Accessibility and 2 more lessons on selling from informal sellers

Informal sellers, such as street vendors (hawkers), small market traders, and independent resellers, often employ practical techniques to simplify and accelerate sales. These lessons can be valuable for formal businesses and sales professionals looking to streamline their processes and enhance efficiency. Here are 3 more lessons in selling from roadside sellers.

Personalization and relationship building:

This one is just a gem. “Kama kawaida, sio?” The waiter in the kibanda tells you. (The usual, yes?) Or, if in traffic, on spotting you, the hawkers face lights up, the white of her teeth stares at you as she goes, “Ahhh, customer. Ndio kuelekea home? Na sisi ndio kuingia job imagine. (“I’m reporting to work as you are leaving). As she says this she’s reached into her bag for your favourite packet of crisps with chilli. The engagement lasts less than a minute but the radiance of her warmth lasts you the rest of the day and makes you buy again the following one and the one after that.  The more given that she’s not bothered about asking for payment. She knows, “Utatuma tu, na MPESA.”

Informal sellers often develop personal relationships with their customers. They remember individual preferences and take time to engage in friendly conversations. This personal touch fosters customer loyalty and increases the likelihood of repeat business.

Lessons on selling from informal sellers-Simplicity in Offerings

Look at the chart of hairstyles in your barber shop. Or, despite her big bag, the limited number of wares the hawker is selling. Tangerines, wipers, clothes racks, crisps could all be on display in traffic; but in teaching simplicity, the specialization is to die for. Each hawker focuses on selling one or two similar items Informal sellers typically offer a limited range of products. This simplicity makes decision-making easier for customers and shortens the sales cycle. “Niko na ya hamsini na ya mia.” (I have them in 50 and 100 shillings.) Knowing you are not a shopper engaging in retail therapy in a supermarket, they fully exploit the limited window of time they have by simplifying the offering.

Read: 3 lessons in selling from matatu crew

lessons on selling from informal sellers

Formal businesses can apply this lesson by focusing on core products or services to prevent overwhelming customers with choices. Look at Safaricom and choosing to limit only the MPESA charges chart in the agent outlets; and how simple and transparent that table is. Of course, like a wines and spirits distributor, Safaricom is not limited to MPESA only; but, like Google with search, and even more refined ChatGPT with ask, Safaricom has limited the offering to what you most likely are looking for. Learn to say only enough to close.  

Location and Accessibility:

Most sales people are easy to locate and access when you want to buy what they are selling. But when you want to to complain, fill the pressure in your tyre, make a query, or generally seek a non-sale service, they are nowhere to be found.  Like informal sellers, successful sales people are in it for the long haul. They ‘live’ in their markets receiving sales barbs and bouquets in equal measure. As one shared, “There’s a confidence and trust that is built with customers when you are easily accessible. In fact, the barbs are quickly dulled when you address them at source.” As my barber once shared: “Pole, leo msichana wa massage hayuko. Lakini, next time, atakuwa na itakuwa longer.” (To compensate for no massage, he promised me a longer one next time.) We both had a good laugh but more importantly, the barb was blunted.

Read: Three lessons in selling from a hawker

Informal sellers are often strategically located in high-traffic areas, making their products or services easily accessible. This is the third of lessons on selling from informal sellers. Formal businesses can learn from this by considering the convenience and accessibility of their sales channels. If only insurance companies dealt with claims as they do sales. (Sigh!)


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