The Art of Selling Toilets
Miriam Atuya has pioneered much of our Fresh Life Toilet sales process. As we approach selection of the first Fresh Life Operators, Miriam reflects on the the relationships she has built with local entrepreneurs – and the inspiration that they have given her.
As we have introduced the Fresh Life Toilet into the slums, the Sanergy sales team has met all of the challenges of culture, competition, and personal preference that typically accompany a new product launch. To respond to these potential obstacles, we had to understand the community that we were entering. To learn the area’s norms, we met with many community-based organizations and their prominent local leaders. To learn how the existing successful businesses acquired their market share, we spent countless hours with companies like M-PESA and Coca-Cola and with their local franchisees and vendors.
From these conversations and observations, we decided to focus our initial sales efforts on people who had already established businesses in the slums. Our partner Faulu Kenya, one of the largest microfinance banks in the country, introduced us to many of their entrepreneurial borrowers. As those businessmen and women introduced us to their friends and colleagues, we invited them to information sessions in which we explained our product in depth and began to distribute the first applications. Finally, throughout the application process, we spoke daily with each entrepreneur to assist them with any questions – and to close the sale.
Throughout this process I have enjoyed developing different sales skills to cater to people of different social statuses within these communities, and nearly every conversation teaches and inspires me. These experienced local business people continually share ideas about how we could improve our model to better suit the demand of the local residents – such as adding urinals, developing new membership pricing ideas, and partnering with other local businesses that lack toilets.
These entrepreneurs of all ages have used their businesses both to develop themselves as individuals and to put a significant mark in their communities. As I now review the first round of applications, it has been exhilarating seeing the applicants’ responses. The entrepreneurs are embracing Fresh Life not only because it will generate income, but also because it will improve the communities to which they are committed. As one said, “We are not leaving these villages, so we will only make them better for us to live in.”
As a Kenyan, I draw motivation from these community leaders’ efforts working toward Kenya’s Vision 2030 of creating a better society. As we launch into the next phase, I am eager to continue working with community members to create a clean, fresh environment for us and generations to come.