Seeing as life gives us lemons in the name of incessant traffic, instead of complaining, why not break out the tequila and salt by constructively tapping into hawking?
Hawking must be the most effective sales distribution system we have in Kenya, if not Africa. Yet, its full potential is yet to be tapped. If anything, it’s being fought. The foremost reason why this is so, is because hawking is misunderstood and, as such, conjures up negative connotations of desperation, way below the food chain and poor image. Hence the deriding admonition, “We cannot be seen to be hawking our products.” But what is hawking? Is it not personal selling? And isn’t personal selling the crux of all sales?
And what makes hawking so effective?
First, hawkers offer close, one-to-one attention in an informal environment. Much like missionary work and dating. And see how effective those are. No chest-thumping and expensive adverts; just quiet effective heart-to-heart moments. Long lasting connections (and therefore sustainable relationships) are created in these moments. Also, seeing as life gives us lemons in the name of incessant traffic, instead of complaining, why not break out the tequila and salt? “I’ll buy it in traffic”, will be in vogue.
See, while we complain about traffic, hawkers (and radio stations) rejoice in it. Prospecting is the blood line of the salesman; many struggle with it. The hawker on the other hand doesn’t-traffic is his paradise. His prospects are in situ early morning and late evening every day. And you and I know traffic isn’t leaving us any time soon. If you can’t beat them, join them. If statistics are to be believed, Mombasa Road alone carries hundreds of cars every morning and traffic can stretch kilometers on end. Now, if you were in the branded apron and hat of a renowned bookshop’s name, selling sets of pencil and exercise books, the week before schools open, how many parents do you suppose would happily roll down their windows to buy from you? You will have helped them manage time better. Thirdly, when traffic eases, hawkers prospect elsewhere, the petrol station being a favourite, followed by the estate. Areas which are common, within easy reach in any major town, and easily segmented as target markets. And that ease of mobility with little to no cost significantly reduces the cost of sales.
Further, have you noticed how hawkers know just what to sell, and when? Right now you would be hard pressed to find an umbrella or rechargeable emergency light on sale. Wait until the long awaited El Nino rains strike and viola!, we will be swamped with both; and, easy availability coupled with dire need, will easily trump concern for price making closing that much easier. Finally, in a country with a bulging youth and unemployment problem, the labour intensive hawking is an out to helping resolve both, yet the potential remains untapped.
Of course, not all products can be “hawked”. Nothing stops innovation though. In the thick of traffic do you think an entire breakfast (hot tea/coffee and snacks for those who must leave home in the wee hours of the morning) would sell? “Why wait to get to the office? Have your breakfast here! Plus, buy your take-away lunch too.” Or maybe, a mobile hot spot (Wi-Fi) would sell? Far-fetched? Well, aren’t all innovative ideas until they manifest?
When you think of a newspaper vendor, do you think hawker? Most probably, not. Yet he is. It’s personal selling on the streets, only formalized. It’s much akin to selling insurance, ice cream or bank accounts. And that’s the difference-when it’s not formalized it is hawking; when it is, it’s personal selling. It’s not a stretch of imagination therefore to realize that for the innovative company to reap the full benefits of hawking, all they need to do is formalize the trade. This may include branding, training and route mapping. But the rewards would be worth it.
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