Home > Sales Techniques > Courage under fire!

Courage under fire!

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!

  1. Augustine
    June 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Insightful!!! And simple. .

    • JayadevM
      June 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Augustine,

      Good to see your comment here – thank you for reading. Yes, that’s what it’s about …. Let’s keep it simple!

  2. June 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Yes, that sales pitch can go ahead and be a part of text books. That is as good as it can get! Incidentally, are you writing books too? You can do that with panache.

    • JayadevM
      June 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm

      Thank you, Uma Shankar!
      Will ask you to write a reco for my book when its ready. Cheers!

  3. Raaj
    June 19, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Another good read Jayan…
    I guess when one has faith in their product and have honed their skills in the field… then sales become that much easier.
    There is no substitute for the good old grind. The smart ones learn from it.

    • JayadevM
      June 19, 2012 at 6:25 am

      No doubt!

  4. Jamy
    June 20, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Good one Jay!

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