With a flexible and creative way of thinking and a strong mind, Bui Thi Ngoc Duyen, a young woman, has successfully been applying the knowledge and skills she gained during a training course in her agricultural business. Her dream: becoming a safe agricultural product distributor.
Small seeds of change for a fruitful harvest: the story of Duyen's business
Living in Ha Long city, Quang Ninh province, Bui Thi Ngoc Duyen, 29 years old, hopes to become a safe agricultural product distributor. Before, Duyen studied at the Quang Ninh College of Teaching, and then changed to selling shoes and clothes online. In 2012, she started her business of agricultural products and worked in a shop of local OCOP products: OCOP stands for 'One Commune One Product' and is a Vietnamese government economic development program for the rural area.
Change mind, widen vision
In September 2021, Duyen participated in the training course “15 days to become a professional salesman with MEVI – To build up an ecosystem in the sustainable food supply chain” organized by Rikolto and MEVI. She learned about sustainable agriculture, the business model canvas, business strategy and planning, time management, marketing, customer relation, and product branding.
During the course, she established connections with some local agricultural producers and distributors in Quang Ninh, Ha Noi, and some provinces in the South of Vietnam. She decided to expand her selling products to fresh and local agricultural ones. Instead of investing in spreading various types of products as before, Duyen selected certain key staples to sell, including daily consumables and drinks. She made a detailed business plan for each type of product, with concrete goals for targeted revenue and customer quota. She also flexibly combined selling products with promotion programmes to boost sales and handle inventory at the same time.
“The sales mindset is key. Before, I purely focused on selling products. I tried to sell as many products as possible. Learning from the training course, I changed this mindset. I focus rather on the ways to bring as much value as possible for the customers. Thanks to that change, my business has improved remarkably”, shared Duyen, happy.
Duyen also spent more time studying the products she sells, such as ingredients, usage, instructions to use and preserve the product, the process from the seed to the table, and related certification documents. Sheshows them to the customers, not only directly at the shop, but also online via social media such as Facebook, Zalo, and e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, Lazada, Tiki, etc. With her Canva Pro account, courtesy of the course, Duyen designs her own banners, and visual communications products to attract more customers. This way, the customers know more about the products and select to buy more quickly; meanwhile, Duyen saves more time in handling questions of customers about the products and avoids negative feedback due to confusion or misunderstanding.
“I want to be a safe agricultural product distributor”
Apart from the retail business, Duyen rearranged her volume of work to have more time to develop the distribution model. The total number of her customers has reached over 2000 people, an increase with about 50% compared to before the course. Many are her close customers. At the same time, the groups of customers have been widening from retail customers to agents and distributors in Quang Ninh and some provinces in the country.
Duyen has developed her strong points on customer relationships. With the knowledge and skills she gained during the course, she positions each group of customers and makes periodic customer care plans. She often shares and discusses with her customers their daily lives and the journeys to use the products. She handles refunds or changes of products quickly within the day. “The key to my success in customer relations is sincerity. I always treat my customers as my close relatives and am willing to support them whenever they need me. It’s how I make my values and give values to the customers. Thanks to this approach, my business has been developed.”
The average revenue of Duyen’s business has increased from 300 million VND to 500 million VND per month after nearly one year. Her income has also increased from 10 million VND to 15 million VND per month. These are new seeds of change for the ambitious Duyen.
It was the first time that Rikolto cooperated with MEVI to organise the training course “15 days to become a professional salesman with MEVI – To build up an ecosystem in the sustainable food supplying chain”. The training course was part of the Good Food for Cities programme of Rikolto to build up a sustainable food supply chain. In the period 2022-2026, Rikolto will continue to collaborate with MEVI in formulating a more comprehensive and systematic strategy to make urban food environments and food supply chains more inclusive and resilient, by focusing on building and managing a digital healthy, sustainable and nutritious (HSN) food distribution platform, training and supporting HSN food businesses and start-ups, mobilizing local resources and engaging relevant stakeholders, disseminating lessons learned and contributing evidence-based policy recommendations favouring urban and peri-urban HSN food production, distribution, and consumption.