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?
Day-1 of Year-2 for the Sales Coach Blog …. I had promised you that goals for the blog would be different this year and there would be interesting new features.
What better way to begin the year than getting the change implemented on the very first day …. the first new feature: Guest Writers!
Here is an article written by Jamshed Lateef (popularly known as Jamy), Guest Relations Manager at The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados. He studied Mechanical Engineering at College of Engineering, Trivandrum but then changed track and picked up a Diploma in Hotel & Tourism Management from Hotel Institute Montreux, Switzerland in 1997. He lives in Saint James, Barbados with his wife, Lily.
Jamy has been a regular visitor at the Sales Coach blog and his comments after reading each article were so detailed and insightful. Those inputs added hugely to the value of the articles I presented.
What better way to recognise his contributions to the development of the Sales Coach Blog than to ask him to present an article here; it is a matter of great joy and pride for me to present the first Guest article at this blog.
He talks about his own profession, which also is his pet subject – Guest Relations helps hugely in bringing repeat business and referral Sales for your organisation. Over to Jamy …
Guest Relations- a changing concept?
First of all, it is an absolute honour to be invited to present an article on Sales Coach Blog.
The role of a Guest Relations Executive, Officer or Manager in the hospitality industry, and in general, has evolved over the years from being glamour-oriented to a key function instrumental in being the perfect ambassador.The person should also be knowledgeable and skilled to provide guests/ customers with a captivating first impression and facilitate a thorough introduction to products and services.
Let us take a look at Disney’s concept of Guest Relations- anyone who has visited Disney’s theme parks would be pleasantly surprised to know that the ladies and gentlemen in charge of keeping guest and public areas neat and tidy are given the title Guest Relations because on a daily basis they interact with guests from all over the world and are trained to respond to basic guest queries and/or guide them in the right direction; they are not there only to maintain hygiene and sanitation.
Now, in established hotel chains, the Guest Relations function is usually the department in charge of producing the WOW! effect for return as well as first-time customers. The job description covers management and supervisory tasks related to the Front Office, Sales, PR, Food & Beverage and even duties and responsibilities of the Executive team in their absence. It is definitely not glamorous as I mentioned earlier, but a very important and responsible job function where the individual is always on stage and should be street-smart enough to think on his/her feet while carrying out daily duties and resolving issues.
As far as the modern guest is concerned, the Guest Relations Manager should be an encyclopedia of knowledge able to cater to all their needs, respond adequately to all their queries and be able to find solutions to all their issues without showing any signs of weakness. The moment you are unable to conform to the above some guests would pounce on you like vultures and use you as an excuse to question the hotel’s reputation; some others would just ignore you for the rest of their vacation and escalate their issues to the higher-ups. Let us not forget the dangerous and deadly group who would resort to using websites like Trip Advisor, Expedia etc to tear into you relentlessly and let the world know that they were not happy campers thanks to the substandard service they received or the fact that they did not get enough satisfaction with management’s resolution.
Everyone is looking for Quality and Value for their money spent which means that their expectations are greater than ever before. The Guest Relations Manager should always be prepared to step up and assist any front-of-the-house department in operations to ensure that guests receive a high standard of service and there are no glaring deficiencies staring at them to make the service below – expectations. It is always good to have working knowledge and experience in supporting departments before taking on the position of Guest Relations Manager.
What about the expectations of management and other departments? Ah! Never thought about that right?
The Food & beverage team expect the Guest Relations function ( Guest Relations / Concierge) to provide accurate and prompt information to guests and hustle if necessary to fill up the restaurants and thereby generate revenue. The Sales & Marketing team expect Guest Relations to jump in at short notice to conduct Site Inspections and be the point person for Groups in-house. The Front Office department requires the Guest Relations function to support them through the whole Guest Cycle: Pre – Arrival, Arrival, In – house and Departure and also to stand in for the Front Office Manager. The Executive team expects the Guest Relations Manager to be the Regular Duty Manager taking the initial blows from discerning guests and resolving the issues by being patient , empathetic, following up and most importantly following through.
The Guest Relations Manager should always be on the lookout for ways to enhance a guest’s vacation by asking the right questions not only on arrival, but also during interactions throughout their stay – at cocktail parties, afternoon teatime etc and also when they are fully relaxed by the beach and pool. Picking up valuable information like anniversaries and birthdays, special dietary requirements, hobbies and interests and using the same to surprise and WOW! guests by adding value to their stay is one of the major expectations of the Executive Team as far as Guest Relations is concerned.
Now, what is the best reward that you can get for performing all of the above consistently over a period of time? Most people might say monetary benefits like FAT TIPS from the guests, a bonus, salary raise, a mention on Trip Advisor or a complimentary letter to the Executive!! But is that what a true professional is looking for in terms of Job Satisfaction?
Recognition from Higher Management like a pat on the back, a simple Thank You from a guest for making their stay memorable promising to return and recommend to friends and family, a bear hug from a child who became attached to you during their stay – the pure satisfaction that you get out of such gestures is the biggest reward that a passionate and loyal Guest Relations Manager can ask for; whose integrity and commitment to excellence is always challenged by different situations which are part and parcel of the hospitality industry.
Guest Relations is a specialist function and you are either blessed with the necessary skills and mindset for it or it is just not meant for you ….. its as simple as that!
Prakash calls the Administrative Office of the IT Park in Trivandrum, which projects itself as not just the most professional work environment, but also as the most hip and fun place to work in Kerala.
A bored voice answered and asked why he was calling – the voice matched the chill and dampness of a monsoon drenched morning in Kerala. Prakash put all the energy into this effort because a breakthrough here would mean big revenue for his organisation and a fat commission for himself. He is eager to make an impact and be able to pitch for business from the Companies in the Park; he also hoped to get a group of companies to attend a presentation on his products. But soon he felt his enthusiasm ebbing, thanks to the lukewarm response from the other side.
Throughout the call the Officer who spoke with Prakash gave just one impression – she didn’t wish to speak for long and wanted to get rid of him at the earliest!
Prakash said: I wish to promote some learning solutions that would help the IT Companies in their Talent Development initiatives.
Officer: I don’t deal with the subject – you have to call Mr.X.
Prakash: Can you help organise a presentation on our solutions to a group of HR / Training Managers?
Officer: You have to speak about that to Mr.Y.
Prakash: Can you forward my call to Mr.X or Mr.Y?
Officer: Both are in a meeting right now. You have to call later.
She cut the call.
The library I visit (Yes, the one that had not informed me about it’s off-day)has this young Executive who did something today that helped to wipe out the disappointment I had experienced after their “no-show” last week!
I was limping as I walked into the library because the sciatic nerve had been acting up. Seeing my discomfiture he makes me sit down saying: “it seems you are undergoing some pain. Let me help you with the book choice, any specific title on your mind? A friend had posted this review on Facebook about “Game of Thrones” with a must-read advice.
The author’s name was not provided in the review and I just had the title – he tapped into the database, found the author name and fetched a few other books of his, but not the one I wanted.
He said: “Don’t worry, Sir! Maybe you have to wait a few days but I can get you a copy from one of our other branches. I have made a request on your behalf and maybe it be available the next time you are here; but in the meantime why don’t you try this new arrival?”
He offered me the latest work of another author I read – he had obviously checked the previously borrowed list in my account.
And while I glanced at the cover of the book offered he did something quite amazing – he pulled out a sample satchet of a pain-relief balm from the table drawer. It had obviously come as a promotion with one of the local magazines and was lying unused – he felt it could be of use to me. The balm provided relief from the pain and I had forgotten their past lapse.
The Officer in the Technopark did not reflect the ethos that is spoken about at length on the website and promotional material of this up-market workplace – she ignored the caller’s need outright. Even if the questions asked by Prakash were not subjects handled by her at the very least the information could have been passed on to the right official or some sort of arrangement could have been made to connect the caller with them.
The young Executive sensed his customer’s discomfort and used it as an opportunity to go the extra mile. It created a huge positive impact and the customer went away happy in spite of the pain.
Being there for the customer is the least any customer facing employee can do to retain them; by behaving in that manner they enhance the service experience and help to improve the image and credibility of their organisation.
Being there is about being human!
How close should we get with our clients?
A recent conversation with the Sales Manager of a telecom company brought me alive to the need for moderation in relationship building. He and I shared the same surname, but it is a common one here in Kerala; & both were born in the same city in North India – that’s unusual. I became aware of this tit-bit of information while researching the person, preparatory to the call. And as an ice-breaker I mentioned these commonalities. The intent was not to gain any advantage, but such things usually help to get the conversation started. He did not seem inclined to broach the subject and I quickly changed tack.
Maybe he wished to keep the discussion very formal in the early stages and that was illustrated quite sharply when he rebuffed my inside man’s attempt to dwell on some personal details a bit later. Since I was an outsider, and a visitor, he did not try to snub me, but the junior officer who set up the meeting for me was quickly put in his place: “Let us stick to the subject, please!”
Usually people enjoy meeting those who are:
- from their alma mater
- former colleagues
- from the town they lived in
- from their hometown / family
But that should not be taken for granted; people change with time and may not be inclined to discuss such things with you. A junior official might enjoy indulging in small talk, but a senior official or a CXO level individual may not. It’s possible that they all are interested, but many don’t wish to drop their guard for fear of losing the strategic advantage – or would do so only with peers.
It is also possible that the officials who act cold and formal during the negotiations turn warm and friendly after the business is done; the mask often gets dropped after a few meetings. They are probably gauging you for substance and on the deliverables; when they are sure that you are a professional and know where to draw the line they turn friendly.
It is best to permit the customer to take the lead in such matters – if they wish to be chatty and informal you can play along; otherwise you would do well to remain pleasant and keep the discussion formal.
The caveat is not to lose sight of your priorities and keep your business priorities uppermost. Customers can play all sorts of games and lull you into an indiscretion – the friendliness may be a ploy to disarm you and reap a benefit from the deal. When you are in an extremely happy mood remember not to divulge any critical information, nor should you promise anything beyond your empowerment.
While meeting a person of the opposite sex it’s best to maintain professionalism in all dealings – nothing in your words and actions should be even misconstrued as unacceptable or uncivil. When there are meetings away from the office, such as a luncheon appointment, keep the conversation focused on work and casual talk should be impersonal and general. You shouldn’t pry or be indiscreet. It can jeopardize relationships between the organisations and impact business negatively.
It’s best not to get personal with someone you are doing business with – such involvements can distract both sides and lead to loss of focus, due to mixed priorities.
If the relationship gets personal the best option would be to hand-over the business dealings to someone else in your organisation or deal with some other official on the client-side.
Customer Intimacy isn’t what you think it is. Don’t get too cosy with your customer … it would turn into a hotbed for disaster!
Business is best done with friends, but the level of friendship needs to be defined – it should not clash with your organisation’s interests.
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We have often heard it said that human capital is an organisation’s most valuable asset.
Yesterday Prof. Masud Arjmand, who teaches at Kellogg School of Management (North Western University, USA), explained how and why with a thought provoking lecture. The professor posed a series of questions that had to be answered first by the participants and then led the group towards the most effective response through further questioning – this method prompted participation; its better than making people sit quiet while you talk on and on.
Prof. Arjmand’s talk focused on the role of talent in Corporate Performance.
The session was kicked off with this quote from a Jim Collins (author of “Good to Great” and “Built to last”) book – “Hire the best people and get out of their way!”
The first question to the audience was – Who trumps whom? People or Organisation?
Employees would love to believe that they can beat their employers by working below par or by walking out and organisations think they can wring out their employees dry and pay below par or that they can even stop the talent from flourishing by not providing an enabling environment. But each side is cutting its own feet by doing the above – people and organisations win only when there is a happy alchemy of favourable inputs and support from one side being matched by optimum performance from the other.
PERFORMANCE = PEOPLE + ENVIRONMENT
He then asked the audience whether they wished to work in the company that had the “Best People and Average Environment” or “Average People and Best Environment” and then told them that the latter is the better option because it gave everyone an opportunity to shine and space to improve.
The example he gave was of Toyota Motors who did not have any shining stars but had an open culture and a supportive management that permitted everyone to express their ideas and to perform well. That made the company one of the giants in the automobile sector.
Prof Masud showed a graphic which had two profiles – the first person (A) was a high performer in a rapidly growing sector and another (B) who was working hard to keep a company afloat in a dying sector. He asked who would get chosen for the CEO position if we were to chose? And everyone went for Option-A, the Star. Then Prof. Masud said that the 2nd candidate had more experience in dealing with complexities and would have worked on various things in order to stay afloat – so B would make a better candidate than A who was probably getting business without trying too hard.
But he agreed that in the real world A gets chosen more often, because people rarely looked at effort and were easily swayed by results.
Then he came around to posing the question on Self vs. Organisation – people usually attribute success to own efforts and failure to lack of support from the manager or organisation. A sensible person would look at the situation with greater objectivity and not fall into the Fundamental Attribution Error he said.
Then it was time to deal with the key premise – Talent!
He spoke about the Nature and Nurture theory and explained using Tiger Woods as an example. Woods broke into the scene way after he started playing Golf – it was only when he hit the winning streak that the world noticed him – but he had started playing the game from the age of 5 and methodically developed mastery over the game.
Prof Masud said that we are born with Aptitude to do something well and that flowers into Talent when practiced diligently and consistently. He spoke also about the need for a Coach: Yes, even Tiger Woods has one! We need to practice the right things to be the Best and the Coach helps to iron out the wrinkles even in the best.
Talent can be developed said the professor – Managers, the rough diamonds who join your team are testing grounds for your coaching skills. Can you develop them into shining talents? It is wrong to search for talent just during the recruitment process and then ignore them totally when they on board – its aptitude that we should look for while recruiting and then turn it into talent through tasking, coaching and supporting. The work begins only when they join.
But even the best recruitment process in the world cannot differentiate between good and bad with 100% accuracy. Prof Masud shared an interesting case of a very successful CEO of a Fortune 500 company who had come to him, for a job at Accenture, while still a junior-level Manager. But he had refused the man the job!
Although the Prof had regrets for a while about not choosing that person he says neither side was affected in the long-term. Accenture remains a big name in consulting and the candidate made it big elsewhere. His message was that you may not always get the best – it is statistically impossible for everyone to have the best – but the opportunity exists to make the best of what we already have. That is the challenge confronting all Managers.
Another important insight shared by Prof Masud is that we can’t be two people at home and work; what we are at work is what we usually are at home and vice versa; or else we would be a prime breeding-ground for stress. How we treat others must match how we wish to be treated, he added.
With the collapse of families and authority structures in the social realm workplaces too have become less hierarchical and more independent. So people trying to be pushy and dictatorial would find themselves sidelined or shunned and fighting a losing battle.
Then he shared some tips for Personal Growth to the Managers of tomorrow:
- Self expression
- Authentic relationship
- Sense of purpose
- Autonomy, Trust and Respect
- Purposeful dialogue
- Suspension of status and authority
Prof Masud Arjmand closed his lecture with two messages for all managers:
- TALENT is the “fuel” that runs the “machine” called ORGANISATION to deliver “PERFORMANCE”, or results!
- “Manage Context, not people!”
The Chief Executive of a small software development unit walks into the office finds a file left open on the discussion table and immediately shouts at the top of his voice: “Can’t anyone work properly around here? Why are things not kept at the proper place? Do I have to put up with such stupidity always?”
Two of his employees, out of his line of vision and earshot, looked at each other and grimaced – one said: “Another nightmarish day in office it seems.”
The Chief Executive called out the name of one of deputies and the person dragged himself the Boss’ cabin reluctantly, looking like a sacrificial goat.
“What happened to the proposal that was to go this morning?”
“I am putting the finishing touches – it will be sent to you for verification in a few minutes” said the man.
“You are not just incompetent, irresponsible too. I am going to put an end to this by terminating you. Go back and send me that file if you don’t want to get thrown out.”
The draft proposal reaches the Manager in a little while and within minutes of reading it he shouts for the hapless employee once again; points out 4-5 errors and says:
“You have been here for 2 months – why haven’t you learnt what is to be done? Do I have to do everything here? I know nobody in this organisation is going to be as good as I am. Still is it wrong to expect some level of skill and commitment from the rest of you.”
And thus went a typical day in that small outfit.
The Chief was hardly available in office – he travelled across the world in pursuit of various interests which went beyond software. He did not spend time in training and coaching the employees. They were just allocated tasks and expected to deliver results. Hardly anyone in his team had direct contact with the end customer because the Chief felt permitting such interactions would reduce his hold on the business.
Even when he was in the city the contact with his office was maintained on the phone and most times the conversations were one way – he was issuing instructions and the employees had to execute what was told. The employees usually found his explanations long-winded and confusing. He was not able to simplify the task for them. But nobody dared to ask questions fearing a backlash.
In order to keep his costs low this businessman recruited people with just the basic skill requirements and pushed them hard to deliver his expectations. He never invested in providing them any additional training nor did he permit them to speak with the clients to understand their requirements with greater clarity. He expected them to pick up skills on their own and keep doing what was asked off them.
It is not difficult to see why they are not able to deliver. They had not been trained or coached, nor were they motivated to perform. They have not been given any encouragement or recognition for the work done, nor were they given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
To top it all he barked at them and did not attempt to build relationship or trust. He was absent at most times and made the team wish he would never ever step in. Such behaviour puts them on the defensive and even distracts them to the extent of making mistakes when they worked.
He was putting into play a destructive cycle of fear, demotivation and inefficiency.
He lost no opportunity to say that he was way better than they could ever aspire to be and never gave them opportunities to benefit from his knowledge.
I have been a nasty with some of my subordinates in the past and seen firsthand how my behaviour and words impacted them. I know such acts cannot be reversed and sometimes can leave permanent scars on the minds of people who receive such treatment.
It’s tough to change such people because they see nothing wrong in their own behaviour. Only when people start leaving them or when such behaviour gets a rude retaliation from someone that it dawns on them.
Anger, ego and rudeness are like bad weather … they cause a lot of pain and leave a trail of destruction!
P.S: I have not recommended any solution or remedy here because the answers are obvious to any sensible person.
I have worked with more than one organisation where, after the incentives and bonuses are declared, people who didn’t make the cut grumbled among themselves about the unjust review systems and totally lopsided incentives program that were implemented by the Top Management.
And this is a routine occurrence at many organisations across the country. How I wish managements had spent time to read this amazing book ‘Execution’ that I reviewed just 2 days back. The book highlights the lacunae in the conventional Reward and Recognition programs adopted by most leading organisations.
Incentives have a flat structure – numbers are allocated to each resource without taking into account the factors that are relevant to the team-member’s market. Even if the factors are taken into cognizance the additional load in targets is not commensurate with the increased opportunities in the role-holder’s market. And usually the programs do not recognise efforts taken to Cut Costs or Revenue Enhancement activities undertaken by an individual. The targets are usually uni-dimensional.
Employees feel inspired and motivated when their talent and high-quality output get noticed and rewarded. Managers who notice, recognise and promote quality talent are able to retain people much longer. Dissatisfaction usually rises when everyone is measured the same yardstick and the reward system tries to please the lowest common denominator.
An employee who is working in a mature market with many competitors and another employee who is working in a new market with huge opportunities and few competitors should not be measured the same way. There could be a 3rd person who at the end of the year failed to reach fresh sale targets but had excelled in huge process optimization, cost cutting and added revenue on after-sale service.
In the conventional system the 3rd person would not get any incentive, the second person would get graded the best and walk away with the highest rewards and the first person would also make the cut and get an incentive, but lower than the second employee.
If a thorough analysis of the performance is made based on quality of effort, use of innovative methods and degree of difficulty in addition to the regular yardsticks you will find that the 3rd employee has delivered the best results and the 2nd guy the least.
Organisations need to worry when they are promoting mediocrity. In order to retain quality talent organisations have to innovate and adopt exciting people practices that recognise and reward merit … one size does not fit all and pleasing everyone is not the best way to stay productive and profitable.
Spoil your best talent with The Goodies and they will keep performing at their best!
P.S.: I agree that Sales Incentives and Bonuses become due only when the organisation is profitable, but it wouldn’t be fair to penalise performers when the rest of the team fails.
Many Indian companies are in that mode.
Oil price on the rise, inflation heading northward to balance the southward journey of the rupee, GDP down, business down, indices down …. India is down!
The count has commenced …. Can we get back on our feet before the referee declares a K.O.?
Companies are staggering on account of the relentless pounding from all quarters – Government policies aren’t market friendly any more, costs are growing unchecked, customers aren’t buying like before, erosion of talent and so on.
This is a ready-made opportunity for the best to show how good they are. We hear so much about how “When the going gets tough, the tough get …”; it seems the tough have decided to curl up and die … Unconditional surrender!
Here are some symptoms of the disease that is slowly killing Indian businesses:
1. Refusing to listen to the customer
When a customer walks in or calls to enquire about a product answers are given only for what’s available. If it’s about anything else they either tell you point-blank that they can’t meet your requirement or the polite suggestion is “try elsewhere”. I have not found any organisation that takes that query as an indicator of an un-served niche. How many such enquiries would be going untracked? Who in the company is aware of the number of such unmet needs? Can the customer be satisfied with some minor tweaking in the current offering.
Call the Service Centre and you are compelled to listen to the canned messages about their schemes and promos before getting to the interactive system. It is close to impossible to reach a human voice. Even the Walk-in Service Centres refuse to give you a number to call them – use the Contact Centre number, they say.
You are forced to listen to them, but there is no reciprocation – they are not interested to hear you.
I have not come across a company yet that listens to what their customers really want to say. They ask questions based on their own assessment of the situation, which at times is diametrically opposite to what the customer wants. Their questions are not unlike the ones asked by lawyers, which compel the witness to provide the expected answer.
It’s time the companies gave their customers a proper hearing. There are many unmet needs, that potentially mean revenue to the company.
2. Poor infrastructure
Walk into a Service Centre to register a complaint, to make a payment or to make an enquiry and you hear this –
“Sir! Our system is down.” or “There is no electricity. You will have to come later or go to our Service Centre at …..“
India has always been a country plagued with insufficient power supply – we are famous for Power Cuts and unscheduled breakdowns. It’s to handle such outages that they have inverters and auxiliary power supplies. How difficult is it for any reputed company to plan a power back-up at least to run the computers?
Haven’t these companies heard about POS Devices? Or about Apps that work on Smartphones? When a customer walks in with cash would any sensible company refuse to accept payment – that too in these cash-strapped times?
Most organisations don’t even collect names or phones numbers of people who walk in with an enquiry! Are they inundated with Sales?
3. Awful Web Presence
I heard on TV that a local Consumer Electronics Retailer was running a Swap Scheme. One could trade in the old appliance and get a new one at a discount – I wanted to trade-in my old TV for a new one and so I Googled for their number. There were 3 landline numbers listed and a whole set of mobile numbers against the name of their outlets across the city. All the featured mobile numbers were dead. The landline number took me to some allied business of theirs. I was given a mobile number and the person who answered seemed disinterested. She said that my enquiry has to be made at another number.
Not one person who answered thought that this is a business opportunity. They were seeing the call as an irritant – the caller was eating into their time.
As for the Web Presence – I wonder when was the last time the CEO or the Sales Manager checked the Web Page of their own organisation. Was anyone tracking the number of hits at their webpage? Do they actively study the enquiries that come through this route? What are they doing to improve Sales through the portal?
Barring a few at the very top most Indian companies are in the Cave Age as far as this activity is concerned.
4. You call us!
This is an ever repeating theme across organisations. “Call us, we can’t call you!” I must state here that there are a few exceptions to this:
- Outcalls from companies asking you to pay overdue bills
- Companies selling you some insurance scheme.
- You walked into an Auto Dealership to enquire about a car
You can expect a call in the above instances; but in all other cases you have to follow-up even if it means more business for them. Be it the Call Centre or the Sales Outlet of a company, nobody promises to call back with information. You have to call them.
Doesn’t it seem incongruous that in these troubled times, when board rooms are choc-o-bloc filled with worried faces and balance sheets awash with red companies are ignoring the money making opportunities that come knocking! These are low-hanging fruit and don’t take much doing. A lot more can be done to turn things around, but why are we ignoring these? Is it because they are simple and too obvious?
I am reminded of the story of the pious guy who ignored the offer of the kind boatman to escape from the flood water because he knew that God would come to save him.
Scenario – 1: Young talent joins an organisation fresh from college – what does the Manager do? The wide–eyed and enthusiastic recruit is dumped in the hands of an unwilling old hand who happens to be around that moment – the Manager walks away gleefully, rid of his burden. The veteran has been instructed to give the new man an overview of company, products and process. If he is not otherwise occupied he may take the man out for a few sales calls. In the evening the not-so-exuberant young man trudges home laden with brochures and process manuals. If he is lucky this routine may continue for 2 or 3 days; but it’s most likely that business that month is below par and the recruit finds his honeymoon cut short. He is given a target and sent out to the big wide world. Practically from Day-1 he is expected to perform miracles.
Scenarios – 2: An experienced hand joins after a successful stint in another company – this time the Manager deigns to spend time with him; thanks to his experience and track record the Manager feels obliged to share some of his valuable time with the new recruit. But the story after that remains the same. In this instance the new hand is expected to run for results as soon as the briefing is completed, after all he has been a performer and is probably trained by his previous organisations to deal with clients. The countdown to perform definitely starts from Day-1.
- It is good to have expectation for your resources, but let them be realistic.
- Reciting the product and process information to the new recruit is not training.
- Taking a recruit to the market and permitting him to witness couple of sales calls is not Sales Experience.
- Success in another organisation, or with another product, does not automatically translate to success in the new role.
- Loading a recruit with a target and starting the performance clock before providing adequate inputs can be extremely discouraging.
What should the Manager do?
- Take time to blood new talent – give more training, not less.
- Permit the new hands to make calls without the pressure of targets – let them learn the skills first and then ask them to perform.
- Manage the initial phase closely – be lenient in the first month and tighten the screws over a period of time. Think long – term!
- Encourage experienced hands by recognizing their previous success; give them time to settle down – what worked there may not work here. Seek their inputs where appropriate.
- Manager’s involvement is critical in the initial phase – by way of training, coaching, support and recognition.
- Recognise and celebrate early success of the raw recruits.
- Have a program to bring all new recruits up to speed before you state your expectations –no output is possible without giving the right inputs.
It is critical that new hands, raw or experienced, get inducted into the system through a structured program which pushes them to expected levels of performance over a period of time – stretch too soon and they may snap. Organisations need to initiate the right practices to nurture and grow new talent or careers will flounder even before they are formed … don’t nip a flower in the bud, give it time to blossom!
In India a lot of film-makers are remaking Hits from the 70s and 80s – is it a dearth of new ideas or just smart guys squeezing out some more revenue from a good franchise. Let me attempt that stunt – but before alarm bells go off in your head let me promise that you won’t suffer a “Rocky-13 Reprise”! Am going to dwell on this subject for just one more post; there is bit more to be said on the subject.
Yesterday we spoke about selling opportunities being squandered by lack of synergy in the organisation. Here are some of the ways support teams can be co-opted into the Sales / Prospecting activity:
- Call Centers
Organisations have not realized that Offers put on auto-repeat and played while irate customers are on Hold can be a twin-edged sword. The customers hoping to register a complaint get further aggravated by the message droning in their ear. It can be self – defeating!
But Call centre executives can be roped in to promote schemes after successfully closing complaints. It’s can one of the After-Service steps they use to add more prospects into the sales cycle.
- Service Technicians
Asking for Referrals / leaving a product brochure or Scheme document behind – Sales Managers can get buy–in from their colleagues in Service by offering incentives for doing this activity. The Service specialist should get a share of the sales incentive for any sale closed through this route.
- Collection Agents
The Receivables Collectors too can be enlisted to do what the Service team does in #2.
- The back office
Members of the team who are not in the Sales function / who are not in a customer-interface role can also be roped in to participate in a referral program – they can promote the schemes among friends and relatives.
It is an activity that the support team would enjoy participating in – In a telecom company that I worked with we signed-up 31 new customers through leads provided by one Switch Engineer. Did he miss his true calling? We put his name up in Gold Letters!
The incentive scheme can be cash-based or non-cash – the need is to run a high visibility activity that recognizes and incentivizes the team–members who brings in useful revenue.
This is what all Sales Managers should do; like smart film-makers, expand your franchise … but know when to stop!