Lessons from sellers on online platforms


A woman transacting online. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Once upon a time there were two “stall sellers”. One had a shop right at the entrance of the building that housed them, and the other’s shop was at the end of a dimly lit corridor.

The rent of the former was much higher than the latter’s; in fact, it even had goodwill added to it because, the landlord said, “the walk-in traffic was endless.”

The seller in the dark didn’t have walk-in traffic. He had to either put a signboard at the entrance of the building or hire someone to continually usher in passers-by. For both it was a cost he could barely afford, and a source of unending run-ins with county operatives.

It didn’t matter that his bags were of superior quality than his counterpart’s. This was pointless if it didn’t reflect in sales; quality of products didn’t pay rent. So, he had to think differently, and quickly.

Realising that his problem was prospecting and marketing he polished his personal Facebook page and gave it a business outlook.

He put up images of his bags and then asked the few clients he had to ‘like’ his page and post comments on what they thought of his bags. It took a while to build his traffic of prospects but slowly but surely he did. That was five years ago.

Today, WhatsApp and Instagram have joined his distribution and marketing channels. And he was already on cashless transactions and social distancing with his prospects and customers way before anyone had heard of coronavirus.

And so when it struck, for him it was business as usual; with the time spent by people online increasing, his list of prospects has ballooned. His buyers trust him especially in these uncertain times. His dimly lit shop is now more a storage unit than a sales outlet.

As for the seller at the front, life has taken a disruptive turn these past weeks. The gush of walk-ins in now a mere trickle and he feels like pulling out his hair. You see, he never bothered to build a prospect list nor client database nor “own” advocates for his business.

This seller represents most salespeople and businesses today. Before the pandemic they spent most of their time putting up the roof of their sales building, believing that the foundation and walls of walk-ins was guaranteed. Now the whole house has collapsed, as it was really one of cards. The on-line seller on the other hand invested time building a solid foundation. And this, as promised last week is what we learn from online sellers. Their sales activities are digital not analogue. As a way of selling, they pull in prospects through engagement as opposed to pushing out products.

This is what today’s disrupted seller must embrace to succeed. Respect the importance of prospecting, and that the activities that lead to a sale offline are different from that online.