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“Sales Culture” Reprise!

We have heard about sequels and prequels to movies and books and now I have come across a few more such terms while searching for the “right” one to use for this follow-up article, specially because I intend to write a sequel using the comments from readers (all of you, to be precise) and this happens to placed ahead of that. Confused? I am in the same state. But let me complete explaining my discovery before moving on – interquel, postquel, paraquel and circumquel are the other terms I discovered. Go on, check them out!

You think “pre-sequel” will fit the bill?

The article “Sales Culture” generated a lot of discussion and strangely all of it had to do with some element in the story other than the central plot – only two readers spoke about the focus area of my article which being the impact of geography or community on Sales.

I think the confusion arose on account of the staccato style I adopted for this article. Trying to be brief I placed some ideas on paper instead of offering a great lot of detail on the central theme. The thought behind that was for the readers to respond without restraint and then take the discussion forward to a conclusion, jointly.

Well, I did get a lot of useful insights, here and on the Sales Coach Blog page on Facebook, but they are less about Sales and more about the impact of parental or peer pressure on career choices.

However, one of the readers who spoke about the central theme found the behavior of the Salesman, in the mobile phone store, laudable because he did not intervene – but, my friend is a telecom engineer and is aware of the features of a phone (He is the tech savvy and internet savvy customer who prefers to study his requirement well before he goes for the purchase – he probably would know much more than the salesperson). Isn’t that the exception than the norm? What if he were purchasing a product he did not know much about and what if he had not done any research on the Internet before going to the store? Won’t more buyers fall in this category?

Yes, it is better if the Salesperson stayed at a distance and stepped up to help only when he or she is called (s/he need not go for an intense Sales Pitch – I am sure my friend has had an overdose of encounters with bad Salespersons) but does that mean s/he should ignore the customers totally and be oblivious to what is happening in the store?

I was also not speaking about the impact (presence or absence) of motivational strategies used by organizations. The other reader who responded to the theme had hinted that probably there was no competition from the outside or within the organization and there was no incentive to perform, by which he meant that people were happy with less.

Let me rephrase here that my query in the previous article pertains to Selling Skills, Persuasion Skills, and Influencing Skills in the context of nations, communities and culture; We can discuss other elements later on.

– Is there a geographical, regional, societal bias in approaches to Selling or being sold to?

– Do we Indian not like being sold to?

– Are Indians different in the way they sell, let’s say, from Africans?

– Have you found a trend in support of the above or is it just my imagination?

– Is there some other motivator or factor involved that I am not aware of?

  1. Biju Krishnan
    January 12, 2013 at 2:44 am

    The answer to your questions is in the title of the article itself. Culture, sub culture and social status play a major role in consumer behaviour and any good marketing/sales team takes care of this by different strategies for different countries/regions. So undeniably there is a direct correlation of selling approaches vis a vis the country and its culture.
    In the context of a person entering a shop (he/she could be from any nationality or could be a local person). Empathising and understanding the person and his/her need and then assisting him/her accordingly may bring in the intended outcome/sale (or at least it will ensure more footfalls in that shop) rather than the salesperson getting into a persuasive sales pitch right away.

    • JayadevM
      January 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Biju,

      Was indulging in a bit of word-play by putting the word culture in the title because the real meaning of that term, as you would know, is something else.

      But you have put it in context by saying that there would be difference from culture to culture based on attitude, environment and societal norms.

      I agree with what you have said about sales behaviour – watch and proceed with caution.

  2. Chhavi Sharma
    January 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I’ve written a dissertation on the role of culture on Marketing in the Oman and I think the same applies to a sales situation in any part of the world. Each group, sub-group of people form together an indigenous culture which has its own sub-culture as well. In sales it becomes even more critical, since people sell to people , so understanding of culture is critical. Not only is selling in India different from , taking your cue let us say Africa , selling within the different geographical ends of India are each going to be unique experiences.
    Each of the areas being probed above can be addressed scientifically with the backing of research.

    • JayadevM
      January 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      Hi Chhavi

      Thank you. I finally receive a studied response.

      Need to discuss this in greater detail with you – and it will be great to know your findings in full.

      But broadly it seems to bear with what I have observed, that different cultures approach selling differently.

      Hence, I feel that Selling Skills also needs to be taught differently. What do you think?

  3. January 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you for introducing those words. Some of them sound contrived but I do love circumque.

    You know, Jayadev, I am trying to unwind and am less inclined to wriggle the little gray goo that I have between the ears. Yet:

    – Is there a geographical, regional, societal bias in approaches to Selling or being sold to?

    That bias is there to a great extent even though it is giving away to the uniform culture of mega malls. I guess it also depends on the competition in the neighbourhood. Again, you have both sharp and sloppy businessmen in all places. That said, none of it changes the basic psychology and processes of sales.

    – Do we Indian not like being sold to?

    Like your formidable friend, I also hate being pushed by the salesmen. I usually do my homework and am much better informed about the product when I enter the shop and I usually find them talking crap. This is acutely true about, books, music, photographic and computer equipments I purchase. Recently, shopping for a jacket I ran into a delinquent who tried to counsel me that the sleeves (of the jacket I was trying) covering half of my palms are the ‘in-thing’. Where do you think the shirt-sleeves would go jutting out?

    – Are Indians different in the way they sell, let’s say, from Africans?

    No experience here. I have studied Anthropology. I’d imagine it used to be different.

    – Have you found a trend in support of the above or is it just my imagination?

    I have seen the variance happening. (Your idea gets vindicated.)

    – Is there some other motivator or factor involved that I am not aware of?

    Hey, you are the Kotler here!

    • JayadevM
      January 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Umashankar

      Like in your own tales there was a twist in the tail in this comment too – don’t want to take on the Kotler mantle just yet. 🙂

      Ha! Ha! I am imagining the look on your face while being tongue-lashed by the jacket salesman. You must have ticked him off or walked away without giving him the sale.

      Yes, Salesmen can get irritating when they become too desperate to sell.

      Thank you for putting down those observations in response to my queries.

      • January 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm

        No mark is too high, Jayadev. Outside factors manage to beat us down temporarily, sometimes fatally, but the biggest hurdles are within us. As for that Jacket salesman, I put the fear of his job in him -I promptly asked for the manager (who wasn’t around) and the details of the customer support of the office just to scare him!

  4. Sunil Menon
    January 13, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Hi Jay, unabashedly I don’t know much about geographical and cultural predispositions vis a vis
    sales traits. I think need to search for my Stephen Jay Gould and revisit ‘Manwatching’. I think you have broached upon a subject that needs serious mulling.

    • JayadevM
      January 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Sunil

      Love your honesty – and yes, I too need to study the subject in great detail. What I have made in these two articles are broad generalisations mainly to get insights from my readers.

      But I think some research would be worthwhile

  5. January 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Jay, different cultures all over the world view the sales function differently and for each of them their perception is reality. On the same note, irrespective of culture, a given buyer or customer would definitely be more relaxed, confident and receptive to a salesperson who is not too intrusive,but is very skilled in anticipating customer needs by the initial interaction and acts accordingly- it is the same in Customer Service!

    In an international survey, Indians have been rated as the worst travellers in the world because whatever package they have been sold or whatever they had agreed to in the beginning before their travel or vacation had started, they would always find something to complain or crib and look for a deal or compensation- my personal experience in the hospitality industry!

    I guess an Indian selling to an Indian would definitely use a different approach while selling to a foreigner and vice versa.

    Am not in a position to comment about any trend regarding the above… not sure actually!

    Mr. Sales Coach, there is no factor that you are unaware of when it comes to Sales. Anywhere in the world a person in sales could be doing well for many reasons- only breadwinner for the family, only job available, genuine interest in the job generated through the right guidance/encouragement received,understanding boss, profitable company and great remuneration among others….. not necessarily in that order!!! This last one is a real teaser of a question, but I decided I would answer with honesty!

    Thought-provoking again!

    • JayadevM
      January 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Jamy

      Yes, some Indians can get real tacky – I guess more were that way in the past than they are today. Indians are becoming better travelers and better traveled too.

      They are learning fast about the etiquette and behaviour needed while interacting with different cultures and on the flip side organisations too are getting smarter in dealing with such situations.

      Thank you for the forthright responses to my queries and for the unstinting support.

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