Endless hours on the road. Working from the car, a coffee shop or a merchant’s business. Dealing with the pressure of meeting target in one of South Africa’s fastest growing technology businesses.
These are just some of the challenges a field sales specialist needs to grapple with every day.
And to do that you need to have two secret ingredients; passion and a love for helping small businesses succeed.
Luckily for the iK Tribe, our field sales specialist Nicole Whitehorn has both in abundance.
We shot down to the Mother City to catch up with Nicole to see what it takes to build a sales career in fintech.
How did you get into sales?
I studied a finance degree, but I was bitten by the sales bug early. Everyone else wanted to do their articles to become a CA, and I just knew it was not for me. I thought I'd get a bit bored sitting in an office day after day.
What drives your passion for sales?
You have to be passionate about what you’re selling. You have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to be able to see that you're making a difference, and that's definitely true at iKhokha. It's difficult not to be passionate about that.
Being able to walk into these businesses and be an integral part of their success is just great. We are making a difference. Everybody wants a job where they feel like they are doing that, and I see it every day.
Can you tell us about your road to iKhokha?
At the beginning of 2020, I was working in travel sales, and when the pandemic hit, I found myself without a job. I then got another job and was unfortunately retrenched, so it was a bit of a journey, but then iKhokha contacted me, and I felt like I went from the lowest of the low to a company I have not looked back from. The iKhokha team sent me a YouTube video, and I just knew I wanted to work there.
“We are making a difference. Everybody wants a job where they feel like they are doing that.”
What does a typical day look like for you?
No day is the same because I'm not based in an office. My office is everywhere. I try to do my admin in the morning and I'm on the road by 9am. I'm all over Cape Town - from the Winelands to the CBD to the suburbs - helping merchants, dropping off new machines and prospecting for new business. You never really know what to expect – and I love that!
Being a woman in a sales environment must come with some challenges. Can you tell us about these challenges and how you've overcome them?
When I tell people I have a degree in finance; sometimes they don't believe me. As a woman, as a blonde woman, working in sales, sometimes you need to overcome that stereotype.
But having that business degree behind me with my sales experience has helped me connect with all types of business owners, from c-suite executives to humble small business owners.
I’m comfortable talking to all people from all walks of life. I like to think that I’m quite skilled at making conversation. For me, it’s more about opening a relationship rather than closing a sale.
What is your approach when prospecting for new clients?
It's all about building trust. I'll often talk about iKhokha without a prospect even asking. I'll mention how long we've been around. I always talk about how we're top on HelloPeter and that we often feature on news websites. I think it's crucial for them to know that iKhokha is a company they can trust.
I like a personal approach. I’ll often take the machines to merchants myself and set it up for them, do their first transaction. I think that goes a long way.
“It’s more about opening a relationship rather than closing a sale."
Have you noticed a shift in the way small businesses take payments?
We're changing the landscape. We have a whole suite of solutions enabling merchants who don't have investment to put behind their businesses to access new ways of doing business at a very low upfront cost.
What makes iKhokha different to other employers?
I've been with iKhokha since October 2021, and I absolutely love my job, which is something I haven't been able to say for a long time. I love being in the fintech industry. I love how disruptive it is and that it's always changing.
A lot of companies speak about valuing employees, but iKhokha lives by it. You feel it every day, and it's great to be a part of a company that's making a difference for small businesses.
iKhokha is not just a job; it's a family. It's not a corporate either. You can still feel that startup energy and feel like you're a part of something. You feel like you matter.
“It's great to know that I have a world-class support team to back me up.”
What's it like working for a company on the other side of the country?
iKhokha makes it easy to work remotely. I've never worked for a company where you are given all the necessary resources to fulfil your role. Everybody says they do, but they don’t actually do it.
I also had access to all the teams right from the start, so you never feel like you're on your own. There's always someone to assist me. I like to have personal relationships with my clients, but it's great to know that I have a world-class support team to back me up.
What is your favourite iKhokha moment or memory so far?
I will never forget my first sale. It was a little coffee shop in a business park. I got him to move from a bank machine to an iKhokha device. I was very hands-on during the process. I trained him and his staff. Of course, I’m still in contact with him and watching as his business grows.
Part of my role includes pilot trips. They're once-a-month trips where we'll visit locations around Cape Town to prospect new business. It's hard work, but it also feeds my passion for travel.
On one of these pilot trips up the West Coast, I walked into this little printing business and said, "I'm from iKhokha. I'd love to chat to you about card machines." And the business owner replied, "I'm literally about to throw my bank machine in the bin." He bought a machine from me on the spot. It was a great experience!
“We can offer better rates, service and speeds across various products and services, not just card machines.”
Tell us about Nicole outside of iKhokha. What do you like to do?
I'm a foodie by heart, and Cape Town is wine central. Anything to do with cooking, or wine tasting, all goes hand-in-hand. If I’m not working, that’s where you’ll find me. I also love markets. There’s nothing better than spending a Saturday morning at one of the Cape Town markets.
What gives you hope for the future?
Being in the field, I deal with many businesses in different growth stages. It's clear that small to medium-sized businesses are the bread and butter of South Africa.
As South Africans, we’ve had to be resilient. They’ve had to fight to keep their doors open in the last few years, and now more than ever, they're looking to save where they can, with the cost of everything skyrocketing.
Bank fees are a massive thing that they want to save on. iKhokha is in the market at the right time, and we're also a huge competitor to the bank because we can offer better rates, service and speeds across various products and services, not just card machines.
Where to next for you at iKhokha?
It's just the beginning. I'm excited to see what my future holds. Whether it be running a team in the region or being more involved with merchants daily to train them on our products and services, it may mean a move to Durban down the line. I don't know, but I'm here for it and I'm ready!
Do you have a passion to bring products that make business easier to the people? We’d love to have you in our iK Tribe!
Take a look at our latest vacancies to see if there’s a spot for you on our team.