Leading SA entrepreneurs join forces to develop new technology aimed at solving local skills crsis
Three of SA's leading entrepreneurs have developed a world first mobile technology that offers hope for thousands of unemployed South Africans and companies who are realising the traditional model of training its workforce is no longer working.
This radically new approach to skills enhancement and empathic plea for businesses to change the way in which they have been looking at training sales people, is made by three young entrepreneurs who have joined forces to form CLEVVA – a hosted Software As A Service (SAAS) business that has cracked the proverbial code when it comes to overcoming human shortcomings and lacking product knowledge with the help of mobile technology.
"The figures are already frightening”
“Clearly, we need to look at a way to harness their natural strengths and willingness to learn through gaining practical, hands-on experience without the fear of failure – using technology as their safety net. The traditional cycle of hiring, training, testing, re-training and eventually losing sales people and their knowledge has to change if there is any hope for our future”, Falkenberg states.
It is against this backdrop that CLEVVA has been created as the brainchild of brothers Ryan and Dayne Falkenberg and their business partner Mark Pederson. These three successful entrepreneurs have already made a name for themselves internationally, each in their own areas of specialization and focus, but have now pooled their resources to deliver a homegrown solution for companies that is the first of its kind in the world.
Explains Falkenberg: “Even though all three of us were successful entrepreneurs and MDs of our own respective companies*, we were driven by our common goal and shared vision to develop a workable and accessible technology-based solution that would both empower employees (regardless of their age, skill level or product knowledge) and ultimately benefit their employers - namely any business that has an extensive product range or service offering that needs to be explained and sold to potential customers. With CLEVVA we allow companies to effectively capture and apply their sales, product and technical expertise.
Regardless of how many products a company has on offer, or how complex the products, and no matter what the level of knowledge and/or experience their staff, CLEVVA allows your company to capture its sales and support expertise in a way that is easy to access and easy to maintain. Your clients can then be assured of the same advice and service efficiency, whether they choose to engage with your website, store, mobile sales and support staff or your contact centre”.
The South African business environment is becoming increasingly complex. In order to compete with international players, companies have to offer to their customers a wider range of products than ever before, selling to more industries and to a wider range of clients with a wider range of business need, using a wider range of channel options.
“At the same time, processes and products change faster than ever before”, Falkenberg states. “No sooner have we trained our staff on the new products or services we expect them to know and sell, before they change. This means we have to keep calling our sales teams back for ‘reversion control’ ... at least for as long as that version remains valid”.
As a result of all this complexity and change, sales staff begin to simplify things just to cope. They tend to narrow their focus to a few products, within a few industries and a few key clients. And these are usually those that they remember and where they have experienced the greatest success.
“This limits a business’s ability to scale. It forces you to accept product specialisation within your sales and support teams, where one person becomes the expert in a specific product range, rather than an expert in the sales or support of your entire product range. It also makes you vulnerable to experienced product specialists resigning, and leaving a large gap in your company’s expertise”, Falkenberg says.
Historically, companies tried to overcome this by offering more training, more documentation, and more coaching. A variety of different systems were used to manage this journey, in the hope that companies could limit the risk of inexperienced staff in our business. Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems were used to guide and track what sales staff actually did (or said they did) and Knowledge Management Systems to save all product information in one place, in the hope that staff would read and absorb it. “In truth, however, none of these attempts have really worked”, Falkenberg admits.
Thanks to the CLEVVA team, however, South Africa now has the first, viable alternative that can be used by small, medium and large businesses. “We are able to capture the decision-making logic of a company’s product experts in a way that really helps inexperienced or under-trained sales or technical support staff to perform as experts”, Falkenberg explains.
Before it has even officially launched or raised its public head, CLEVVA has already received international recognition for its ability to transform and revolutionise the traditional approach to business. It was recently selected as a high impact South African business by Endeavor in 2012, a global non-profit organisation that identifies and supports innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs in emerging markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, India, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey. It has also already successfully signed up clients in various fields and industries, including FMCG, flooring, building and construction and even local government and service delivery companies are eager get in on the action.
“We believe we finally have a workable and practical solution to get our country employed and working”, Falkenberg says. “For the first time in South Africa (and perhaps even the world), we have developed technology that breaks the crazy cycle of repeated training and skills seminars that keeps our sales people out of the workplace and fills them with dread and fear of getting it wrong. We no longer have to dread losing precious product expertise when the top sales person leaves the company or retires, because technology now offers us a way to create a digitised form of a company’s sales brochure”, Falkenberg says.
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