Evolution of the SMSU Program
LESSON LEARNED: The enterprise engagement model needs to evolve over time.
While the pilot project focused on developing a scalable and sustainable model, a key hypothesis going into the Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up (SMSU) project was that improving business capacity would develop sustainable capacity and motivation for the market to continue driving uptake. SMSU experienced several iterations of enterprise engagement.
Iteration 1: Three months of holistic training (start of program)
As part of the project’s effort to improve the LBOs’ capacity, the training program was revised to be more holistic and intensive. When businesses signed up to receive training, they selected “a la carte” according to their needs and interests:
- Latrine Manufacturing and Quality Control
- Sanitation Knowledge
- Latrine Installation and Maintenance
- Order Management
- Sales and Sales Agent Management
- Business Planning
- How to work with government and NGOs
- MFI Credit Test Program – 9-12 months for select Latrine Business Owners (LBOs)
The only mandatory courses were sanitation and latrine installation and order management. All businesses were welcomed to sign up for training, but those who chose to receive the complete training package were prioritized as it was most likely those businesses would be well-equipped to succeed. After the core training was finished (typically three weeks), the LBO and Sanitation Teacher (sales agent) would continue to receive coaching from project staff. Regional Managers provided weekly one-on-one coaching to the project staff, observing them on the job and giving feedback and advice. The Regional Managers in turn also received coaching from the sales consultant from Whitten & Roy Partnership (WRP), and the Deputy Program Director, both of whom observed their coaching and training and gave feedback. Although the coaching was very intensive and hands-on, it proved to be key to improving the sales skills of latrine businesses and sales agents.
Iteration 2: Extended support with ongoing coaching (late 2012)
As time went on, it became clear that LBOs were not becoming fully independent and sustaining high sales after only three months of support. Therefore, the project shifted to an “extended support” model, continuing to offer support beyond three months and monitoring the LBO’s progress towards independence along four categories: Production, Delivery, Administration, and Sales Development. With this strategy, the project continued to encourage and train LBOs to adopt all aspects of training, including sales management. LBOs interested in managing their own sales received the training and coaching to do so as originally envisioned. These LBOs were phased out of training and coaching once the project had determined that they were capable of continuing on their own. For those LBOs who were not motivated or capable of managing their own sales team, but did well in at least two of the other areas, project staff continued to provide support in sales management.
Iteration 3: Project-managed sales (early 2013)
While some LBOs showed capacity and commitment to managing their own sales force, the majority preferred to only focus on production and delivery. As such, the project shifted focus from training and coaching LBOs to training and coaching sales agents directly. This shift saw positive results in terms of sales and a greater optimization of resource allocations. Because the project staff managed sales agents, sales agents were no longer beholden to a unique LBO. Rather, project staff were able to better align demand and supply; stronger sales agents could be matched up with stronger LBOs who could meet the high demand that the strong sales agents were creating. LBOs were able to focus on their core competencies of production and delivery. The increased management support for sales agents also improved commitment and reduced turnover. Of course, the evolution of the market facilitation model challenges initial notions of sustainability and scalability. While there is not yet an answer for the best model, it is important to recognize the constraints of focusing on SMEs to sustain active promotion activities.