3 Major Obstacles to Business Development in Africa – Part 1 The Who You Know Factor – Stephanie

One of the first statements I can remember hearing in Nigeria was that “if you do not have connections you will not be able to make it here.”

My response was immediate: “God will give me connections.” And over the years, it has been exactly that way. I have gotten fabulous job opportunities, business opportunities and long-lasting friendships from complete strangers.

However, I have noticed that the biggest breaks did not come from my connections, but from these same total strangers.

Over the years I have come to realize that the notion that you must have a connection in a certain establishment to be able to get anything out of that particular establishment is the normal mindset of a Nigerian business-owner or professional. This mindset has limited a lot of would-be successful entrepreneurs and business development professionals.

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However, I have applied for jobs I saw in newspaper adverts and on websites and gotten them. I have also gotten a major supply contract that my boss had been trying to get for years by simply walking into the company and requesting for it, all without knowing a single soul at that company.

I don’t know if this applies to other African countries, but my experience in consulting in Nigeria has also shown that many businesses exist at the mercy of a single or certain contacts through whom they get contracts to service.

The day that contact ceases to exist in that establishment is the day that their business also ceases to exist. Hence the high number of failed businesses especially among the one-man-business owners.

It also explains why so many businesses only grow to a certain level and never beyond that. Business owners also tend to divert funds from their primary source of income to buying properties and cars rather than improving the business products, creating key structures, or expanding the idea. Could this be because they have no hope of the business surviving beyond a certain tenure?

Believing that you need to know someone or have a connection in your target market to be able to sell is a limiting element in your business mindset.

To break out of this trap, you need to do the following:

1) Buy some sales and marketing books, audiobooks or sign up for a sales or marketing course. The purpose of this is two-fold. First, it will help you to develop the mindset of a salesperson.

As a CEO, you are the number one salesperson of your company.

Secondly, you will discover a wealth of sales and marketing ideas that you can try out for your business development efforts.

Also, invest in resources to build up your faith in what you are doing. You can’t leave your house in the morning to drop your CV somewhere if you don’t believe for one moment that you can get that job. You need to work on your spiritual and emotional self so as to be able to muster the courage to make that move.

You will not persist in getting a particular client to see you if you are afraid you would just be wasting your time. You need to be able to go beyond your doubts and your fears.

Exercise 1:

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2) Based on the information you have garnered from the various materials that you have exposed yourself to, develop a marketing plan. Strategize your sales journey.

This marketing plan should include a personal capacity building plan. What areas in the sales process do you need to develop yourself in to be able to get more sales?

Exercise 2:

(I) In sales, there are seven key result areas (KRAs). What are these?

(ii\ And how can you develop yourself in these areas? Sign up for our fortnightly Business Explosion Tips for African markets to learn these.

(iii) Answer the following questions: What is your target market? Who is your ideal client? What problem can you solve for them? How will you solve this problem? Why should they buy from you? How much would people be willing to pay to solve such a problem?

3) Go out and sell to a real-life stranger. Make up your mind that you are going to speak to 100 potential targets over the next month. That means that you will be speaking to between 3 and 4 potential targets a day. Don’t worry about how many ‘Nos’ you will get. Just focus on getting over the fear of speaking to a total stranger about what you can do for them. The more people you speak to, the more adept you will become at approaching potential customers.

Click here to signup for our fortnightly Business Explosion online event with Stephanie Pius, sponsored by Enersec Africa - your sustainable SME development partner.

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