The phones rings, I see a familiar number on the display – “Hi JK! Got your email last night”, I said on answering.
JK replied – “What are your thoughts on the projections and proposals I have made for our venture?”
The man was in a hurry. We had met just two days back to discuss a new business opportunity. It had been hanging fire for a while though and I am guilty of not giving the matter full attention due to my other engagements.
But JK did not want the project to languish due to anyone’s mixed priorities and lack of attention. He had brought along two more people to our meeting – one was a prospective 3rd partner for the venture and the other being a former colleague who was now running a Call Centre.
Even before our meeting he had scoped the project and crunched some numbers to show how things will pan out if we went ahead as planned. He was a techie and was well aware of the dynamics of this business – the franchise activity on the anvil would benefit from his involvement and expertise.
I marveled at his energy and enthusiasm – it was clear that JK wanted to get early closure on the matter. But it wasn’t because he stood to get anything extra, there was gain for everyone involved. During our meeting he told the Call Centre man to give us a full run through on what he had on offer and sweetened the deal for him by offering a minority stake – he felt the man would offer better terms if there was something in it for him beyond being just a vendor.
And we had planned a Conference Call later in the week to thrash out few more details in order to take things forward in double quick time. Before and since our meeting he had called a dozen times to thrash out various elements and to bounce ideas – it was like some external power was urging him to act!
-Knowledge of the domain
-Skill in the subject matter
-Awareness of the potential that existed
-Knows that the market is waiting for the service
-Conviction that the time to strike in Now!
I guess it is well-known that the difference between success and failure is Action – get going when you have 75-80% ready say most successful people and JK obviously had taken that to heart. You will never ever be 100% ready and people who wait for that will never get started; delay only opens door for more doubt and provides other players the opportunity to steal the market from you.
This was a new JK I was seeing – having known for close to 2 years now and most of it as a technical trainer I marveled at this new pushy avatar. He had always said that “marketing is not for me, I cannot push for business. I am happy being the techie and would rather let someone else do the selling.”
I think he was wrong about himself – he had an analytical mind, possessed domain expertise, was aware of the potential and could influence people too; to top it all he had the will to win!
A message to the Sales Professionals who are reading this – hesitation can create fuzziness, lead to dip in enthusiasm and flowering of more doubt. If the market exists it is best to push ahead than to hang around.
For the venture described above the assessment of the potential and opportunity were based on fundamentals – it was not gut feel at all; there was clear indication that the services being promoted were in demand and the market waiting for it was fairly large.
JK was a man on a mission and some Spirit in a Sports Car was propelling him forward; but his energy and urgency told us that there is the need to seize the moment before it slipped away.
Have you been possessed in such a manner?
I am at a friend’s office in Bangalore – we are discussing how I should approach this market (new for me). It takes some guts to get into a market that has many well-entrenched players, so rather than blunder one’s way blindly it’s best to get inputs from those who know the terrain and its behaviour. During the meeting I also asked my friend for introductions to a few of his associates in town – there is nothing more reassuring than walking into a meeting with a good reference. It would be stupid, even for a pro in the business, to enter a new market without any background knowledge or backing.
At Bangalore I met a very smart young professional who is an analyst with one of the Big 4 Accounting and Financial Services firms. She studies tax laws in various new markets that are on the radar of couple of Fortune 500 companies – her findings help the Senior Consultants to make recommendations on the best course of action for their clients. Even the biggest in the business started work only after thorough pre-work. There are enough stories of embarrassing withdrawals from markets after hasty and poorly conceived entries. So my approach seemed like the right one.
No stone was left unturned in the pursuit of an entry into this market because getting a firm foothold early was the intention – it meant burning a lot of calories and huge dose of forbearance and staying power.
Halfway through our meeting a team-member popped in to tell my friend that another visitor is waiting. I had to wait while he spoke with this person and it turned out to be a useful one for me too.
This man promotes a Loyalty Card which is co-branded with one of the oil majors – the card owner earns points on purchase of petrol (an expensive commodity in our country) and when enough points are accumulated you get free petrol. To make the card attractive he ties up with various lifestyle businesses in the city that provide discounts to the card-holders on purchases or services used.
My friend’s business is in the list of outlets where the Loyalty Card can be used. It costs him nothing and his business gets some visibility and there is opportunity to get some additional business. This visitor is from another part of India and he had taken a brave decision to work in this part of the country thanks to Bangalore’s Cosmopolitan population and its high-spending lifestyle. The crowd that throngs the Malls everyday is to be seen to be believed. It was young, trendy and spending like there is no tomorrow.
So this entrepreneur may have taken a brave decision, but it’s a studied one.
The card sellers’s only earning is from the amount paid by the user to purchase the card. It was a gutsy play in a new market and in a product segment that had a dubious reputation. During the meeting I was witness to some of the tactics he used to weather the storm.
Another young entrepreneur walked into the room – my friend is his advisor and mentor. This budding businessman runs an online store for sports goods which is moving towards being the biggest in the country for that segment. An online store is another business that is new in India and fraught with issues related to Quality, Supply Chain Management and payment issues. But he was happy with the results so far, so were his clients.
Our Loyalty Card man made a pitch to get this young and rising star’s business into his list of outlets. The Online entrepreneur said he has seen many such cards earlier – he had a few tough questions to ask:
- I have seen that many of the empanelled outlets don’t honour the Discount committed on the card.
- I am not sure how much reach and visibility my business will get.
- I operate on a wafer thin margin to attract more clients – so I may not have anything to offer the loyalty Card Holders.
To counter the first question the man gave proof – he said that the Oil Major insisted that every listed outlet got into a binding legal agreement on the discount and terms of business. The Agreement specified that there is internal branding activity and information sent regularly to every outlet in the alliance partner’s chain to give visibility and to honor the card.
In response the 2nd query he said that every petrol pump would have displays that gave the names of the participating organisations and the attendants at the pump would promote the card and its benefit among the vehicle owners – in addition there would be regular flyers circulated through newspapers to advertise the benefits of owning the card. He mentioned a major marketing initiative that involved one of the leading newspapers in Bangalore.
As for the discounts he said that since the customers of the sports good are usually up-market and high net worth clients they would not worry as much about the discount as they enjoyed the convenience of shopping online. So he felt the customer would still buy the products.
He said all this with so much conviction and confidence that the young man agreed to sign up.
Seated next to him I got a ringside view of how a smart Salesperson deals with a tough situation – like a professional boxer he was soaking all the punches thrown at him and responding with excellent counterpunches.
It takes courage to win at Sales and I enjoyed the lessons offered by this live experience.
Fire in the belly … that’s what it takes to win!
How we react and respond to situations and what we say during conversations threw light on our attitude and state of mind. After all, our words and actions get life from our thinking, beliefs and values.
Three interesting interactions I had yesterday:
- The first was with a good friend: She’d been feeling low and desperate needed to find a purpose or a definite direction in her life. During our conversations she frequently said: “How I wish I could live life my way.” I pushed her to say what it is she really wanted. In the past she had mentioned some dreams and pet projects. She spoke about starting a venture in one of two fields that caught her fancy. Today I nudged her to narrow it down to one and maybe push ahead with some action. But my friend responded saying it’s too late to think about it now because her present circumstances would not permit such pursuits. She is well-settled and enjoying the good life – even then her thoughts veered towards the need to make a mark for herself. She was unhappy with how things were going, but did she have the will or commitment to make it happen? I didn’t say anything and ended the conversation. Maybe she wasn’t motivated enough at present.
- The Administrative Head of an Institution where I conduct classes regularly had asked me to help their students in Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. Since me classes were limited to a few weeks based on the prescribed curriculum I thought the students can improve much further by maintaining their learning efforts even after my program. So I spoke at length to the Head about the Toastmasters Club and their proven methodology in helping people improve speaking and leadership skills. He hemmed and hawed, politely smiled as I spoke and at the end of the conversation he said. “We’ll see what can be done about it.” I had been pushing hard to get him to start a Club at the Institution in order to help the students and it meant no addition cost to them because the Club paid for its expenses from the fees paid by the members. But his reaction told me right then that nothing would happen.
- At the same Institution I had shared information with the students too about the Toastmasters system and today I showed them the books we used at the Club to prepare the speeches. The books explained how one can develop Leadership Skills and Communication Skills by participating in various projects and by tracking the progress made. A few of the youngsters were genuinely interested and after the class they lingered to find out more – many asked how they could enroll in the Club. Obviously they saw merit in the program and were in need of those inputs. One bright chap used Google on his Android phone and located a Club close to their college. I would expect at least 2 or 3 of them to join a club in Cochin.
We act when we see merit or value in taking action. We see positive results accruing from the pursuit of that line of thinking and will ourselves on – the task is approached with great enthusiasm.
The rest will just talk about it to while away time. Decide which side you want to be on.
I mentioned walking into a training centre recently and instantly feeling the energy within – everyone was busy doing their job, no time for idle chatter and most importantly each employee seemed to know what had to be done.
Just a day later I visited a swank office in town – the lady at the reception was playing Solitaire to while away time in the post-lunch lull and seeing me enter she made a desperate attempt to turn the screen away from me. The Manager I had gone over to meet was discussing a weekend recreation activity with his peer. Through the glass that separated the reception area from the work area I could see a few members of the staff, away from the work-station, laughing over some joke. While it extremely likely that they were all taking a breather before getting into action once again what are the chances that everyone in the organisation had decided to take a break just before I stepped in.
The leader has a big role to play in this – creating the right ambience and seeding the right topics for discussion, during work hours, are big ticket agenda items for the person in the corner office.
There is an age old Sanskrit saying “Yatha Raja, thatha Praja!” (“As the Ruler so the Ruled!” or the King’s actions and behaviour are good indicators of those of his citizens.)
If the Leader sets a very professional work culture which is based on processes, integrity and Customer Focus the team-members would take the cue and follow such practices.
If the leader applies pressure and resorts to using harsh language while dealing with his direct reports they in turn would use such methods with their own subordinates. A Manager who is not present in office on time and not known to keep his appointments would find such behaviour resonating through his team too. And one usually finds such leaders trying to impose strictures on his team for not following the processes he flouts – he expects them to report on time while most times he would not be present at the appointed hour.
Professional Business Managers and Functional Head follow the practices they expect the team to follow:
- They keep notes and remind people about his expectations
- They respond on schedule and expect the same from others
- Business is their focus and they try to understand it the details – it isn’t superfluous interest
- They roll up shirt-sleeves and get involved in the nitty – gritties
- They visit customers regularly and try to understand the market from close quarters
- Promises are kept and they have a good reason for not being able to fulfil any promised ones
- Their reviews are balanced and end with a proper corrective action plan
- They do not play favourites and don’t favour anyone unduly
- Performers and achievers get special attention from them
- They do not have patience for people who refuse to learn
- They spend time training and coaching team-members
- Small talk is kept to minimum and it happens only after business gets done
- They ignore the politics – but Managers who cause it are asked to deal with it professionally
If this is standard practice then business takes place in an atmosphere that is challenging, open and action focused – there is no time for small talk and there is very little reason for politics. The team soon realizes that instead of wasting time speaking behind closed doors or bitching about the boss in coffee shops its best to present the issue to the person directly and get the matter resolved.
When the buzz in the office is business oriented the organisation prospers!
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Parvathi wakes up at 4.15 a.m., gets ready quickly and is off to work by 5 a.m. She produces shows for the local FM Station. It’s not a desk job; she regularly goes around town interviewing officials, celebrities and commoners for the shows. She comes home usually after 8 p.m. and it can get as late as 11 p.m. of some days. Since the team at the office is being formed afresh, almost from scratch, after a major shakeout, she is currently producing 3 shows. In due course the workload would come down, she says, but the present load does not deter or discourage her.
Parvathi is energized by the results she achieves and the benefits that would accrue in the medium and long term with each success. Her CEO is so impressed with the success of the shows and the increased listenership that he has instructed HR to send all new recruits to her for training – maybe to transfuse a bit of her qualities to each new employee. She says this to me with a lot of pride, not with a “Damn! One more job!”-expression.
How does she do it? ENERGY!!
Rachna, Parvathi’s friend, used to be an RJ. Now she is an actor, dance teacher and English instructor all rolled into one.
Every two weeks she comes into town to act in a TV Serial. Rachna spends the intervening night of the 2-day schedule with us – it’s safer than the lodging provided by the producers, she says.
5-days, each week, she is in another town taking English classes for IELTS hopefuls. And finally on weekends she is back at her own home; not for the well-earned rest – she gives dance lessons on both days. Amazing!
Rachna is always bubbly and full of life; cracking jokes and flitting about even after the hectic day at the shoot. What keeps her going?
You guessed it …………. it’s ENERGY!
This is one factor that clearly divides the winners from the also-rans. Yes, I know, you are going to say that there is belief, commitment and so many other factors; and you wouldn’t be wrong.
What if you believe you are the best, but refuse to do anything about it? What if you are totally committed to a cause and never took the first step to support it?
Energy helps to translate beliefs and commitments into action. Energy comes from the vision of a better tomorrow and from feeling empowered. You intuitively know that there is going to be a pay-off for your efforts. You are sure that all the blockades can be surmounted and that something better, richer and enjoyable lies on the other side of your efforts.
Don’t stop at the corner store for an Energy Bar; like Parvathi & Rachna, find it inside you!
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?
After reading my post on Sales Resolutions a friend wrote in to say – “One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: ‘To rise above the little things.’ ~John Burroughs”. (Unquote)
Isn’t that a wonderful thought? There is so much pettiness in this world and any effort to remove it is wise and praiseworthy!
But do you see the defect in the goal statement, that I found?
I wrote back immediately to say:
It’s a great thought! However, if you wish to make it happen you need to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Define what it means “to rise above little things”? How you are going to demonstrate it? How often you wish to do it in a day / week / month? Or at the very least make a note of the number of times you could achieve it. Only then it will become a reality.
Without metrics no resolution can be achieved. Best wishes. J
Many times during my training sessions on Goal Setting I hear participants saying, “Doesn’t it take away the fun and/or spontaneity? It would become very clinical and cold.”
Maybe my friend had just written in to say that it’s his constant endeavour to become a better human being – and it occurred to me that we ought to do a few things without counting, such as helping the needy or being courteous to everyone or sparing time for our family.
But then doing such things intentionally and even taking measurements helps you bring focus and keeps you pointed towards your goal. You stay committed and purposeful.
As far as business is concerned there is no discussion on the subject. If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed!
You need metrics, you need definitions and you need realism!
- Unless your goals and objectives are properly stated there would be ambiguity and doubt.
- Unless it is realistic and achievable nobody would go for it
- If there is no deadline you would drift and postpone.
So, when you accept a target, confirm that they are measurable and time-bound goals: I will do maximum sales this month is a poor objective. I will achieve 9% of my annual target this month is a better one.
Also remember that when you set the target analyse potential and capability of the target owner, market conditions, company’s objectives, inputs provided – all factors that can impact performance.
There is one other thing I wish to say about that resolution statement from my friend … but that’s for another day!
For now, let us just think SMART!
It’s a brand new year – this was my Tweet to start the Day / Month / Year:
- A clean slate, a fresh start … 365 opportunities to be a Winner – take them one at a time! You can do it, so can I! Let’s begin…
Took just 132 characters – dots, dashes, spaces included!
All it needs is just 1 more character … U (Me when said in first person!)
Yes, you need to make it happen, and I.
What does the clean slate indicate?
- It means opportunities- to do things afresh, to go for goals, to think differently and to learn new skills.
- It means we have been the space to do what’s right.
- It means the past is over – we have learned from our successes and even more from the failures; but we won’t linger long to celebrate the wins nor to lament the wrongs … it’s time to move on.
I am reminded of the noble thought from Mother Teresa:
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
- It means we won’t be prejudiced by our beliefs, notions and values; we will take people and events as they are and try to learn from every interaction.
As Sales Professionals we will:
- Go through the drill every day.
- Have the target in sight all the time.
- Spend more time with the customer.
- Listen to our customers and support team; give them the benefit of the doubt
- Apply the knowledge and skills we have gained.
- Do things differently.
- Analyze data, events and interactions with the intent to understand, not to judge!
- Spend time to Coach the team and give them constructive feedback
- Commit only what’s possible.
- Surprise Customers, Co-workers and Superiors by exceeding expectation.
Yes, it’s time to PLAN, but it’s also the time to DO – Hurry, the clock is ticking!