Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sales 101 - How to Increase Your Sales Income - Part 8

SALES 101 - How to Increase Your Sales Income – Part 8

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting

What are your sales people up to?  Are they making sufficient calls?  Are they engaging with clients and doing presentations?  Are they setting up appointments with prospective clients?  Are they out and about looking for new clients?  Are they going through the archives, finding clients that have not been serviced in a long time?  Are you actually checking up on them to see what it is that they are up to?

Quite frankly, if your staff are just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or someone to walk in, then you have a problem – waiting for things to happen usually leads to nothing happening!

Sales is a numbers game – I am sure that you have heard that term, time and time again and believe me it’s true.  That said, in order for the game to be played, action needs to take place.

So use the toe on your boot and use you boot to kick the butts of your sales team and ‘kick start’ them into action.  Get them phoning, old clients, clients that were interested in something years ago, but that never quite panned out because you didn’t have exactly what they wanted – perhaps you have what they need now, and of course cold calling.  Get them out and about, going to networking meetings, setting up appointments and doing presentations – even sorting out and setting up new presentations.  Make sure that they have a minimum quota to get through each day and believe me the business will come in.

The more ‘action’ that they engage in, the more business that will come in.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Networking 101 - Effective Communication is Key

Networking 101 – Effective Communication is Key

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Craig Harrison says that the reason that Networking may not be working for you is because of the basic 9 mistakes that Networker’s make.  I will be going through these over the next few weeks and let’s see if this is what is holding you back.

The eighth mistake, Craig says is “Slinging slang.  Many networker’s profess to have excellent communication skills yet use slang or mispronounce big words when little words would have been better.  Beware the use of contractions, excessive acronyms and name-dropping too.  Don’t tell us what you’re gonna do!  I would like to hear what you are going to do instead.”

This is also one of my favourites and I must say I am often hugely amused when people used words that they don’t know how to pronounce and then given time, once I have worked out what they were trying to say, I have lost most of what they did say.

The one that springs to mind right now is the chap that said ‘a certain’ instead of ascertain!  Obviously the meaning of ‘a certain’ is completely different to ascertain and the result of that was that what he was saying made no sense at all.  By the time I had figured out that he had meant to say ‘ascertain’, I had lost the rest of his speech, on what he was trying to say and what he did.  Make no mistake, I had also lost the will to try and do any kind of networking or business with him as well.

I know that we live in the ‘new’ South Africa and that there are 11 official languages out there – 10 of whom I have no idea how to communicate in, and yes I am often amazed that the fact that many people here can speak four or five of those languages, clearly I am not one of them.  The bottom line is that most business is conducted in English and if you cannot speak English so that it can be understood, by the people who do speak it, you will have a very difficult time and you will miss out on opportunities that will be snapped up by others.

Make sure that the words that you do want to use, are pronounced clearly and in the manner in which they are supposed to be pronounced.  Practice what you want to say in your delivery speech and if need be, get someone who is fluent in English, to listen to your delivery and make corrections where needed.

Most of all, have fun!  Having your own business should not be all stress and seriousness.   Remember why you went into business for yourself in the first place.  It’s an intergral part of your life and you should be enjoying it to the hilt.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BUSINESS TIPS – Common Mistakes Start-up Businesses Make - Part 2

BUSINESS TIPS – Common Mistakes Start-up Businesses Make -  Part 2

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting CC

Following on from last time, here are some more of the common mistakes that are made by SME’s (small, medium enterprises) and start-ups.

Under charging for products and services.
This one I certainly can relate to as it was one of the mistakes that I made when I started out and it became a really big problem.  You see firstly, the way that you ‘charge’ (especially for services or hourly rates) tells people who you are and even what you think of yourself.  Secondly, it all goes to selecting, in part, who your target market is.  Obviously, if your charges are too high, or not in line with the rest of the industry, this could also have quite an effect on your turnover and obviously your cash flow.

My biggest problem was that I could not find anyone here in South Africa who was doing what I wanted to do – great opportunity for me, but a bit of a ‘thumb suck’ when it came to fixing prices and costs.  So I used my ‘corporate monthly salary’ as a guide line!  What a mistake that turned out to be.  I also did not factor in a whole bunch of stuff, such as (but not limited to), that although there are (well there should be) eight working hours in a day, five days a week to get the work done (well that’s what I got paid for in the corporate world) – the reality is that some of those hours will be spent on marketing and finding those clients – you can’t charge anyone for that and some of those hours will be spent on admin – you can’t charge anyone for that either.  So the bottom line is that you don’t have 22 days in a month that you can charge out at an hourly rate – more realistically it is around 10 days.  Now that sure messes with your calculations.

The second problem was that because I had come in at such a low cost (R200 per hour), I attracted pretty much all the wrong target market.  Yes, they were the SME and start-up market, which was exactly where I wanted to be, and yes they were in desperate need of what I was offering, just like it should be – the problem was that they could not even afford to pay me at that low rate.

Instead of cutting my losses and walking away from the problem, I compounded it by becoming all emotional and feeling sorry for them, so I offered them a) discounts if they paid me cash and b) terms if they couldn’t!  Bad move on both elements.  By offering them discounts on charges that were already too low, I was not even breaking even and of course I was telling them that I did not value myself very much and quite frankly, if I didn’t value myself very much, why on earth would they value me?  Offering them terms . . .  well let’s just say that that wasn’t my finest decision, especially as I continued to work for them, even while I was trying to get money out of them for work that had been done months ago. I am sure you can see where that went – they disappeared and I never got paid and it got quite ugly.  In my first two years of trading, I wrote off tens of thousands of bad debt that I could ill afford.

Finally I got over my emotional self, upped my prices considerably and found myself a better quality of client . . .  One that could pay.  Are my prices still reasonable?  Of course they are, they have to be in order for me to make any impact in my chosen market, but they are no longer ridiculously low.

So this is very important people, you need to make sure that your charges are reasonable enough to evidence good value for money, but you also need to cover all of your costs as well as leave something over as profit.  It needs to be looked at very closely and very honestly and more often than not, very brutally.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Friday, May 19, 2017

HR 101 - What to do when . . . You're not sure About Leave - Part 3


By Nikki Viljoen – N Viljoen Consulting CC.

Please note that this pertains to the South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

I promised that we would have a look at the subject of accumulation of leave.

This is not a good idea people – not good for the Business at all! Actually the Letters and Contracts of Appointment that I have, deals very clearly with this point. Let’s examine why it is not a good idea and then I will let you know how I deal with it in the employee contracts.

So George has been working for Mike now for a period of 17 years.  Both George and Mike are very ‘proud’ of the fact that George has not taken a single days worth of leave in that entire time.  The perception of course is that George is so dedicated to his work that he will sacrifice himself  in order to make sure that the business works . . . well! Seventeen years – that’s a long time not to take leave, in fact it is a whopping 255 days leave that is due to George – almost 9 months worth of leave due!  Incredible wouldn’t you say?  Well not for me, I would say “EEEeeeeeeekkkkk!  Houston we have a problem!”

Let’s have a look at the real reason that George has not taken leave.  You see, personally I don’t believe that anyone could be that dedicated!  Even people who own their own Businesses or work for themselves take a break from time to time and there is anyone ‘dedicated’ to what they do, it’s them.  Wouldn’t you agree?

One of the biggest frauds that I have come across in my career as Internal Auditor (a career that spans more than 35 years, I might add) ‘popped’ up when we put a stop to all overtime and insisted that people within the organization took their leave.  You see, the people who are committing fraud, or who (as in this case) were ‘in charge’ of all the people that they had coerced into committing the fraud, had to be around in case a question or two was asked – so that they could cover their tracks, make the appropriate excuses or make a timeous exit, should the need arise.

That is one of the reasons that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act is quite specific about leave and how it should be taken.  Taking a day here or there doesn’t cut it.  Your employees need to take their leave in blocks/weeks/chunks or any other way you would like to describe it.

Let’s be reasonable, apart from anything else, everyone needs a break, everyone needs to rest and honestly speaking, you are not doing yourself or your business any favours by having people around that are dog tired.  Contrary to popular belief, they do not work to their best capacity and neither do you.  So let them take their time off and make sure that you do too.

So that’s the first reason that your staff MUST take leave – let’s have a look at some of the others.

Although George has been with Mike for seventeen years now, he has been headhunted by Mike’s rival company.  Apart from anything else, they are prepared to give George, double the salary that he is earning right now and they are also going to throw in a car, a petrol allowance and a cell phone.  George of course, being the loyal employee that he is turns down the offer!  Yeah right!  George hands his resignation in so quickly, it’s written and handed in before Mike can even blink!

Think about this one for a moment -  Mike now has to “pay out” the 255 days leave that he owes George and get this – it’s not at 15 days at the rate that George was paid in the first year and then 15 days that George was paid in the 2nd year and so on.  It is 255 days at George’s current rate of pay!  What exactly do you think that this is going to do to Mike’s cash flow, presuming of course that he has one?

This is the kind of stuff that ‘closes’ businesses down – fast.

In the employment contracts that I use, it is stipulated that employees have to take a minimum of 80% of their leave as at 31 December of each year.  The balance of 20% may be accumulated until 31 March of the following year and if not taken by then is forfeited by the employee.

As you can see, it is in your own best interests to ensure that your employees take their leave every year – all of it.

Next week, we will look at a whole new topic!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sales 101 - How to Increase Your Sales Income - Part 7

SALES 101 - How to Increase Your Sales Income – Part 7

By Nikki Viljoen – Viljoen Consulting May 2009.

Everyone in South Africa is talking about the skills shortage.  Actually the skills shortage is not only linked to South Africa, but appears to be a world wide problem.

When we talk about skills shortages we immediately think of people in the engineering or financial type world.  Sadly they are not the only skilled shortages we have.

The majority of my clients who have product to sell are really battling to find skilled sales staff.

Gone are the days when people just left school and walked into a sales position that then served them well.  Gone are the days that when just anybody could become a sales person.

Clients today are a lot more sophisticated in their requirements.  There is a lot more choice available and people have a clearer picture of what it is that they want and they want to be given what they want rather than what the sales person think that they want or alternatively what the sales person may have available to sell.

The bottom line therefore is that your sales team need to be taught the skills and techniques that they will need in order to secure a sale.

So teaching them the skill (if you yourself have it) should become a matter of priority or you should make the decision to invest the time and money in insuring that they are adequately trained in the skill of selling and that they have the basic requirements of product knowledge.

Once they are trained, ensuring that their expectation and yours meet in the middle and that their perception is same as yours will also assist exponentially in ensuring that your sales force is moving in the direction that you want them to go.

Defining their roles, giving them realistic targets and rewarding them on the standard of their performance will usually motivate them to achieve even larger targets.

It’s just a matter of you ‘reap what you sow’ – so give them the right tools and the right training – you are the one that will reap the rewards.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or or

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Networking 101 - Mind Your Manners

Networking 101 – Mind Your Manners

By Nikki Viljoen of N Viljoen Consulting CC

Craig Harrison says that the reason that Networking may not be working for you is because of the basic 9 mistakes that Networker’s make.  I am going through these over the next few weeks and let’s see if this is what is holding you back.

The seventh mistake, Craig says is “You don’t mind your manners.  Networker’s can’t make small talk, don’t show an ability to exchange pleasantries and interrupt others.  Can you gracefully engage and disengage from conversations?  Are your questions intrusive and your answers curt?  Are you showing proper respect for the stranger you’ve just met?  Or are you singing Opera?  If so, your tune is familiar: It’s ‘me-me-me-me!”.

Well that one certainly is familiar to me.  Why is it that people seem to think that their time is more important than mine.  That what they have to say is more important than what I have to say.

Often, when I am engaged in conversation with someone else, they rudely push in, shove something either into my hand or the hand of the person that I am busy in conversation with and demand to be heard there and then!  How rude!

I must admit, that although I will get to them eventually, I usually leave them until last.  I find it difficult to be pleasant to someone who has treated me with such disrespect.

Going to a networking meeting with the only thought being what you can sell to someone is not going to work for you at all.  Remember, everyone is there for the same purpose – we all want to sell something.  I mean, think about it – who goes to these things will the sole purpose of buying something – certainly not me and if you are all honest with yourselves, neither do you.

The mindset needs to change though, because you need to go to the meeting with the idea of helping others – through connecting others with each other, you yourself will become connected.

That’s how it works for me and that is how it will work for you.  You have to give, in order to get.

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or

Monday, May 15, 2017

Motivation - Sharing Life


By Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC

Today’s quote comes from Erin Majors, who says:

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

This is so true of so much in life.  I am often astounded at how incredibly scared (or perhaps selfish is the right word) people are to share, especially in the business world.  It’s almost as if, people are scared to give someone a helping hand because that may mean that  they will lose out on the deal.  How bizarre!  To my mind, sharing something with someone, just makes my business just that much stronger – pretty much I guess, like the brighter light of two candles as apposed to just one.  Yet many people look at me, with a really puzzled expression on their faces when I ask “How may I be of assistance to you?”  Strange that don’t you think?

Then of course, you have those individuals who ‘help’ others, but only with some sort of hidden agenda, or a ‘what’s in it for me’!  I must say, I really don’t get that one – because sooner or later, any deviousness will come out, and usually when you least expect it!  Why does there always have to be some sort of ‘pay off’?

For me the Universe, is a really, really fun place.  I have been helped along this pathway of life, many times by complete strangers. People, whose names I never even got to know and thankfully, I have been in a position to help some along the way – again often people whose names I never got to know and quite honestly it gave me a great sense of satisfaction.  I was giving back you see – giving back to the Universe that has given so much to me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about people, who only have one purpose in life, and that is to get as much as they can out of somebody, whilst giving as little as they can in return!  I’m not talking about the people who make a career out taking anything and everything that they can.  I am not talking about the people who continually whine and moan about how badly life has treated them and how all they need is a little bit of help and then sit on their fat backsides and do nothing for themselves, whilst all around them people running around frenetically, doing everything for them!

I’m talking about empowering people to do for themselves, just like a candle – once lit – burns for itself.  Sometimes people just need a helping hand to steer them in the right direction or a little advice or a word of encouragement.

So what kind of person are you?  Do you give back to life or are you the person that just takes from it?

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or