What we can learn from street hawkers

I was in Shanghai China last week and had another experience with street vendors or ‘Hawkers’. The hot item that week seemed to be light flashing rolling heels for kids shoes. I lost count how many times I was approached to buy some. It got me thinking about what we can learn from their hustle.

Hawker China

Lessons for Startups from Street Hawkers:

It’s a numbers game. They approach every single tourist. (I stand out in China). Even though we may or may not want the toy they are selling, they don’t let their perception ruin the chance for a sale. They’d rather get a ‘No’, than miss a potential yes.

They take rejection with a smile. They don’t get upset when you say no thank you. Especially if you say it nicely. They understand that you are not rejecting them, but the offer. It’s not personal and they know it.

They go through the range. If one product isn’t right, they pivot and offer another from their range. They give every prospect a few options and work out what they might need. They try and solve your ‘gift or memento’ problem.

They are proactive in retail. If you’re looking, they ask questions and interact with you. They don’t wait at the counter for you to bring an item up to buy. They don’t sit and ignore you looking at their smart phone – like some retail workers do in western markets. They know how to sell in retail. And here’s why, they live on commission, not hourly rates – no sale, no money. What a difference that makes for sales people.

Make an offer: They often let you make an offer. Your price is probably higher than the minimum they’d accept. (Something we could do more often in B2B selling).

They Negotiate: They have flex in their pricing, let the customer have a perceived win through negotiating on price. A large part of what we buy is how we feel when we buy it. They know this and make it fun.

They know the rates: They’re great international marketers, they know the exchange rates of every country and give you the numbers immediately. They live in the customers world.

They are thankful: When you buy, they thank you for your custom. Appreciate your support and do business with a smile.

If we ever want to learn how to sell, then we should pay attention to people whose livelihood depends on it, not those who get a wage for doing it.

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