This week we’re happy to introduce our interview with Manuel De Vits, Founder and Managing Director of Valyman Consulting, a successful sales and marketing guru with a tremendous experience in B2B sales, mentor, and coach to those striving to become as successful in the industry as Mr. De Vits. It’s been a pleasure to meet such an inspiring and experienced person willingly sharing the ideas about the business development through sales and marketing in general and in the IT sphere namely.
Manuel De Vits moved to Ukraine from Belgium following his wife’s desire to come back to Kharkiv where she had an amazing job opportunity. Inspired by huge experience to be brought to the Ukrainian market, Mr. De Vits faced the opposite situation. Nobody was ready to open the door to the specialist with 18+ years of experience in B2B sales. Sounds weird? I bet it does. However, this isn’t where the story ends. I wonder how many acknowledged and experienced specialists would consider a fresh start in a foreign country instead of working in a world-known company with great opportunities. He did that and got exactly what he deserved: Mr. De Vits often visits numerous conferences and forums both in Ukraine and abroad, gives inspiring lectures on how to succeed in professional life as well as how to develop one’s personality to become even better.
What were the main challenges you’ve faced after moving to Ukraine? Shifting from the automotive industry to IT might not be easy. And when you come from a different country that might not be easy as well. And what was this very first job eventually?
The most challenging was actually to get the job in the first place. I was refused by six or seven IT companies. Most of them refused for one reason: You won’t be able to sell IT services. Which was quite tough since I was coming from the TOP-level sales in Western Europe trained by outstanding salespeople who wrote books on how to actually sell. Hence, I wanted to speak with people who really knew something about sales. I’ll never tell a developer that s/he doesn’t know one’s job because I don’t know what he is doing as I’m not into the technical part. And I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know anything. Yet at the interviews, I met people who didn’t know about the sales process, didn’t know what they were talking about, and claimed themselves to be Heads of Sales Departments, VP of sales, and other titles with no diplomas, no special training, nothing at all. In fact, they were telling me that I couldn’t sell without knowing the sales segment themselves. This notion was extremely surprising to me. I was wondering what is wrong with these people. If I couldn’t sell what have I been doing for 18 years then. Getting the first job was again difficult and disappointing. Seeing no one to hire me I placed my CV on one of the popular platforms for job seeking. However, I wasn’t sending my resume. I wanted to know if the recruiters were looking at it there. Without knocking on company’s doors offering my skills and experience in B2B sales. And it was quite soon when one small company contacted me and invited for an interview. After ten minutes they said they wanted to me in their company but the problem was in small budgeting and they said they wouldn’t be able to pay me in full. And I agreed to start over with $250. I agreed under the condition I get a commission from sales as well. The company agreed. And that was it. And at the same time, I wanted to demonstrate those who said I couldn’t sell that I’m really good. So they pushed me to work even harder. Eventually, I turned out to be right. As I was trained to never accept NO as an answer as this is the main job in sales. And I have the motto: If you’re good enough, you will succeed! And this is one of the reasons I’m reaching out to the young generation at universities or elsewhere to establish this mindset. Because this is the way you can make your country big and successful. That’s why I’m very open to the young generation.
Since many young people choose the IT industry but are still quite indecisive about it, What pieces of advice would give them? How do they make a good start and how not to regret the decision later? You know, there’s actually not much job done to teach young people how to present themselves to potential employers.
So, I’m going to start with my vision of Ukrainian young generation. You are a young country with a lot of talents among the youth. I truly believe I can state this as I had to start over when I moved and I worked along with many young people as a junior specialist myself. I had to face numerous things like fights with management, etc. what’ve seen is that you have huge talent pool but you don’t have the mindset. The youth complains a lot because everyone wants an easy start, big money without doing anything to get that. But things do not work like that. Success requires a lot to sacrifice; it doesn’t come out of anywhere. It’s not a 9-to-5 work which will bring you huge success. Therefore, when an IT company hires me to coach their marketing or sales team, I always reach out to young people saying that it’s not your diploma that matters, but your aspiration to work, your English level, of course, if you are coachable, and, finally, if you really want to succeed. If you have these inside of yourself, I’ll work with you. It’s never too late to start. It’s just not all young people are driven by the results they may get, but by the money. Unfortunately, this is not how things work in this segment of IT.
You had a chance to work in different countries and companies, face different mentalities and mindsets. How do things differ in the countries you've worked?
I’d like to go back to the time I worked in Japan. The segment was different from IT but I learned the discipline there. I stayed late and spent 15 hours working and studying Japanese. Those people are really responsible and motivated as well as self-discipline. In fact, I’m very easy to adapt to the environment I’m in since I was born in Brussels, my mom is Spanish and my father comes from the Netherlands. None of them speak really good French, and I went to the French school so from the very beginning I’m very multicultural. When I came back to Europe to work for Renault, I’ve learned how to be creative and diplomatic, ethics and strictness. I learned how to manage teams and how to communicate. It was a great period of my life. I spent 18 years there. And then I moved to Ukraine which was completely different culture and environment. The culture where the relationship is based on the strong and the weak, whereas in Europe is the culture of compromise. One of my main problems with Slavonic culture was that I was smiling a lot, and people I met did not. That was unexpected and difficult at first, and then another problem occurred – poor creativity. However, here in Ukraine, I learned personally how to be a man, how to be strong inside. It may not be visible but people here have an extremely strong character. And they’ve got a way stronger character in Eastern Europe rather than those in Western Europe. However, I still believe that gratitude always wins and that kindness always wins. And when I came back to Europe my friends told me that I’d changed. They said I learned how to be a rock not only when I was talking, but also when I was looking at people. And it’s not bad. You should be strong in Ukraine if you want to succeed since people will not respect you and will use otherwise.
How did that knowledge help you in working with the Ukrainian IT companies? How do you see the goal in the corporate environment in the companies?
Being kind and open showed that it’s possible to do business and it’s not necessary to be that tough. When people see you are a good professional and still remain a human, they start to love you. You bring something valuable from the outside which, I think, has helped me a lot. I always appreciate what people do, and I’m not scared to thank people. It seems so easy but it does have an impact. Another thing is that it’s hard to call me a foreigner coming outside Ukraine since I went through all the stages of growth in this country as well. And it makes me wonder why people come to the companies to consult them, give advice and leave. Just like that. Without learning the case, without getting into the environment it’s impossible to actually help grow the business. The borders of IT industry are conventional but still require a lot of learning in doing business with foreign businesses. I’d like to prove that being a junior specialist is ok, and there are no limits to growth. I wanted to motivate and show if I’m a foreigner who managed to reach high in here, how come the local people can’t? I always ask for challenges as they make me feel complete. I enjoy proving myself I can be better and that’s what I want from those I coach or mentor. My goal is to change the world. For me, it’s like if I see a person applying at least one thing s/he learned from my speeches, I’m happy. I’ve come to many conferences to give them something valuable. I don’t promote my business it grows well without hard selling, I give my speech to inspire people to grow and develop their businesses.
Unfortunately, Ukraine’s been viewed as one of the most corrupt countries and this gets potential clients away from cooperation. Based on your experience, what advice can you give to foreign companies who’d like to cooperate with Ukrainian IT?
I’d recommend those companies abroad that “Yes, there is corruption in the political sphere.” But IT environment is some kind of a safe zone here. Corruption doesn’t get there. I think IT sector is a microsystem standing on its own, safe and healthy for foreign businesses. Of course, you may face some not very decent people. But the majority is the entrepreneurs who create something and want to do a safe business. I’ve had numerous discussions with potential clients. And I’ve heard different opinions. I think you get high-quality service at a reasonable price. But there’s also a lot of space to grow and develop. I have no doubts in the technical specialists; I’m more scared about the management when I have to introduce a client to a company or vice versa. What does a foreign company feel talking with a management they’re giving the money to? In Europe, we like to establish a trustworthy relationship. And this is what has to be changed in here. You should learn how to give before receiving. You’re the country close to Europe, and for me, this is weird that next-door countries choose to work with Asian countries instead. That’s why I think you should work harder to establish the image of a reliable partner. Being strong technically is no longer enough to get the clients. You need to invest in the presentation, into the sales process, to build a reliable image. In Europe and the USA, the image goes first. Focusing on that will only add to this strong technical side of the industry that you’ve got.
What other obstacles Ukraine’s IT sphere faces?
One day I was asked by a young CEO from Lviv what shall he do to make his company successful, to develop something like an app or tool? And I advised him to take at least three-month internship in a SaaS company somewhere in Berlin as a salesperson. The main problem is that most people in marketing and sales are still using the methods that were effective like 10 years ago. These things no longer work. I often see people coming to conferences with no actual experience. They’ve never worked in a large company with a developed marketing or sales network. Never. You cannot simply retell what you’ve read in a book. You should have an experience of communicating with someone who knows the sphere from the practical and real experience. Be curious. Read books and talk to someone, open your eyes, analyze your environment. Everything takes time. Instead of going to a party, or playing games you should study and be hungry for knowledge. That’s what I was doing. A successful person should always look for something new to learn, read, or test. Spend at least one hour per day learning something new and you’ll see the results.