We met with Anna Akinyi, founder of Top Down Concepts in Nairobi, and here’s what she had to say to the youth of Kenya…
Tell me a bit about yourself…
Professionally, I am a trained Pharmacy professional. I graduated in 1992, but immediately after that, I worked in a hospital pharmacy for 2 years, administering medication. Then I switched to sales and marketing for multinationals.
Curiosity – I just got bored working in a hospital and though sales and marketing would be super glamorous. I saw people who I was in class with working for these big multinationals and thought hmm…I’d like to do that.
I then worked with 1 firm from Belgium that was bringing a new pharmaceutical product to market. That job gave me the opportunity to discover Kenya – places I would never been to before. And I went by matatu!
That must have been bumpy…
But it was exciting because I was young, energetic, going to explore.
The rest of my career in pharmaceutical sales was with Astrazeneca, and I was able to travel all over – Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania. I finally was able to move up the ranks to become a trainer of sales representatives. That’s when I decided to marry my professional career with my passion to get TopDown– an organization that would dedicate itself to developing and growing SMEs.
At TopDown, we give sales and marketing support focusing in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve worked with hotels on how to train their sales staff and how to increase their visibility. There are modules to improve soft skills and sales skills of staff, how to get people to be more inclined to use their product. Based on my experience dealing with pharmaceutical sales, I found fast moving consumer goods sales very easy because healthcare providers are the toughest to sell to!
So tell me a little more about TopDown
Well, we are a service that tailors our programs to client needs. We don’t give them what we have but what they need to realize their organizational goals through their sales force and the marketing. We make companies more visible in their competitive environment. We also follow through and have implementation modules.
What types of clients do you work with?
We mostly work with clients in the pharmaceutical industry. I have a few proposals in the pipeline with some international companies trying to enter the Kenyan market who want to connect with doctors, sales people, other organizations.
Also I am currently working with the Mvuli Hotel in Nairobi to help them gain more visibility in the market.
What do you think the most popular myth regarding sales is?
Myth: You have to talk about the features of what you offer without translating it to the needs of your client. People talk a lot about features about the goods or services they have but don’t translate it to benefits.
Truth: You need to translate the features into benefits. Our training develops people to translate those features into benefits – and that’s a full day exercise.
Do you have a favorite success story from your work?
I’m working with a client right now who wants to grow his business from 600,000ksh/annum to 1billion/annum. I am going to part of that journey and that is exciting. He’s taking me on because I am going to help him get there. We want it to happen by the end of 2014. If you think it is so, you can.
What is your personal brand?
I see myself as having a passion for excellence and realizing the highest standards. People should not put them down because they are small. Being small does not mean you cannot be excellent. So my personal brand is achieving excellence – be good at what you do no matter how small you are.
Is there one person in your life who has inspired/pushed you to get here?
Many people inspire me many companies inspire me – I think Polycarp Igathe is brilliant.
If you could give 1 piece of advice to our job seekers…
Define what you want and focus on it. If what you want to do is defined clearly in your mind, focus on it and figure out what it is that you need to do to get there. Do not be swayed by environment or circumstance. I did that for myself, which was a bit deviant– not many people going into sales and marketing at the time. I sent out over 100 application and got regrets and regrets. However, I was determined that I was going to do it. Moreover, I knew when I got it, I was going to do it well. It was not about the pay I was getting. When you are passionate about something you are remembered – by the people you touched, and by the people you have talked to. I have many friends who are doctors that I met over 20 years ago who still remember me and prescribe to Astrazeneca because of me.
Most of all – enjoy what you do, and do it because you enjoy it.