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Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin – Priceless lessons from street-smart sellers

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When it comes to sales strategies and marketing tactics, we generally look up to case studies of well-known brands. However, if we look around us, we see many examples of small-sellers who have managed to stand out due to their sheer ingenuity in the way they go about attracting their customers.

So, this edition of FreeFlowing is a tribute to these street-smart sellers and the lessons one can draw from their sales tactics.

The Signal-Sellers

These are men and women who, deftly balancing a variety of merchandise, weave their way through the row of vehicles stranded at traffic signals. They need to close an impulsive sale within 30-120 seconds to a consumer who is most likely irate and has very low purchase intent.

Key Takeaways:

An intriguing merchandise selection can create a compelling hook:

Aware of their challenge, they carry a merchandise selection that’s either very intriguing or quite relevant and contextual (e.g. toys that you won’t find in regular shops or car window shades in hot summers). This is often accompanied by an animated and almost entertaining live demonstration that creates an urge to try. Interestingly, this combination of unique merchandise and stimulating demo offers relief in the boring wait period and converts some prospects into buying mode.

Smart prospecting and targeting helps to optimize resources:

Given that they are selling at signals, it is important for them to maximize the return on their time. Hence quick prospecting is key to closing the sale. They use a variety of markers to achieve this – like the type of vehicle, are the windows open or closed, whether children are present or absent and a quick scan on commuters who seem bored and ready to be engaged. This smart prospecting is the secret to better conversions.

FOMO led pricing strategy can expedite conversions:

Finally, they are totally aware that spending INR 100+ to buy merchandise on traffic-signals could come with a lot of last-mile hesitancy. Hence, they apply the tactic of FOMO- offering a steep discount after quoting a high put-down price. This reverses the tables- putting the prospects under time pressure (as the clock is ticking down for them as well)! Some of them have even adopted QR code-based UPI payments that eliminate the time-consuming hassle of finding the exact change.

The Travelling Street Vendors

All of us would have spotted this vendor in busy markets, bus-stand, railway stations or even in our residential colonies, making a passionate pitch for his products. The products could range from miscellaneous eatables to simple knick-knacks like pens, magazines or imitation jewellery.

Key Takeaway:

The power of a creative communication pitch:

Most of them sell commoditized products to a consumer who is distracted. Hence, there is a lot of onus on their pitch to make them stand out and be noticed.

Good street vendors are quite creative in their pitch, and that’s how they capture the attention of their prospects and get them interested. Some of them – especially those who visit the same catchment every day- build a distinctive verbal or aural pitch that’s almost like their caller-tune. It becomes the modern-day equivalent of ‘mobile notification’- galvanizing prospects to check them out.

So much so that in today’s times of social media, some of these pitches have become quite viral and inspired popular reels and dance numbers (e.g., Kaccha Badam)

These vendors and their pitches might also be a part of childhood nostalgia for many of us. These are probably the first rudimentary examples of what we call ‘Sonic Branding’ today.

The humble neighbourhood retailer

We all know him or her. They run outlets next to our homes- either in close vicinity or within the residential community campus. They are able to command loyalty- despite their fixed hours and relatively narrow merchandise selection. What is most remarkable is that they have been able to hold their ground despite the increasing consumer awareness and access to a host of delivery apps.

Key Takeaway:

Nothing beats a great service experience:

Aware of their limitations, they offer a service experience that organized entities just cannot beat. This ranges from building a personal rapport with their consumers, understanding their preferences and offering a limited but highly relevant assortment. They are willing to travel an extra mile to get the item that’s out of stock- even if it sometimes entails a milk run to a bigger grocery store, offer 1-call home delivery- without MoQ restrictions, multiple times a day and in some cases, even offer credit that’s based on implicit mutual trust. These traits endear them to their patrons and inspire loyalty. Their service orientation particularly came to the fore during Covid lockdown times when they became the backbone of neighbourhood. When even super-funded delivery apps ran out of stock or showed long waiting times, they rose to the occasion and steadfastly maintained their service.

The Crowd Pullers

Every city has its share of shops (mostly eateries) who have managed to stand apart from the clutter of those selling similar products. People even travel a distance to come to these outlets and checkout what the fuss is all about. They manage to cleverly differentiate themselves through interesting marketing hacks, histrionics and the drama they create around their fare.

Key Takeaway:

The power of creative hooks:

They create some very clever and creative triggers that would make even the most cynical consumer pay attention. These could range from a quirky name, a catchy tagline, an interesting ritual or even a showstopper salesman who become conversation starters. So, when a pan-shop in Koramangala Bangalore is called “Hello Panwala” and every sentence of the owner serving paan is punctuated with a ‘Hello’ or a sweetshop in Kanpur is branded as “Thaggu Ke Laddu” (The Laddus of a Cheater) and proudly claims: “Aisa Koi Saga Nahin, Jisko Humne Thaga Nahin” (literally meaning: There is no one in my relation whom I haven’t cheated”) or the owner of ‘Goldman Kulfie’ in Indore who serves up Kulfi in a gold-foil while decked up in heavy gold ornaments– these tactics are almost like real world viral sensations, pulling in a lot of crowds. Their fame has further exploded with the rising popularity of social media.

In Summary

India is a market where street-smart sellers continue to rub shoulders with organized businesses and well-funded startups. However, the way the former have managed to carve out their own niche can have some interesting lessons for all marketers.

We hope this brief insight into their tactics will allow you to see these spirited everyday hustlers in a new light and up your own marketing game.

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