Professionalized Sales Drive Latrine Uptake
LESSON LEARNED: Small enterprises show low interest in actively selling.
Other models of market facilitation are needed to ensure sustained impact.
Local markets can be catalyzed to meet the sanitation needs and desires of the rural households. Households are willing to buy, and suppliers are willing to sell an aspirational, accessible, and affordable latrine. With facilitation support, enterprises can learn how to profit from selling latrines. The Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up (SMSU) project continued where the previous pilot project left off—focusing on the Latrine Business Owner (LBO) as the main actor driving latrines sales in order to reach more market segments in the rural communities. The hypothesis was that the LBO, driven by profit, would be motivated to support active and direct sales. However, it is observed that, for a variety of reasons, that is not always the case.
Latrine Business Owners have limited capacity and/or motivation to manage active sales and promotions of latrines.
In retrospect, the term “Latrine Business Owner” may have been a misnomer. Rather than individuals focused on latrines as a line of business, they are usually concrete producers who make concrete rings that happen to be used for latrines. Without a doubt, they are sustainable businesses in their own right—they will likely continue selling concrete products even if project activities were to end—but whether or not latrines will remain a significant line of business for them remains to be seen.
In response to this learning, the project’s next iteration of market facilitation focused on directly recruiting and managing sales agents and coordinating with LBOs to match supply and demand. This model of market facilitation challenges the project’s initial understanding of the role and meaning of sustainability—that the business will sustain a high level of demand creation efforts once project support is removed. Given that these enterprises show reluctance for active sales management, the level of latrine sales by LBOs would likely decrease if the project were to remove sales support immediately. The project’s goal is to continue striving for sustainable impact, which may or may not be the same as a sustainable market. Evolving into a social enterprise model might become the most viable option to address market failures at the pace that would better meet public health priorities.
LESSON LEARNED: Professionalized sales and a standardized selling, training, and coaching process is critical for rapid uptake by households and replication across the project.
In contrast to the novice sales process during the pilot project, SMSU focused on professionalized sales, sales training, and sales management. With the support of Whitten & Roy Partnership (WRP), the project developed a sales training approach that included systematic sales training and sales management processes and a package of supporting tools, which were developed in collaboration with 17 Triggers. Project staff were trained and coached on how to deliver personalized coaching based on individual needs of the LBOs and sales agents. From this experience, professionalization of sales is a crucial investment for sanitation market development efforts to ensure that the critical activity of selling is deliberate and based on industry best practices.