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I Want to Transact Like an African Shopkeeper

Claudia Mirza with African Shopkeeper in Cairo Egypt

Forget the Price — Here’s What I Learned from African Shopkeepers on How to Succeed in Consultative Sales

“Every time I had the opportunity to buy some handicraft in Africa, I was petrified. I hate products without prices — but the negotiations and consultative sales techniques I witnessed by African shopkeepers taught me a lot in business .” — Akorbi CEO, Claudia Mirza
Akorbi’s CEO and Co-Founder, Claudia Mirza, has traveled extensively throughout Africa. Her travels have strengthened her understanding of the African market landscape and have helped reshape her views on consultative sales. Claudia admits, however, that these experiences haven’t always been easy. “Every time I had the opportunity to buy some handicraft in Africa, I was petrified. I hate products without prices – but the negotiations and consultative sales techniques I witnessed by African shopkeepers taught me a lot in business.”

Empowering American Businesses to Become Better Negotiators

“American businesses need to master the art and science of negotiations and consultative selling if we want to increase our profitability in business. With this global economy, the buying techniques have changed. Our playground is no longer our zip code. But have American businesses changed the way we negotiate with the world?” — Akorbi CEO, Claudia Mirza
African shopkeepers are highly skilled in consultative sales. They welcome you with a warm smile and quickly learn your name. They offer a lot of free consulting and will often give you a tour to demonstrate how difficult it is for them to make their products. They show you the tools and materials, and will sometimes burn or break the products in front of you to reinforce their high-level of quality. They’ll talk about their product, the process, the quality, and even the emotions before they dare mention a price. By then, you are already sold. In sharp contrast, Americans are into transactions. Give me five dollars and I’ll give you the product. In order to keep up with the cultural demands of the global economy, American businesses – especially small businesses – might want to rethink their approach to negotiations and consultative selling.

How did Claudia Translate her African Partnerships and Experiences with African Shopkeepers Into Her Own Business World?

It is in large part due to Claudia’s African shopkeeping experiences that she now makes a concerted effort to truly get to know her clients. She strives to understand their vision, their goals, what kind of markets they’re trying to reach, whether or not they are publicly-traded, and what they are trying to achieve. She wants to learn what their main buyers are talking about on social media, what kind of conferences they’re interested in, and what their corporate culture is like.

African Partnerships

Since 2003, Claudia Mirza has gradually transformed her company from a language translation provider to a global powerhouse, offering a plethora of multilingual business solutions. Akorbi now has a commanding presence in the United States, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, supporting over 170 languages worldwide. When asked how she has successfully penetrated the African marketplace, in particular, Claudia will very confidently tell you that it all starts with partnership — a skill that lies at the very heart of consultative selling. She has enhanced her consultative selling approach with the lessons she learned from her successful partnerships in Africa. One prime example of these partnerships occurred in 2018, with a full-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. Claudia, in collaboration with the East Africa Interpreters and Translators Association (EAITA), led a full-day workshop whose goal was to share industry insights on how to successfully compete in the global language services industry — an industry with a growing demand for African language services. This event was a complete success with 65 professionals in attendance, all from diverse backgrounds, including translators, interpreters, Swahili sign language interpreters, interns, and university professors.

African Shopkeeping and Consultative Sales

Claudia stresses the importance of taking the time to help clients resolve their problems in a proactive manner. She engages the help of subject matter experts and researches a lot more about consultative sales. Claudia now avoids leaving a lot of money on the table and no longer assumes that the conditions being thrown at her are final. Drawing on the expertise of skilled African shopkeepers, she encourages companies to:
  • Reach your clients on a personal level
  • Negotiate in your own supply chain
  • Make necessary workflow changes in order to avoid absorbing price decreases
  • Share with your clients a wealth of knowledge about your services
  • Educate your clients about the market
  • Offer “freebies” and free trials of your products and services
  • Do not drop the price
These rich experiences, combined with Claudia’s leadership, have led to new opportunities in Africa. In recent years, in fact, Akorbi has received a number of calls from technology companies requiring multilingual support for Africa. Claudia’s keen business sense has helped her notice these growing opportunities in the African language services industry, which has led to the opening of four new multilingual contact centers in Sub-Saharan Africa within the last four years – two of which are located in West Africa.

St. Vincent, Cabo Verde

After careful consideration and research, Akorbi opened its first African contact center in 2015, in St. Vincent, Cabo Verde. Cabo Verde, also known as the Republic of Cabo Verde, comprises nine inhabited islands found off the coast of West Africa. With a well-established, multi-party political system, coupled with stable economic institutions, Cabo Verde is regarded as an opportune place to do business. In 2019, the World Bank ranked Cabo Verde above the Sub-Saharan regional Ease of Doing Business (EDB) average: When it comes to starting a business in Cabo Verde, the prospects look promising. Not only does the country’s legislation encourage foreign investment, but the country itself is located close to Europe and is used as ” … a key refueling stop-over for trans-Atlantic air traffic between Africa and the United States.” Cabo Verde boasts a high literacy rate and a growing professional workforce. Currently, Cabo Verde ranks nearly 5 points above the World Bank’s Sub-Saharan regional Ease of Starting a Business average: Strategically located in St. Vincent, one of the Barlavento Islands, Akorbi’s Cabo Verde multilingual contact center is a mere 5-hour time zone difference from US Central Time. The center offers professional translation and interpreting services in several African languages: Akorbi’s Cabo Verde location also provides accounting support, customer service, translation services, telephonic and video remote interpretation, claims processing, localization project management, and more. Akorbi has worked hard to develop a politically-supportive business climate that allows for flexible immigration laws. This has afforded Akorbi the ability to hire only the best in language services talent throughout Africa.

Dakar, Senegal

“Because the global demand for African language translations continues to increase, I felt it was important to assess and demystify this market.” – Claudia Mirza
As the company’s visionary, Claudia felt it necessary to travel from West to East Africa to better understand the African language services landscape. This experience helped her develop solutions to the current challenges the African language services industry faces and tap into some of the opportunities. One such opportunity presented itself in the western African country of Senegal. Over the course of several years, Senegal has been steadily improving its business climate. In fact, the World Bank scores Senegal above the Sub-Saharan regional average for its ease of doing business (EDB): Senegal is regarded as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and one of the most stable African countries. The country has only seen three (and each one, peaceful) major political transitions since its independence from France in 1960. The Government of Senegal encourages foreign investment and has strengthened its efforts to improve its business climate. When it comes to starting a business in Senegal, the World Bank scores the country nearly 15 points above the regional average: In the spring of 2018, Akorbi opened a second African multilingual contact center in Dakar, Senegal. The entire staff comprises college graduates and postgraduates who specialize in language services, IT, business, finance & accounting, project management, and marketing. The Dakar multilingual location is an ideal business solution, providing a plethora of services, including:
  • Customer service
  • Technical help desk
  • Finance and accounting
  • Interpretation
  • Translation
  • Project management support
With an integrated security system and an advanced data and communications infrastructure, this high-tech center provides customized solutions, empowering companies to strengthen their success on the world stage. The center also offers professional interpreters who are especially in tune with the region’s cultural and behavioral nuances. As your strategic partner, Akorbi effortlessly handles all your multicultural and multilingual needs so that you can focus on your core competencies.

Mastering Consultative Sales in Africa

“Negotiation skills should be taught in schools for the self-sustainability of a country and the global economy. African countries have this as part of their culture, but in the United States, we just trust. All kids, and especially little girls, have to become expert negotiators who specialize in consultative selling. They should know the baseline of salaries and learn how to better market themselves.” — Akorbi CEO, Claudia Mirza
Africa is an emerging continent with many of its countries heading the fastest-growing economies in the world. Talk to Claudia and she’ll assure you that Africa is the future. But it is perhaps her uncanny ability to see beyond the particulars and take a more holistic approach that really puts her – and Akorbi – ahead of the curve when it comes to doing business in Africa. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Created in partnership with GIM Writing Services.
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Here’s what Akorbi is doing in response to COVID-19. Learn More »