It’s Saturday night and we were meeting with friends at Kovalam’s famous Hawa Beach (3rd Beach). The plan was to enjoy a seafood meal at one of the beachfront shacks that line the length of this popular tourist destination.
We walked along the tiled walkway that separates the restaurants from the beach, to check the sights and the available seafood. The walk had made us thirsty and a chilled beverage was the need of the hour. We had made a short-list of the restaurants to choose from after checking the stuff on display. A restaurant that wasn’t crowded got our vote – Well, most shacks had a handful of diners because this is the fag end of the tourist season, with the weather getting hotter each day in Kerala.
The Service Staff who ushered us to our seats had a warm smile and made us feel welcome. All of us noticed it, but it was my wife who captured the essence of the experience while we walked back to the car after 2-3 happy hours of chatting, drinking and gourmandising:
“One doesn’t need a degree in Hotel Management to do a great service job. Till what Class you think that guy has studied – not even High School, I guess. But, just look at the way he remembered to do and say the right things at the right time. Fantastic! He made our visit to the place worth remembering.”
How does one teach Service Staff such things?
I’ve been to so many fine-dining restaurants and received such indifferent service. The staff usually treat visitors with such disdain. They somehow fail to think long – term or from the customer’s point-of-view. They are busy doing a job.
So, what did Johnny do that made us feel different? No, this isn’t Johnny as in “Johnny-come-lately” or “Some Johnny”; that is his name! Mr.Johnny is special.
He wasn’t wearing a starched uniform or speaking in a clipped accent, but most wait staff at Kovalam know a smattering of English thanks to the interactions with 1000s of foreign tourists. He didn’t have slicked-back hair and his grooming was ordinary. But, all that just didn’t matter. He overwhelmed us with Care!
He suggested the best fish and the preparations that would suit our palate. When the food arrived he placed the food ordered at the right places, having remembered who had ordered what. Even when he was far from our table I noticed him glancing our way to check whether the glasses had beverages in them. He was not only keeping us happy but ensuring that the restaurant got more business. It was smart thinking!
While we ate the food Johnny stopped by to refill the plates and then asked the ladies whether the preparations had come out right – “How does it taste, Madam? Is everything okay?”
Post the meal his question was “Did you enjoy the meal?”
And after we settled the check and rose to leave he asked “Next time you aren’t going anywhere else? Come straight to our place and we will ensure that you have a good time.” Bingo!
It was a clever thing to say, but it also meant that he had heard us discuss the other restaurants on the beach. My wife and I had been telling our friends, who are from out-of-town, that we come here often and the other shacks serve good food too. He wasn’t lurking to gather juicy titbits from our conversation, just that when he visited our table the relevant bits of our exchanges stayed in his head to be used at the opportune moment. It is a useful skill.
Isn’t it plain common sense? I mean … Customer Service:
- Receive the customer with a smile
- Help them make the choices
- Suggest without sounding opportunistic
- Be around to help
- Sense the mood and the need
- Keep the interaction going without intruding
- Check whether the customer is happy
- Be there to help throughout
- Confirm that everything went well
- Sign off in style
- Tell the customer that you look forward to seeing them again
Johnny did all that with such style and he had not been taught any of it. He just picked it up along the way. He might just blink if one were to ask him about CRM, CLM and CSAT.
But he had what is took …. Service Attitude. The books tell you everything you wish to know on the subject but ultimately service is about sensing, feeling and doing.
The bill was not a small one but we were beaming as we walked away!
Johnny proved once again that ….. Good Customer Service makes great Business Sense!
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Harish, the Business Head of Netwhizz Technologies, is presenting a portal solution to a client (MD & Sales Manager present). This is a follow-up meeting and the Tech Specialist is with him to provide inputs on the “how” bits of the solution. They are describing to the client, who is in the Education Services business, the component of the solution – how their portal concept would help to improve his online presence and the ways this investment would provide useful business returns.
The meeting has not been going well because the MD is not happy with the solution offered and he was not making any attempt to hide his displeasure. The solution seemed too plain and uninteresting. He didn’t see it giving him any of the expected results. He said that Netwhizz had not read his requirements well and were trying to palm off a second-hand solution.
The Bossman walked up to the white-board to explain couple of ideas he had thought up since the first meeting. He wanted to portal to be different from those of his competitors – it had to stand-out! He had thought up the flow (how a person visiting the website would interact with the elements seen there) and even conceived a catchy interface that would be in the form of a game. But it was not cast in stone, he said; if they could rework the idea with any other interesting concept which could make his portal interesting he was willing to play along.
While his back was turned to the rest of the group Harish looked at his tech-man and made a funny face, as if to say that the client was talking utter rubbish. He had an expression of disinterest throughout and was not paying attention.
While the client was describing the process Harish butted in to say – “That is what I have been saying all this while.”
The MD had not seen the play of emotions on Harish face, but his deputy had. But when this intrusion came the MD stopped the discussions and said abruptly – “Harish, thank you for your time. I am not happy with what you have shown me. If you can think up something better do come back another day with it. But don’t waste my time. In the meantime I am talking to a few other service providers too”. With that he walked out of the Conference Room.
Harish’s face now looked like it had received a slap with a wet fish!
We often forget that even when we remain silent our face is telling a big story – what’s going on inside our head is presented through our eyes and expressions.
And our words reveal those thoughts and feelings. Harish could have remained silent and listened to what the MD way conveying, even if it was what he had presented earlier. Then at an opportune moment he could have presented it as confirmation of the client thoughts. After all, letting the client win is the big idea in Sales.
Harish should never have conveyed his disinterest and scorn through his expressions – even if he felt those were poor ideas it could have been said outside the room. But then any smart Sales Pro knows that there are no stupid ideas in this world and you get nowhere by calling your client a fool.
Beware! One wrong expression, or word, can cost you a fortune!
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!
The need was a computer – not a high-end one because I wasn’t a software programmer or a gamer. And since I wasn’t a high-end gizmo freak the fancy brands weren’t under consideration either – a sturdy machine that permitted use of regular office applications, access to Social Media and viewing videos was the need of the hour.
The first shop visited after research on the Internet and discussion with family and friends had shown no interest in my patronage and I walked out in disgust.
At the next one I was greeted by a young Salesman who had no experience in Computer Sales and had not been trained to do the job. I was at my wit’s end and on the verge of walking out a second time when like a welcome breeze a smart young guy named Sanu walked up and introduced himself. He had sensed that I was not happy.
The first thing he did was request me, with a pleasant smile on his face, to get seated at one of the Discussion Consoles arranged in the showroom. He took my name and telephone number and asked me to describe my work and the applications I regularly used at my workplace. With a few smart questions he was able to understand my requirement with great clarity. My annoyance was evaporating.
He even asked whether I had narrowed in on any particular brand – that indicated his awareness of the decision-making process followed by most prospects. The most heartening aspect of Sanu’s presentation was his ability to balance business with the personal touch. He was friendly without being invasive and all that was done while focusing on the customer’s requirement. He clearly defined my need and kept me in good humour throughout the interaction.
I had gone in search of a Dell machine but he insisted that I buy Samsung. Suspicious me immediately got my antenna up because I thought he was doing it either to dump unsold stock or trying to earn a higher commission.
But he explained that Dell and other reputed brands used components purchased from Samsung – even iPhones and iPads had components made by Samsung. He went to explain why Samsung was better than Dell in the range I had zeroed in on I cross checked with my son and the IT savvy friend and got confirmation on the points discussed. Sanu waited patiently while I checked – the mark of a Salesman who was confident and knew what he spoke about. He did not interrupt at all, nor did he show any discomfort.
Even after I had confirmed the truth in his argument Sanu cheekily said that I can go for Dell if I wished. That is the hallmark of a professional – ability to use humour appropriately; that only comes with confidence and courage.
Sanu saw me through the process and before I left the showroom he said, while handing over his card – “Give me a call if you need any further help.”
There you have it – a job done well; another happy customer in the market.
He had built rapport, effectively deployed his persuasion skills and proven that he knew the subject well – all this was done in a friendly manner.
It was only yesterday that a friend from Dubai had shared an interesting video on the Science of Persuasion. I could relate Sanu’s performance with the many of the elements of persuasion identified by Prof. Cialdini. Take a look while I boot up my new laptop.
There are many more insights to share on the service experiences my friends and I enjoyed during last week’s trip through South Tamil Nadu. In case you missed the first one in the series please find it by clicking here.
After a 500+ km journey from Trivandrum our group reached Kodikarai (Point Calimere), which is a tiny hamlet consisting of fisher folk and families that worked at the Salt Pans, the lighthouse and for the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The place also had a permanent Research Station of BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) and a unit of Indian Defense Services.
The hamlet had two tiny restaurants to serve the town folk and occasional travelers like us. They were thatched huts and the price demanded for the simple but lovely food made us city folks wonder aloud about their business model – a sumptuous breakfast for 4 cost us Rs.71/-. Yes, you read right … Rs.71/-!!
We had tried one outlet for breakfast and the other, on the previous night, for dinner. After the bill was settled, with a shocked expression, one of us offered the young boy, who served us (he must be 15 or 16 years of age), some money as a tip.
He was visibly embarrassed and pulled his hand away from the note as if it were a serpent. He said – “No, Sir! I don’t want it.” It was our turn to be embarrassed – that we had behaved in such an uncouth manner.
One of the locals seated in the restaurant gibed – “Stupid guy! If you don’t want the money I shall accept it on your behalf.”
But the young fellow stood his ground and refused the money – we knew that a few extra rupees would help and forced the money into his pocket saying “We enjoyed your service. This is just a small token of our appreciation for your work.”
Thinking about the event later on I felt that we lessened his worth and spirit by doing that! We had just behaved the way city-folks usually did, without giving merit to the situation.
But the next day at Rameshwaram we experienced the reverse of this phenomenon. The bellhops at the hotel pestered us non-stop for tips, that too when they had done nothing. The night we checked-in we had tipped the boy who carried our bags to the room and after checkout we had carried our own luggage to the car – no help was sought. But the staff followed us to the car and asked for money. This was a tourist town and the waiters were used to “begging” for some extra cash. This was embarrassing too.
We hear about cab drivers in certain cities who refuse to take the tip because they consider themselves ambassadors of the city. They say that the service charge is included in the fare and only the bill amount needs to be settled.
There are nurses who go way beyond the call of duty to bring relief to patients and their worried family members through exceptional acts of love and caring – and they do it without any expectations.
And, to be completely fair, we do hear about a few professionals in big corporations whose exceptional acts of service have bailed people out of all sorts of trouble – and they do it just out of passion, without expecting a quid pro quo or recognition, not even acknowledgement! They were just doing their job.
Before writing this article I viewed a video on a Chennai auto driver who took service to a different level – he was doing it in a city where the auto-drivers are usually called “cheats” and “extortionists” by most customers!
What makes these people different?
Why were they so passionate about their work – it seemed doing exceptional work was routine and gave them all the compensation?
Were they culturally tuned to not accepting freebies? Did they feel that it is demeaning to be tipped?
Was it because they were not yet corrupted by the ways of the world – they were not “smart” yet?
Were they believers of that oft stated, and never applied, cliché “Work is worship!”?
I would love to hear from all of you on this subject.
I found that young fellow’s behavior exceptional; did you?
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.
When the phone rang this morning I thought it was another booking for the training program we were conducting on Saturday.
“Good Morning, this is Jayadev.” I said, putting on the warmest smile in my voice.
“Hi, this is Kumar speaking; got your number from Raj. Didn’t he mention that I would call?”
Before I could get a word in edgeways he continued, “How much do you charge for your training program?”
That, my friends, defines the prospective customer. If you aren’t careful they turn you into a number!
For a second I thought I was in the groceries business. It’s at the corner grocery store that one walks up to the seller and ask, “How much for the cabbage?” and he would respond without registering shock.
Thanks to the proliferation of “trainers” (the definition being anyone who can stand at the head of the class, run a PowerPoint Presentation and talk) in the market prices for our services have been heading south. There is a desperate rush to acquire business at any cost and the average customer believes he is onto a good thing.
This also tells us a lot about the customer’s attitude towards training. H.R. Managers and Training Managers wish to show the stake-holders that while the employees are being skilled and developed he is keeping an eye on the cost to the company – and the fund outflow is kept under control by bringing in trainers who are willing to conduct training at next to Zero cost.
Later on they would lament that the program was ineffective and the employees are performing just the way they used to prior to the intervention. What happened?
Let’s return to the phone call, I told Mr. Kumar – “My cost depends on the nature of the program you want done. Please send the requirement; I shall study it and send you my suggestions and then we can work towards a solution.”
I did not give him the price, but I did not refuse him one. I did not annoy him either with an abrasive comment – the declaration of price was just postponed. And this is critical.
You can do the same. Don’t succumb to the prospect’s ploy of pegging you to a price point. If they insist tell them something above your regular operating point and work your way back by the end of the deal to the realistic level.
Instead of getting tangled in the price game focus on value- building. It’s better not to sell if the value isn’t right. Of course, it is for you to decide what you are worth and how you have to price your product. But it has to be your decision, not your customer’s.
You can show your prospect what brought to the table by way of experience, quality of the service offered, previous work done and the results achieved. Show them how each element of your is a value-adding component of the deal.
The man who called me later sent an email with the specifics of the requirement – in it he had stated two times that he wishes to get the program done at the lowest price.
Who doesn’t? How does the prospect know what is the lowest price for your offering? That is for you to decide. Define what are you selling or on what terms you will sell?
Play it smart … believe, and make others believe, that you aren’t just a number!
A friend who runs a business in the IT Sector has appointed 2 young techies for the Sales & Support function.
From previous experience he knows that these guys won’t be able to make any big catches in the initial months – so they are used almost all the time for pre-sale estimates, post-sale support visits and to handle inbound queries on the phone.
Occasionally the tyros are sent out to handle sales enquiries – they take on such assignments with a lot of reluctance and almost always return empty-handed with more work for either the owner or for one of the seasoned campaigners.
These boys have a huge mountain to climb because the customers they are expected to sell to are in the Medium and Large Account categories. That means large ticket sizes and marquee deals, but it also means longer Sales Cycles, need for customisation in the Solutions and complexities in the Sales Process. It’s a bit like throwing minnows into the shark-pool with no warning.
They have sound technical skills and can deal with the problem with fairly high level of competence; but dealing with people is an absolute No-No! They do not know how to start and extend a business conversation. They are unable to ask the right questions nor can they convince the customer to buy a solution that’s on offer. They give up too soon and seem unwilling to visit senior level officials.
There is a a lot of discomfort and lack of confidence mainly on account of poor social, interpersonal and communication skills. Selling is an attitude, not just a skill.
My friend’s situation is not unique – it is a challenge faced by the market at large; there is an alarming drop in availability of sufficient talent for the Sales Function.
There are a number of other job options available in the market – Call Centres and BPOs are offering decent salaries to starters and then there is the added attraction of an air-conditioned work environment and a trendy crowd to work with. Even Event Management outfits and Caterers are able to entice people with attractive salary and perks. Modern Retail is another segment that is preferred by the young set. Most of these jobs are done indoors and entail less travel.
There is a huge drop in the the number of people interested in mainline Sales jobs that involve daily travel and 8 to 10 visits to customers per day.
Corporates and Businesses are exploring other ways to reach the prospects – there is a desperate need to maintain and improve the lead generation levels.
Some of the methods currently being added to the Sales Function
- Inside Sales – Using the telephone to generate leads and close sales. The entire process is done on the phone. This space is growing, albeit slowly, in India. But we have many Call Centres that are selling to the Western Markets.
- Inviting prospects to the office for a Demo cum Sale. Relationship Managers of Banks, Insurance and Holiday companies set up meetings with prospective clients on the phone and invite customers to visit them for a discussion.
- Leveraging the Sales Team of another organisation – some organisations are offering a fat commission to other organisations for generating fresh business – even government departments, the Postal Department is one such, have got into this game.
- Usage of intermediaries to increase the size of the catchment area – Insurance Companies have been using banks as a channel to generate insurance business; even loans and other products of their sister concerns are sold by many banks.
- The Internet and Social Media are being used to pull the prospective buyer into a sales conversation – the early part of the sale or in many instances the entire sales happens on the internet.
My friend has had to resort to appointing people with poor sales talent on account of the huge dirth of talent in the market – he is more than willing to pay for good resources, but they just aren’t available. At present, he is busy sprucing up his website to make it more attractive, informative and user friendly and considering tie-ups to improve the prospect pipeline.
The business of selling is seeing a sea change!
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Mathew was in conversation with the Training Manager of a Software organisation – just yesterday they had visited the Business Development Department to understand the specific training needs of the employees there. Mathew’s Consultancy had been called in to help the Business Development team revamp their Sales Management process.
During the visit a few employees were interviewed to understand:
- How the team members worked at present
- The gaps in the Business Development process
- Their Sales Output and productivity
The Business Development Manager was interviewed to understand the gaps in performance of the team and what changes he expected in them post the training. He was in desperate of new ideas to get the team back on track – they were way behind on the targets set for the year.
Mathew was speaking with the Training Manager after compiling the findings – he had even created the program flow for the training he was going to conduct. As soon as they got into the call he enthusiastically started spelling out what he proposed to do – the content of each module and the different activities that he thought would help to reinforce the messages.
The Training Manager was taken aback – as far as he was concerned it was too soon to have such a discussion. He said – “Wow! Mathew, slow down my friend. Aren’t you way ahead of where we should be now?”
It was Mathew’s turn to be surprised – “I don’t understand! We have spoken with the target group and their Manager and taken stock of the situation – isn’t it time to deliver the training?”
The Training Manager said – “Sure! We have interviewed the role-holders and their leader and got a fair bit of information on their current mode of operations and performance data. But that isn’t conclusive. We need to get to the root cause of the problem and understand in greater detail how the best results can be achieved from this training intervention.”
“I propose the following:
- You come over tomorrow with the findings of the interviews, the list of concerns and gaps as you see it and how you propose to deal with it.
- I will make a list of deliverables and expectations from our side.
- We will have a joint meeting with the CSMO, Business Head, H.R. Manager.”
The Training Manager continued – “During that meeting we will be able to confirm with the leadership that the concerns and gaps as understood by us are the right ones – and they will get a chance to express their views. We will also run the team through the proposed solution and get their inputs on the changes needed, if any. When that’s done we are closer to execution of the Training Program, but not before that.”
Mathew backed-off – he realized that it would be foolhardy to press for a close now. The Training Manager wanted to take the key decision-makers into confidence and implement a solution that is best suited for the organisation. It made sense.
You are wasting bullets if any attempt is made to fire at the target when it’s beyond range; get closer before any attempt is made. Sales is a process and the experts would tell you that if each step in the process is executed the right way the prospect will ask for the solution even before the Salesperson ask for the order. It pays to wait for the quarry to walk into range!
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Yes, telecom operators in India are in dire straits – the spectrum costs, the scams and controversies, falling revenues; they are in desperate need for some good news. But do they have their house in order … what are they doing to retain the existing set of customers?
Yesterday Rs. 106 was debited from my account. Last call details said that I had not made any lengthy conversation nor had I made an international call, even by accident.
Getting through to the Call Centre I discovered that the deduction was for Internet Access – I had used the GPRS facility without enabling any Plan in my account. I remember having used GPRS to download an application … sadly, even that attempt was unsuccessful!
Vodafone, and I guess other mobile operators too, charge a huge amount for GPRS usage if you are not on a plan– 10 paise per 1 KB used. So I had downloaded around 1 MB of data to attract that Rs. 106 debit.
Now, here comes the interesting bit. For just Rs. 14/- Vodafone allows me to download up to 500 MB in 3 days – which works out to a cost of 28 paise per MB.
Why would they charge a customer 350 times for the same usage just because he or she isn’t on a plan? A 5-fold or even a 10-fold increase is explainable, but a 350-fold increase for non-plan usage? It’s not just steep …. Unpardonable and unacceptable are the words that pop into a customer’s mind. I had used GPRS for less than 15 minutes!
I am aware that telecom companies in India are facing huge operational issues and cannot find a way to keep themselves afloat – so they need to discover all the possible revenue streams and use them to maximum advantage. Most operators are even resorting to activating services on the phones without the permission of the customer.
What if customers decide to churn and use another network on account of such irritants? Why are operators taking risks of the nature mentioned above especially when moving from one network to the next is possible without changing one’s phone number?
Yes, I have heard the term “caveat emptor” and the need for customers to be aware of the costs before using services. But there is something called “benefit of the doubt” too – the operators who are used to sending messages and making calls to customers at the drop of a hat could easily send a warning note to customers saying they are using a service without activating the plan and that would attract a huge cost.
Robust revenue growth happens only when you the number of satisfied customers grows Q-on-Q. Giving customers a fair deal ( in this case either the benefit of the doubt and sending them a notification on the impact of non-Plan usage) would create a huge positive impact and help to retain customers on the network for much longer …. And it is a well-known fact that customers who are happy and customers who have been with us much longer are the ones who generate the highest revenue.
Have the marketing teams in the telecom companies forgotten their basics?