Delivering the Best Pitch

In an increasingly globalised world, reliable and safe goods movement form the backbone of the world economy.

For this reason, Zambian entrepreneur Cephas Nshimyumuremyi started Tribology Energies five years ago to focus mainly on the retail distribution sector.

Today, they have a contract with Total Zambia, where they distribute high performance lubricants and a contract with one of the major mines in Zambia, where they plan to set up a service that allows them benefit commercially from the supply of the product.

“When we started, our volumes were at 10,000 litres/month,” Cephas says. “Now, our current volumes are about 100,000 litres/month. The journey so far has been good, and we have grown from where we were.

The company is also looking to go into solar, (especially because Total has a partnership with Solar Lamps (formely Awango by Total), but are currently in the initial stages.

“The goal is to transform the business into one of the major players in Zambia and develop partnerships to help penetrate into surrounding markets,” says Cephas.

For the skills to get the contracts, Cephas says it is important to know your market and the opportunities that exist: the incomes, demographics and other variables toand know which group to focus on and how to reach out.

Despite having these valuable insights, Cephas was not always an entrepreneur. “I grew tired of the uncertainty and lack of dynamism in the work environment,” he says. “And I said to myself: it’s either I do it or I go hungry. The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme gave us the opportunity to revamp our marketing, putting up billboards around Lusaka to build a name around the country.”

“When you succeed, the rewards are limitless,” Cephas says. “The most rewarding aspect of running my business is fulfilment, waking up every morning with the same energy to try and achieve more.”

So, what are the things to look out for when pitching for a contract? Cephas shares the following tips:

  • “Look at your products to see what you are offering. How much of your product do you really understand? You should be able to look at yourself as a consumer of your product to hack the problems and challenges.”

  • Africa has a lot of opportunities, but entrepreneurs are still constrained in terms of the capital required to grow, so you need to be realistic.  Strategically placing yourself and negotiating contracts properly allows you to explore opportunities that might otherwise have been missed.

  • Audit skills: Be knowledgeable about the specific field and product when chasing a contract. The people offering the contract are also taking a risk and want to manage their risk.

  • Take advantage of family and relationships who have faith in you. Depending on performance, these relationships can be a source formore capital and are less of a security risk.

The first things to consider when pitching for a contract or a bid:

  • If you are an innovative person, you can identify opportunities for a contract. For example, we got our contract not because it was advertised. We saw the absence of the Total brand in the retail segment on the local market. So, we approached the company and said, ‘this is what we can do for you if you give us this opportunity’ and we proved ourselves in the process.

  • It comes down to you knowing the product, your competition and the environment in which you are bidding. That information is irreplaceable when pitching to other people. I always put myself in their shoes and ask myself what I will look for if I was trying to give someone the project: Do I give them because they are organised? Do I give them because they are capable? What exactly am I looking at? Once I can do that, I am able to present what is critical to them and not what I think is important to me.

  • One of the key aspects of successfully getting contracts also comes down to knowing what your core skills are. How good are you and in which parts? You cannot be good at everything. If you are not good at speaking or presenting information to other people, I think it is better you partner up with people who can deliver in that aspect because it could make the difference between having something on the table and not having it.
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