The purchasing power of the world’s poor is significant: “The roughly 4.5 billion low-income people in developing countries collectively spend more than $5 trillion a year,” according to the World Bank Group’s Global Consumption Database.
Yet challenges facing companies trying to sell goods and services to the base of the pyramid (BoP) are daunting: “Despite its promise of growth and development, the BoP market is hard-to-reach and still faces a number of well-known challenges: small transactions, poor infrastructure, dispersed consumers, or low product awareness,” explains the Inclusive Business Action Network, which promotes inclusive business worldwide.
Such obstacles haven’t stopped large consumer products companies like household goods maker SC Johnson or baked products manufacturer Grupo Bimbo (Read More) from tapping into emerging markets where people live on $1.90 to $5.50 per day, by tailoring their business model and processes for the local environment. While sales and distribution processes may need to be tailored, companies catering to the BoP, especially in off-the-grid areas, also need to re-evaluate their systems to keep up with complex logistics and unreliable connectivity.
Interestingly, many of the new workforce in the emerging markets are embracing mobile technology without ever having touched a desktop or laptop computer. This “leapfrogging” phenomenon is leading to a workforce that is increasingly accustomed to working on mobile devices.
Image: Marketing Innovative Devices for the Base of the Pyramid. Source: Hystra
TaroWorks and Salesforce in the Field
With AppExchange products like TaroWorks and Salesforce.com, firms selling goods and services to BoP consumers are directing far-flung sales agents, managing distributed supply chains and analyzing data in real time - with or without internet or mobile phone service. As we’ve observed through our work with more than 100 organizations working in 42 countries:
“A growing number of mobile apps like TaroWorks or custom built apps using Open Data Kit allow field teams to collect data offline and in some cases, navigate geography or even view video with no connectivity. The newly collected information saved on a smartphone or tablet can be synced back to the cloud when within range of mobile data or internet service.” (Read More)
Here’s how two social enterprises have applied this technology in the field:
- Solar Sister: This social enterprise delivers solar products and clean cookstoves in developing countries through a network of 2,500 largely female entrepreneurs who buy the products from Solar Sister and resell them at a profit to BoP consumers in rural outdoor markets or through local savings groups across Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Using TaroWorks’ offline mobile CRM app for tracking sales transactions in the field, and analyzing results with Salesforce’s powerful data visualization tools, has helped Solar Sister improve the productivity of the business development associates who recruit and sell merchandise to the entrepreneurs. It has completely replaced paper for recording solar lighting sales and managing entrepreneur relationships both online and offline and now generates sales invoices digitally, all of which are automatically logged in Salesforce. (Read More)
- SOIL: This social business provides access to safe, affordable and dignified sanitation by providing toilet services to over 1,000 families in Haiti and subsequently producing rich, organic compost as a natural resource as well as a source of economic opportunity.
TaroWorks and Salesforce are not only used to track prospects who have expressed interest in purchasing the toilet service, but to also sign contracts, log weekly servicing, gather and respond to complaints and maintenance requests, deploy customer satisfaction surveys and collect payments. (Read More)
Image: SOIL Haiti team at work. Source: Tony Marcelli for SOIL
Five Sales Mistakes Tips and Tech Can Fix
Using mobile and cloud technology to manage agent networks and operations is not the only factor that contributes to success selling to consumers in the emerging markets. Selling techniques that recognize the unique nature of BoP sales are also important as is training sellers, which can also be assisted by mobile technology.
Scott Roy, Managing Director of Whitten & Roy Partnership – a sales consulting firm which helps organizations enhance their emerging market sales operations -- describes 5 common pitfalls hindering such sales efforts.
- Recruiting the Wrong People: One mistake is to staff field agent networks with experienced sellers from fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies even though the product being sold is often what Roy calls a “behavior change product,” not traditional consumer goods. Finding eager novices with an interest and aptitude for selling and then teaching them the ropes may be a better approach, he said.
- Not Knowing How to Sell Behavior Change Products: Roy cautions that sellers can become so enamored with a product’s impressive technology, they emphasize product features and benefits more than focusing people on the problems the product helps solve - or how it can change the consumer’s behavior.
- Insufficient Training and Development of Sales Teams: Training of both salespeople and their managers is about more than the product and its features. It’s also important to emphasize basic techniques for successfully approaching a potential customer and for organizing the seller’s day. Additionally, there’s a need to develop sellers by offering ongoing training to address challenges particular to each field agent.
- Misallocating and Mismanaging Sales Territory: A company can move too quickly through a sales territory, said Roy. “... the people who are going to win the day are going to be organizations that stay put in an area, drive stakes deep into that ground and have references, referrals and stories and names that creates a web of relationships in a territory,” he said.
- Poor Data Management: Tying things back to the use of mobile and cloud technology, Roy explains that beyond the manager’s data needs and sales goals, it’s important that collected field data sheds light on how sellers perform. In the case of TaroWorks customer Solar Sister, for example, the work of the field business development associates is managed remotely by creating trackable performance goals and task lists – as well as scheduling sales calls, all tools to increase productivity which can be managed from a smartphone or tablet. (Read More)
Elaine Chang is Director of Market Development and Customer Success for TaroWorks, a social enterprise launched by Grameen Foundation to sell a field service mobile app which helps Salesforce customers conduct data collection and analysis, guide product sales teams, manage inventory and fulfillment supply chains and increase the productivity of their field agent networks in developing countries.
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