Wednesday, 11 April 2012

So who are you?

By Aki Kalliatakis
Nobody can predict what the rest of 2012 is going to entail, and whether the gloomy financial crisis of the past few years will in fact improve, or get worse. But I’m willing to put my head on a block and say that your customers have permanently changed the way in which they buy – whether they are consumers or other businesses.

In fact, one of our clients recently said: “Now we are competing with everyone, from everywhere, for everything.”

Is there any good news? You bet there is, or I wouldn’t be writing this right now. You see, as the business world cuts as much as possible in costs just in order to survive, this has a serious impact on customers. So this is a great opportunity for your business to look good, to do something extraordinarily special or unusual for your customers.

Let me share just one example. After a seventeen year contract with our original photocopier company - a contract, I might add, which guaranteed a very short turnaround time for repairs, and for which we paid extra every month – we cancelled the contract and went with another company. Why? Because one day the photocopier broke down, and we called the company to send a technician. We asked about when we could expect to see him, and the answer was, “Well, maybe late tomorrow afternoon, or maybe the day after tomorrow.”

I was furious. How could this be, I asked, when for such a long time the response time was guaranteed, and was part of the deal?“Well, you know, with the economy being the way it is,” they said, “we’ve had to retrench some staff, and unfortunately we are all under pressure.”As you can imagine, we are now the proud new owners of a competing brand of photocopier with a brand new three-year contract.

But where do you start? I’d like this article to getting the basics right. The foundation on which your customer’s loyalty lies must be strong and solid, otherwise no matter what you do, it will be the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. It makes the pig more attractive – but it is still a pig.

There are two ways to look at the needs of your customers. At its most simple, your customers are probably looking for one of three possible responses from you. First, they may need a Pit Stop: In and out as quickly as possible, no hassles, no fuss, only pure efficiency. Secondly, they may need an Emergency Room: they have a problem, and they want you to solve it as quickly and urgently as you can. Finally, they may want a Five Star Hotel: they feel neglected, unappreciated or alienated, and are looking to be pampered and acknowledged.

Respond to these basic needs appropriately, and you will be three-quarters of the way there.
However, and more specifically, there are not more than a handful of additional needs that your customers have, and if you and your company understand these and take care of them, then you will be successful. These are listed below, and probably in order of importance, (although this may change depending on the customer’s situation.)
  • How can you make them or save them money? In times like these, just about everyone is under financial pressure, and how can you help your customers here? I’m not suggesting that you give your customers more and more discounts, but rather asking you to identify ways in which you can make them more effective at what they do. Are there shortcuts they can use? Can you share some information that will help them? Do you offer something that improves their efficiency or productivity?
  • How can you give them some more time in their busy lives? What are the things that are their time wasters? Would they be happy to pay you to help them with these? Can you give them some simplicity and convenience in their lives, or arrange for a “one-stop-shopping” experience?
  • What keeps them awake at night, or causes stress in their lives? What do they worry about? What are their fears and uncertainties and insecurities? Are there some legal problems that they face? What are the perennial headaches that they have to deal with? And how can you help?
  • How can you make them look good with others? It may be their colleagues, or their families and friends. What can you do that will make them feel honoured, or proud? What can give them status or power in the eyes of others in their circle? What will make them boast or show off? How can you make them feel important?
  • What will make them feel good about themselves? Is there some role you can play in their personal growth so that they become “better people”? Can they feel good because they have given back to the world, or done something nice for someone, or prove how environmentally friendly they are? Is there some way in which you can help them to be the best that they can possibly be, and achieve their potential as a person, or even as a business? Don’t underestimate the value of these personal desires that customers find it difficult to admit or acknowledge.
  • How can you give them a sensational personal experience? In what ways can you bring a smile to their faces, or let them experience an exceptional and memorable experience? Is there something that you can help them to do that they would never have considered doing on their own? As Seth Godin recently wrote, “You can get my attention if your product is unreasonably well designed, if your preparation is unreasonably over the top, if your customer service is unreasonably attentive and generous and honest. You can earn my business or my recommendation if the build quality is unreasonable for the intended use, if the pricing is unreasonably low or if the experience is unreasonably over-the-top irresistible given the competition.” Be interesting, or be invisible.
Prepare yourself and your business to listen for and uncover these needs of customers, and then to respond to them. There will be no way to stop your success when you do so. It will distinguish you from your rivals, and create fantastic levels of loyalty in your customer base. SG
Aki Kalliatakis is a professional consultant, speaker and author who works with companies who want to develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  To get in touch with Aki, please use any of the following: telephone at            (+27 11) 640 3958      , email at, follow him on Twitter at AkiKalliatakis, or at the website at

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rolling Inspiration: Ernst van Dyk

Going for gold in 2012
By Anelle Hamilton

With a list of achievements as long as the marathons he races in, Ernst van Dyk is not only a green-and-gold champion, but also South Africa’s overall golden boy. Born, raised and still residing in the Western Cape with his family, congenital birth defects didn’t deter this inspiring athlete. On the contrary, Ernst’s determination has won him the Boston Marathon nine times. This year he is excited to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games in London where he aims to bring home the gold medal. Our champion shared a few golden tips at
our recent SalesGuru events between 8 - 10 February in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and we share this with our readers to inspire you to go for gold in 2012.
Dream big!

Ernst was born in 1973 with congenital birth defects and the doctor who delivered him advised his parent to institutionalise him. However, his parents took him home and later noticed his affinity for sports. He excelled in several sports and while paging through US magazines he started dreaming about competing in the Paralympic Games.

Adapt to changeHe believes being successful is largely dependent on how well we adapt to change. “After finishing school I wanted to study engineering at the University of Stellenbosch and had to find a bursary. I failed my physical test and I was crushed,” says Ernst.
He then decided to enrol for a B. Com degree. Only two weeks later his mom phoned him to tell him that his father had passed away. However, his grief inspired him to follow his true passion and he enrolled to study Sport Science. Regardless of his years as an elite competitor, Ernst says his biggest accomplishment was getting his university degree, making him the first disabled person to graduate with a degree in Sport Science from the University of Stellenbosch.

In 1996 Ernst competed in the Paralympics in Atlanta and even though he did his best conditions were tough and he didn’t medal. His sponsor cancelled their contract and his world collapsed. “I thought my life was over. I had to pick myself up again and decided that one small setback can’t end my career so I started training again and used the disappointment to fuel the flame of victory inside.”

We have to accept that things will go wrong in our lives. “I have lost races, lost sponsors and in the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney an Australian competitor crashed into me which cost me the gold medal.” However, these setbacks only inspired him to do better next time. “Every time a muscle breaks it grows back stronger.”

Road to success“I have always measured success by the amount of sponsorships you have. Despite winning several awards and sponsors early in my sports career I could not find a sponsor for five years and this was discouraging.”

In the 2001 Boston Marathon road races his luck changed though and a dense cloud of fog moved in behind the wheelchair racers which meant that the TV cameras could not film the runners but only focused on the wheelchair athletes. “I was in exceptional shape and won the race by six minutes. This made headline news everywhere and I grabbed the attention of a big corporate which quickly came on board,” he adds.

Top tips for success
It is in the detailPay attention to every little detail. Before Ernst takes part in any race he analyses EVERYTHING. The track, the weather, his competitors and he even works with the engineer who builds his wheelchair.

A balancing actWhen not training or competing Ernst is a family man and loves to spend time with his wife and daughter, his pets and Khoi fish.“Reinforce and focus on the positives in your life as it helps you to build character,” he adds.
Set goals
Always have a purpose. This will help you focus and become disciplined.
Things will go wrong but don’t get stuck in one place. Bounce back as quickly as you can.
Spread your energy
Don’t try too hard. Sometimes it is better to give than too receive. And remember the African saying: darkness comes too soon for the hunted. Live in peace with everyone and live your life without regrets.

SG Fast facts with Ernst
  • Lives in Paarl, works in Stellenbosch
  • Loves his wife Suzanne, daughter Lexi, his two dogs – Siberian Husky Luca and Golden Retriever Izzi, his Koi fish and Asian food
  • Hates mosquitoes
  • Prefers chocolate to vanilla; Ferrari to Porsche
  • Eats out at Tank in Cape Town – for the best sushi
  • Relaxes with family and friends
  • Other set of wheels is a Ford Ranger (would prefer a Ferrari)
  • Listens to The Parlotones, watches Gladiator or 300
Aspires to win the Boston Marathon 10 times!

Monday, 6 February 2012

6 Tips for Breaking out of a Sales Slump

By Colleen Francis

Sales people who have a poor start to the beginning of a year, often find themselves struggling for the rest of the year to catch up. The good news is, whatever you’re experiencing, we’ve all been there at least once. The bad news is, most of us don’t know exactly how
to snap out of a slump, and start
making sales.

Remember: there could be an almost unlimited number of reasons why you’re in a slump. It could be the economy, for example. But even in a poor economy, there are top performing sales people, and those who just scrape by. Admitting that your success is up to you is the first step in getting out of a slump, and getting your career back on track.

To help you snap out of a slump and get your year back on track, try these six tips, adapted from the strategies of the top 10%:

1. Stay away from life suckers

You know who they are. The one who lies in wait at the water cooler, just so they can whine, moan and complain to whatever poor, parched soul happens to wander by. The one lurking in the lunchroom way past 1pm to tell you about how nothing is ever right, and they’re always getting the short end of the stick.

When you’ve slept only 4 hours, they were up all night. If you have a stomachache, they’ve got near-fatal food poisoning. When you have a headache, you better believe they’ve got a migraine. Life suckers can’t help you; they have problems of their own.

2. Get to work earlier

Yes, I know, you’re already screaming at me: “Colleen, I need balance!” Not while you’re in a slump, you don’t. Right now, you’re behind, and you need to do something about it. Only the mediocre use balance as their battle cry during a slump. So suck it up for this short period, and save the balance until you’re back
on top.

3. Change your environment

This could be as simple as de-cluttering your office. It’s impossible to feel fresh and excited about what you do if you can’t see your desk. A chaotic work environment will make you depressed to be there, and if you’re depressed to be at work, you won’t snap out of your slump.

Changing your environment could also mean - gasp, yes, it’s true! - taking the day off from selling! If you need motivation, go sit in a coffee shop or some place with a nice view and read books and articles on positive attitude and self-development. If you need to be re-created, take a hike (literally), and then come back to the office re-energised and ready to take on the world.

Personally, I find that getting away for around 4 days (say, Thursday-Sunday, as I’m doing as I write this to you right now) can dramatically help me to create, re-organise and re-energise. It’s also one of the best ways I know of to avoid another slump in the future.

4. Follow a leader

Trail the best sales person you know on their calls for a day. See what they’re doing differently than you, and how you can incorporate those ideas in your business. Note that this doesn’t have to be someone from the office. You can learn a lot from watching sales people in other industries, too.

5. Take your boss to work

Take your boss with you on calls for a week. This will force you to be more prepared and on your best behaviour. You’ll also probably receive more feedback than you probably want.
Instead of rejecting this feedback, use it to be better.

6. Prove that money can buy a little happiness

Buy something you can’t afford. This is radical, I know, and not many of you will like this idea or think it’s responsible of me to suggest it. But it works better for me than any other “counter slump manoeuvre” I know of, so I felt it wouldn’t be right not to at least share the possibility with you.

Of course, I don’t mean racking up all your credit cards to the limit buying gold toilets, and then spending the next twenty years paying them off at 21% interest. What I mean - and what I personally do - is book a first-class trip for 6 months from now. Then, I have to make more sales to earn the money to go. Or book a training class 9 months from now, and again you’ll be motivated to sell more in order to pay for it. I don’t know about you, but for me, the “coming into work early” and all the other hard tasks on this list get a whole lot easier to embrace when I know that I have a trip to Hawaii coming up in a
few months, which I really don’t want to cancel.

Having a sales slump is not the end of the world, so long as it’s short, temporary and you know what to do about it.

Know what motivates you. Be disciplined - it’s the one thing that separates the best from the mediocre - and stay focused on those activities that you know will pull you out of the
slump. And remember to keep it all
in perspective.

You are responsible for your slump, and only you can change it. But you can change it, and once you accept the fact that you can reverse your fortune, you’ll already be on the road to recovery. SG

Colleen is driven by a passion for sales - and results. A successful sales professional for over 20 years, she understands the challenges of selling in today’s market and how traditional sales techniques from decades ago often fall short.She has studied the habits of the top 10% of sales performers from organisations of all sizes and shapes - from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Through her company, Engage Selling Solutions, Colleen has condensed this winning formula into an internationally acclaimed sales training system, helping sales professionals everywhere to make an immediate and lasting impact to their results.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


By Venetia Butler 
“What are the most effective ways to hire top sales people?” remains the number one question we  are asked at SALESGURU Careers, followed closely by “once we have secured top salespeople, how are we able to retain them?”. These are not easy questions to answer and questions without a magic answer, but certainly worth understanding in as much detail as possible. 

Specialising in the recruitment and representation of top sales people has enabled us to outline and understand the comprehensive detail involved in successful recruitment, and in so doing we have compiled an list of the crucial often missed steps in the recruitment process, that can be very rewarding and profitable when implemented successfully.

Each month we will be discussing one of the steps identified in the process, in the hope that this will assist your company in securing TOP SALES PROFESSIONALS.  This month we kick off with perhaps the most obvious and overlooked step in the recruitment process:

Is seems so simplistic to start with this, but I firmly believe that an understanding of why the vacancy is available will offer much insight into your strategy, planning and the recruitment process. 
There can be many possible reasons for a staff resignation, highlighted below are the top reasons why there are sales resignation and new vacancies:

Company growth is always an easy position to advertise as it falls in line with what most employee’s seek and want to hear about potential companies.  What is often missed is that as much as this is a great reason to advertise and talk about growth for employees it also speaks about the organisations successful sales record, this is a huge factor for sales people. This is also an indication that the company has a product or service offering that is desirable in the market place, that they have an efficient sales team who are selling the product or service and ultimately can be one of the main reasons why sales people choose to stay and work at that company.

No company growth is a major factor for candidates resigning, more so with the Y generation who expect to advance and grow far quicker than most and sometimes with an un-realistic expectation of career progression.  Realistic targets, timelines and expectations need to be discussed in the first interview in order to confirm the organisations expectation of the candidate you are hiring, the candidates expectations also need to be discussed in detail in order to understand there expected personal growth requirements.

It can be very rewarding and flattering to be headhunted or poached from a competitor and it often comes with a big increase.  Whilst the statistics still show that this remains common practice, we have seen a decline in headhunting in the Sales Industry as often these candidates have un-realistic salary expectation, furthermore it creates insecurity (if not managed properly) in a sales team as you never know how long will it be before competitors poach them or use salary as an incentive for them to move again.  

Salary, the remaining motivating factor for sales people, (more on this contested topic next month) also offers valuable insight in that it’s an opportunity to analyse whether or not your remuneration package is indeed market related and in line with what competitors are offering. Organisations should be paying realistic salaries in terms of what is market related for the skills and acumen required and when there is a commission structure included, the structure needs to be agreed between both parties and should be provided as motivational factor for the employee to close more sales.
Salary surveys conducted by various organisations are a great way of keeping up to date with industry salary standards.

Believe it or not this outdated description is one we still see most.  As generalised as this term has become it encompasses many aspects of an un-happy working environment including; job security, company culture, internal staff conflicts and management issues.  All of which contribute to the motivation for sales staff to stay at a company. These factors need to be analysed and understood clearly in the exit interview (an invaluable tool) for companies.  

When receiving applications from three or four candidates from the same company, we often find that there was no exit interview, and they were never allowed to voice their concerns and expectations or felt that they had no value and were just another number. 

Each of the possible reasons mentioned carry strong merit for analysis and need to be investigated.  Companies that are positioned as an employer of choice reduce many of the unnecessary resignations and recruitment costs involved and as such reap the benefits of strong staff retention.   

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Push it up with SALESGURU!

Issued by: SALESGURU
More than 1 500 sales professionals attended our recent roadshows in Cape Town and Johannesburg between 1-3 June. We enjoyed meeting all of you who came to see our speakers and interact with SALESGURU people over those three days and we're excited to have shared this great experience with you once again.
If you were one of the attendees, congratulations for taking the time and making the investment in a session that will give you some new perspectives on sales. We can all benefit from having our skills refreshed. 

Rob "Waldo" Waldman's motivational talk emphasised that Winners never fly solo! In today's highly competitive business world, sales people that foster trust and work in high performance teams will dodge the missiles of adversity and increase their sales results. 

Here are a few Wingtips that can turn you into an ACE and help you avoid getting shot down on your next mission: 

A: Attitude + Action. Attitude does not determine altitude. Attitude plus Action does. Being positive and enthusiastic is a critical component of success, but your customer ultimately rewards your actions, not your positive attitude! An attitude that breeds confidence is a by-product of disciplined preparation and mission rehearsal. When dealing with a price objection, last minute competitor, or late product shipment, it's the commitment, focus and sense of urgency you have to fix the problem, provide value, and deliver results that counts.

C: Customer: Success in business is not about you, your company, or your product. It's about your customer. Prior to each meeting, gather the latest, up to date intelligence (from multiple sources) and commit yourself to meeting the needs of your customer. Be original. Come prepared with questions. Learn about the person you're meeting. If you're not focused 100% on your customer - your target - you shouldn't strap on your jet to fly. (By the way, it can't hurt to learn about your competition too ...but only after learning about your customer.

E Environment: Every mission is unique. What works with one client or industry, may not work with another. The environment in which you and your customer operate will ultimately determine your tactics. Was there a recent merger or perhaps some lay-offs at the company you're meeting? How's their stock price? What's the nature of the industry you're operating in? Who are you meeting? Who is the decision maker? What resources (wingmen) do you have that can help you prepare for your meeting? Never sell by the seat of your pants! 

Take it from somebody who's been shot at in real combat, the winning ACE's in business and lifeprepare for the worst, but then expect the best. They acknowledge adversity and develop the confidence to overcome it by hard work and focus. But being an ACE is not easy. You can either "push it up" on your throttle and defeat the missile, or pull it back and risk getting shot down. It's your choice. 

I hope you'll push it up! 

If you missed out on this round of events, the next one is coming up in September so keep an eye out for the dates and venues in the next issue of SALESGURU. We will also be announcing it on our website 

For more information on Rob visit