We talked to Paul Foh, CEO of Sales Force Africa about how he transitioned from sales into one of the biggest sales consultants in Africa.
If you have been working in sales for a while, you would feel that a natural next step for your career would be a management role or entrepreneurship, especially if you have the skills and experience to back it up. However, there is another option you might not have considered - becoming a sales consultant.
Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Don’t I have to have lots of experience, knowledge, and resources to become a consultant?” Of course. But how can you get to that level in your career where you can safely say you have all the above and are ready to take on the challenge of sales consultancy?
If you’ve been in the sales field, doing the work, learning the skills, and expanding your knowledge, then you have a solid foundation to stand on. However, the story will change if you’re completely new to the industry from a different field, or just starting out in sales. You’ll need to put in the work if you want to become a sales consultant. This involves doing research, finding opportunities to stretch your sales muscle, learning new skills, and networking (obviously). You might also have to get relevant certifications to strengthen your qualifications before gaining work experience.
So what exactly does a sales consultant do? A sales consultant is someone who uses their experience and skills to help clients and businesses increase their sales by recommending specific improvements in their organizational processes. They can be self-employed and work directly with clients on contract, or they can work for a consulting firm.
The role of a sales consultant typically includes:
Working together with marketing departments to improve online presence and brand awareness.
Helping in the development of protocols and procedures intended to increase the conversion of leads into sales.
Teaching sales reps to keep organized and detailed records
Following up with prospects
Increasing their understanding of the market and product knowledge to help sales reps determine the most effective selling strategies
Establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with clients
Training sales reps to use relevant technology to boost their sales conversions.
If all this sounds attractive to you then you’re in for a real treat. We had the opportunity to interview Paul Foh, a top sales coach and CEO of Sales Force Africa about his career journey into sales consultancy. He also offered insight on the field which will be helpful for anyone looking to transition into the field.
Talk to us about the work you do at Sales Factory Africa.
We are a sales training company. We help people improve their sales by teaching them current techniques that can help them sell both online and offline. We teach them how to attract leads, follow up, and close sales especially offline because Africa and the world as a whole still conduct business offline - we don’t just work within the online space.
Was becoming one of the top sales coaches in Africa something you always envisioned for yourself, and how did that happen for you?
I’ve always known I wanted to do this. I’ve always had this capacity, skill, and talent to inspire people to be the best they can be. I’m actually living my dream right now, but it didn’t start with sales. It started with just general motivation. I tell people all the time that when you have a dream, it must evolve and take steps, so we’re here in the dimension of sales now.
How did your dream evolve from where you started up to now?
I started by writing a free newsletter, from which I’ve written several books. I’ve really grown just by putting one foot in front of another. Because when you see someone succeeding and doing what they want to do, what you’re actually seeing is page 5. You’ve not gone through the introduction, the preface, and all the drafts that didn’t even make it into the book itself.
What does it take to get started in a sales career or become a sales consultant?
Firstly, you should know there are two types of consultants:
An Experiential consultant: This is someone who has worked in the field before and has about 8-10 years of experience, then resigns and starts teaching other people how to sell.
A research consultant: This is someone who essentially loves the field so much that they keep researching how to be the best in that field. In the process, they are also selling themselves.
I am a combination of both because I started my career selling books for a retail company and for myself. I have done the work and deeply researched it (and I’m still reading), so it’s always about constantly learning.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career shift into sales from an entirely different field?
Don’t jump in with both feet. Start by putting one foot first and testing the waters, At first, it can be very frustrating because you might not know how to get customers in the first place.
Also if there’s one skill I believe you’d need to train for in this field, it would be public speaking and writing, particularly copywriting and direct response writing. You need to be able to put words on paper that will make people pay you money.
Which essential aspects of a sales role do you think people ignore when it comes to the job?
The marketing role, because marketing is connected to sales in that it helps to generate leads. Many salespeople tend to ignore that part of the process and they need to take it seriously.
How can you learn on the job to climb the career ladder into sales consultancy?
Well, if you are trying to learn on the job then you must be constantly reading, researching, and developing yourself, which will cost you money. Most people don’t like to spend money on themselves especially when it comes to personal development, but you’ll have to change this mindset if you want to grow professionally.
Shadowing people with experience in sales and taking in all the knowledge they offer can also help you learn on the job.
What are some things you’ve done to improve your sales game outside the office?
I coach the sales teams of a few companies and that has helped me a lot. I’ve been working with them every day, which helped to improve and sharpen my skills. The more I coach them, the more I improve my skills in the process.
Are there any helpful resources you can share for anyone looking to venture into a sales career?
If there’s one resource I would recommend for everyone to use, it would be my newsletter - The Foh Letters. There is a free version and a paid version and I would encourage them to go for the latter because I go into more detail. It’s $10 a month or $100 a year and you’ll get an audio email from me discussing case studies on African and global success stories while dissecting the sales aspect of it. I also conduct Zoom coaching calls for anyone who has subscribed.
A book I would recommend for people to read is Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount, which is a very good book on sales.