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[Idea/Concept Not Complete]: Solar Consulting Malawi - Analysis of Agents in the context of channels - July 2018

by
Harshil Vinod
Harshil Vinod | 7 months ago | in Solar Consulting

Introduction:


The Malawi energy team is looking at using different agents for selling solar products. PEV has already used field guides, interns, village chiefs as agents and are looking at using previous customers and teachers as a possible sales channel. The team has been working mostly with field guides in the past two months and have formed good relationships with them. Although field guides are a viable option as a sales channel, the other options must also be considered to make an informed decision on which path we go. They have been key in making most of the sales we have made in July as well as setting up community meetings.


The interns have been used only once in July due to PEV having to work around their exam schedule. The two interns that came out with the energy team on a surveying trip helped secure 2 door-to-door sales and worked well with PEV and the local villagers. Although this specific instance went well, more data is required on the interns before beginning to compare them to field guides as a viable sales channel. The interns work for free, since working with Project Everest counts as work experience for them although we are prepared to pay MWK1500 for travel and food costs for the day.


PEV has been working in conjunction with village elders during July to vouch for customers who buy the solar product. They are being paid MWK600 per customer they endorse as commission with a MWK150 initial payment and a MWK450 payment after the customer has fully paid off their product. This provides incentive to the village chief to chase up people who haven't paid their weekly payment.


In terms of using previous customers, this is a relatively new idea and will be an experiment that will occur during the December trek to Malawi. The idea is to use well-spoken customers who have fully paid off at least two products to work with us as agents and make more sales within their local village. Two customers have already expressed interest in working with PEV and the experiment would have to be structured in a way where the agents have to earn their trust in selling units by selling an increasingly incrementing amount of units.


Using teachers and attracting customers through the schooling system is something PEV has also been looking at. Selling the solar product through schools educates the children on solar energy and also generates the parents' interest in the product. There is currently no payment system devised to pay the teachers for selling our products.


The energy team has come up with this table that weighs ups the pros and cons of using different types of agents. Eventually one of these agents or a combination of agents will be used as the primary sales channel for PEV energy.


Look at attached image to access table.


Summary of Table


For the moment the prevalent method has been using field guides and that seems to be the best course of action currently. The interns show potential since they are so well educated and well versed with business and engineering, they are only lacking in experience and consistent availability. The village chiefs have been partially tested as a sales channel by going through them to set up community meetings and endorsing all the customers. However, they have been known to be unreliable in terms of meeting times and attendance. Previous customers show the most promise as a new sales channel since PEV would be hiring locals who are familiar with the product, the area and have excellent relations with their local communities. Additionally, hiring previous customers creates new jobs in their villages and ultimately boosts their economy. Using teachers as a sales channel is also a promising idea as it appeals to the younger generation, educating them about solar energy while also bringing in the parents as potential customers. As an added bonus PEV could use schools as a distribution hub for selling solar units. The biggest problem with this method is that the schooling year ends in July and picks up at September and is not a consistent sales channel.


Qualitative Results:


Field Guides


  • Worked in conjunction with PEV

  • Good communicators (Validated through number of sales made)

  • Good relationship with local communities (validated by being the intermediary between PEV and the village chiefs)

  • Can be busy when we need them and PEV generally works around the field guides' schedule (have missed a few key meetings or cancelled last minute)

Interns


  • Worked briefly with PEV as agents

  • Capable of making sales (validated by partaking in door-to-door sales and helping secure 2 sales)

  • Need more validation of their skills to be a viable option

Village Chiefs


  • Generally unreliable as agents (postponed/did not attend community meetings on account of having other engagements)

  • Able to gather customers for community meetings (validated by gathering up most of the people for community meetings)

  • Respected by villagers (validated through villagers coming to meetings the chief organises)

Previous Customers


  • Can only start this experiment after customers have bought a minimum of two products and paid them off fully, ensuring their loyalty to us as well as cementing them as reliable employees.

Teachers


  • The energy team talked to a teacher at Nancholi School in terms of using schools as a sales hub in July but they are closing down till September according to school timings

  • Long term viable action

Future Experiments  (December Trek)


Field Guides


  • Train field guides PEV has already worked with to follow the SOP's PEV has constructed for holding community meetings, door-to-door sales, conducting community meetings, sales pitches, financial pitches and finally inputting and analysing customer relationship management information

  • Come up with a payment system for the field guides to work as full-time agents for PEV¬†

  • Have the field guides PEV has selected to arrange and hold community meetings and observe how they are received by the community and if they convey all the messages PEV wants them too

  • Observe how many sales are made under their authority, including door-to-door sales, and collate the data

  • Repeat this process with different field guides in different villages

  • If process goes well then write up an interview transcript to hire more field guides and employ more field guides

Interns


  • Train interns PEV has already worked with to follow the SOP's PEV has constructed for door-to-door sales, conducting community meetings, sales pitches, financial pitches and finally inputting and analysing customer relationship management information

  • Familiarise the interns with the region of Nancholi and the payment plan system

  • Have the interns organise a community meeting and observe how they perform

  • Observe how many sales are made under their authority and collate the data

  • Have the interns make door-to-door sales and collate data

  • Compare the results with that of other experiments

  • If process goes well then put up posters at Polytechnic University to hire more interns

  • Write up an interview transcript and employ more interns

  • Establish a method that works around the interns university schedule

  • Deploy different interns in different villages and establish a routine

Village Chiefs


  • Train village chiefs to follow the SOP's PEV has constructed for conducting community meetings, sales pitches, financial pitches and finally inputting and analysing customer relationship management information

  • Outline the conditions for letting a villager buy a product and tell the chief what PEV is looking for in a customer in terms of being able and willing to make weekly payments

  • Have village chiefs organise a community meeting and observe how they perform

  • Observe how many sales are made under their authority and collate the data

  • Repeat this process with different villages and different village chiefs

  • Collate the sales numbers and compare with other experiments

Previous Customers


  • Shortlist customers who can speak relatively good English, have purchased at least 2 solar units and are flagged as happy customers on the CRM (Click here for more information)

  • Write an interview transcript to further vet them and ascertain their interest, their availability and their willingness to work part-time or full-time as PEV agents

  • Train previous customers to follow the SOP's PEV has constructed for conducting community meetings, door-to-door sales, sales pitches, financial pitches and finally inputting and analysing customer relationship management information

  • Have the previous customers organise a community meeting and observe how they perform

  • Observe how many sales are made under their authority and collate the data

  • Have the previous customers make door-to-door sales around their area and collate the data

  • Compare data with other experiments

  • If experiment is successful repeat the process with more previous customers

Teachers


  • Go to Nancholi School and obtain expressions of interest from faculty in working with PEV as a sales channel

  • If the teachers are interested, have them trained to follow the SOP's PEV has constructed for sales pitches, financial pitches and inputting and analysing customer relationship management information

  • Have the teachers pitch to their students and parents and observe how the pitch goes as well as how many expressions of interest they obtain

  • If the results are fruitful then scale up the method to target other schools in Nancholi region and repeat the same process

How to measure success and what to compare between each experiment


  • The number of sales made by each individual in each experiment is to be measured and compared

  • The default rate of each experiments' customers is to be measured and compared

  • The clarity and depth of each experiment members pitches is to be measured and compared

  • The number of potential customers who come to a community meeting should be measured and compared

  • The ratio of actual customers to potential customers at a community meeting should be measured and compared

  • The ratio of how many door-to-door sales versus door-to-door trips is to be measured and compared

According to the results select the top three experiments and find a way to use them in conjunction with each other to work as agents with PEV. Preliminary diagnostics suggest that field guides, interns and previous customers have the highest potential as agents. Obviously if more than three experiments are viable then explore using other options.

edited on 13th September 2018, 05:09 by Justin Hakeem

Wade Tink 6 months ago

Not sure what this post is exactly meant to be! Whilst it has alot of quality content and outlines lots of possibilities around distribution channels it doesn't clearly lay out the metrics around any of the channels and if they are viable. Refer to the comments made on Ben's post with results of community meetings- https://projecteverest.crowdicity.com/post/574864

From what I can see community meetings is looking like your most viable channel and warrants a clear 'channel' post about it with details. Within that, also explain whether you have validated the door to door method and if it is effective using metrics.
If there is assumptions not validated lay that out briefly. Your one about using interns is obvious given you haven't had enough measurements to validate.

The second part of this post appears to be experiment proposals however there is soo much in here (ie. multiple different channel experiments) that it couldn't be considered thought through enough or viable for a team to carry out as a concrete next step. Potentially break it into several experiments and clearly state all the parts as per the experiment design template.

The progress and thinking that the Energy team is displaying through this is great.

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Harshil Vinod 6 months ago

No tears

Reply 1

Wade Tink 6 months ago

Status label added: Idea/Concept Not Complete

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