The calls started calling just over two years ago: "Hi, you purchased a carpet in our store while you were in Istanbul."

It was hard to forget. It was the end of a guided tour through the scenic parts of the Turkish city in April 2006, a tour in which the only group was my wife, my daughter and me. As most guided tours do, it ended up with a place to buy things--we've seen presentations about Egyptian alabaster, papyrus, hand-made dinnerware, Spanish fans. In this case, it was a rug store, the only store, I noted to my wife, that was open on that street on Sunday. There were other people in the showroom. A sales pitch was in the offing.

So after a number of rugs were rolled out, and cups of Apple tea had been poured, the store owner asked if anybody was interested in making a purchase. I figured, no chance, after all, my wife wore the same bathing suit from age 12 through her 40s and got upset when it gave out in the wash. No chance we'd spend money.

When she raised her hand, I was thinking "what have you done with my real wife" but we quickly ended up the proud owners of a rug for a our living room (the sale price included taxes and shipping to New Jersey. "It's an investment," she explained. Ah, that sounded more like the woman I married. "Should we have negotiated?" she asked. "No," I replied. "I looked at the owner's clothing. He didn't get that by haggling. Besides, it seemed like a pretty good price for the quality."

Perhaps at the end of 2006 or early 2007, the first call came in. "We will be in Northern New Jersey. Would you like to look at a rug?" No thanks, I replied. But keep us in mind for the future. They did and the polite calls kept coming until last week when I said, "sure come over." The caller asked what sizes interested us and I said, "four feet by six or smaller" and a truck showed up Monday with about 200 samples in that range.

The lesson is how important your customer base is. It's this kind of knowledge of the customer that makes CRM systems so valuable. It's this kind of polite persistence that separates the great businesses from the merely good.

Of course, CRM can't do everything. The visitor showed us a beautiful silk rug, a 4' by 6'. One thing I learned through two presentations, one in Istanbul and another in Selcuk on the mainland, is we aren't in the silk league.

 "I think I'd hang it on my wall," I said. "How much is it?"

"Twelve thousands dollars."

"I think we'd like to look at the wool ones."

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