Listen To Your Clients

Sales advice from the regional head of T-Systems.

Vital Stats

  • Name: Mardia van der Walt-Korsten, 49
  • Designation: Regional head, Africa and Middle East
  • Company: T-Systems South Africa, the local representative of the German global IT services and consulting company. T-Systems is the biggest IT outsourcer in South Africa and guarantees customers one single contact, irrespective of whether services provided are for IT or telecommunications
  • Sales Team: A national sales team of 68 people and 2 700 employees
  • Offering: IT services and solutions for all market sectors and industries

Career summary

Mardia van der Walt-Korsten has a Masters in Clinical Psychology. She began her career in London. After moving back to South Africa, she helped develop the HR function for M-Net and Multichoice.

In 1998, she joined T-Systems where she helped build the company from 210 employees to a total of 934 by the end of 2001. In 2005, she was appointed acting CEO for T-Systems in South Africa, the first woman to hold this position.

A year later she was officially appointed MD. By the beginning of 2010, Van der Walt-Korsten had built T-Systems South Africa into the biggest IT outsourcer in the country, with premium outsourcing contracts including the Old Mutual Group, Transnet, Eskom, Sasol, ACSA, and Mercedes-Benz.

In 2008 she won the Nedbank Businesswoman of the Year Award, and the IT Web ICT Personality of the Year Award. In 2009 she was the awarded the SITA ICT Legend Award for her contribution to ICT Development.

In March 2012, Mardia van der Walt-Korsten was appointed regional head of the company’s newly formed Africa and Middle East region.

What is the best advice you have been given as a sales leader?

It’s critical to qualify sales leads upfront and to filter out good leads from bad so that you can apply the proper focus to worthwhile deals.

This helps your team to save time and maximise the potential of closing more deals and making more money. Qualifying leads helps you prioritise potential deals so that you can allocate the right amount of time to the right activities.

Qualifying prospects helps you schedule your time appropriately, ensuring you don’t miss out on opportunities, and this ensures your sales people go after the right clients.

How would you define your sales leadership style?

It’s very inclusive and places people centre stage. I believe in empowering employees which is why I strive to appoint the best people. My role is to provide direction and drive execution.

That is key, because your team must be able to execute in order to make progress. I also believe in addressing any issues and sensitivities which may hinder progress. Making people feel important and valued is an invaluable leadership ability.

What is your greatest sales learning to date?

It’s vital to have your entire team focused on what you are trying to achieve.

Everyone has to understand that the deal must be won, and how to go about winning it. They all need to be on the same page every step of the way.

Who is your greatest sales mentor?

There was a man named Jan van der Merwe who I worked with when I first joined T-Systems. He taught me the importance of building relationships and working on deals with people who are at the right level in the organisation.

Sales people often struggle to make contact with the top people in a company, so you have to have the whole team on your side – including the MD – to make it through the door. Using those resources gives you access.

The other thing he taught me was the value of honesty and how important it it is to never lie to a client.

What is the worst sales mistake you have ever made?

I was so eager to close a deal that I accepted certain conditions that the client insisted on, including a discount on the cost of the solution. I got burnt when I realised I would not be able to bring in the right resources required for the implementation.

How do you ensure that you beat your competitors?

Our business is in complex solution sales. We ensure success by always listening to the customer and understanding exactly what they want. There is nothing more important than that.