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?
3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone
Cold calls generate follow-up conversations only 10 percent of the time, and lead to in-person meetings less than 2 percent of the time. Use these three strategies to skip the cold calling and get straight to decision-makers today.
Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a sales cold call, which is virtually everyone with a phone number, can attest to how annoying these unsolicited sales attempts often are. Even if you stay on the line long enough to hear what the caller is selling, your first question probably isn’t, “Can you please tell me more?”
It’s more like, “How did you get my number?” Or maybe, “Can you please remove me from your calling list?”
Yet cold calling has been a widely used sales tactic for decades, and is often considered a rite of passage for veteran salespeople. But it’s high time for that to change. There are simply more efficient and effective ways to sell products in the digital age.
Time not well spent
Cold calls generate follow-up conversations only 10 percent of the time, according to a Harvard Business Review study. The other 90 percent of the time, they’re most likely alienating potential leads, even the ones who may actually benefit from the product or service being sold.
Moreover, not even 2 percent of sales calls lead to an in-person meeting, according to HubSpot research. That means you have to spend a lot of time on the phone before you get the chance to make an in-person pitch.
All of that time spent researching prospects, refining sales scripts and training your sales team to pitch your product on the phone, drives up your cost of customer acquisition immensely. Not surprisingly, HubSpot also reports that cold calls cost roughly 60 percent more per lead than acquisition methods like email marketing and social selling.
Cold calling is an aggressive approach, and today’s consumers don’t want to be pressured into making a purchase, they want to buy into your product and your company on their own terms. The internet has changed how consumers make buying decisions, and buyers now want to be in charge of the purchasing process.
Instead of interrupting customers with annoying sales calls, rely on the following three guidelines to build a better sales strategy:
1Start With Inbound Marketing
The guiding principle behind any successful inbound marketing program is to provide value first and sell second.
If customers understand the value that your company is offering, they’ll be far more likely to do business with you.
HubSpot helped pioneer this approach, and now companies like Sapper Consulting are taking it to the next level where they combine precise targeting and unique, creative email content with the insights — generated by big data to help companies get B2B leads and secure high-quality meetings with decision makers.
A successful inbound marketing campaign is based on a specifically defined audience or a set of customer personas. Companies like HubSpot and Sapper help people target content directly to your personas and establish a voice that resonates with them. According to a study by marketing company Captora, 61 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from companies that use custom content to reach them. Clearly, knowing your audience is key.
2Don’t be afraid of public speaking
The popularity of TED Talks and similar forums is evidence of the fact that people want to hear what experts have to say, either in person or over video. But even if you don’t consider yourself an expert yet, public speaking can help you achieve that status.
By speaking at industry-relevant meetings and events, you can start developing brand recognition and a unique perspective on topics related to your business. Plus, you can repurpose speeches as content to use in your future inbound marketing efforts.
A well-delivered speech can be one of the most effective ways to generate sales because you’ll often have prospects in the room when you’re speaking. Grab their attention during your speech, and you’ll likely be handing out business cards afterward.
3Keep an eye on ROI
Content marketing is only effective if you actually use your content. In 2013, SiriusDecisions reported that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of B2B content goes completely unused. That’s a problem. It shows that many companies are essentially throwing away time and money and calling it content marketing.
Instead of wasting precious resources on your content marketing efforts, clearly define the business objective you hope to achieve with each piece of content you create — beyond page views and click-through rates.
Work to understand the ROI you’re getting out of each piece of content. Quantify your customers’ pain points and create a sales strategy around the solution to those pain points.
Thought leadership and content campaigns will also help you engage with consumers and get a better sense of how your content is contributing to sales. Then, repurpose high-performing content and update content that becomes dated to continue attracting new leads.
Likewise, you should keep content that demonstrates your company’s capabilities and other valuable knowledge gated so that you’re not giving away intellectual property — such as industry analysis, buying guides and RFP templates — for free.
Cold calling is a time-honored practice, and it’s likely not going away anytime soon.
But with these tactics, you’ll have much more success acquiring new customers and gain a big advantage over competitors still glued to their phones.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
When Your Market Is Declining Fish Where The Fish Are
Shift your focus from barren and ‘over fished’ markets to customers who are looking for the right solutions.
Just as some anglers forlornly cast their lines into fished-out waters, some companies and sales people continue to focus on markets where nobody is buying any more. Sales and profitability decline and business owners blame downgrades, corruption and labour issues, while their real problem is chasing non-existent sales.
Many sectors in the economy have declined, and suppliers to those sectors will face reduced sales and increased competition. The poultry, steel and mining industries have experienced sharp reductions and face serious challenges. The automotive and manufacturing sectors have experienced reduced volumes, cost cutting and retrenchments. If your primary target market is in any similar sector, and you continue to operate as if nothing has changed, you are taking very high risks.
In some instances, the decline of the target market stems from an event like the horrific massacre at Marikana and the changes that brought to the mining industry. Then you know you need to react, but most change is gradual, and some entrepreneurs may not notice, or shut their eyes to the bad news.
Others cling to the hope that this decline is temporary, and do nothing. We all love our comfort zones and find many excuses to stay there, and so we sink with the declining market.
Making the right change
Once you have appreciated the problems with your current markets, look for similar markets that are stable or growing. For example, if you sell mining supplies, the construction industry may offer good prospects. Be creative; think how you can use your expertise to supplement declining markets by entering more successful ones.
Focus on high growth business sectors. Perhaps health and fitness, education, green energy or IT services could provide opportunities. Where could you leverage your technology, source of supply and sales processes to enter growing markets?
Look for success stories, there are many, including those profiled in this publication. It is clearly preferable to sell to a company growing rapidly than to one clinging to the edge of the cliff by its fingernails. If you sell business to business, examine the state of your customer’s customer.
If your customer is operating in a declining market, you will follow them downhill unless you take action. Find ways to use your products and services to make them more competitive, to halt their slide and grow at the expense of their competitors.
This is a good time to look deeper into the real needs of your existing customers. While we are selling well, we assume that we are satisfying customer needs appropriately. Are we really doing that? Are there other products or services that would be valuable to our customers? Find out, and then provide solutions.
Get out of your comfort zone
It’s easy to say that you should move out of your comfort zone and switch your efforts to more lucrative sectors, but less easy to do. Institutional knowledge, systems, databases, credit records, sales processes and products are all geared to the once-successful industries.
Instead of throwing away all of this know-how, it makes sense to adapt the systems and information to new markets in a gradual transition. Start new initiatives by withdrawing resources from the old and using working processes and skills to open new markets.
You are likely to need a core of your operations for your existing markets and customers, but your focus should be on the new initiatives.
Your sales teams may need additional training to work in new areas. They must learn to understand the customers and their needs and adapt to their terminology and business practices.
Continual retention of sales people is a good idea even without change; it is highly desirable if you want to enter new markets successfully. Train all staff who will be a part of that drive, so your whole company becomes capable of delivering great products and even better service to new customers.
Successfully enter new markets
- Which sectors are similar to yours?
- How can your current solutions be repackaged for different uses?
- How can your solutions help customers to be more competitive?
Attention: The New Consumer Currency
Spendthrift customers are unwilling to part with their attention absent the CX factor.
Spendthrift customers are unwilling to part with their attention absent the CX factor.
In the Customer Experience War, brands need to either minimise customers’ attention spend or make the spend worthwhile, or both. Expectations are high.
Less is more
Customers can get what they want through voice recognition now. Busyness equals status.
Brands need to eliminate the journey between here and there. Think groceries direct to your fridge.
Painful attention suckers must go. Old problem like a laptop ban on flights? Qatar airways will loan you a free laptop during your flight.
Eliminating certain customer experiences is the way forward for brands. Assure the customer that any negative socio-economic impacts of your product are minimal so they don’t need to do the research.
On the flipside, help customers multitask to maximize their attention spend at one point in time. Audiobooks are winning out on ebooks.
More is more
Customers are seasoned experience collectors. In a social media frenzied macro-culture oversaturated with the flashy, only the most authentic transient tales count.
The masses don’t just want the quick, easy and dead. Detail, delivery, delighting in delicacy is the new deal.
Customers demand the unexpected. Playfulness in an over-adult world is a very real phenomenon. Think rainbow-coloured foods and Mexican tequila rain.
Amidst the hype, people want to feel better about themselves. Purposeful progress on a path toward self-actualisation and a story worth sharing is worth its weight in attention spend. Make it look like an adventure, and your brand is on its way.
Museum workouts and trancing out to Chromatherapy yoga show that you are an edgy go-getter expanding your transcendental horizons. Event spaces more permanent than pop-ups heighten the experiential community. Creative hubs for coworkers fuse funkiness while easing the isolation funk.
Experiences need to be tailor made to unique specs. Minimalistic approaches can also still grab attention far more powerfully than grandiose firework displays that fizzle out quickly.
Seamless processes, enthralling product
Netflix aims to make watching great content as easy as possible, but wants you to watch the content.
Optimise your CX strategy through a pragmatic approach. At times you will want to spare the customer’s attention spend, and at times you will want to encourage it.
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