South Africa’s service industry becomes more important as economy tightens

Keeping a R480bn goose alive in southern Africa

Service has globally become a more important industry than all resources combined but for oil. It is fuelling phenomenal economic growth in countries as diverse asIreland and India, but a poor service industry in South Africa is imperilling growth.

Sales and the service sector are critical to southern African economies with those sectors contributing 60% to 70% of gross domestic product (GDP) according to the World Trade Organisation. Although African exports of commercial services jumped 46% between 2003 to 2005 and exports rose $39bn to $57bn (R480bn) for transport, travel, business, professional and other services they are sensitive to instability.

“Sales in South Africa for everything from property to new cars have been phenomenal in recent years, with new car sales alone up 20% from 2004 to 2006; in Kwa Zulu Natal, as a further example, 15% of property sales are to foreign buyers,” Liza van Wyk, CEO of business training organisation, BizTech said. “But with business confidence at its lowest level in seven years and gross domestic product in danger of slipping two percentage points, consumers will hold onto their wallets longer and foreign investors will be more cautious. An essential aspect of any sale now, will be value-added aspects especially the service provided during and after the transaction.”

She says interest in BizTech’s course on Successful Selling Made Simple is “seeing a definite upward curve. The importance of effective selling not just on the shop floor but in globalised markets has become critical. Our economy has been so strong in recent years that some have become a little lax about two of the five essential P’s of selling – price and product (the other three are place, promotion and people). In many instances South Africa has overpriced itself, especially as a tourist destination and the product obtained has not always been of top quality. Service with a smile and reliability is often lacking.”

Van Wyk says too that sales people are not always adequately trained. “Selling is a strategic exercise; you need to know first of all who needs the product, understand why and set a price that is attractive to the purchaser.
“For example, monetary results are a strong motivator for many people. If your solution can provide the customer with increased income, profit or sales you will have an attentive listener. If your cost is competitive or quality can be assured then you have a better chance of making the sale but in a tighter economy consumers are also more risk averse, they want assurances of quality and reliability.”

Mark Kaminsky who helps facilitate the Successful Selling Made Simple course says too that there are distinct differences between selling a service and a tangible, visible product. “With a service it is the people who deliver and therefore the maxim ‘people buy people’ is of vital importance. The attitude, personality and level of expertise of sales staff can make all the difference between a person signing on the dotted line or walking away. In service selling the customer is buying into a relationship.”

And understanding buyer needs and motivation is critical with the most important word in the dictionary being the seven letters that spell: respect. “A client wants to be seen as knowledgeable and if they are not, they want their questions to be addressed thoughtfully. If a salesperson does not gain confidence at the beginning of the transaction they never will.”

He says it is important that age, gender, clothes and body language are all critical signs that clients look for when considering a purchase. “An open and honest attitude is also very important. Customers also buy benefits, they need to know the value added criteria that are not immediately apparent that will make their life easier, their job more enjoyable or their life more comfortable.”

Probably the most difficult challenge for any salesperson is dealing with an angry or irritable client. Kaminsky warns: “listen carefully to any objection or complaint. Don’t take the complaint personally; the client has the right to express dissatisfaction. Empathise, admit disadvantages if there are any and offer a solution. Often discord occurs because a client has not understood a sale or aspects of the product fully or the salesperson does not understand their product or service sufficiently and cannot suggest ways to assist the client.”

Sales and services are multi-billion rand industries, they are at the heart of everything we do whether turning on the tap, buying a new home or enrolling for a course. “The present economic climate is tricky and those that will succeed best are those who listen the closest, have highly skilled, expertly trained staff that is solutions-focussed and driven in their desire to please,” van Wyk said.

The next courses of Successful Selling Made Simple will take place on 14 and 15 April or 20 and 21 October, for more details contact or consult

Biz Tech Fast Facts:
Biz Tech is an equal opportunity company.
Biz Tech courses include: Mastermind the Perfect Corporate Function; Finance and Budgets for PAs; Business Communication; Professional Office Manager; Project Management for PAs and Administrators, etcetera…

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO BIZTECH 011 997 9800 or

Issued by MediaOnLine