An interview with Matthew Bach, a Partnership & Growth Manager who lives and works in South Africa

Matthew Bach is currently a Partnership & Growth Manager at Catalyst Solutions. He’s also our first interviewee from South Africa! We talked to Matthew about his background, his goals, and how selling in SA is different from everywhere else. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

You’ve been selling for over a decade. How did you get your start in sales? 

I could never afford to pay for my own tertiary studies, so I decided to start working in the hopes of getting myself into the position. I’ve always had natural social ability and have always been able to talk to individuals and large groups with a high level of comfort. This has led to a desire to be in front of people as much as possible.

My first sales opportunity came whilst I was working in an administrative role for a local business. We set up a networking event and I thrived. One of the independent franchise owners heard about my confidence when dealing with clients and offered me a sales role. 

When did you know it would be your career?

Being able to meet and assist different kinds of people from different backgrounds across South Africa ticked all the boxes for me when I started. But I knew that sales would be my game when the first client referred me to another. Being recommended as a trusted partner from one client to another was the most rewarding activity, and it quickly became an addiction. 

You’re located in South Africa. What is it like to work in sales there? Is it a common career? What is different for a rep in SA than it is in, say, North America? 

The South African sales market in my opinion, is one of the single most exciting markets to sell in. With 11 official languages and a diverse culture, every call and every meeting is a different experience.

Sales is a common career in South Africa and can be easily entered with or without a tertiary education. Those who make a career in sales though are those who truly go out and learn to understand their clients needs. 

The biggest difference I find is that the South African market is extremely casual, and clients aren’t generally skeptical. Booking meetings and signing contracts can be relatively easy if you know what your clients' pain points are. 

You sell tax services across 3 continents (Africa, Australia, Europe) what is something in your sales approach that remains consistent across all these different geographies? 

The focus on ethical sales. People, in general, are switched on and can quickly pick up if a product or service is being forced on them. Matching a product or service to a client's needs promotes ethical sales and ensures not only your own confidence, but that the client's confidence is present. 

Often, reps sell something without pitching it against a problem the client is experiencing. These reps don’t last long. 

What does a typical work day look like for you? Walk us through it. 

It always starts with a team checkpoint meeting. The first coffee in the office needs to be spent with the team, which allows me to set the tone for the day.

The early hours of the day are used to research clients, typically in an industry that we aren’t yet dominating. Admin tasks such as team, CRM and client management take up most of the morning.  

With the time difference between our markets, client meetings/presentations take up the later hours of the day.

We wrap up the day when our clients wrap up theirs, which can be rather late during our summer. The last activity is then reviewing the day's rejections to further adapt our approach. 

What's the one thing you’ve found that helps you be successful in sales? 

Spending the time to understand your market, your product and your client; and then being methodical in your activity. Sales is a process with stages that build relationships and move a deal towards closing. Taking time to understand and then implement this, even if it means you miss your first month's targets, will help you stand out from the rest.

What are your long term career goals? Early retirement or future CRO? 

Head of Sales before the age of 30. I've been told I am too young to become part of exco (executive level), but my dream is to implement the structures and processes that have allowed me to significantly increase a company's sales revenue from an exco level, instead of from an individual sales team level. 

What is your favorite sales movie?

I don’t believe in or enjoy sales movies and self-help books. This purely because they are money-driven, instead of client-driven. Chasing dollar signs promotes unethical sales and unethical sales leads to underperformance. 

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