THE smell of diesel and dust in the early morning is like an addiction for the hardworking sales teams at ELB Equipment, where women have increasingly grown in numbers in these tough environments and continue to show their worth in the previously male dominated environment.
Women have always played an instrumental role in the company’s 100-year history, yet it was only in the early 2000s that they really entered the field of external sales representatives. With the task of visiting mines, construction sites and roadworks projects in sometimes far-flung rural areas, the work was previously deemed to be too dirty or tough for them to handle.
However, nothing could be further from the truth and just like their male counterparts in the company they have flourished and have grown to love their chosen careers. ELB Equipment’s Kim Kloke, Area Sales Manager KZN; Elmien Bolleurs, Area Sales Manager For Construction & Earthmoving; Tracy Hugo, Area Sales Manager For Mining; and Janita Grobbelaar, Internal Sales Representative And Sales Support, share their stories and some highlights of their careers.
“I must be honest in saying that my career found me, and I didn’t go looking for it. When I got the opportunity though, I grabbed it with both hands and ventured into the industry with no background, no experience and only a limited understanding of earthmoving, it was really tough to get going.
“I was thrown in the deep-end among colleagues and customers who were mostly males – many of who thought I didn’t have what it takes to make it in the industry. Well, all I can say 14 years later is that I am well trusted by my customers and colleagues alike. I think trust and loyalty is especially important and once that has been established then a real relationship can be built to last.
“It is equally important to have your finger on the pulse of things at all times in order to find opportunities for sales, as well as uncovered opportunities for your customers. As a result, there is very little that goes on in the mining and construction industry in KwaZulu Natal that I do not know about. This usually gives me the edge over my opposition who are not always as alert as I am – let’s call it a woman’s intuition.”
“I had much the same kind of introduction as Kim and think women have to work twice as hard because men sometimes think you don’t have the skill or somehow do not have the technical knowledge to give them the best service. Once you have proven yourself to them and become trusted within their organisation, I think they learn to appreciate the sensitivity and emotion commitment that us ladies bring.
“For the rest it is simply down to good management of clients’ needs, staying in touch and keeping one’s ears to the ground in search of opportunities to be of assistance. That takes a lot of work and is an important part of the job to search tenders and contracts in order to be ahead of the game. That is especially true of the times we find ourselves in now where there is less business out there for everyone and the leaders of the pack in terms of relationships and commitment are the ones getting the bulk of the business.
“That is what sets us apart and after 12 years in ELB’s sales department alongside others with similar and more experience we make a formidable team of men and women who are equally committed to quality, service and maintaining the relationships the company has built over 102 years in South Africa.”
“I think it is safe to say that 20 years ago this industry was not a woman’s world and back then us ladies had to be tough, stand our ground and work much harder in order to gain the trust of our customers. But, I have found that once you have gained a customer’s trust it does not matter much whether you are a man or a woman, just as long as you are good at what you do.
“Today the landscape has changed dramatically and there are many women involved in aspects of mining from owners to mine managers and even machine operators. Our customers appreciate the fact that we are hands-on, involved and always looking at the bigger picture in order to solve problems and unlock solutions.
“I definitely think girls are braver in venturing out there on behalf of their customers and fight harder to win the business. This is proving to be extremely important now during these times where business is tough and customers need to make bold decisions. That is one of the reasons why ELB is busier than usual with lots of enquiries, quotations and sales taking place – even in these uncertain times.
“It is therefore so important for us right now to maintain our high levels of service and get ready for the surge of demand that is to come once the market regains its feet.”
“I was in a technical role before I joined ELB eight years ago so it was not as big a culture shock for me as it might be for other women. I simply started off selling small attachments and grew my understanding and product knowledge as I went along.
“When I started I did notice that many of the customers didn’t take may advice and often needed one of the more experienced sales guys in the department to reconfirm what I had already shared with them.
“I felt like I always had to prove myself, which actually made me work that little bit harder to get the sales and satisfy my customers’ needs. Now, my customers and I have a great relationship and they are more than open to taking any advice from me. There are also many more women owners and managers in the mining and construction industry and we are even seeing many more women operators than before.
“Even now during Covid-19 lockdown regulations I remain in constant touch with my key contacts and it is amazing to see how upbeat they are about the future. I guess that is what sets our company apart as we are always there for them no matter how hard times are and how tough the economy is customers can always rest assured that they will get the same great service and equipment.”