Peter Mountford: The Responsive Leader

Peter Mountford, CEO of Super Group, discusses what he values in business leadership.


Vital stats

  • Peter Mountford
  • Designation: CEO, Super Group
  • Career summary: Previously MD of SAB Diversified Beverages, that included SAB’s Supply Chain Services and Logistics interests. Was MD of Super Group’s Logistics and Transport division until June 2002, after which he joined Imperial Holdings Limited (Imperial). He rejoined Super Group in May 2008 as MD of the Supply Chain Division and was appointed CEO in July 2009.
  • Sales force size: In excess of 800 sales people spread across the group and its various businesses and geographies.

What is your personal leadership mantra?

Leadership by example, decisiveness, integrity, and customer responsiveness above all else.

What advice do you have on attaining growth goals?

Always begin with scenario planning. Understand what markets you really want to enter, and which markets you may well have core competencies in that will enable you to serve the customer. Thereafter, decisiveness and innovation become important within the solution you offer.

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What has been your greatest learning in sales?

Never give up. In our environment, some of the decisions needed to conclude a deal run through the very fabric of organisational structures, which means the sales process can be very long.

We’ve developed a commitment to seeing the process through, even if it starts with a cold call two years prior to us getting the business. I think this has been my biggest learning curve – there’s no quick fix in our environment, and sometimes the sales cycle can take 18 months to get across the line.

It’s the ability to work through that without being disheartened or frustrated that can make or break a deal.

What makes your sales team successful?

Responsiveness and innovation. It’s paramount to understand customer needs and to put customer responsiveness first. Our selling proposition is more a process than a product; the type of activities that we’re involved in are integrated into procurement, warehousing and distribution for most of our clients. We therefore need to be a highly responsive organisation, understanding client needs and bringing innovative solutions to the table.

How have you developed your sales organisation?

As an organisation, we’ve learnt that balance is important. I bring customer orientation and focus to the table and this is coupled with strong subject matter experts and a new business development team. Successful sales cycles require all three elements.

We started by hiring sales people and trying to teach them about supply chains. We realised that the best sales people were coming out of our own technology businesses, and the best sales were by the executives running the businesses concerned, because they were the most able to talk to their clients’ businesses and strategic needs. We’ve complemented that by bringing through dedicated new business development people, and they work in tandem.

Related: What Adding Value Means In Your Business Says Pedro Rhode

We’ve brought people into the sales and marketing space who have huge experience in the underlying needs of our customers, because they have very strong supply chain and FMCG backgrounds. For example, our most senior marketing executive comes out of a 20-year background in breweries and running consumer and supply chain businesses at Bidvest. He has the capability required to put together a board-level pitch, and he’s supported by new business development colleagues.

What has been your most valuable mistake in sales?

Under-pricing. We’ve taken small relationships on very low margins with the view to ultimately building a much broader, long-term relationship. Unfortunately, once this happens, you can’t get the margins up. You can’t change a price point once you’ve developed a relationship with a customer. It’s not a good long-term strategy.