4 Lessons in Sales and Marketing from a Roadside Vendor The tact with which these vendors sell you their products, and their modus operandi has precious lessons in sales and marketing.

By Prerna Raturi

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Walk down Delhi's Janpath, the crowded lanes of Sarojini Nagar there, Gariahat in Kolkata, or any of the many roadside stall markets anywhere in the world, and the vibrant energy of the place takes you by surprise.

The infectious energy, products displayed for maximum visibility, gently coaxing vendors, and even without wanting to, you come back loaded with merchandise you didn't intend to buy! There's something to be said about the tact with which these vendors sell you their products, and their modus operandi has precious lessons in sales and marketing.

Here are four top learnings:

Know your customer:

Street vendors mark their target customer from far away. Those selling embroidered items and clever copies of miniature paintings will go for foreign tourists, while the one with purses that are copies of hot-off-the-ramp and value-for-money bagpacks will call out to a college-going girl.

At the same time, the one with the latest collection of video games will keep his eyes peeled for a young, college-going men or executives. They know that trying to sell miniatures to the young man, or video games to the fashionable young girl might not be as fruitful; this saves everyone time and effort.

Speak their language:

Speaking to the customer in her language is crucial; advertising and marketing programs stress about it all the time, and yet, it isn't easy -- you need deep insights into customer behavior for this. Street vendors are pro at this.

Thus, a vendor will point out to one-size-fits-all jackets to a man who might need an XXL size but may feel conscious asking for it, and talk about how it makes you look "compact" and put him at ease about his weight.

The embroidered cushion covers will be sold as "authentic Indian", the bags and purses will come with the tagline of "affordable" with how this one is the latest copy of a Hermes clutch, and that one like the bestselling Louis Vuitton clutch, and the names of bestselling video games will rattle off the tongue of the vendor easily.

Handle rejection:

This is something most people don't take well, no matter how emotionally mature they are. For street vendors, however, most people walking by their wares, occasionally sifting through them, asking for the price half-heartedly, and then moving on, is all in a day's work.

A number of times, the deal falls through because the two parties can't settle on the price. But the vendor doesn't give it a moment's thought – he's too busy putting the items back for display, and calling out for other customers the next second.

Making the customer win:

No purchase from a street vendor comes without some hard bargaining. The joke goes that no one enjoys it if there's no to-and-fro on the pricing – neither the customer, nor the vendor.

Once the deal is struck, however, the clever vendor makes it appear as if he's actually making a loss on the sale; "I'm doing it only for you," most are wont to add, handing over the shopping bag, making the customer feel not only privileged but happy, and proud of herself. Which customer won't want to come back for the same experience?

Prerna Raturi is writer, researcher and editor for the past eight years and writes for a number of newspapers and magazines. She started her journalistic career with Business Standard, and has also worked in the field of women's empowerment. Her interests include reading, writing, and adventure sports.

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