Recently I spent a week in Maldives – let me clarify that it was a business trip. Yes! To the Maldives. I am a strange guy, right?
When there was spare time I visited the shops in the capital, Male’. It gave me the opportunity to understand the market and its practice; and I compared prices of goods with those in India. I found that it was better to shop in India for more than one reason.
For one, the prices of most things were much higher, except maybe if you wanted fish or coconut.
And then you did not get a great buying experience. In one of the electronics shops I practically dragged the Salesperson from his comfortable perch to the display case to talk about features and prices. He was lolling disinterestedly in the corner even as the shop was filled with prospective buyer. I looked around to check if it was just me and found that most shoppers were either talking to the friend who had come along or having to call many times before someone turned up to help.
I mentioned this to my friend when I visited him later that night – he is from Kerala too. He responded – “That’s nothing, Jayadev. It’s the norm here in most shops. Last week I was passing a shop and found the iPad 4 displayed at the window. I could have waited till I got back home but on a whim I popped in to check it out. The model I have now is over a year old and I wanted a replacement. My mind was set on the 32 GB model.”
“You won’t believe this. I said to the salesguy that I am interested in the 32GB model and he said – ‘Sir! We only have 16GB and 64GB in stock. Why don’t you check after a week?’ I was shocked. In India, even before I complete the word “interested” the Salesperson would have been all over me, trying to push a piece that is available in stock. They are trying to make a sale. Here they are fine if you walked out without buying a thing.”
It got me thinking. I have seen a bit of the same happening in Oman, while I lived there. If there was an Omani salesperson behind the counter there wasn’t much of an effort to sell me the product. It set me thinking. Does Sales have a cultural-bias?
In India we keep hearing that Chennai folks are good at Math, Gujarathis and Marwadis excel in business, Haryanvis are good at Athletics and Malayalees are smart at finding their way to just about place in the Universe. (That last one was a joke about my own people … don’t take it seriously even if you find us everywhere. We were always there!!)
What is it about communities or societies that made them excel in a domain – was it a gradual process or something to do with a predilection for certain activity or did someone start the trend and other just followed?
Does the art of persuasion and communication have anything to do with the way people are brought up – or the exposure they receive in the formative years? I would answer with a resounding “Yes!”
It does have a lot to do with the environment we are brought up in? A businessman’s child becomes a businessman (or at least is inclined to be one), a doctor’s daughter wants to be a doctor and an actor’s child will be an actor (far-fetched, that last one!).
I am leaving this open-ended. What do you think?
It isn’t much more than a hole in the wall – the interior is Spartan, there are 32 plastic stools arranged around 8 plastic tables and the hygiene standards would just about pass muster. However, between noon and 3 p.m. Cochinites flock to this place like termite flies to an oil lamp – once inside the way people were stuffing themselves would make one wonder whether a food shortage was imminent.
The place is Sehiyon Restaurant, located near Pullepadi Bridge at Cochin. It was recently featured in a leading local vernacular daily – the article said that even the Who’s Who in town liked to order take-aways from this humble restaurant.
I have been to the place 2 – 3 times and found the food excellent. The service isn’t special, it isn’t even good – on my first visit I found a seat only after a 15 minute wait and sat there another 5 minutes hoping to catch the eye of the Wait Staff. No one took notice of my existence or my desperation. So, I walked out and had lunch elsewhere.
The next time I decided to take a seat closer to the epicenter of action and was rewarded with a toothsome meal. I made two more visits to that place and still have not had enough.
It is typical Kerala fare – no Chinese, Mughlai, Chettinad or Continental; the menu consists of traditional Kerala lunch time cuisine made the home-cooked way – a Kerala Thali or Oonu with a range of side orders.
Fish rules! A mouth-watering array of it – Pattichadhu, Pollichathu, Mulagu Ittathu, Varuthathu and Regular Curry, which roughly means roasted, baked, extra spicy, fried and so on. They usually have Prawns, Seer Fish, Squid, Mussel, Pomfret, Sardine, Anchovy, Shark, Mackerel and Crab; all these fishes are made in the different forms I mentioned in the previous sentence – so you have an array of 48 to 60 options depending on the types of seafood available that day. Chicken and Beef, again made Kerala-fashion, are the side-lights here.
Have I whetted your appetite?
Why is the Sales Coach blog featuring a story on this restaurant? Well, I am trying to figure out how my products can be so irresistible. Why aren’t my customers lapping up training the way customers were wolfing down food at this place?
One of my readers had written back in response to a previous article saying she has seen products selling in spite of poor service – and that immediately reminded me of visits to Sehiyon.
The Wait Staff aren’t friendly – they have no time to make friends. The place receives around 500 customers in a 3 hour period – each stool in the restaurant receives 13-15 customers, most of them repeat visitors; and then there are takeaways to deal with. Two guys to deliver just the main meal consisting of rice and veggie accompaniments and then couple of other guys go around taking orders for the Specials! Two others clear the empty dishes left behind by happy and well-fed customers and prepare the table for the next set of hungry mouths. This eating machine worked with clockwork precision.
And while you eat there would be another person standing next you – No, it isn’t the owner or his Service Executive making sure that you are being served; it’s the next customer waiting to poach your stool the moment you rise. It’s that desperate! In the lunch hour practically every stool has a person standing next to it while one customer is enjoying his meal. Outside the building there are more hungry souls waiting to commune with the delicacy of their choice.
I discovered that it isn’t just the food but also the price point. The basic veggie meal is priced at just Rs.30/- (little more than 1/2 a dollar) and the side orders range from Rs. 40/- to Rs. 150/- (2/3rd of a dollar to 3 dollars) – isn’t that a killer proposition? You can figure out how much the owner rakes in each day.
Therein rests the magic – excellent product delivered at a price that can’t be refused. This man knows his business. He probably gets fish at special low rates each day – the merchants at the fish market, who have been supplying him for many months, may be offering their catch at rates that are way below prevailing market prices for the day. His staff is not the high-cost variety and the outlet isn’t fancy either.
Only the Chef matters here, he would be the treasured resource and probably gets paid handsomely for the magic he creates each day. The food tastes like a home-cooked meal and the portions are generous.
I am told the owner of Sehiyon is a Christian gentleman and he named the restaurant using the Malayalam word for Zion. I Googled and found a link for Sehiyon Pilgrimage Tours. Well, I know for sure that at lunchtime Cochinites religiously make a pilgrimage to this hallowed precinct to satisfy their hungry souls.
It takes all kinds to make the world and if you are in Sales or Business Development chances are that you will encounter every sort … and a few more!!
Sales is not for folks who give up too easily or too soon, nor is it for the kind who want everything laid out on the line – if you want people to be predictable and everything to happen in an orderly fashion get a job in a funeral parlour.
Jokes apart, Sales is an avocation meant for those who love excitement and unpredictability – and can deal with a lot of chaos.
I spent two hours training a young Executive in tele-calling skills and then asked her to make calls. I had mentioned that it is not going to be easy and that she will encounter a lot of resistance. 30 minutes later she appeared with a pathetic expression on her face – “Sir, most people are not answering my call and the ones who answer tell me to call later.”
I smiled – sent her back to work saying she has to ask those people to give her another slot to call.
A little after that she was back – “Most of them are saying we don’t want training for our staff at present. They want to know how I got their number.”; giving a few more inputs to deal with such queries I sent her to her seat fully aware that she would return with more complaints. This young person, like so many I meet these days, is not able to stick to a game-plan for sufficiently long period. They are not willing to try new things and want results too soon. Maybe I will have to give her another day or two and permit her to go through the cycle of experiments and queries before I start looking for someone else who is more tuned to this job – finding a needle in a haystack is an easier prospect.
A friend and I were out all day yesterday making sales visits – we met senior officials in the IT and HR department at four well-known organisations.
The first gentleman we met headed the IT Department in a reputed college for technical studies. His handshake was cold and limp and he was extremely closed to ideas – later I realised that he was not reasonable either. The institution had purchased a few IT products from my friend couple of years back and now they are out of warranty – like the typical Government institution they had sat on the file till the warranty had expired and had not purchased a Maintenance Contract in time. An item went faulty and he was miffed when the Hotline Executive informed him that the service would be done at cost. Our client said that the vendor needs to be more flexible. It was obvious that this man had been irritated by the way the message was delivered to him and my friend worked overtime to cool his temper. Our IT Head said vehemently that the next tender being released soon would be finalised in favour of the supplier who is willing to bend rules / processes for them – wonder why it’s always the other party that needs to be flexible.
At the next institution the Department Head we visited continued working at the computer while we spoke. When we stopped to let him finish the task he asked us to go on. By the time we left he had printed a document and cross-checked the printed copy with the monitor – did he expect the printout to be different from what was in the computer? While walking back to the car after the call my friend said that this man had not been easy to deal with even in the past and was known to resort to unethical practices. And since we had not offered him any benefit in the past the cold shoulder was what we received in return.
The third customer was a major Publishing Company. The H.R. – Head gave us the appointment with no fuss. He listened to us silently and without expression – I even wondered whether he was thinking about something else. But when I finished explaining the salient features and benefits of a training program that was being conducted by us in November he gave us 2 participants. It was a pleasant surprise to me. I had felt resistance all the while and never expected this to happen. But we had stuck to the task and given him what he wanted to hear. It was obvious that he had this requirement for a while and we visited his office at the opportune moment. It was good to get a positive response after two bad calls.
The Administration Head of a private hospital was our next destination – he was very receptive and friendly. He listened to us, asked questions and later responded to our queries in detail. He took great pains to tell us how different his business and employees were different from other organisations – don’t we all wish to believe that. He wanted a training solutions uniquely tailored to his organisation’s / team’s specific needs. I wish I had a dollar for every time a prospect said that – I would be rich by now.
In the first visit we had to display empathy and listening skills, the next one demanded that we do not display any irritation or ill-will in our words and expressions, in the third one we had to remain enthusiastic and alert and in the last one we had to match the enthusiasm of the customer and support his feeling of being unique and different.
Each visit / encounter is a challenge. The Sales Professional needs to be receptive and pliant, yet firm. Like an octopus he needs to change his colour and form to match that of the environment.
Sales is dynamic and demanding, but fun; it calls for a lot of patience, flexibility and mental agility. It is a people management challenge all the way. Be prepared to meet them!
A new opportunity came my way in August. A young professional I knew a long time ago is now the Programming Head of Dubai-based FM radio station Radio ME. He remembers me as someone who gave him valuable lessons in Sales.
Kris Iyer called a few days and asked me to provide information and advice on Sales and Sales Training to Dubai’s business community. I was to be interviewed on their program Business Talks.
You can hear the entire conversation here:
Kris and I speak in malayalam, our mother tongue, in some portions, but only very briefly, so you will not miss out on much. I intend to provide an English transcript soon.
You will also find me a bit rushed in my speech; maybe because I was excited with this new opportunity. The next time I plan to speak at a more relaxed pace.
Since this interview was given over the telephone network you will find the speech quality poor in certain segments. Kris’ voice is clear because he was in the studio.
Kindly send me feedback on this first effort.
Note: I had posted my third interview a few days back.
This time, instead of letters on a page, I will let my voice do the talking – we usually start with 1 – but for a change I have decided to begin at 3!
The partnership with Radio ME 100.3 of Dubai is going from strength to strength. This is the 3rd interview I have given on that FM Station, courtesy Kris Iyer.
I will be uploading the 1st interview shortly but since Kris has already done this one I just have to attach the link.
In a way this is No.1 because Kris Iyer has dubbed the interview the 1st in a series on Sales where the business community in Dubai, and you, will hear me explain various aspects of Selling and Sales Management.
This one focuses on some of the characteristics of the ideal person you would appoint for a Sales job. I know there are many more, this discussion is only an overview of the subject.
For further details you can reach me at – email@example.com
I look forward to your inputs and feedback.
Note: The quality of audio is not that good in some sections because I am speaking with Kris from Cochin using my mobile phone – it wouldn’t be studio quality.
Did you enjoy reading this article? You can get updates on all new postings by subscribing directly at the blog or on Facebook – just “Like” this: https://www.facebook.com/Sales.Coach.Blog!!
Isn’t it easy when you have a readymade set of people to lay all blame on? Sales organisations often resort to depositing their trouble at the doorsteps of the Channel Partners.
- Sales figures are low
- Market reach is poor
- Entire range of products are not being sold
- Customer are complaining about products
- Visibility is low in the market
Blame the current Channel Partners … is a convenient answer.
And how do we solve this problem? Appoint another Channel Partner!
That is the panacea for all the problems because “I am Ok, you are not Ok!”
How many Channel Sales Managers have spent quality time with their Channel Partners to create a robust Business Plan and then followed it up for an entire year?
I have seen operating such plans successfully in my 12 years in the telecom domain. There are times when the senior management has come down harshly on the local team, during reviews. Poor Sales and insufficient market coverage are the stated concerns – the quick-fix solution suggested is: Appoint new Channel Partners because the present set are not performing.
The reasons stated are:
- They have become too complacent
- They take things for granted
- We can’t depend on a few people
- We are playing into their hands
- They will not provide the inputs as expected
To reduce risk and to protect own turf companies appoint more channel than is necessary. But the opposite usually happens. The pie gets divided too thin and the partners start grumbling, they don’t see money in the business and hence can’t commit the large teams or the necessary level of activity in the market.
Soon the Principal is cribbing again – “Let’s look for more partners!”
But some middle level managers have stood their ground and said that such a strategy would erode Channel Partner confidence and it’s extremely short-term in nature. They defend the existing Channel Partners by presenting their track-record and the reasons for the blip – either on account of insufficient manpower or on account of leadership. The Manager would have had a Corrective Action meeting with the Channels in question and the fixes were being put in place.
At such a time, instead of helping them regroup, if new appointments were made, it would lead to conflict and even termination of a long – term relationship. I have been witness to the loss of some good quality partners on account of short-sighted decisions.
Dear Big Business House, you aren’t the only smart one around! The other side is thinking too and they are capable of taking decisions too. There has to be a balance – Yes, it is possible that some markets are not being covered sufficiently and maybe some Channel Partners are taking it too easy.
The first step is to study the situation and provide evidence of the shortfalls; it’s possible that the Channel Partner has lost interest and found some other business that is much more exciting and profitable. He thinks that would give him better returns than your business. If that is the case, it’s best to part as friends or alternately ask them to allocate enough time, money and effort to your business too.
After that’s agreed upon the next step would be to create a plan to recover from the dip and action it. The Channel Partner needs to commit to this and take ownership; often some of them play the absentee partner and dump the job of managing the business on the shoulders of the Channel Sales Manager. Abdication should not be accepted – his presence in the business is essential to get commitment from his team members.
The Channel Sales Manager needs to keep his or her part of the deal too – provide the necessary support and the promised inputs, review the recovery plan regularly and coach the Channel Partner and his team whenever necessary.
If you create an atmosphere of trust and understanding your Channel Partners would respond in kind. Remember, they are in it for money too; if they see their investment being eroded without any hope of returns then they would leave the business.
Good Channel Partners are not easy to find – you may need to create them; and when that is done it’s best to hold onto them than to start looking for another one.
A Goose in hand is worth much more than the new one you are trying to hatch!
I enjoy Selling and being sold to! So, I often visit shops or call a company just to check how they sell. Most times I have no intention to buy, but my act is very convincing and I put them through the drill.
It helps in many ways:
- I get to know how the Sales Personnel are being trained.
- I am able to gauge their level of preparedness.
- I can assess their skills and attitudes.
Only yesterday I walked into a White Goods showroom ostensibly “shopping for a Washing Machine”.
In India we recycle extensively – very few things are use and throw. A Reynolds pen bought in France can be used till the ink runs out, after which you throw it away and get a new one. In India we buy a refill and continue using the external casing till it breaks or gives up on you! We trade in old TVs, blenders, Washing Machines and Hi-fi systems and get a discount on the new piece.
There is an unused TV occupying a lot of space at my house – it’s fully functional, but the old CRT type. We had purchased a LCD one and I wanted to get rid of this one at a good price.
I asked the Salesperson in the showroom to take my TV and give me a discount on the purchase of a new Washing Machine. He did not like the idea, but desperately wanted to make a sale – I could sense that!
When I entered the showroom he was dealing with a couple who were looking for a washing machine too. He had greeted me while his prospects checked the products, asked my requirement and then told me to be seated.
At regular intervals, when the couple got into a discussion he would run up to me and collect more details. He said that they usually don’t sell a different product on a replacement deal – so it had to be fridge for fridge or TV for TV. But then, in sales, there always is a way, right?
“I have something especially for you!” he said.
“Bring it on, Smart Guy”, I said in an undertone. I knew what was coming, but liked it because it’s precisely what he should be doing. The pitch was that he would find a buyer for my TV and offer me a discount on the Washing Machine (Great!) – He then had to go back to his sale again.
I slipped out when he wasn’t looking – didn’t want to lead the poor chap up the garden path. He had done a fair job; without irritating the other prospects he had worked on me, collected the necessary background information and kept me interested. I give him full marks for it.
But I had not revealed my phone number or address – he had not asked for it either. Most times poor salespersons fail to collect such details. I am sure this guy would have, just that I had not given him the opportunity to do so.
The message I wish to leave with all the Sales Professionals out there is this:
- You are constantly under scrutiny.
- Customers are trying to gauge your skills, credibility and honesty.
- Your buyer could be a potential employer who is there to test your skills.
- Maybe it’s your own company checking how the sales team is performing.
Never drop your guard! You are being tested all the time … Give every sale your best shot!
Wow! 3 days into the new year already! “Yalla, Habibi!!” My Arab friends would say. Get going … time to gather momentum!
This morning I spoke with a close friend, now living in the USA.
He is a model of what I constantly aspire to be, but fall short of for want of consistency. I have some distance to cover before I can honestly say that I am focused on just the essentials, and what’s relevant.
Today, I get involved in a lot of stuff – particularly, on Social Media – way beyond what is really my core subject. It’s fun and engaging, but terribly distracting and delusional. Activity on Social Media makes you believe that you are in it and gainfully occupied, but in reality you may be frittering away the most perishable resource, Time – and your LIFE!
Yesterday, I read an article, by a young entrepreneur, about the importance of Doing – he stressed that Effort is the only thing we can really control. He was only repeating what wise folks have been saying for millennia, but it’s an important insight gained – once internalized you are on your way to lasting success.
My friend truly practices that. He left Indian shores more than 2 decades back armed with an M.Com. Degree; after reaching USA he added a CPA to his credentials – he does not waste much time on anything that distracts him from his goal. From the time I met him, back in 1978, I have only seen him doing what’s important – his job, the teaching assignments he did post work and his self-development activities.
Today, while the American Economy is tottering and many Americans are out of jobs he has a full-time Government job, a teaching assignment at the local University and an independent Tax Consulting practice (the last two with the permission of his Superiors).
It’s a living example for the returns you can expect from Effort!
His journey has not been without disappointments – being an outsider he is at a disadvantage and has not been given what he is justifiably due – but then, that has never got him down. He gives each day the best shot and it has paid him handsome dividends.
He has a fabulous house (Trust me on that!), goes on vacation every year and his son goes to the University – now what percentage of Americans can echo such a boast. But he does not boast about it – it’s just me saying it in passing!
The definition of Effort in Physics is Force applied against inertia. How apt!!
As Sales Professional, execute your plan rigorously – Eat the Broccoli first! Yes, do everything that you don’t like doing.
- Make that call – spend more time with the customer
- Prospect – strengthen your pipeline
- Write reports – put more measurable information into it
- Solve customer complaints – Happy customers give more revenue
- Analyze the quality of your work and make the necessary corrections
- Attend that Industry Seminar or Training Program you have been postponing
Ruthlessly eliminate all activities that don’t matter and focus just on the ones that will make you a Winner.
Do! Do! Do! ….. Do you read me?
It’s that time of the year again!
Slates, or should I say iPads/Tablets, wiped clean and kept poised to capture “Fresh Ideas” and “Brand New Resolutions”!
The year 2012 is connected with forecasts of doom, damnation and ending! And I agree; here are a few things that should come to such a pass:
- It’s time to End Sloth, Doom Bad Habits and Damn all Unethical Practices!
That said let me move on to what I think can bring you success in 2012.
Sales is one of the oldest professions in the world and it’s going to stay for a long time to come. A wise person said: “Nothing happens until somebody sells something!” It’s sure holds true for all business.
Methods change, new tools come into play but the fundamentals of Sales remain the same – they are eternal principals and all Sales Professionals would do well to get them into the DNA.
Here are a few things that, I think, will separate the men from the boys:
- Prospect: You are only as good as the last sale you made. In order to ensure a steady flow of business and to get business that brings lasting value to your organisation you need to choose well. You also need to look in the right place and do it consistently. Choose well.
- Learn new Skills: Or go the way of the Dodo! Yes, the founding principles of Sales remain the same but the rules of the game are constantly changing. So you need to stay updated. Use technology, learn to take advantage of Social Media, get trained in Sales Techniques, get smarter in analyzing your results and in understanding the changes in the market. Get ahead!
- Retain your customers: It takes 5 to 7 new customers to provide the revenue generated from a well – entrenched existing account. By losing an account you are taking quite a few backward steps. Don’t forget your existing accounts in the mad rush to acquire new business. Hold them close to your heart!
- Customer First: Everything you do at work should be customer focused – there is no business if there aren’t customers. Product Development, Customer Service, Communication and Processes, just about everything should be customer focused. Get aligned!
- Execute! Execute! Execute: Any Plan is only as good as how it’s rolled out and acted upon. We start the year with noble intentions and soon get distracted by contingencies and random events. Stay focused and committed. Remember that “the best laid plans of men and mice often go awry”, so be ready with a Plan – B!
Dear Sales Pro, here’s wishing you huge success in 2012; let it be another glorious year of Selling!
Does that go against the grain of what we have been taught?
During a vacation some months after our marriage my wife and I spent a few days at Kodaikanal – a picturesque little town in the Western Ghats with resorts, pleasant weather and great scenery.
Tired of eating the usual stuff we went in search of something exotic! That’s when we found the Tibetan Brothers Restaurant. A cozy little place that, we felt, would serve us genuine fare because a Tibetan family ran the show. The husband took the order from us and ran downstairs to the kitchen to help his wife prepare the meal.
We found exciting items on the menu card, all available at very low cost – my wife and I went on an ordering spree, each trying to outdo the other. When we permitted the man to get a word in edgeways he quietly said – “Just have the Noodle Soup first and I will bring the other stuff later – if you still want it!” We wondered why he’d said that.
Reluctantly we agreed and soon he brought two large bowls of steaming and tasty noodle and chicken soup – it was just a half-portion for each of us and we had a tough time finishing it. As a bonus he gave both of us a Momo each and didn’t charge for it. By the end of the meal we just wanted to curl up in some dark corner like overfed pythons.
Later we felt sheepish about our behaviour but it dawned on me that this quiet and simple man had taught me a major lesson in Sales!
A regular Service Staff in any popular restaurant would have taken the order and delivered the meal without giving us any warning – we would have ended up wasting a lot of food. But this man was definitely thinking long – term; knowing his portions sizes he stopped us from having disappointments. He’d been proactive and smart!
He made less money from this sale but had won over two people by offering the right advice – we visited him twice more before the end of the vacation and you guessed right – we did not embarrass ourselves again!
As Sales Professionals we are tuned to maximizing the Sales Opportunity by pushing the higher value product or selling more numbers on some pretext. Such thinking is extremely short-term!! If the customer discovers later that the additional expenditure or features are not going to benefit him in any way you have developed a disgruntled or unhappy customer who probably wouldn’t be interested in engaging with you again.
Don’t get greedy and lose your customer – take smaller bites and eat more in the long run!