Sales: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Sales strategist Matt Seitz figuratively parachutes into developing markets in places like Bangladesh and Cambodia and advises them against being the stereotype of a used car salesman. Consultants like Seitz represent a vital link between poorer markets where entrepreneurs have developed innovations to help rural farmers be more than subsistence survivors by increasing crop yields.

A consultant with Securing Water for Food (SWFF) technical support vendor, Whitten & Roy Partnership, Seitz knows sales coaching is necessary if innovators in the global program are to succeed. SWFF is funded by USAID and the governments of South Africa, Sweden, and the Netherlands to meet a looming crisis in usable water availability as the world’s population expands to nine billion by 2050.

Innovators are attempting (and succeeding) in developing and marketing ways to increase farm crop yields with less water while also meeting other socio-economic goals set by the SWFF program. The ability of innovators to sell their products to farmers represents, in essence, where the rubber meets the road. This is where Seitz, and other SWFF technical advisors and consultants like him, come in.

My experience is that women are generally better salespeople from the standpoint that they are often better communicators. They are not always the decision-makers, but they are definitely the main influencers in purchasing.

Seitz lives thousands of miles from his developing market clients in sunny Orlando, FL., but finds his home a convenient launching pad for any destination where SWFF needs his sales acumen. He’s a well-practiced road warrior, having worked with WRP as a lead consultant for seven years, much of that time with SWFF innovators.

One client Seitz and his WRP Team have worked with is Lal Teer, a large seed producer in Bangladesh, which is doing pioneer work to combat the impact of salinization in low-lying and coastal areas. “We presented a methodology to make sure the company’s sizable sales force was on the same page when delivering messages to farmers,” said Seitz. “They didn’t have a systematic way of walking a farmer through these challenges.”

In other words, the sales team was failing to create a link between the product and the company, specifically how and by how much the company’s seeds could have the farmer have a more substantial crop and increase profits.

“When we spoke to them, everyone was selling each in his or her own way, and with a large organization like Lal Teer, that makes it hard to scale and figure out just how well the company is selling,” said Seitz. “What we did was streamline the sales conversation.” He explained that it was not a script but a framework from which to draw sales messages where the customer can be talked and walked through in order to feel comfortable with the buying decision.

“We approach sales from the standpoint of what we call ‘decision intelligence’ or DQ,” he said. “If a potential buyer is going to purchase, they first need to understand their problem, and what the cost would be if that problem is not solved.

“In terms of a Lal Teer customer, the cost of the problem is lower crop yield without saline resistant seeds, and that means lower profitability for the farmer.”

What makes for a good salesperson? Seitz harkened back to a recent experience he had when buying a car in the United States. “There’s a common misconception, and we run into this with various clients who think the main attribute is someone with sales experience. Too often, we find that experience is a repertoire of bad sales practices,” said Seitz.

That’s why he added that the sales field often has a bad reputation. Salespeople feel they have to fudge the facts or use high pressure to meet their monthly goals. “A lot of organizations let their sales team do the kinds of things that give the profession of sales a stigma,” he added. “The caricature of a used car salesman is a perfect example. 

“My wife and I recently bought another car. We were excited about it, but we ran into probably the worst salesperson in the world.

“At one point, we simply said no, and left. As we got into our car, the sales manager rushed out to us, waving, ‘I’ve got a deal for you.’ We left.”

In sales, Seitz said there is often a difference between the “decision-maker” and the “influencer” and that often he finds women make better sales representatives than do men. “My experience is that women are generally better salespeople from the standpoint that they are often better communicators. They are not always the decision-makers, but they are definitely the main influencers in purchasing,” said Seitz. “I think that’s true in almost any culture.”

Seitz said one of the most important factors in selling—whether in developing markets or mature ones—is creating trust. 

“Once a customer is lied to or feels they have experienced something shady, you have ruined the relationship,” said Seitz. “It’s important in sales to have repeat customers. If that doesn’t happen, you’ve lost.”



USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Governments of The Netherlands and South Africa invested $34 million in Securing Water for Food (SWFF) to promote science and technology solutions that enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

This story was developed through the SWFF Social Impact Storytelling Initiative which was established to document innovator journeys and social impact as they work to improve the way water is being used for agriculture. #socialimpact #innovation #agriculture #water