Africa has seen a surge in the number of startups over the past decade, with many entrepreneurs seeking to solve local problems with innovative solutions. However, despite the potential for success, many African startups fail within their first few years of operation. In this interview, sales leader and founder of Thrive Consulting, Tayo Sowole, dives deep into the reasons for startup failures and how Thrive Consulting is building a community to help Leaders in commercial and revenue-related functions thrive.
Considering the alarming failure of tech startups, what measures can founders take to scale, and how can Thrive Consulting help improve the startup success rate in Africa?
Honestly, the tech landscape is tough, and founders need to adopt a strategic and multifaceted approach to scale successfully. As a startup, it is important to thoroughly understand your target market and ensure your offerings meet actual needs. Your sales strategy also needs to evolve as the business grows. Data plays a critical role in today's business environment, and tech founders must leverage it more aggressively. Another factor that causes startups to shut down is the failure to secure funding and proper financial management. Finally, building a strong team and a supportive company culture are foundational for success. Thrive Consulting can be an invaluable partner for tech startups looking to navigate the complexities of scaling. We can help design scalable sales models and processes and train sales teams to implement them effectively. We can also support startups in developing hiring strategies that foster a culture of growth and innovation, setting up robust data analytics systems, and enabling data-driven decision-making and strategy formulation.
What are some of the biggest challenges revenue team leaders for African startups face at the moment, and what are the likely solutions?
The challenge of accessing skilled sales talent is a significant one for sales and revenue leaders at Africa-focused startups. It’s often hard to find professionals who are not just adept at sales techniques but also have a deep understanding of both local markets and specific industries within the diverse African landscape. Our diverse local cultures, languages, consumer behaviours, and economic conditions in Africa influence our purchasing decisions a lot. Also, having industry-specific knowledge about the competitive landscapes, regulatory frameworks, and emerging trends is important in this peculiar business environment. Startups need sales professionals with these two critical skills to develop effective sales strategies and articulate compelling value propositions that resonate with customers. Another challenge is talent retention. When sales professionals with the required skills and experience are eventually found, startups often struggle to offer competitive compensation, career advancement opportunities, and a positive work environment due to resource constraints. To combat these challenges, startups need to invest in training and development programmes to enhance the skills of their workforce. This approach, however, requires time and resources, which can be a substantial burden for startups operating on limited budgets. In response to these challenges, Africa-focused startups are exploring innovative hiring strategies. These include scouting talent from unconventional sources, collaborating with educational institutions for talent development, and offering competitive benefits to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, continuous training, fostering a robust organisational culture, and leveraging technology for efficient sales processes are crucial strategies for overcoming the hurdles associated with accessing skilled sales talent in Africa.
How does Thrive Consulting tailor its services to address the specific challenges different businesses face?
When businesses approach us, the first thing we do is run an in-depth needs analysis to help us understand the unique challenges, goals, market context, and current capabilities of the business. With that in mind, we then create customised training content to address the identified gaps and challenges in the business. It ensures that the training is relevant and directly applicable to the real-world scenarios that the sales teams face. Because industries have unique sales environments and challenges, we incorporate industry-specific insights and best practices to ensure that the training is deeply relevant to the specific industry of the business. In our training, we prioritise exposing clients to relevant sales technologies and tools that can enhance the sales process. This is especially important in today’s technology-driven sales landscape, where understanding and utilising these tools can significantly impact sales effectiveness. For us, training is not seen as a one-time event but as part of an ongoing development process. That’s why we offer clients post-training support and ongoing coaching to ensure that the training leads to tangible improvements in performance.
What has helped you succeed as a sales leader, and what advice would you give aspiring sales professionals looking to excel in this field?
Success in sales heavily depends on the ability to build and maintain strong relationships, never stop learning, and adapt quickly to changes. The sales landscape is ever-evolving, and staying informed about industry trends, new sales techniques, and emerging technologies has been crucial to my success as a sales leader. Another thing that has helped me is leading by example and fostering a team environment where everyone feels valued and motivated. Last but not least are resilience and persistence. Sales can be challenging and come with their fair share of rejections and setbacks. Maintaining a positive attitude and being persistent, while also learning from failures, have been essential to my growth. For aspiring sales professionals, I often convey that achieving success requires a significant investment of time and effort and a commitment to continuous improvement. If your ambition is to become a sales rockstar, consider adopting a strategy I refer to as H.U.N.D.S. You must be willing to Hone your communication skills, Understand your product inside out, Never Stop Learning, Develop emotional intelligence, and Set goals and monitor your progress. That’s how to pull out of the crowd and stand out as an exceptional salesperson.
Are there any upcoming developments or innovations that Thrive Consulting is incorporating into its programs?
One of the major challenges that sales professionals and sales leaders face is the lack of support systems. That’s why Thrive Consulting is launching an innovative community next year for salespeople and revenue leaders. This community will serve as a rich repository of shared knowledge and best practices, as members will benefit from a collective pool of experiences and insights, learning from the successes and challenges of their peers. It will provide a platform for sales professionals and revenue leaders to connect, forge new relationships, and potentially discover new business opportunities. The Thrive Consulting Community for salespeople and revenue leaders will offer access to coaching, training, and professional development resources to help members stay competitive and effective in their roles. The community will grant access to various resources and tools, from advanced sales software to comprehensive industry reports, to help enhance their strategies and sales outcomes. It promises to be a vibrant ecosystem of shared knowledge, support, and opportunities, benefiting individual members and the sales profession. If you are a salesperson or revenue leader in the tech industry, you can request to join the community by clicking here.
Tayo Sowole is a seasoned sales professional with over a decade of experience building and scaling revenue teams across multiple industries, including e-commerce, HRTech, and Edtech. He is the founder of Thrive Consulting, a consultancy on a mission to help startup founders and sales leaders of Africa-focused SaaS companies achieve repeatable and predictable revenue growth and avoid mistakes in building revenue teams