GDC has designed a guide for last mile distributors interested in adding drip irrigation solutions to their product portfolios. The guide includes a sales support tool that Mwezi, together with drip experts, developed to enable their sales agents to effectively demonstrate, sell and maintain drip irrigation systems. This is a brand agnostic tool that you are invited to reuse and adapt for your own purposes.
Here are – as an excerpt – the important findings and recommendations:
When onboarding sales agents and managers:
- Don’t try to train all sales people. Build a specialist team at first and capacitate them through a mix of remote and physical training, with the latter covering the installation and maintenance of drip irrigation systems.
- Carefully select agents that will specialise in sales of drip irrigation systems. Agents that were identified by Mwezi had to meet a few criteria. The agent should have been with the company for at least six months, have a good reputation, be motivated to learn, and have a good sales track record (selling solar home systems and technologies for productive use).
- Incentivise agents to both sell and service. Mwezi’s sales agents are given commissions whenever they issue after-sales services to clients.
- Keep refining how you communicate on the benefits of drip irrigation. Mwezi’s training materials for sales agents seemed to work fine, but continual feedback collection and iteration is required to make sure agents talk about product benefits that are most relevant for their clients.
When using the drip irrigation sales tool:
- Complex design parameters can be simplified. For example, to determine soil characteristics, sales agents can be trained to put their hand in the ground. The drip irrigation sales tool guides sales agents in gathering practical data from the farmer. The determination of the water requirements and system design is probably too complex for non-specialists.
- The site survey and customer interactions are essential to gather data and explain the system design to the customer. Many small-scale farmers are aware of drip irrigation but are not sure what will work for them.
And, when selecting a supplier to work with:
- Take time to select the best supplier. An ideal supplier is prompt to avail product information with fair pricing, and available for after-sales services such as installation and training.
- Clarify the expected roles and responsibilities of the supplier. Mwezi, for example, agreed with the supplier that they would deliver the products ordered in a timely way, and offer installation and after-sales services. The supplier also agreed to train the Mwezi installers on installation and maintenance that they could pick up. If you partner with a local irrigation provider, you could offer to finance the installation or charge for the farm survey that the sales agents conduct with the sales tool.
- Expect to do some work yourself. After ordering the drip kit components, Mwezi preassembled the parts to ensure that no components were missing. Using communication channels like Whatsapp, Mwezi staff could easily liaise with the supplier in case parts were missing, or when agents faced unforeseen difficulties with installing the systems in the field.