singing his heart out into the mic and gyrating all the way down to the ground to the whoops and hollers of the crowd.

We were hooked, and another 20-minutes goes by before we got back on the pedicab and started the trip home.

Adrien took us back through the side streets and we saw the kids playing baseball with a stick in the streets and the horse and buggies cruising for fares. We stopped at the boardwalk to watch the sun shoot colors across the sky…

By the time we got back to the hotel, almost 3 hours had gone by.

We asked Adrien, “How much?”


A short 20-minute “let’s support the locals” trip had turned into a magical 3-hour tour that we really enjoyed.

And Adrien had enrolled us with, “You can pay what you want…”

He didn’t try to sell us a package or convince us to go on a longer ride. He met us exactly where we were at and gave us what we wanted, and more.

Then once we got going he was able to share his knowledge of the city and draw us deeper and deeper into his world until we were totally bought in and ready for the full adventure.

As we paid him $60, I thought, “This man is an incredible salesman.”

We were definitely reluctant buyers — and certainly not the kind of travelers do the “touristy things.” Plus, we were tired and ready for a quiet evening at the hotel.

Still, he managed to get us on the pedicab with his friendliness and curiosity and inspired us to stay with his commitment to being of service.


The legendary sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want“.

And the truth is that conscious sales is about shifting your focus from you – from your needs, wants and desires – to your prospect. It’s about genuine curiosity and deep listening, so you can help people discover what it is that they truly want even when they’re not sure what they want.

It’s not about being pushy, it’s not about imposing your agenda on someone else, it’s about connecting with someone’s commitment to themselves.

The truth is, if Murray and I had stayed in that evening in Cienfuegos, I probably wouldn’t remember anything about that night… and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post…

Adrien did us a huge service and reminded me to live fully in the moment and enjoy every opportunity I can.

We rode with him again before the trip was over.

How can you connect more deeply with the untapped possibility in your prospects lives?

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Lisbeth Wahl Avatar
    Lisbeth Wahl

    What a great reminder! And isn’t this what it’s all about… Connecting with people and other places, creating value when we open up and listen. THANK you for sharing!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      You’re welcome!

  2. Andy Iskandar Avatar
    Andy Iskandar

    Adrien opened and drew Marisa & Murray in with content marketing! Nice.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd


  3. Joan Tennant Avatar
    Joan Tennant

    M&M – Wonderful adventure with Adrien! He gave more of himself than his legs. He gave his knowledge and converyed his love of his place. And by his getting a sense of you, (maybe thru your questions to him) he gave you a memorable ride and a surprise at the end (the park) he sensed you’d appreciate. A true magical mystery tour! Thanks for the vicarious trip… It was fun!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Absolutely! I’m so glad we just went with it…

  4. Michelle Avatar

    Thank you for the great modeling of uplifting sales- all about relating to people and what they need. Relating relating relating. Thank you!! And yes it was fun to be in Cuba with you vicariously! So glad you had a fun time, b-e-i-n-g there!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      It absolutely is about relating, relating, relating… 🙂

  5. Randy Berg Avatar
    Randy Berg

    One of your best writings ever… and presented in such a way that almost
    everyone thinks “Why didn’t I think of that?”.. or “I can do that!”
    thank you…
    you truly are one of the best.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks Randy!

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