When social entrepreneurs acknowledge that they must become as expert at selling as they are at product innovation, things change. Erica Mackey, co-founder and former COO of Off-Grid Electric (now Zola), shared her experience in Tanzania: “When you try to hire local salespeople, you find that either they’ve never sold before, or they’ve only sold fast-moving consumer goods. You just can’t sell pay-as-you-go solar to individual consumers and small businesses in the same way you sell SIM cards and cigarettes.”

Eduardo Bontempo, cofounder of Brazilian education platform Geekie, had a similar insight into sales managers. We shared with him our observation that social entrepreneurs often go outside their organization to “find experienced sales managers.” He laughed and said, “Well, I’ve made that mistake. We worked with you to develop a selling system, and we trained our managers to use it. They kept our sales agents on track, and it worked.” He paused a moment, as though to emphasize his next point. “And then we launched an expansion and hired managers from the outside whom we just didn’t have the time to train. They brought their own ideas about selling, and now, half of our sales force is working against the other half. I’m going to x this, and from now on, we won’t ‘hire’ sales managers. Instead, we’ll train them in the system we have developed.”

Read the full article about sales strategies by Roy Whitten and Scott Roy at Stanford Social Innovation Review.