Imonikhe Uanikhehi, group head, New Business & Growth at Anakle, a leading creative agency, has a decade of experience in sales, business development and strategy.In his previous role at The First Group, a blue-chip British-owned real estate company based in Dubai with offices around the EMEA region, his successful contribution to the business boosted his growth to management level as Sales Manager. In this interview with HOPE ASHIKE-MOSES, he shares his career journey in the world of sales, the experiences that have shaped him and his advice for individuals and companies that have sales at the centre of their career or business. Excerpts:
Can you give us some insight into your background and how it has shaped you?
I am from Edo State. I am the last of five children. I was a really sweet child. I used to go everywhere with my Dad. I attended two primary schools continuing to secondary school in the second one, Ebenezer Secondary School. I got into university two years after in 2005 and I was studying estate management up until 500-level when I dropped out.
Why did you drop out?
I got tired of the system. I wasn’t enjoying it and I needed to do something completely different when I got an opportunity to work, selling properties for a British company. I jumped into it.
What was your introduction to the world of sales?
The same month when I dropped out was when I started working at a British company called The First Group to sell properties. I worked there between 2011 to 2016. In 2017, I moved to Anakle, an integrated creative agency as Sales Lead. Effectively, I moved from working in real estate as a Sales Manager to working as a Sales Lead at a creative agency.
Did the switch scare you?
No, it didn’t. Sales is still the same thing. It’s just the product you are selling that changes but it is still the same process.
What does your current role entail?
I am the Group Head of New Business & Growth at Anakle. My role is to manage growth for the company from where they are to where they ought to be. Not just the company but the people, I have to ensure that everyone is actually growing. The business is expanding into different cities, different products and gaining more clients. That’s what my role is.
Can you remember the first time you made a sale; how did you feel?
The first time I made a sale was in 2011. I think in April or March. At this time, I was selling properties. I learnt something from that experience. I learnt not to pre-judge because the first person I sold to didn’t look the part but this person did not just buy one unit, he bought two units. I wasn’t prejudging which was a good thing because if I was, I would not be trying to understand who was seated in front of me. Keeping an open mind and getting to learn more about the person got me to understand that all that isn’t glittering doesn’t mean that it is not gold.
What is your sales philosophy?
My sales philosophy is to make a friend! A lot of salespeople think that closing is where the sale is but the sale never dies. It is a continuous process of being friends with that person. It is easier to sell great ideas to your friends because you are consistently looking out for them. You genuinely want to know more about this person. You genuinely want to find out how much value you can give to this person and how you can help this person solve problems. When friendship is made, a sale is made.
Coronavirus has disrupted previously reliable systems used by organisations to ensure client acquisition and retention, what sales strategies and trends do you think will provide sustained success in the future?
I will say that there is always an opportunity in every situation. For instance, if you were used to having physical meetings as part of your sales process, I think now your presentation style and approach should be geared towards virtual meetings. You have to enhance your sales process by improving your virtual presentation skills which are different from what is required in physical or face to face meetings. During these virtual meetings, watch out for tonality, how people are speaking to you, what they are saying, what they are not saying, things that are being said by not even saying anything. You can lead from that and ask the right questions. Basically, ensuring that irrespective of the fact that you are not having face to face meetings anymore, you are still getting to know and understand your client, giving more value and winning more business.
What has been your most challenging moment as a salesperson?
I think it was when I moved to Lagos. I used to sell in Abuja and moving to Lagos was a different market because everything seemed to be really fast.
Has any experience ever made you think of quitting?
Every day, it’s just the challenge that comes with it. Challenges are part of life and when those challenges come, you start questioning your competence. But at the end of the day, it is the final thought that counts and we are not acting on our negative thoughts, we are only thinking about positive things and acting on them. When you think of quitting, you know that there is a bigger picture. Quitting sales is not a thing for me. There have been challenges but I am not going to quit!
Any advice for individuals looking to build a career in sales or businesses looking to build a sales strategy that works?
For anyone who wants to build a career in sales, I would say that the first rule is to make a friend and the last rule is to make a friend whether it’s a business or a person. My advice is to keep it as friendly as possible. A close is not necessarily when the money exchanges hands but when you have given value. I would say anyone who wants to go into sales should sell by making a friend. That’s really my policy. Build better relationships, build stronger businesses.
You have had a very exciting career over the past few years, what are you looking forward to in the next decade?
I want a situation where there will be many more people like me and even better than myself. These people will also be open to training even more people. In the next decade, I want a situation where people begin to recognise that they are natural salespeople and can use the skills they have built over time for their business or themselves. I want to help 10 million professionals and business leaders achieve greatness in career and business.