Tripoli, 4 February 2013:
Sixty hard-bitten Libyan businessmen had the surprise of their life, when they turned up to a food and drink fair presentation at the Portuguese embassy.
“I have never had such a hard sell” said one of them, over the lunch to which the guests were treated afterwards, “That man is amazing”.
The man in question was Carlos Morais, owner and CEO of Portugal’s SISAB, the International Trade Fair for Wine, Seafood and Agricultural Products, which this year is being held in Lisbon between 25-27 February. There are to be some 600 exhibitors, the majority from Portugal and 2,000 visiting entrepreneurs from around the world. Last year, said Morais, more than €50 million of deals had been done at the fair itself, leading, he did not doubt, to even larger contracts thereafter.
The ebullient Morais provided an object lesson in how to enthuse and enthral a highly-professional business audience and make them commit to a project. Speaking through an Arabic interpreter in English and Portuguese, he not only extolled the virtue of his fair over a rival event in Dubai, but explained that anyone who signed up would get five-star accommodation and internal transport for three days for €900. They would also have their visas fast-tracked and, if enough people committed to come, he would organise a direct flight from Tripoli to Lisbon. There would be an interpreter provided for every ten Libyan attendees.
Morais said at the start of his talk that he already had two committed attendees. Half-way through a lunch he barely touched, because he was working the tables with a superabundance of charm and a fistful of forms, he had moved that number up to 22. By the time the meal was over, 55 businessmen had signed up and the Libya Herald learnt last night that the figure has since moved towards 100.
“He really was some salesman” said Omar Jaaouda, “He was quite extraordinary”.
Morais had explained at the very start of his pitch, that colleagues in Lisbon had warned him not to travel to Libya, because it was too dangerous. But, he said, he had come anyway, going on to declare: “Portugal is now in the centre of the world and Libya is our future. All our businesses are saying ‘Wow Libya!’ Trust me. As I trusted to come to your country.”
And it seems from his bulging Libyan SISAB attendance list, that Morais flew home today knowing that some of Libya’s very sharpest business brains have indeed put their trust in him.