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Sales Prospecting

Dealing with Big Corporates

Loren Morais, GM of Operations and Supplier Management at Eqstra Fleet Management Services, reveals the things she looks for when choosing SME suppliers.

Nadine Todd

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Loren-Marais

Being a proudly South African company, Eqstra recognises how important SMEs are to the economy. They are the driving force behind most of South Africa’s economic growth and job creation, contributing approximately 55% of current private sector employment.

“We are in a fortunate position as the procurer of fleet related services and products in that we have a wide range of SMEs that we engage with in the form of tyre and fitment centres, panel beaters, as well as vehicle servicing suppliers, to name but a few,” says Morais.

What criteria do you use to assess an entrepreneur’s company?

When we engage with a supplier, we do so with the view that it’s going to be a long-term partnership where we can leverage off each other and capitalise on any possible synergies. We therefore look for suppliers that share in our values and our commitment to excellence. Then we evaluate them on the following criteria:

  • The technical assessment/audit ensures that the quality of their service/product and the infrastructure and facilities they have in place is sufficient to provide us with our required high service levels. In addition, because the majority of our suppliers represent Eqstra Fleet Management to our customers, we conduct a reference check on them as it’s crucial that they conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner.
  • We are committed to transformation and all it represents, and therefore the prospective supplier must have a BEE score of a level 4 or better. Fortunately, SMEs usually qualify as QSEs and therefore automatically qualify.
  • As a member of The Carbon Protocol of South Africa we have undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce our impact on the environment and we expect the same from our suppliers, regardless of their size. So each prospective supplier needs to submit their sustainability initiatives that have been implemented and those they are in the process of implementing.
  • Last but not least is pricing. We ensure that the pricing structures are beneficial to both parties, where they retain enough margin to ensure profitability and we remain competitive. We are adding value to our internal and external customers while reducing costs without compromising on quality.

Once they have met the required criteria, we proceed with contract and service level agreement (SLA) negotiations. A monitor and control development process follows to ensure that the relationship is managed and maintained effectively.

Related: How To Pitch the Very Rich

What are some of the most common errors that SME owners make when pitching to a large corporation like yours?

They often tend to under-estimate the scope and complexity of the service required and consequently end up over-selling and under-delivering.

What traits impress you when sourcing suppliers?

Their passion for their own business and people, as well as their ability to effectively and accurately understand our needs and then adapt and innovate to meet them.

What traits raise red flags when dealing with SMEs?

Over-reliance on the owner or boss as it stifles the business and can adversely impact on service delivery. It’s also an indication that processes are not clearly defined which can lead to all kinds of administrative and financial complications.

Another trait which we take cognisance of is how long they have been in business. According to studies, on average in South Africa about 70% of all new SMEs fail for various reasons. So although it does not stop us from entering into an agreement with them, we proceed more cautiously, and then depending on how critical they are to our supply chain, we may do an additional long-term viability study in conjunction with our normal assessment process.

What advice would you offer SME owners who are looking to secure the business of big corporate companies?

Do your homework. Know their market and their competitors. Know the exact type of service or product that is required by them and all the implications for your business. Then tailor-make the solution for them highlighting how this will differentiate them from their competitors and the benefits that can only be derived from using you as the supplier to this solution.

What are the pros and cons of working with SMEs?

SMEs don’t usually have all the red tape that most big corporates do, which allows them to be more flexible and very reactive to our needs. They also have a more entrepreneurial culture which drives innovation in product and service delivery.

However, they do not always have access to the necessary resources (financial, IT, skills etc) that will allow them to reach their potential. We are very technologically driven and service orientated, and are sometimes hampered when SMEs are not able to meet our requirements because they do not have access to the correct resources.

Have you tried to pitch a big corporate before? How did it go?

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

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Sales Prospecting

Want Higher Response Rates? Start Treating Your Sales Prospects Like People

You can’t expect to sell anything if your prospects don’t trust you.

Sujan Patel

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Sales isn’t an easy job. It takes the right personality and a certain set of skills to be successful. That’s why whenever I’ve hired for a sales position, I’ve found that it’s very hard to find that right person.

That’s because so many salespeople have the wrong attitude when it comes to communicating with their prospects. They’re so focused on the numbers game – from pricing to commissions to quotas – that they forget that they’re talking to real people.

I can’t tell you how many times a sales rep has come to me complaining about how a prospect has ghosted him (or her), and wondering what he did wrong.

But the truth was, he was the problem. You can’t come charging out of the gate, pushing the sale and expect the prospect to fall in line. Sales is about communication, about nurturing that relationship and building trust. And you can’t expect to sell anything if your prospects don’t trust you.

Why your prospects don’t trust you

Sales reps already have a reputation for being shady. In fact, according to research from HubSpot, only 3 percent of buyers trust sales reps. And for good reason! After all, sales reps are doing so many things wrong:

  • Talking too much and not letting the prospect share his or her needs
  • Grilling the prospect with too many questions
  • Being overeager when it comes to making the sale
  • Going into a conversation with a prospect unprepared
  • Not taking the time to understand the prospect.

Related: Sales Strategy Example

The point is, it’s through trust that you find success. Prospects know when they’re being treated like dollar signs, when you’re talking through a script and focused only on the transaction. And the minute they feel mistreated, they’ll walk away. Believe me.

That’s why when talking to the prospect, you have to forget about the sale. I know that sounds like the exact opposite of what you should do, but hear me out. If you’re too focused on the sale, your prospects won’t trust you. They won’t open up and share their needs, and they won’t believe in the value of your products or services. So, you have to forget about the sale – at least temporarily.

What do you focus on instead? Building that trust. And the best way to build trust is through open and honest communication.

How you can improve your communication with prospects

In any relationship, communication is key, and sales are no different. How you communicate will dictate how your prospect responds to you and whether or not he or she will ultimately buy from you. That’s why having strong communication skills is essential.

Here are the three things you need to do to communicate effectively with your prospects:

1. Connect

The first thing you need to do is slow down. Don’t be in such a rush to talk about your products. You need to nurture the prospect and ease him or her into the idea.

Start by getting to know this person. Ask questions, and let the prospect do the talking. Better yet, research your prospect ahead of time to find some common ground. Maybe you both like the same sports team, or maybe the prospect wrote a really interesting article recently. Whatever it is, lead with that commonality to start building a rapport.

The goal is to get the prospect to feel comfortable around you and then open up more and share his or her needs.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

2. Listen

Remember how I said you should let the prospect do the talking? According to HubSpot, 69 percent of buyers surveyed said that the number one way to create a positive sales experience with them was to listen to their needs. You need to truly hone in on what your prospect is saying. Then you can identify where you can help.

Sometimes, that may mean you discover that your product isn’t actually right for that prospect. Rather than trying to push the product further, you can part ways gracefully. Don’t look at this scenario as a bad thing; it will free you up to focus on other prospects who are a right fit for your product.

3. Solve

In truth, sales reps are more like consultants – or at least that’s how they should behave. As you’re listening to your prospect’s needs and pain points, focus on what the right solution for those pain points is. Once this person has explained his or her situation, show how your product would be of value to that situation specifically.

The key is to see things from the prospect’s perspective. Put yourself in his or her shoes. You’ll find that your prospects are people just like you, and they want to be treated with respect. They don’t want to be “sold” to; they want to solve their problems. And if you can provide that solution, they will likely trust you.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Prospecting

3 Steps To Healthier Client Relationships

Do you have clients that constantly push the boundaries, who have unrealistic expectations and inconsistent feedback? What if you could have a client base of only people who value your work? Firing the wrong clients can help you get there.

Dominique Sandwith

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It’s not easy to admit that a client is actually doing your business more harm than good. When it gets to the point that you are spending all of your time and energy trying to please one client, then it’s time to look at what they are contributing to your success.

In the early days of your business, it’s understandable to hold on to difficult clients as every penny counts. However, as time goes on, firing a disproportionately time-consuming and challenging client could free you up to go looking for new and better business.

Here are three steps to take to healthier client relationships:

1. Get perspective

Step back from everyday tasks to make some notes about the client relationship in question. Ask yourself what you value in your client versus what drains your energy and puts you in a bad mood.

Understand what the deal-breakers are and whether the client in question has crossed the line. It’s possible that you just need to have a frank conversation with the client, but often these kinds of client relationships are too far gone.

Related: 1 Simple Rule To Avoid Bad Client Relationships

2. Fire the wrong client

There’s no one-size-fits-all for this process – you have to do this in your own way, but be clear on the reasons. If the client has been as unhappy as you are, they will most likely understand that this relationship is not a good fit.

However, there are times when a client has no idea that they are being unreasonable or thinks that this relationship is productive. That’s when it’s difficult to explain why you are deciding not to take their money.

Make it factual and don’t bring in your feelings. If you have examples of situations or email threads as proof show them that this is not how you believe a successful relationship should be. Be clear on your values and what you envision for your business.

Be polite and professional throughout the conversation and focus on the relationship fit, rather than pointing out their personal flaws. Explain the next steps and how the handover process will take place. You want to make sure that the end of the relationship is as amicable as possible.

3. Find the right clients

Firing a difficult client is likely to affect your bottom line in the short term but it will give you the motivation, and headspace, to go looking for the right clients.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you know what you want in a client – make a list of things you won’t stand for again with future clients, and one that describes your dream client.
  • Use your time and resources wisely, and aim high to secure clients that will be worth your while.
  • Identify potential clients and projects that are profitable, that will inspire you and that you enjoy working with.

Tip: make sure the Terms and Conditions on your website, and in your quotes, are well-defined. State your prices clearly, don’t leave room for interpretation. Don’t back down if a new client quibbles over a cost estimate. Take complaints of this nature as a warning sign and walk away.

Related: How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?

Don’t ever think that you’ve wasted your time with the wrong client. Each client you work with helps you to refine your offering and progressively understand what you’re good at. Firing a client is never easy, but sometimes it’s a necessity for the successful and sustainable future of your business (and your sanity).

When you fire the wrong client, you can streamline your business to play to these strengths, and ensure you offer a world-class service or product.

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Sales Prospecting

7 Steps To Master The 80/20 Revenue Model

Imagine a world where 80% of your revenue came from 20% of your customers. Now what will it take to make it your reality?

Emma Donovan

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We are often so focused on new leads that we forget to master the art of upselling and cross-selling. To generate more income from existing customers you need to focus on quality over quantity, and be strategic in your approach. Here are seven steps to help you on your way.

Understand what you want to achieve

When you upsell, you encourage customers to buy a higher-end product or service than the one in question – such as an airplane seat with more leg room. Whereas cross-selling tempts customers to buy related products that satisfy additional, complementary needs. A simple example is when you check out of an online store and the shop tempts you to buy similar or complementary products that you suddenly just can’t live without!

Tip: Identify which one makes sense in your business, and what the additional or complementary offering will be.

Nurture relationships

Long-standing relationships and loyal clients are worth their weight in gold. Make sure they know they will remain a priority, even when you are busy with bigger or more profitable projects.

Constantly over-deliver and exceed expectations. Make yourself ‘irreplaceable’. 

Related: This Is What Bevan Ducasse Did When He Realised wiGroup’s Revenue Model Wasn’t Working

Provide solutions

Don’t presume you know what your customers want or need – do your homework and ask them. You need to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. Three simple ways to do this are to:

  • set up regular one-on-one calls
  • catch up over coffee
  • or email them a quick survey to complete.

Add real value

Ask yourself, ‘how can I help this client achieve their goals or overcome this challenge?’ You need to find ways to add real value to make the additional expense worthwhile. Also make sure your pricing is fair and competitive, without selling yourself short.

For example, one of the products we cross-sell at Yellow Door is video content. It’s a key part of a holistic marketing strategy and is a great way to bolster content for launches, social media and newsletters.

Paint a picture

To excel at upselling and cross-selling, you need to help customers visualise the value they will get from the higher-priced item. Whether it’s a 30-second video, an infographic, or a well worded email – take the time to explain not only what the product is, but how it will benefit them or their business.

Incentivise

Offering a reward or incentive can increase your upsell or cross-sell conversion rate. For example, offer free shipping or a discount if the client purchases two or more products or services.

Related: Bob Skinstad On Making An Impact With The 80/20 Principle

Create capacity

Ensure your team has the expertise and capacity to deliver the relevant service or product at the right standard. Alternatively, find a non-competing service provider to complement your offering and agree on a referral or commission structure. This way you can expand your offering without increasing your overheads.

The key to success is to understand what your customers value and then respond with products, services or features that meet those needs.

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