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The B2B Battlefield: How to Make Successful Corporate Sales

Jordan Stephanou

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So you’re running a start-up that targets corporate clients. All you need is a few corporate signatures on that paper, and all of a sudden you’ll have a sky-rocketing business with an exciting guaranteed revenue stream every month, right? Right… But it’s not quite that easy.

Maybe you decided against a B2C (Business to Consumer model) because the marketing spend to win over one consumer at a time was not worth it, or that the South African consumer market is not big enough in your industry, or that it’s better to get 10 paying corporates rather than a million paying individuals. You’re not alone, and you’re not wrong.

Both models have their major pros and their major cons. Trust me, I know. But here are some of the lessons I’ve had by pursuing the B2B model.

The pitch: Anything other than a resounding ‘yes’ is likely a ‘no’

First step is to get the pitch. There is a huge temptation to go about it as passively as possible, hoping that the deal will fall in your lap with a well written email. Reality is a little different however. To secure most pitches, a combination (or all) of in-person approach, phone call, linked-in message and email could be required. Once you’ve secured the pitch, book it in both parties’ calendars and hope that there’s no last minute cancellation. The exciting part awaits.

The sad fact of human nature is that people don’t always say what they mean, or mean what they say. Possibly it’s because we don’t like to hurt each other, or it’s because we avoid uncomfortable discussion as if it’s the plague.

Whatever the reason, it’s quite rare to receive “hard no’s”. The reality is that after a pitch, anything other than a resounding yes, or a “when can we start”, or “where can I sign?”, is likely to be a soft no; they have no interest in doing business with you. The entrepreneurial spirit is one that looks at the positive in everything, so it could be very dangerous for a glass half-full entrepreneur to receive a soft no, because this person will very much believe the deal is still alive.

Once again, trust me, I know. I recommend tempering the enthusiasm by looking out for any sign of an excuse during the pitch, and addressing it then and there. You know how hard you worked to get that meeting – so make sure you leave with no question unanswered, knowing that you did everything you could to win that business, or learnt everything you could to enhance your product, service or pitch to win future business. If you don’t get their business, it just means you didn’t get their business right now. Extract the positives and move forward.

1. Balance patience & momentum: They don’t operate like start-ups

It’s often said that a corporate is the most important thing to a startup, but a startup is far from the most important thing to a corporate.

As SMEs, we just have to accept that. Where we would respond to an email in a heartbeat, it may take our corporate contact 2 weeks to respond; especially if they are decision-maker. They don’t need our business, but we need theirs. As such, it’s important to remember when following up on a successful pitch that they are big, they are busy, and they have multiple balls being juggled at once. It’s likely that our proposition is the least important to them, and may be seen as a luxury.

Remember, they didn’t pursue you, you pursued them. So we have to be patient. But this is the difficult part; we have to balance patience with the desire to keep momentum. It’s an oft-said phrase that “time kills deals”. As start-ups, we need to be respectful that our prospective client is busy, but also very direct and honest with them in terms of our position and our goals and objectives.

If we are direct about when we want to conclude a deal and why, it could scare them away, or it could lead to them prioritizing the deal as a priority. Either way, it’s better to know where you stand rather than have something drag on in that mythical pipeline for months or years as false hope.

2. Their emails are not their priority

After the pitch, it’s easy to get in an unhealthy pattern. That pattern could look something like this: Send follow up documents directly after the pitch; hear nothing back from the prospective client; send a follow-up email the following week; hear nothing back; send another follow-up email the following week; hear nothing back; send another follow-up email the following week etc. into perpetuity until you go crazy and re-apply for your old job.

I have learnt that busy decision-makers in the corporate environment don’t just sit at their desk all day reading and responding to emails. They’re on the move, in important meeting after important meeting, flying to London followed by a quick trip to Doha and then 10 days in New York. They’re not setting the wheels in motion in response to your proposal in that spare 30 minutes in the airport.

As such, when they are available, you need their full attention and you need to get them to commit to the next step. Either a phone call or in-person visit is effective with this. Getting through to them and asking them the difficult questions about the next step is the only way to be top of mind, and to find out if they are serious about this deal or not.

From my lessons, I recommend emails as secondary to the phone call as a way of confirming what was discussed over the phone in terms of next steps.

3. Improve the product / service – become irresistible

With all else said, there is only one way to consistently increase chances of getting a deal over the line. That is, simply, have an incredible product or service that solves a real problem. If you have pitch after pitch where the response is luke-warm, you should ask them before leaving “what would this product have to do / look like for you to sign up right now?”.

Once you’ve had a few meetings like this, you will understand exactly what your market needs. If you build that product or service that the market craves, you’ll be turning away clients because the demand for your business will be so high. Become indispensable. Build something so good that your clients would be crazy to say no to.

4. Build a pipeline

Your business should never rely on one client saying yes. Putting too much emphasis on one deal will make you desperate, and desperation is the easiest way to scare someone away – relationship, business or anything else. Your market should be big enough that a rejection here and there is water under the bridge and simply a learning.

Closing one deal will provide a proof of concept and credibility that can be leveraged to close the next deal. Each subsequent client should, in theory, be easier to win than the previous one.

Finally, if the product or service is constantly being enhanced according to the market’s needs, if there are enough clients in the pipeline, and if the follow-ups after a great pitch are being done effectively, deals should go through systematically. At the end of the day, closing a deal shouldn’t feel like hard work. The best way to win business is by building a great business that solves real problems.

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Founder of tastePal / Startup Shack / Job Creation Project with African Union & European Union / One Young World

Business

Optiven Foundation Feted For Transforming Lives Across Kenya

Inversk Review

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Optiven Foundation has been feted for it’s role in transforming the society. This was at The Voice Awards held at the Louis Leakey auditorium in Parklands Nairobi on 16th August 2019. The event which was the first to be held in Kenya by it’s owners based in Netherlands, attracted a number of dignitaries and was officially addressed by the Deputy President Dr. William Ruto.

The award to Optiven Foundation was received by the Optiven Group General Manager, Mary Wacukah who is also a trustee of the Optiven Foundation. Speaking shortly after receiving the award Mrs. Wacukah “this award is a true reflection of what the foundation stands for which is to make a difference in the lives of the community.

” She commended all those who support the endeavors of the foundation which she noted has been a great input towards ensuring that the community we live in is a better place saying, “The Optiven Foundation is supported by Optiven Limited and well wishers who come together to ensure that our brothers and sisters live in dignity and their lives are transformed.

Truly when giving you do not just do it for the other person, but it also teaches us to be grateful for what we have.” While appreciated the trustees and philanthropists, she added that the foundation is wholly supported by Optiven Limited where 5% of all profits from real estate are used to cater for the myriad needs of the Optiven Foundation.

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Mrs. Wacuka was accompanied at the event by the Chairman of Optiven Foundation, Mr. George Wachiuri, Ms. Jerusha Abasalom – the Diaspora Manager, top associates of Optiven Limited and who are also philanthropists in their own right Mr. James Mugo and Mr. John Owiro and Ms. Joyce Njambi, the team leader for the Optiven Foundation among others.

Ambassador Pastor Elvis Iruh, the founder of The Voice Magazine in the Netherlands and who partners with Moving Minds Africa to bring the award to Kenya congratulated the team from Optiven Foundation saying their impact in society cannot be underestimated. Ambassador Iruh further noted that the team from Optiven had been receipient of another award which was bestowed to the Chairman Mr. George Wachiuri in 2019 at the Le Koning Hotel at the Hague in the Netherlands in 2018.

He added that both Mr. Wachiuri and the Optiven Foundation had been leaving print marks in the lives of people across the world with the work they are doing in transforming lives through philanthropy. He singled out the efforts to renovate and rehabilitate children living at the Soweto Children’s Home in Kayole where the Optiven Foundation has built classrooms and dormitories as well as provided the daily needs for the children who are fully dependent on the foundation.

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ABOVE: Partners visiting with the Optiven Foundation ahead of The Voice Awards ceremony at the Louis Leakey Auditorium on 16/8/2019

The Optiven Foundation works with the less fortunate in society in order to make their lives better.  Since it’s inception, the foundation has worked in the areas of environment, health and education among others. With key partnerships with different counties, the foundation has been involved with various cleanups including in Kajiado County and Nairobi County.

In adherence to the UN Millenium Development Goals, the Optiven Foundation has adapted environmentally friendly models on all it’s projects including use of biodigesters to save on water, afforestation to increase forest cover as well as participating in community projects that ensure sustainability. With regard to education, the Foundation launched the Soaring Eagles Program with the key mandate to provide opportunities for education for students who have challenges in paying for their education but are keen on performance.

Over the years, Optiven Foundation has given scholarships to students across the country and in every country. On matters health, the Optiven Foundation has provided support to communities through hosting medical camps, monetary support to cover health matters, civic education on the importance of insurance especially covering medical matters as well as community facilitation to persons living with disability. Through it’s Mobility that Brings Smiles campaign, Optiven Foundation has been able to partner with different associates to provide those living with disability with wheelchairs.

Through partnerships with individuals of good will, the foundation has since donated wheelchairs to deserving cases in Nairobi County, Nyeri County, Machakos County and Kiambu County. As the need for the said wheelchairs is immense the foundation is seeking partners to further spread the mobility that brings smiles through enabling persons living with disability to be able to be mobile.

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UN Appoints Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima as UNAids Executive Director

News Team

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The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has appointed Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima as the UNAIDS Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General. Her appoinmtment follows a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board. The UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations made the final recommendation on the appointment to the Secretary-General.

Ms Byanyima has been the Oxfam executive director for six years since her appointment in January 2013. She takes over the UNAids roles from Malian Michel Sidibé who stepped down in May, following accusations of serious mismanagement. Mr Sidibé was also accused of creating “a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority.”

In her acceptance, Ms Byanyima, 60, said she was “honoured” to be joining UNAids “at such a critical time in the response to HIV.”

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” said Ms Byanyima. “The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic.”

Ms Byanyima began her career as a champion of marginalized communities and women 30 years ago as a member of parliament in the National Assembly of Uganda. In 2004, she became the Director of Women and Development at the African Union Commission, working on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, an international human rights instrument that became an important tool for reducing the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.

She holds an advanced degree in mechanical engineering (in energy conservation and the environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.

Source: UNAIDS

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Agribusiness

The Solution To Battling Army Worms In Kenya

Inversk Review

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The ministry of Agriculture requires an additional Sh320 million emergency funding to try and stop the crop-eating caterpillars known as fall army worms that are a threat to maize farming as they may affect food security. The assistant director of Agriculture has said.

“We have requested the Treasury to allocate us an additional Sh320 million because the fall army worm invasion is bigger than initially thought,” said Clement Muyesu. These funds will help farmers access identified pesticides which are considered costly and also use insecticides effectively.

About The Worm

One theory explaining about its origins states that the eggs or the caterpillars themselves hitched a ride in some imported produce, or even made it on board commercial flights. The armyworm whose binomial name is Spodoptera exempta also called okalombo, kommandowurm, or nutgrass armyworm, is a moth.

This worm is a very dangerous pest, capable of destroying entire crops in a matter of weeks. The larvae feed on all types of grasses, early stages of cereal crops like, corn, rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, and occasionally on coconut.

The army worm gets its name from its habit of “marching” in large numbers from grasslands into crops. They tend to occur in very large numbers during the rainy season, especially after periods of prolonged drought. The worms breed fast and can migrate 100 kilometers a day.

Kenya is suffering from a drought that has left about 2.7 million people in need of food aid and driven up the inflation rate.

“The rainfall was better this season so we all expected a very good harvest. The outbreak of fall army worm undermines what we expected would be a different story,” Mulila Mitti said by phone from Nairobi, where the FAO is held a meeting to discuss the infestation.

Still in the same meeting experts said that spotting the pest early when it is still a larva is key to prevention. They also warn that unless the spread of the fall army worm is contained, the attack is likely to result to a crisis.

Counties that have been invaded by the worms are Nakuru, Trans Nzoia,Kwale, Uasin Gishu, Taita Taveta, Busia and Bungoma.

Why it is considered a threat

It is of unknown origin – Governments, communities and farmers have no previous experience of dealing with the new pest. In other words there hasn’t been a permanent way of dealing with the pest since its origin is unknown.

It travels over a long distance – The adult moth migrates long distances and that’s how it spreads to many places in the world.

It is very invisible – The fall army worm goes right into the stem of maize plants, concealing itself from being seen and preventing farmers from spotting the problem early.

It is very destructive – This pest targets maize and other cereal crops, but it also attacks cotton, soybean, and potato and tobacco crops. When it does invade, up to three-quarters of the crop can be destroyed.

Some solutions have been suggested according to a BBC new report such as use of insecticides in its early stages, burning the crops, digging trenches, employing natural predators, like birds, to eat the worms.

A long term solution should be decided to avoid Kenya being banned on exporting its agricultural products, like other countries which have been confirmed with outbreaks, have faced.

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