What you need to know:
- Maureen Namoma is the head of sales at Pesapal Uganda but before she found her footing, she had her fair share of sales adventures while starting out on the sales career path.
One incident that remains plastered in Maureen Namoma’s mind is the day she made a walk-in at a prestigious company. She knew if she landed the deal, it would be huge for her. She then worked for a company that sourced employees for their clients.
Knowing nothing about the company, she entered the gate, went straight in and asked for an audience to sell.
“Instead of letting me see the manager, they released a dog on me, thinking I was a conwoman. I ran for my life. I did not know if it was just a pet or rabid one, all I knew is I wanted to get away,” she says.
To sell someone an idea needs patience. That is what Namoma did. She went online (which she realised she should have done in the first place) and researched about the company and that is when she learnt that they got their employees through referrals. She got their contact online, sent an email and tried making calls but nothing came out of that.
“I attended an event and someone from the company happened to be there. I went and introduced myself afresh without mentioning the past escapades. I got the company on board,” she excitedly revealed.
Namoma believes her sales skills were harnessed back in primary school. She would always help her mother sell books and fruits and was always curious about why prices of different products were different.
In secondary school, she worked with her older friends to sell second hand clothes, posing as a model.
However, what she really wanted was to be an air hostess so when she joined university, she studied hospitality management. She later went to Kenya Wildlife Services as an intern and there she got to interact with tourists.
Being at the front office, she would not only give the guests information about the place. Her manager recognised her selling prowess.
After school, she started working at Jumia Travel where her job was bringing hotels on board and listing them to create visibility and options for anyone coming to Africa to easily get accommodation and other services. She got so good at selling the service that she was sent to different countries.
She wanted more out of this newfound career. She went back to school and studied a Bachelor’s of Commerce, where she understood that she could package the selling in a marketing way.
From a cold call to a job
While working for a recruitment firm, one of the companies she approached was Pesapal. The CEO of Pesapal assured her the referral mode of hire was working well for them. It was a straight no.
But Namoma kept reaching out from time to time to see if they had a change of mind.
“The third time I reached out, he said he was impressed by my persistence and said should I want to work with them, there was a post available.”
She got in as a business development manager, went into training and orientation, sold from one product to another and started climbing through the ranks.
Managing walk-ins, cold calls
According to Namoma, when you do a walk-in, do not put the people under pressure. If the person to talk to is available, well and good. If they are not, simply take a contact, go back and do proper research on them, know what they are selling, and the next time you talk to them, you will have enough information to talk to them about the business you are offering.
Make a call to do an introduction. You may not get the person you need to talk to, but you will get a pointer.
If the first shot fails, try approaching them differently. It can be through someone you know who knows them, or social media, among other tactics.
“My biggest lesson is doing research on business prospects. What they are selling, how long they have been in business, who they are working with, and a few of their achievements, among other things. It gets easier to build rapport with the company than going in blindly without information,” she says.
Most of the time you find businesses that are not aware that they need the business you are offering, others think it is conmen. Instead of saying you got their contact online, try explaining how you got to them by talking about the society they are surrounded with and how the type of business you offer will help them.
“You have to be very patient because with cold calls, you will get a very busy person, an uninterested person, and one who has no idea what business you are offering and the benefits of having that kind of feature in their service,”she says.
Feature truths = baggage
A feature truth, according to Namoma, means a service promised to a client who is not available in the company at the moment, but may or may not have the possibility to happen in the future. Most of these features can be acquired from a third party as a gig.
“As a salesperson, avoid selling feature truths and concentrate on what you can offer at the moment. Most salespeople use this to keep a client but it later makes them look like a fool in front of clients and they start fidgeting for referrals. This can end in extra costs, which may affect the company,” she says.
Stay with the trend
Technology keeps evolving every now and then. To stay relevant, Namoma says knowing what their competitors are doing, what is trending in the market, and getting feedback from clients helps keep up with the trends.
“On portfolios of the merchants we have, we always ask for feedback through a questionnaire survey about our service, its efficiency, among other things,” she says.
When asked about work-life balance, Namoma says there is time for everything.
“I have learnt to go home and put away my laptop or phone to be a mother. I have time when I want to be a wife and go out with my husband and relax,” she says.
She adds that the balance will depend on the decisions she makes. Once in a while, she may find herself answering an important work-related call, but not all the time.