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Tried and Tested Selling Techniques

Despite tight trading conditions there are many ways to respond to the market place.

Steven Viviers




In our last article we discussed how to develop a true customer focus. This month we focus on how best to respond to your market place by identifying new trends and ‘benchmarking’ best practices, learning from the competition, clarifying your unique business strengths and weaknesses, and planning marketing and promotional activities.

Getting started

By becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and by subscribing to relevant trade journals, you increase your exposure to business networks and the latest information and trends. Most chambers are mandated to support small companies in their quest for new opportunities.

This is achieved through a number of services (including enterprise development, business intelligence and training) and opportunities to swap ideas with similar minded individuals. Over half of chamber members are small, medium and micro enterprises with turnovers below R5 million per annum, so they’re definitely the right company to keep. The tough trading climate means chambers have adopted a more pragmatic view and spend more time helping companies drive efficiencies, reach export potential and run their operations within national compliance regulations.

The CapeChamber of Commerce, for example, aware that ‘deal flow’ is critical to small business growth, has developed an aggressive pan-African policy which sees it connecting with other African chambers, governments and agencies. A quick glance at online magazine news stands like, which showcases several categories of South African magazines, including free digital ones, reveals there are many options to choose from. You should search trade publications related to your industry sector and preview latest issues (if you can) before subscribing to the actual publication of your choice.

Learning from competitors

In order to learn from competition one needs to set aside all prejudices and be prepared to learn from other companies. Having correctly identified your competition you can begin to plan comparative shops. Be sure to think as broadly as possible. Competition in food retailing, for example, is diverse and numerous. Everyone from the large supermarket across the highway, to speciality food retailers/food standalones at the end of your driveway, convenience shops at garages and numerous ‘mom & pop’ style small businesses are competition.

It’s important to conduct thorough desktop research before you leave home. Search websites for clues on strategy and product positioning; check advertising and promotional activities in the mass media (local and / or national press, radio and on TV). Is your competition focused on selling ‘quality’ goods or price leadership? Once you view them close-up, what messages are prominent in their window displays? What happens once you’re inside their premises? Take note of everything from shop layout through product range or catalogue, to price-points and approach to customer service. Write down all key information and take photographs if you can.

Benchmarking for success

Benchmarking is the process of comparing your company and your processes/performance to the best in the trade. Aspects typically measured are the quality of goods and services, time to manufacture product and or delivery schedules and costs. The process of benchmarking involves identifying the best companies in your sector, or in another sector where similar processes exist, and comparing them with your own.

In this way you learn how well you are performing and, more importantly, the reasons certain companies are successful or not. Benchmarking is especially effective when used to measure performance against a specific indicator (cost of a product, productivity improvements, cycle time or defects per product) resulting in a measure that is comparable with your own performance. Benchmarking then allows you to develop new objectives to improve or adapt specific processes with the aim of increasing your performance. Benchmarking may be a once-off event, but is usually an ongoing, continuous improvement process.

There is no single benchmarking process, but you should first understand your own processes in detail and then identify potential benchmark companies. Having completed the benchmarking exercise one can then determine the gap and / or process differences. Finally you should set targets for future performance and communicate to everyone involved. Having implemented the changes you should review improvements on an ongoing basis.

SWOT analysis

To understand your own business strengths and weaknesses you will need to start with a simple analysis. Ensure you have the right people in the room in the first place. Quality input ensures quality output. Then be brutally honest about your company and its potential. Jim Collins in his best-selling book ‘Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t’ calls this confronting the “brutal facts”. Follow this up with a simple SWOT Analysis. Ask your team what your company’s strengths are i.e. what you are particularly good at? Conversely. What are you weak at i.e. what does your company struggle with? What opportunities exist for you to take advantage of (given your unique strengths) and what are the threats from competition i.e. how can they beat you at what you do? Once you’ve established your strengths and weaknesses you’ll be able to identify your unique offering (see last month’s article).

Defining your market

Another trick is to define your market in really simple dimensions. Let’s illustrate with an example. Take a cosmetic product i.e. body cream or lotion. Does the product fall into the category ‘therapeutic’ or ‘beauty’, high or low price? Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion for example would be a therapeutic product (with variants including Aloe & Cucumber for skin repair etc.) and also low to medium-priced. Your task is to plot all your competitors on a scale with just two axes.

Now answer this question for yourself. Where does Ingram’s Camphor Cream fit into the picture versus say a Coty or Lancôme product? Having identified your customers (we also completed this exercise last time) you can now begin to plan your marketing or promotional effort.

This is a subject on its own, but it starts with identifying an annual calendar of events. Start with the bigger ones e.g. seasonal changes & weather patterns (rain or shine), then public holidays & major sporting and / or special events in your geographical location. Finally record competitor activities (the more history you have the easier it will be to predict their behaviour). Now plan your promotions. If you’re a small food retailer do you want to expose an existing product or launch a new one?

When is the ideal time to do this – at the beginning of a week, on a Monday say, or a Friday in the case of boerewors – when it sells well as most customers braai on weekends? When would you advertise croissants? On a Monday – right? Because that’s when most customers buy them. Plan special events to coincide with the reduction activities of competition, your own reductions and clearances on weekends when most customers shop you – and so on.

Steven B. Viviers is a partner of Customer1st, a change management consultancy operating in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. He has worked in retail most of his life with British Petroleum, Chesebrough-Ponds Co., Edgars Stores and Woolworths Ltd. He has consulted to various governmental and business organisations in South Africa, Namibia & Zimbabwe on the subject of Service Improvement. You can contact him at

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Why Does Good Client Service Matter For E-commerce?

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

Clarissa Fleischer




You might be scratching your head a little at the notion of an e-commerce store (yes, an online store) worrying too much about client service. After all, customers are using your website to purchase goods and avoid interacting with salespeople, right? But client service, or customer support as it is also known, is vital to running a successful e-commerce business. This is because consumers still expect the same level of care as they would from a brick-and-mortar store.

You will need to devise an e-commerce digital marketing strategy that can enhance your client service offerings. For example, you’ll need to put together an e-commerce email marketing customer base so that you can easily send out promotional emails, newsletters and reply to complaints. Your e-commerce website design should focus on the needs of the customer, so be sure to invest in a design that caters for them. Read on to find out why good client service is vital for e-commerce.

You can sell hundreds of products…

but bad service will always be remembered. For e-commerce in South Africa and around the world, client service is one of the major touchpoints that you have with your clients, meaning that you need to provide the best experience possible.

Online shoppers will likely have no physical contact with your brand, making client service the best chance to show customers that you truly care about them. Remember that customers want more than just a place to shop. They want an e-commerce business that is going to provide them with information that is relevant and help that truly solves a problem. You need a dedicated email address, Twitter handle, Facebook page or a live chat option where clients can contact you easily and efficiently.

Trust builds client relationships

By providing good customer support, you will be building trust between your customers and your brand. For example, if you provide personalised emails with product recommendations to loyal customers, they will see that you are taking note of their preferences and value their input.

As an e-commerce brand, you need to do more than brick-and-mortar stores to generate trust, which is where client service comes into play. You should look into building a customer support strategy that allows you to meet consumers at every touchpoint of their journey. This will show customers that you are a brand that is taking note of what they need. The reason for building trust is that, in the online shopping world, customers do not have to go very far (just a few clicks, in reality) to find another store with another shopping cart to fill. Focusing on what your client needs is a sure-fire way to improve consumer trust in your brand.

You will gain valuable insight

Client service is not only good for the customer, but can be good for your business too. You can gain valuable insight into the wants and needs of your customers as well as issues that you might not have known existed in your business.

Feedback that is constructive can help you to make changes in your business to improve client service and will allow you to introduce new systems for dealing with complaints and queries. If customers are repeatedly asking you if you will be offering new or different products or if they are asking about specific products that your competitors offer, you can use this information to meet their needs and keep your site up-to-date with trends and products. Even transactional emails can be helpful, as these will allow you to improve or enhance your checkout process.

It can make (or break) your brand reputation

Reputation is important, whether you are a physical store or an online one. And in the age of social media, can you really afford to offer bad client service? Today, people take to Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram to share their experiences with brands, whether their experience was positive or negative.

If your customer support is bad or inconsistent, customers will likely head to your Facebook business page or write something on their own profile for the world to see. And how you deal with this is also a part of your customer support. Be sure to always strive to provide customers with a positive interaction no matter the situation. Even if the customer is not always right, they should never have negative connotations with your brand.

Clients come first

Client service is one of the most important aspects of any e-commerce business. While you might think that all your consumers want is a place to shop without having to deal with crowds (an introvert’s dream), they expect the same level of client service they would receive in an actual store.

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

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3 Ecommerce Trends You Must Prepare For In 2019

The ecommerce explosion continues, but there’s also an element of evolution. To take your ecommerce presence to the next level, take advantage of these emerging trends.

Tiffany Delmore




Retail ecommerce sales continue trending upward, and consumer confidence has reached an 18-year high. Conditions are ripe for brands with an established ecommerce presence, but that doesn’t mean business as usual will always suffice. Instead, the organisations that excel will be those with a forward-thinking approach to ecommerce.

Ecommerce is thriving because enough companies have kept up with changing technology and consumer expectations. For example, as mobile purchases increased in popularity, ecommerce retailers began specifically catering to this shopping avenue. Mobile purchases constituted the majority of ecommerce sales in 2016, and eMarketer estimates that 72.9 percent of online purchases will be made on a mobile device by 2021.

Device preferences aren’t the only thing in transition – search methods are also quickly evolving as technology becomes more sophisticated. According to predictions from ComScore, 50 percent of all search queries will be made via voice by 2020. And it’s likely that more people will be audio searching for buyable goods soon: Devices such as Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show are integrating voice and image search so that shoppers can see what they’re asking to buy. Ecommerce retailers that can’t cater to a voice-activated future (Read: optimise for natural language search) will quickly lose ground to their rivals.

Ecommerce companies are also partnering with payment processors to make online purchases as frictionless as possible. By offering payment options such as PayPal, Venmo and Amazon Pay at checkout, customers can leave their credit cards in their wallets, so buying becomes even easier.

No matter how mature your ecommerce presence might be now, you need to keep looking ahead to ensure future success. To elevate your ecommerce efforts in 2019, take advantage of these three emerging trends.

1. Sell your wares on social

Effective marketing is about optimising your messaging to appeal to your target audience, but messaging won’t matter if the audience never sees it. Meeting your audience members where they spend their time is crucial, and here’s a tip: If your customer base is online, it’s on social media one-third of that time.

If you’re not selling on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Most social media platforms now support integrated buy buttons that transfer users to your website to complete a sale, and apps such as Instagram and Snapchat offer shoppable stories, too.

Retail brands like Jordan have also capitalised on event-related social commerce opportunities. For the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, Jordan partnered with Snapchat to offer access codes to an exclusive sale of the special edition Air Jordan III Tinker shoe. Users could only receive a code if they were near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the sneakers sold out in 23 minutes.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

2. Remix the buyer’s reality

Mixed reality technologies have yet to see mainstream adoption, but they have made huge strides in that direction. Vertebrae’s launch of its AR/VR ecommerce platform Axis aims to prove that the tech is much more than a novelty, and IKEA’s Place app provides shoppers with an AR-powered glimpse into what IKEA products would look like in their own homes.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” says Michael Valdsgaard, leader of digital transformation at Inter IKEA Systems.

AR might not be everywhere yet, but ecommerce retailers that successfully incorporate AR capabilities into the shopping experience stand to gain a significant advantage over their competitors.

3. Strengthen your Amazon strategy

Amazon has established a pre-eminent place in the ecommerce ecosystem, and Salmon’s “Future Shopper Report” indicates that 68 percent of American shoppers head straight to the site when browsing for products. What’s more, even when customers plan to buy from another site or store, 80 percent read Amazon reviews and check prices there.

Clearly, mastering Amazon is critical. Trevor George, founder and CEO of Amazon marketing agency Blue Wheel Media, says that the only way for sellers to win on the platform is through ads: “The future of Amazon is advertising, and if a brand wants to make money now and into the future, it needs to be able to navigate Amazon’s advertising platforms.”

According to George, that means investing in auto-bidding tools such as Prestozon or Ignite, isolating the right search terms, and incorporating negative keywords so your appliance company isn’t spending money to appear in searches for Easy-Bake Ovens.

The ecommerce boom isn’t waning anytime soon, and capitalising on it requires a thoughtful strategy that keeps your brand ahead of the competition. Keep social commerce, mixed reality shopping and Amazon advertising on your mind through 2019.

Read next: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

This article was originally posted here on

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How To Get Ready To Sell Your Business – Advice From Marnus Broodryk

If you’re thinking about selling your business, there are some critical steps you need to make first.





A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information.

Some entrepreneurs are ‘starters’, they like to start a business, get it off the ground and then flog it. Others are ‘growers’, they look for existing businesses and have the ability to grow them beyond their original value. Both will probably get to the same end point: Selling the business.

But entrepreneurs are often misled when it comes to the sale. They have put everything into the business and it is worth a huge amount to them because of it. But buyers are seldom willing to match the price, because what is being sold, and what is being bought, are not the same thing. Sellers see the emotional and financial investments they’ve put in; the buyer mostly looks at one thing: Profit.

Effort does not equal profit. The balance is out.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

Prepare for the challenges of selling

Once you get to market you will soon realise that there are, unfortunately, fewer buyers than you’d like. Unlike listed companies, you can’t sell shares easily and quickly on a public platform. Instead, you need to find an interested individual or business, many of whom just aren’t buying what you’re selling.

Some of them are, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most SMEs must put their faith in a cash deal, since banks will never finance anyone wanting to buy them. In reality, this means that you may have a genuinely interested buyer for your business, who won’t be able to get finance for it from the bank. So, after a few months, you’re back to square one. After a few rounds of this cycle many entrepreneurs will just sell out of desperation, forgetting what the business could actually be worth.

Selling a business can be very emotionally draining and this will be compounded by many people who will waste your time and mess you around. You spent a large portion of your life building this, but others will not see it the same way you do. Ensure that you prepare and mitigate against all of those issues, and have the stomach for the fight.

Always keep the end in mind

If you are looking at exiting your business, it is crucial to allow enough time to prepare yourself for it. Maybe you’re simply tired of your business and you just want to get out, but, because the business is not in a great state at the moment, you’re too fed up to care, and you simply don’t have the energy to fix the issues.

You’re at risk of letting your business go for next to nothing. All the hard work for hardly any reward.

Related: Selling Your Business To Your Business Partner

If you have the end in mind, and prepare for it, it can be a very different, more lucrative story. A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information. You need to have proper financial records for your business and you need to be able to show the potential buyer how much the business is making and how it is making it. It sounds so elementary, yet most entrepreneurs don’t have financial information when they want to sell their businesses. If you think you may want to sell in the future, make sure you’re keeping solid records now.

If your business’s financials are messy, start cleaning them up at least twelve months before trying to sell your business. Remove all your personal expenses from the business and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded, and that your taxes are up to date and accurate. Work with your accountant to prepare a sales pack with all your financial information, including details of your clients, employees, suppliers, what your strong and weak points are and how the business could grow in the future. It’s at this stage that you can pick up on issues and resolve them before taking your business to the market, making it a much more attractive product.

With some (more) hard work, you will be in a great position to sell your business, you will have serious buyers and the valuation that you deserve for all your hard work. If you don’t, why bother?

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