Recruiting a Sanitation Sales Team
LESSON LEARNED: Recruit a dedicated sales force
At the end of the pilot project, the sales strategy focused on recruiting village leaders to serve as sales agents, since they were natural leaders with influence. While some village leaders were indeed effective sales agents, there was a lack of consistency, and often they were less motivated to sell outside their village, posing challenges to scale such a model. In the Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up project, the team focused on recruiting against a specific profile–those who demonstrate persuasive public speaking skills, the ability to work at least half time and travel beyond their own village, empathetic ways of relating to customers, and the ability to remain motivated despite the fluctuating nature of sales. The revised recruitment strategy did not preclude village leaders from becoming sales agents, but recruitment no longer targeted them.
Experience throughout the Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up project showed that often the most successful and dedicated sales agents were young, university-aged women who have dropped out of school.
Their young age means that they often have more energy than older village leaders, some even staying overnight in a village to capture higher sales on the weekends. As women they can easily relate to the females of the households. To recruit more similar-minded sales agents, the project recruited at universities and through the social networks of existing sales agents.
CHALLENGES: High sales agent turnover
Sales, regardless of industry and market, generally sees high turnover because it requires initiative, persistence, and an ability to deal with unstable incomes. For much of the project, high sales agent turnover was a challenge given the low-commission rates and the lack of interest from Latrine Business Owners to manage sales. In an effort to reduce turnover, the project tried a number of strategies:
- Increasing coaching and management support for the sales agents from project staff
- Increasing the commission paid to sales agents
- Reducing the waiting time for sales agents to receive their pay by requiring customers to make a deposit, which the sales agents’ keep as their commission
- Increasing work hour flexibility so that sales agents could work from half-time to full-time at times that were convenient to them
The project found that all of these changes helped in recruiting new sales agents but the most effective factor in reducing turn-over was increased management support. Sales agents that meet with their managers more frequently (ideally daily) to receive coaching and encouragement are more likely to stay with the job longer.