I was studying by the Mona School of Business at the University of the West Indies Campus in Jamaica very late one night when I witnessed one of the most intriguing examples of entrepreneurial genius.
While sitting outside in the cold, reading, I looked up to see a young man walking toward me with what seemed to be two large boxes of assorted pastries in his hands.
He stopped at a table just in front of me first. I quickly figured out exactly what he was carrying, as the young lady at the table exclaimed – “cheesecake!”
The young man was selling cheesecakes and donuts, which he had obviously purchased from Pricemart. He had a wide selection of pastry and he was extraordinarily polite.
“Hello goodnight, may I interest you in some cheesecake or a donut,” he said as he approached my table. I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
“No thank, you – not tonight” – my stomach growling as I refused.
When I, and my study partner declined his first offer, the shrewd businessman widened the scope.
“Not even if the donut was chocolate?” He tilted the box to my dismay to reveal even more reasons to spend.
Lessons for every entrepreneur
As a consumer, I submit that every entrepreneur can learn at least five things from that late night donut salesman.
1. Timing is everything
When you are studying late at night, out in the cold, for hours on end, with no immediate option for food, you are a sitting duck for a donut sales man.
Another example of amazing entrepreneurial timing in the Jamaican context are the umbrella salesmen who appears out of nowhere, everywhere as soon as clouds form.
2. Meet the consumer at the point of their need
It is no special venture to sell donuts and cheesecake. That’s not special in itself. When you are out in the cold, insufferably “peckish,” dying for a snack to distract you, hungry, miserable, frustrated with all the work you have to do and someone walks right up to you with an assortment of quality cheesecakes, donuts (and chocolate anything!) – it’s very special.
3. Offer quality products
A man walking with donuts for sale on the middle of the night is not the most appealing description of a business model. There are many people who just do not eat from people on the street.
The clean, reputable Pricemart boxes communicated a range of messages however, that the salesman himself may not have been mindful of.
“Oh, its Pricemart – I shop there.”
“Oh, its Pricemart, the box still looks clean, I don’t think he could have had these in the sun”
4. Offer products they cannot resist
“Cheese cake!” The girl in the table beside me exclaimed as the young salesman maneuvered the box in front her eyes. She was not only ecstatic, she was enchanted.
He won her sale because he made her an offer she could not refuse.
5. Be someone that people want to buy from
All the above mentioned points were enough to win my support, but the mannerism of the salesman was the icing on the cake.
- He greeted us well.
- He spoke clearly and eloquently.
- He simply offered us his products for sale and moved on.
Also important to note:
- He was not beggarly – “Wha yaaah say boss, support mi thing nuh?”
- He was not, you know – “Wha yaah say boss, yuh nuh waah nuh doughnat?”
- He did not heckle us or abuse when denied the sale – “Just support mi thing nuh. How yaah gwan so yute” (not boss anymore).
Can you identify with these lessons? What other points about entrepreneurship can you learn from this?