Be as engaging as a matatu tout to sell

Salespeople manning stands should be alive to
Salespeople manning stands should be alive to the difference and act accordingly. FILE PHOTO | nMG 

Successful exhibition stands call more for a matatu tout than a supermarket cashier. The former is excitedly pro-active, the latter, dutifully reactive. The tout is engaging. He coaxes, cajoles and charms potential passengers (customers) to board his matatu.

He woos hesitant ladies, compliments them on their dressing, and opens the door for them to board. In all this, he maintains respect. Likewise, the seller at the successful stand is rarely seated. He invitingly gestures to anyone who so much at glances at his stand. He acknowledges those he sees from the corner of his eye but can’t immediately attend to with a, “Sir, bear with me for a minute”; or, “Here. Read this in the meantime”; or, “Please write your number here I’ll call you shortly.” He will smile at a boy as he hands him a sweet and pulls out a chair for his mother. “Listening is free,” or “Information is power” he will respectfully repeatedly state, much like the tout who, competing on price, repeatedly beckons with. This is the exception, not the norm.

The tragedy of the average corporate exhibition stand is that it is manned by a ‘supermarket cashier’- and its intended objectives and investment are lost.

A cashier sits, ‘trapped’ in his cubicle, passively awaiting shoppers to roll in their trolleys and slowly empty their shopping, one after the other, on his counter; only then, does he swing into action, passing the items against the scanner, and tallying the shopping. A passive, iterative and mechanical role. I have nothing against him-that’s how his job is done.

The problem with the salesperson who engages cashier mode at the stand (or, desk at a mall, or, such other busy place) is that he does not see himself as a salesperson (which he is); and therefore, does himself, and potential visitors, a disservice.


Selling here is not limited to exchange of goods for cash. No. Meaningfully exchanging information with a customer, getting contacts for future follow-ups, and/or getting them to experience your service or product are all forms of selling at an exhibition.

The exhibition is an opportunity for the mountain to go to Mohamed; for the business to go to the customer. And that’s exactly what a salesperson does-he goes to the field and engages buyers differently from one in an office. Salespeople manning stands should be alive to the difference and act accordingly.

Your branch and stand are both your corporate outlets; however, potential visitors (notice how we don’t call them customers) to your stand are rarely in ‘buy mode’ as potential customers in your branch might be.

So, whereas your stand is branded in your corporate colours and you have an image to uphold, paradoxically, taking cashier mode damages the brand-engaging tout mode builds it.