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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 Group is Hiring an IT Support Technician and two More Positions, Here’s the Details

Kimani Patrick

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It’s that time of the year — and it’s a good one if you dream of getting into the real estate industry in a reputable organisation. Optiven Group just announced some dream job openings that would be ideal for you. Applications are open till October 31st 2019. But don’t delay: The opportunities won’t be around for long.

1.    IT Support Technician

The purpose of the position holder will be to provide technical support, troubleshooting and assistance to IT and related systems with technical, hardware, and software system problems such us but not limited to connection problems, inabilities to access data, slow performance, and inefficient programs.

Key requirements for this job include a Proven work experience as a Technical Support Engineer, IT Help Desk Technician or similar role. Good understanding of computer systems, mobile devices and other tech products is also a key requirement.

More details on this position including details on how to apply can be found here.

2.    Software Development Officer

Job Purpose: To design, develop and install software solutions that drive its automation agenda to the next level. Passionate and self-driven individuals are invited to make their applications.

Key Requirements: Proven experience as a Software Developer, at least 2 year working experience. Knowledge of coding language (e.g. python, Java, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, XML, php) and Database frameworks oracle, MySQL.

More details on this position including details on how to apply can be found here.

3.    Foundation Coordinator/Resource Mobilizer

Key Accountabilities: Developing, implementing and monitoring fundraising strategies that includes yearly targets to meet the costs of the current and future programs.

Key Requirements: A bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Social Sciences or Community Development. Preferably to have worked in an NGO or any other charitable organization

More details on this position including details on how to apply can be found here.

About Optiven Group

As a multiple award-winning property development pacesetter in East Africa, Optiven Group has over 20 years’ experience in the real estate market. Alongside its head office in the capital, the company also has offices in South Africa as well as satellite branches in the US and Europe.

Besides its real estate activities, the company operates strategic business units (subsidiaries) in construction, agribusiness, hospitality and insurance.

The group is also active in corporate philanthropy through the Optiven Foundation which provides scholarships, food donations and homes for the less fortunate members of society.

Optiven Group does not charge any fees for job applications. For inquiries visit their head office at Barclay’s Plaza, 14th Floor or call 0790 300300

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Business

15 Highly Inspiring Quotes from George Wachiuri That Will Make You Think Differently

Kimani Patrick

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As the captain to one of the most ambitious companies in Africa, George Wachiuri is a man admired by many – not because of his success over the years but also for his service to the community and warm personality.

To start with, this man is pretty much unstoppable, his journey took off by losing a Sh 5M worth of lifetime savings through a deal gone sour. But that did not stop him from heading to the future – he soldiered on to build and position Optiven Group as a reading real estate brand in east Africa before diversifying into hospitality, construction, agribusiness and insurance.

But perhaps the greatest thing Mr. Wachiuri has ever done is inspire others to be their best selves. He can also make miracles happen, too. In fact, if it weren’t for him, most entrepreneurs in Kenya including myself could still be struggling in our businesses. Here’s how some of his 15 most inspirational quotes can transform your life;

  1. No one should ever give up. Learn to focus on your vision, trust in God, be self-disciplined, network relentlessly, be passionate about your undertakings, work smart and hire people who are smarter than you.
  2. I ventured into business thinking it would be easy, I failed 15 times before things started working out. When you fail dust yourself off and rise up, it is a lesson.
  3. Always be in peace with each other, do good and help those that are disadvantaged in life. If you cannot help many, just help one.
  4. It takes many hands to make light work, but more importantly, it takes one step at a time to complete the journey of 1000 miles.
  5. Keep telling yourself good and positive things. Keep mining the best attributes out of yourself. I am a great person, I am the best that there is, I am a winner, I am extremely handsome, I am amazingly beautiful. Ultimately, you will condition your brain to think and act with this kind of positivity. And when success comes as a result of this positive attitude, take time to celebrate, however minimal this success seems.
  6. One thing I have discovered about life is that the best age to be is 45 to 55 years as you are able to skillfully take calculated risks.
  7. Awards are given out as a reward to those who have a positive impact on their communities and the country or region they operate.
  8. Service to humanity and leadership to humanity is a humble calling
  9. It is an effort and requirement for all of us to reach out to the youth through mentorship. This way, we empower them to leave a tangible mark wherever they go and make society a better place.
  10. If all your friends are always affirming you, you will end up living in a comfort zone.
  11. Take a risk and explore new things, new targets, smile differently, work differently. People who don’t change become salty.
  12. The worst thing that you can ever do is to yourself is to compare yourself with another person. You have to always remember that you are the only version of yourself in the whole world.
  13. It is wise to avoid unnecessary competition with your peers, with your colleagues, with your family members. You better learn to compete with only one person in life – yourself.
  14. Never allow people to define you or your capacity. Be assertive and learn to go for what you want in life without seeking the approval of everyone around you. Have a total control of your life and break the chains of unrealistic societal expectations that will always turn into a frustrating mirage chase.
  15. There is joy in diversity. Life could be very boring if we were all looking the same, talking the same language or belonging to the same religion. Learn to accommodate other people.

Which of the quotes above inspired you most? Comment below,

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Aviation

CEO Dennis Muilenburg Stripped Off Boeing’s Chairman Title as Company Separates Roles

News Team

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Boeing’s Board has removed CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s title as chairman in an unexpected strategy shift as announced by the U.S. plane maker on Friday.

The latest step which the board has taken in recent weeks to improve executive oversight of its engineering ranks and industrial operations was separating the roles which would pave way for Muilenburg to have ‘maximum focus’ on steering Boeing’s daily operations.

In an announcement on Friday afternoon, Boeing said that lead Director David Calhoun, a senior managing director at Blackstone Group, will take over as non-executive chairman. The announcement expressed the Board’s confidence in Muilenburg, who would remain on the board and retain the top job.

“The board has full confidence in Dennis as CEO and believes this division of labor will enable maximum focus on running the business with the board playing an active oversight role,” Calhoun said in the statement.

This decision was brought forth as company has been striving to put its best selling 737 MAX back in service after the safety ban which had been issued worldwide in March after two crashes which left 346 people dead in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The decision has also been partly brought forth after Muilenburg survived a split in his roles as CEO and chairman, a motion which had been put forth by shareholders six months ago. This is part of the very intense pressure he has felt in the four years which he has been working at the helm of the world’s largest plane maker.

Boeing and U.S. regulators were criticized over certification of the plane earlier on Friday by an international aviation panel. It was revealed by an internal review that the company was looking to re-organize its engineering reporting lines company-wide and ensure higher ranking officials and also achieves the increase at which the reception of feedback concerning safety issues from the lower levels of the company. Weekly reports of potential safety issues discussed in meetings of rank and file engineers were taken to Muilenburg as part of the move too.

Muilenburg is required to testify before U.S. House panel on 30th October and questions have been raised by lawmakers about 737 MAX certification. More than 100 lawsuits are also being held against the company concerning the crashes alleging flaws in the design.

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