What COVID-19 teaches us about selling

It doesn’t matter how much you extol the virtues of your product or service; if it’s not working, it’s not getting buyers

Hata Corona imeisha” my cabbie said, casually declaring the end of COVID-19. He said this as he donned his mask because company policy dictated so, and it could affect how I rated him. Forget that he was a lay person authoritatively making a sweeping statement about an issue which the world was looking at science-informed World Health Organization for direction from; you see, when a product is not working as promised, it’s difficult to sustain the sale.

This cabbie did not need scientists to tell him it was over. They already pitched him the ravages of Coronavirus. And he believed them. And why not. Well before the virus hit home, news showing images of mass graves and daily deaths by the thousands was a sobering enough ‘demo’ to hold him (and you and me) to rapt attention. And when the disease came home, the daily briefings from the Ministry of Health powered by the battery of doctors further flamed the gripping fear and attention. And for at least three months the sale was sustained. But slowly it started coming apart at the seams. All the predictions fell flat. But even that was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. Casual observation did it; Kenyans were not dropping like flies.

 It doesn’t matter how much you extol the virtues of your product or service; if it’s not working, it’s not getting buyers. For instance, there’s this flour for making uji that the wife castigates every time the advert comes on TV. She believed its hype of making uji with cold water until she was met with multiple clods of a brown froth in the name of porridge. She took to social media to vent only to find a string of similar complaints there.

And the problem of buyers quitting buying your pitch is that it firmly shifts control of the sale from you (the seller) to them. And when this is a tweet or post speaking ill of your product, the resulting effect can be catastrophic. Admittedly, sometimes it’s a genuine case of the product not working. Again, the wife once posted a complaint on Facebook when the foil of a renowned brand did not unravel as it should. Despite being a Sunday, the seller instantly responded with an apology, followed up with a call Monday and delivered a hamper comprising a replacement foil and several others goodies on Tuesday, as he picked the offending foil. The glowing post that followed shifted the seller from sin to saint, instantly wining the hearts of other buyers.

Unless it’s a con, it’s tiring pushing a product that’s not working as intended. It’s much more effective to go back to the drawing board and plan afresh. Possibly it’s not that the virus is of a different strain, but that Kenyans, having endured other deadly respiratory diseases have a more robust immunity. And having discerned the cause of the anomaly, pitch afresh.

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