Adapting to Change

Chris Wilkins, founder and CEO of DVT, gives advice on adapting to change in business.


Vital stats

  • Chris Wilkins
  • Designation: Founder and CEO
  • Company: DVT. The company provides tailor-made and packaged software solutions and related services to clients throughout South Africa.
  • Sales Team: The senior management team is tasked with sales, as DVT believes it’s best equipped to sell the offerings of a services business. Two key senior roles are engaged in sales: account managers and business unit heads. The team involved in sourcing opportunities numbers more than 20.

Describe your team structure?

Our account managers (AMs) manage client relationships. Some AMs are more focused on ‘finding’, and others ‘minding’. Either way, this is a sales effort and brings in the business. Our business unit (BU) heads manage our services delivery.

They are expected to undertake regular client visits to look for work. AMs and BU heads work together to find and close deals. Because software is complex and difficult, many deals are only completed once a certain level of trust is reached between the parties. Therefore, sales cycles can take up to a year or more.

What is the most important sales lesson you have learnt in your career?

Persistence, perseverance, and unlimited optimism are critical. You have to use science and not just charm and energy. Remember to work the numbers: 10 meetings = 5 opportunities = 2 proposals = 1 deal. Be paranoid about covering every possible base when trying to close a deal.

What business lessons have you learnt from colleagues and mentors?

Be prepared to change your mind, admit your mistakes, and move on. Resistance to change and defending your own mistakes causes enormous damage when you are a senior member of the team. Listen to the people around you. If you don’t listen, you don’t trust them. If you don’t trust them, they should not be there.

What is your favourite quote? 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin.

How would you define your leadership style? Has it changed over time?

I’m a good leader, and an average manager. I look for understanding first. I will justify my actions to a point, but I also believe that sometimes you have to back yourself to see the bigger picture and make a decision.

But I will always listen, and then persuade, influence or coerce the team around me into giving me their support. I have become less tolerant of the ‘let’s wait and see’ attitude over time. Once I formulate an opinion, I do not often deviate from that view.

What keeps you going in a fast-paced economy?

I like a balanced life. I know that this concept may be sneered at by the ‘tough’ commerce types (lunch is for wimps and all that). But leadership in this industry requires clarity and decisive behaviour.

This is easier when you create a little space to allow perspective in your life. I participate in numerous sports, I like the perspective that travel brings, and I strive to spend my time with those I love and who need me the most.