May 10, 2009

Observing street vendors

Every Sunday coming home back from golf, I drive  through a busy intersection where a street vendor 'owns' that specific corner.  I've been observing how we works and it's amazing how much you can learn from the guy.  I noticed that he has a primary product he sells:  car chargers and mobile phone accessories in general.  Today, as he approached my car, he saw I had a BlackBerry on the passenger seat. He immediately pulled a car charger and said it was for my phone.  This all happens in a split second.  He has to work fast during the 3 minutes while the traffic light is red.  You can't get faster customer service than that.

It's interesting to see that he also operates with a helper who sells occasional products according to the calendar and season. A few weeks ago, during the Sao Paulo soccer finals between Corinthians and Santos, his helper was selling flags for fans on their way to the stadium (when I asked him how many flags he had sold by 12 noon, he said 30).  Today, it was Mother's Day here in Brazil, so sure enough, they were selling red rose bouquets.  Similar to what we do back at the office with limited-editions or with our promotional calendar.  However, street vendors change product inventory at incredible speed.

These street-smart salesmen are the very best in their craft.  Thousand of hours in the heat and rain, interacting with millions of drivers has made them hyper-sensitvie to what sells and what doesn't, flexible to adapt and change their product offerings according to what's happening in pop culture. Whether it's carnival season or there's a Madonna concert coming up or the Brazil National Team is playing on Sunday, these guys don't miss a beat.  They know that having something different to sell and being relevant to what is going on, means a better chance to increase their daily income.  

I'm sure there's a lot we can learn from street vendors.  I'll continue my observations next Sunday... 

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