Hiring great salespeople in Africa… and Beyond

Noah Amoke is the Business Development Manager – (Kenya and Sub-Sahara Africa) at CM.com. In this conversation with African Regional Host and Trusted Advisor for Coffee, Collaboration, and Enablement, Dave Nel, they explored hiring great salespeople in Africa, and quite a bit more…

More than 1 billion people live on the African continent; identifying the right sellers, as is true anywhere, is hard.

Noah provides a lot of insight, and his critical tips for finding the right sales talent include:

1️⃣ Sales Managers cannot leave the recruiting to HR.  You must be an active participant in the recruiting process

2️⃣Find someone passionate about sales

3️⃣Persistence is critical to sales success; ensure your candidates have this trait

4️⃣Likability, someone who can walk into the room and make a great first impression and build upon that first impression

5️⃣Reliability.  Is the candidate motivated to hit forecast, and can you rely upon them to do the work, with integrity and ethically, to achieve their goals

Give a lesson and remain curious.

Audio Transcript

Dave Nel
freakin continent and all sales enablement professionals around the world. And today we are blessed to have our first ever guest from Kenya, the world famous. Hey, Noah. Noah, thank you so much for for joining us today. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you and making the time for us to really, really appreciate it. And you’re saying it’s a it’s a chilly 17 degrees Celsius in in Kenya today?

Noah Amoke
Yes, yes, it’s chilly, we are used to 2830 degrees 33 degrees. And given that this is what we call our summer, so it’s a little bit chilly for us

Dave Nel
a little bit chilly. Well, down in down in the bottom of Africa. It’s absolutely boiling hot. It’s I think it’s almost 30 degrees today in in Cape Town. It’s amazing how we can connect across across the continent like this. So let’s jump right right in no if you don’t mind. We’re very excited to hear have you here today on our on our show. delighted to have our first guest from Kenya. Hopefully you’re not the last but you definitely the first Would you mind telling our listeners a little bit about this young gentleman who’s on the call with us and a little bit maybe about the business that you work for to start?

Noah Amoke
Yeah, thank you. Thank you, Dave. So just like your head, my name is Noah mulcair. And regional sales Development Manager with fissara region for cm.com, which is an international company. Based in the Netherlands. I have more than seven years experience in sales and account management, having worked as account manager, enterprise sales manager, sales manager, business development manager in different fintechs different industries in Kenya and the sub Sahara region just introduced a company that I work for. So cm.com is a communication platform us as a service provider that is seapass and also as a SaaS company. So we provide communication solutions to different enterprises, different verticals, and how they can engage with their customers on different channels. And with an aim of improving the customer service to their customers. So we have our inbuilt solutions, which connects to different channels, depending on the channels that the customers prefer to reach out to their customers, and also cross platform that can also be used for marketing materials and also inform customers of the products that they have. Yeah, you

Dave Nel
know, of course, and that’s an interesting product to bring to sub Saharan Africa. I mean, you’ve got a unique challenge, in that you’ve got your parent company being in the Netherlands, and now you’re running the business down here in in Africa. And I assume I’m wondering you, you must face some some different challenges. When when having to run that kind of a business out here in Africa, specifically from a sales perspective. would you would you like to share some of those challenges with us that you currently face?

Noah Amoke
Yes, two things. Some of the challenges that you face in running the business around here, one of them is it we have a long turnaround time in closing deals, I don’t know that this only happened in Africa. But for such kind of solutions. And some of the IT solutions, the turnaround time a decision making for clients to make is is longer. And the biggest one that you face right now is getting the right sales team. We have so many people who claims that they are the sales, they can do sales, but when you give them the job to do their sales, it’s not what they talk so we have the biggest challenge that you’re facing is having a team that I can work with to push different products that we have within the region. Yeah,

Dave Nel
I mean, you’ve got you’ve got a billion people over a billion people in Africa right? yet yet still struggled to find those those quality sales people to take your your product to market. Even with that many, many people.

Noah Amoke
Yes, yes. Getting the person with the right skills and the right attitude to work has been a challenge for the salespeople. Yeah. So because if you don’t get the right persons in sales, then that means you’re you’re making the sales process longer, and also now having a lot of back and forth, having a lot of issues in trading and also motivating the person. Yes, sure.

Dave Nel
I guess that that shortening that sales cycle is is definitely one of the things that I think sits on most sales enablement, sales managers, sales leaders, at the end of the day is how can I shorten that that cycle as quickly as possible? And like you’re saying, Well, one of the key things is having the right sales people now, you know, we talking here mostly to professionals across across Africa. So I’m interested you’ve got This challenge, which is I need to find the right sales people to shorten my cycle. And how do you go about solving that? Because it’s it’s not something that’s going away anytime anytime soon for you, right?

Noah Amoke
Yeah, sure. So it is a problem that we have to deal with. And one of the ways that I’m dealing with it right now, if I can also share with the team is that as a sales manager, or a business development manager, don’t leave recruitment to your HR team to get to the team to work with actively get involved in the recruitment process. So we that now you know, the right skills, you’re looking for the right person you’re looking for that you know, you can work with. And to circumvent these. So we’re not doing recruiting, I’m always looking for someone with passionate about sales, because sales, it’s something some people usually say cities in bulk, but even if it isn’t, you’re not born to be a salesperson, but you’re passionate with whatever you’re doing, you’re both physically going to, to close more deals. I’m also looking for someone who is persistence, sales job, you need to be persistent, you get a lot of rejections of each and every door that you knock it to, for the leads from the, from the opportunities and everything. So you need to persistence in Asia, in your work, and also in dealing with the different prospects that you are looking at. Okay. I’m also looking at someone who is likable. By lucky by being someone who can walk into the room, and the customers can relate to him easily. They don’t, they don’t have to struggle to talk to the pastor, the pastor struggling to convince them in terms of so called likable that also comes with a good character that someone who you can also trust in someone who is also reliable. As a sales manager, you don’t you don’t? The last thing that should worry you is where is my sales team? Are they actually doing what they’re supposed to do on the ground?

Unknown Speaker
Absolutely.

Noah Amoke
Yes, exactly. So you need, you need to have a team that you can rely on. So you need first of all, so this starts from the point you’re doing recruitment, look for someone who is reliable, somebody who can actually sit back in the office and you know, at gentlemen is going to create the numbers, I know it’s going to close that deal. You have faith in them, okay. And apart from that, also look at someone who is also committed to the work they’re doing. As a salesperson, you know, we are the only people that you know, ruggedization, leave in the morning and come back in the evening. So you need to be committed that every time you go out to meet people, every time that you are sitting on your desk, you’re doing the right thing, and you’re committed to your walk into closing deals and everything. So those are some of the skills and traits that are very important when you’re looking for as a good salesperson. And of course, the person needs to be focused. So as a business development manager, when you doing recruit venture to able to get someone that meets most of these traits that I’m talking about, then the issue of having the right password in safe password is going to reduce. So you’re going to have a right team, a team that you can rely on a team that you can depend on as a team that is energetic, and you have faith in and trust that you’re going to meet your goals and objectives for the client. Absolutely.

Dave Nel
And you said so many key traits to to having a great salesperson, right? You got passionate, persistent, likable, trust, reliable committed. And then of course, the number one thing that’s always so key with that is that focus, you know, that ability to sit down and and really put your head down and do what needs to be done to be successful in the role. One of the things that you also said that that really strikes me is that that need to be involved in the recruitment process, right? You can’t just throw the ball over the wall and say HR, I need these types of people, please go find them for me. Yeah, I’m hearing you need to get your hands dirty and be involved.

Noah Amoke
Exactly. Because if you sit back and help the live or the recruitment process to the HR pass, or the HR person might look at someone just qualification but they might not look at some of the traits that you as an individual looking for. Because first of all, you need to get someone you’re able to work with because sales and sales team is a teamwork is not ever how much targets can be broken down to individual. But it all boils down that it is a team work for the whole sales team.

Dave Nel
Yeah. And so when you’re looking for those those skills, as you said billion people, and it’s difficult to find them, you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. Do you have anything specific that you do during the process to help you figure out is this someone who’s passionate? Is this someone who I can trust is this someone who’s focused How do you know when you when you’re going through their process?

Noah Amoke
One of them the things that you look at is do a good background check on your on the person you’re recruiting. That is very key. When a salesperson move from one organization to another, at least call at least two or three organizations where they have worked within confidentiality, get one little bit more information, why they moved or whatever, what was the performance, they there, wherever they’re coming from. A second thing is that you need during the interview, if you can easily create a rapport with the person you’re interviewing for a salesperson, then that one means that it is more likely to be a likeable person. Okay, so those are some ways you can do that. Apart from that is also the way this the interviewers are presenting themselves during the interview. Are they someone who is eloquent and able to talk about what they have done before? Do they know what they have been doing before? Or is just about oh, I need to change jobs? Yeah. So those are some of the reasons that the way to look at it? Yes, yeah, I guess it’s that that awareness of what what you’re looking for when,

Dave Nel
when you’re when you’re interviewing, right? Now, you’ve got a lot of a lot of sales enablement, professionals, or people who, who support sales leaders and sales teams listening to this call. So I’m wondering, you found the person who you think has all of these traits, right? But I’m assuming the journey only only starts, then you’re just lucky you found someone now you’ve got to, you know, grow them, bring them into your team, take them through their process of really becoming that superstar for you. So is there anything that that you’d like to share with the audience that you do around? What happens once they there, because that’s really when it starts, right?

Noah Amoke
Yes, if you’re lucky, we’ll get one if you’re not lucky, you’ll get someone who at least you can work with. But if you get someone that you can work with or someone that has met some of the traits that a salesperson they are looking for the key thing that you need to embark on as a as a team for sales enablement. One is training. And the training here not only focuses on the product, but also on the tools that the salesperson is going to use. So for training, I want to break it down into three. So let’s talk about sales tools. So after getting a salesperson, you need to train them on the tools that are going to use the tool see is not just a matter of you, turning them on the CRM that you’re going to use, no, even if you don’t have a CRM, even if it’s just a simple excel sheet with Google Docs, or whichever shared document that you’re using, at least they need to know how to use that. Apart from that salespeople don’t work as a as an island, they work with other team members in the organization. So you need to make sure that a salesperson knows his team members, who are the presets that is supposed to work with what is the role of presets in assisting them in closing the deals. And if you have a lightning network in a large organization, whereby account management is different from the sales team. So you need to know at what point a salesperson needs to hand over the deal of opportunity to the account manager. And they need to know how they work as a team to to assist the salesperson, because at the closing a big deal is easy. It might be easy. But do you have the capacity to maintain the client so that you get your ROI in all that you have done to the client? Yes, yeah, that is key. Yeah. Otherwise you don’t got you’ve just got a new face right at the end of the day. And does that mean anything? Absolutely. Not that but yes, true. And you also need a salesperson, how they related the project team to manage the project and telco life, how do they work with the technical team and all that. So your training should cover all that. Apart from that after training the tools, then now you need to train the salesperson on the product, or the solution they are going to sell I have a how much you might get someone that has sold a similar solution in a different organization. But this the way things are done in your organization where the country of the future this person, and the products might look the same, but they were not 100% similar, okay, so you need to change the person or the product, they need to understand the product. And they’re able to explain to the client in their own way, I usually say a good salesperson need to explain the product in their own language by language, I don’t meet the ethnic language, but in their own way of understanding these. So they need to explain the product or solution in their own way. So trading is very key on the product. And after that also, how is the salesperson mapping all these that you have told them into their sales process? So let them also understand how is the sales process its sales enablement, always key about all this process how to lead moves from SQL, sorry, move from a lead prospect or lead to marketing, qualified lead to sales qualified lead all the way to an opportunity until the contract is signed, the client is life. So a salesperson need to know how that process well, and map it into the CRM. And also something also that is I’ve also noticed in Africa, the sales process is not as smooth as it is in other parts of the world.

Dave Nel
Definitely not. Yeah, yeah.

Noah Amoke
So we it’s texts Or it might have some ups and downs. But anyway, as a salesperson, you need to know at which stage of my process I am in. And I need to update the right tools so that it’s easy for my boss also to do that. So we did it training, you’ll have two way of keeping your sales team at check. And you’ll also have a well motivated team because the confidence comes with knowing what I’m doing. Yeah,

Dave Nel
absolutely. It’s power, isn’t it? Once you feel confident, and I know what I’m doing, the world is my oyster. And I can go crazy. As a salesperson, you’ve said three areas there, right? So it’s products, tools, and kind of that connecting the person to the right people in the organization who are involved in the in the sales process. And then there’s actually the sales process our methodology, how do we sell what do we do? You mentioned one thing that was interesting, you said, you know, it doesn’t matter whether you have a CRM system, or you just have an Excel spreadsheet, at the end of the day, a new salesperson, whatever the size of your organization still needs to go through a version of of this onboarding, I guess, Would you say that’s true?

Noah Amoke
Yes, that’s true. And it’s very key, because I need to be comfortable that if I do this, this is the right thing I need to do. And each and every leader, a sales leader, always, always want to know to report whatever his teams are doing. Because when management asked him, where are we, with certain clients? How are we meeting our targets? Where what’s the projections of built to be closed, like in a quarter in the next month, and everything they need somewhere, they can go and pull a report? Not all, not all the times they get there ask for a report they need to get the sales team that I need? Certainly Does anybody know? Yes. So that is very true during your onboarding process, or induction that you need to train our sales team on the basic tool that you’re using for reporting, or to manage your sales and leads? Yes, absolutely. And earlier, you spoke about recruitment and how the sales manager or the sales leader can’t just leave it up to HR and needs to be in involved in the process.

Dave Nel
I’m interested when it comes to training. You we’ve got it. I mean, we we normally have sales enablement professionals here. So here, we’ve got a sales leader. So it’s quite nice to have someone from the different perspective, what is the How to sales enablement and the sales leader work together, in in their training, you know, is it again, that same kind of relationship with HR? Or how do you guys see that working?

Noah Amoke
I think it’s supposed to be a symbiotic kind of relationship where the sales enablement and the sales manager work together for the benefit of all, both of them. Because when the sales teams are using the right tools, using the right process, it’s easier for the sales enablement team also to monitor what is happening and also to support sales team. Also the same with the manager. After the training, you don’t need to be worried about your team not able to use the tools correctly. No, you need to be worried. Is my team actually talking to the right, right prospect? Are they talking to the right? Are they getting the right leads that they need to talk to? Yeah, so that that way that I’m saying it’s kind of a two way kind of relationship, and they need auto belt to be involved in their training. You don’t want him to not leave it that you do the responsibility of the other department to have my team ready for to go to the field for sales? Yes.

Dave Nel
I’m sure that many of the sales enablement professionals who are listening to you today would say, Please, can you come and join my team? Because it’s so it’s so refreshing to hear a sales leader say, Well, I don’t just send people to training. Right? I don’t just ship them off. I have to be part of that. Because there’s that gray area in the middle, where it’s both people’s responsibility.

Noah Amoke
Yes. Yeah. The truth. Yeah. And if what teams ox works hand in hand, and the you have a great team that is easy for you to manage in the field, and the Lord is struggling with all of them following who is not using what is not selling? What Yeah,

Dave Nel
absolutely. Well, look, the stuff that you’ve shared with us today is very much something that could be relevant to any sales professional around the world. It doesn’t matter where they are, you know, there’s a lot of key tools and insights that you’ve shared. And thank you for doing that. I must ask, this is Africa rush. And and we’re trying to over time and give advice to either people who do sell in Africa, or entities who are thinking about bringing a sales force into Africa. What would you say is something that is a top tip for sales enablement, people or sales people who are working in Africa at the moment?

Noah Amoke
I think the top tip that I can give them is that map your process according to the environment that you are in. The process that is reachable somewhere might not work in Africa, so that I would say the best thing is come to Africa, London meetings. are being done in Africa in the sales environment, then map your process to fit that environment. If you try to post something doesn’t work in a certain market, it might not work. I’m not saying that you’re not what it might work, or it might not work in Africa. So just say, sales in Africa is a little bit different the way science is done in other parts of the world, mainly in Europe, and America and all that. But But we are still great in doing what we do. Another thing that in Africa that is, I’ve found, has been challenging, but at least with COVID, as easy enough, mostly in Africa, sales have been closed on face to face meeting. Yeah, but at least right now, with the new new norm, this has really changed. At least we have a positive thing that has come from COVID. That is, people changing the way we relate and the way we talk and a sales call can now be close to virtually, yeah, so just come to know that some of us really still believe on face to face meeting for you to close dates. And the sales process might be longer than you expect. That happens in others. Okay. Yeah. Another thing is that when you realize that your sales cycle is longer avoided, make the sales cycle as short as possible for the sales team. A short sale cycle motivates the team. And also does not strain the organization in terms of revenue that is coming in instinct by revenue that is coming. So try to make your sales process as short as possible, when you’re able to close more deals. Yes,

Dave Nel
yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. And you’re so spot on. COVID has probably had the biggest impact, I think, for sales in Africa versus sales anywhere else in the world. Because it was so face to face and and we needed something to cause that, that shift to happen. And man has it happened and happen quickly. Um, it’s been incredible to, to watch. But even what you say, you know, even Africa itself has got over 50 countries in Africa. So if you’re going to come in, don’t just think you’re coming to Africa know the country you come into right? Because Kenya is different to South Africa is different to wherever else in the in the continent you might be. So you really need to, to study the local markets.

Noah Amoke
Yes, actually. And also not just that they love but also the culture of people is also different. I’ve traveled a lot in Africa. And I can say, several of them have the culture of saying yes, yes, in your face, because they have not been told to say no when facing someone. So that kind of dynamics that you need to know you might travel to certain countries think you have closed a lot of deals only to go back then you get cold. Everything goes cold or logical showdown you so you need also to understand the culture of these people that you’re going to meet, how they relate to people. How do they view technology. In Kenya, technology has really moved fast. And the there’s a lot of receptive in terms of new technology that are coming in on board. But there are some countries that you as a salesperson, you’re going there as a consultant to train them on the benefits of whatever you’re going to sell to them. So you as platform you’re selling, you’re also consultant, but you’re not doing base pay to be a consultant. It’s just a process that helps you to close a deal. Yes, yeah,

Dave Nel
absolutely. You become a trusted advisor to the clients. I guess so? Well, look, we’ve got one more question for you, you shared so much with us today. And this show is always about showcasing our sales enablement and sales professionals around Africa. So I’d love to give you a few minutes to brag, or tell us about something that you’ve done over the last couple of years that either you or your team is incredibly proud of, and that you would love to share with with our listeners.

Noah Amoke
Thank you, um, I think I’ve been a lot involve a lot in transforming digital transformation for financial institutions within the regions. And with this, I can talk about how some of these financial institutions do transactions online digital. This is basically because I’ve worked a lot with with most of the financial institutions in the US are FinTech in both developing some of the products that they’re doing. And I’m glad that right now most event transforming how they communicate to the customers in terms of customer communication. digitizations. So I’ve closed to work with goods in banks for insurance companies, investment companies. I was part of the team that launched the first WhatsApp banking in Africa back in the East Africa region, where customers were able to get transfer money from their bank account through WhatsApp to other wallets, like mobile money, or from one bank to another, pay utility bills through WhatsApp, that kind of transformation. So let’s, yeah, yes. So right now, I’m also watching Some of the insurance company Umbra working with an e commerce company, on how to order for items through WhatsApp, making orders through WhatsApp following your order until the order is delivered. Without leaving WhatsApp, you’re able to request for it, confirm your item, make payments, through Steam through WhatsApp and all that. So all these so I’m proud that I’m in the middle of the digital transformation within the region. And I’m leading some of the digital transformation.

Dave Nel
That’s amazing and, and how unique to find a sales leader with strong sales skills, who also has skills on digital transformation. So I mean, look, FinTech is huge in Africa, and the opportunities are massive. So I hope that if any of our listeners are thinking about transforming their business, they can reach out to you and talk to you a little bit about how they can do that. Especially in Africa. You know, Whatsapp is foreign to a lot of people around the world, but not not in Africa. And it’s a trusted platform. Actually, people use it all the time for everything.

Noah Amoke
Yes, yes, yes. And actually, not just WhatsApp, but to be a single lot of uptake of IoT solutions in Africa right now. And it is I can say it’s a plus for us. And it is a transformation that you don’t want to be slowed down by the cost of internet connectivity. So we are working closely also with telcos to see that how much you want to make profits. But look, also look at the volumes. So if you charge people out on internet, they’ll not be able to access internet. So you’re going to slow down also some of these new development that you attempt to bring on digitization.

Dave Nel
Yes, fantastic. Well, no, I thank you so much for joining us today. I now know what to look for when I’m hiring a salesperson, where to get involved. And once I’ve got them on board, I know what I need to do with them to get them up and running as quickly as possible, and also know who to come to when I want to transform my business digitally. So I’ve learned I’ve learned a lot of things from you today. And I’m hoping we will have you back on our show again in the future. Thank you so much.

Noah Amoke
I think you thank you too, for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you guys and also sharing my experience and it was a pleasure. And now you’re welcome to have you again on a different topic. You definitely

Dave Nel
will