How Herschel Oppel Leveraged His Job Connections to Boost His Start-Up Sales

How Herschel Oppel Leveraged His Job Connections to Boost His Start-Up Sales


Vital stats:

  • Player: Herschel Oppel
  • Company: Retail Revolution Group
  • Past achievements: Group MD, Platinum Group (Holders of Jenni Button, Hilton Weiner, Urban Degree, Aca Joe and Vertical Clothing retail brands)
  • Contact: +27 (0)82 559 3004

In Brief

  • Understanding – and leveraging – corporate pain points
  • Systematic relationship building for B2B sales
  • The art of sales pipelines and the trick of always closing.

Inspire Yourself

Start every year by envisioning what your best year ever looks like. Once you have that, you can set your mission and targets to achieve that year. Without targets, you’re shooting blind, and you’ll never achieve phenomenal sales results. You need to know what to chase.

Related: Before You Quit Your Job, Do These 10 Things 

When Herschel Oppel left his senior management position at retail giant Platinum Group to launch his own retail consultancy, he knew that the secret to his success would be his ability to access CEOs at major retailers. As anyone who has worked (or tried to work) with corporates knows, accessing the decision-maker is difficult enough; holding their attention even more so.

“What’s become apparent is that reputation is key. Most of my industry experience so far was spent at the Platinum Group, and I’m not afraid to use it. I was instrumental in the turnaround of the Aca Joe brand, and that, along with 15 years of management and senior management experience, gives me credibility

I can leverage when asking for a meeting.

“CEOs and senior managers are incredibly busy. Before you approach a retail group or corporate, understand that you’re asking for a slice of very valuable time, so you’d better make the meeting worth their while.

“For me, that means that first meeting is never about the pitch. It’s a relationship builder. I use my contacts, network and in many cases LinkedIn to ask for a chat over coffee. I don’t indicate I have a sales pitch I’d like to share. This is all about the prospect, and sharing my story.

“Once we do meet, I tell them details about Aca Joe’s turnaround, and what I’ve learnt from my 13 years of annual trips to the UK and Europe, evaluating the best global retail brands. The more personal the better – relationships are built on personal stories, and credibility is the direct result of offering valuable ideas, so it’s a two pronged meeting.

“I want the CEO I’m meeting with to walk away feeling smarter and more informed for having spent an hour with me; I want them to return to the office with some new ideas about how the industry greats are approaching their sector, and how they can leverage those ideas in their business. And I want them to feel like they know me, and can therefore trust me.

“Based on this, I then ask for a second meeting, and that’s when I really come prepared. It takes a large amount of time and effort on my part, so I need to be sure that this really is a company that I want to do business with, and that is interested in potentially doing business with me, before I formulate the pitch.

“And then I become a mystery shopper at their stores. The best way to find pain points and devise solutions is to experience the brand. I formulate a strategy based on careful analysis of my personal experiences with the brand, benchmarked against international standards, and with a number of solutions ranging across budgets.

Again, I’m drawing on the first meeting, where if I did my job right, the CEO shared some of his pain points with me, enabling me to understand his business needs better.

Related: 5 Questions Struggling Entrepreneurs Must Ask Before Taking a Job

If I can’t prove the value I’m adding there and then, there won’t be a third meeting. Corporate decisions take time. Show the value upfront, build relationships, and don’t be afraid to leverage your networks and experience.

“At the end of the day, corporates are made up of people, and people do business with people, so be a supplier or partner they can trust.”

Nadine Todd
Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.