Driven by the desire to make a quick sale, it is easy to lose sight of what business you are in and who feeds it.
It is amazing the sales lessons you can glean from simple, common experiences. Two happened to me which have inspired this article. One early morning, sixteen years ago, in a remote part of Kenya, my girlfriend and I hopped into a matatu- the kind with foams at the back where you sit staring at each other. One hour later the third passenger joined us. Of course we were bored to our teeth by then and another hour later negotiated with the driver for the third time to agree to our proposal-that we buy all the seats and start the journey. It was a brilliant idea my urbanite mind told me; I even felt beholden to educate this country bumpkin on how to do business. I was ready to buy-but he wasn’t selling. Close to four hours later, and with still three passengers, he finally revved the engine and the most comical thing happened. Darting around like a headless chicken, we stopped at a dispensary, a school, the market and three other places picking passengers at each. We even picked one outside his house, and another we waited for as she finished a conversation! When the dashing hither and thither ended, the matatu was full, and mercifully the trip begun. The driver told me: “I would have sold to you and made my money. But what about tomorrow? You wouldn’t be here; and my passengers would have felt betrayed?” I was humbled. All along I was the foolish one. This seller intimately understood his product and buyers. He welcomed new buyers (me for instance) but never lost sight on which side his bread was buttered. Not even the allure of a quick sale shifted his focus. His attitude was like that of the aged fruits seller who told me, “Nikukuuzia zote leo kesho nitauzia nani?” I had made the same pitch to her-sell us all your fruits. Her response? “If I do so, whom will I sell to tomorrow?” Turned out she had positioned herself to fulfil her weekly demand of buyers who met for a weekly agricultural briefing at a church. Selling me all her fruit would have met her sales targets but compromised their sustainability.
Driven by the desire to make a quick sale, it is easy to lose sight of what business you are in and who feeds it. A globally recognized car hire firm I know was renowned for having steady local car hire jobs. Many car owners were happy to hire out their vehicles to the firm because they were always assured of work. Then one day a contingent of the US Army came to town and they wanted to hire vehicles for six months and were paying a premium. Elation does not begin to describe the mood that permeated the environment. Zinging dollar signs and busted annual targets were all the business owner could see. And as expected the dollars rolled in and the targets were busted. Six months later the army left. And the firm was left high and dry- the local ground had fundamentally shifted. Feeling neglected and spited the loyal buyers searched elsewhere for alternatives. You see, their need for car hire did not exit with the entrance of the Army. And their search led them to other alternatives. By the time, the ‘dollar blinded’ car hire firm was coming back to them its brand was no longer enough to get them business. Now they were out with begging bowls, hanging their heads, forced into humility. To date they have never recovered. All because the allure of a quick buck blinded them to biting the hand that fed their business. If only they had wisely asked, Nikukuuzia zote leo kesho nitauzia nani?”
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