Posts Tagged ‘Persuasion Skills’

Soft and easy does it!

January 1, 2014 4 comments

What better way to start a New Year than by extolling a friend who creates value for his clients and prospects.Sell

PG and I often make joint-visits to clients. While I promote my talent development initiatives he would sell Internet Security and High Speed Bandwidth solutions.

But Sell may seem too strong a word to use for his approach to business – we often associate selling with pushiness and high-decibel pitches.

During a recent visit to a reputed Engineering College our First Point of Contact informed us that there is an immediate need for Internet Security Solutions and that the Systems Administrator was already in conversation with several suppliers. While a regular Sales Executive would have rushed to the man and started a major pitch to win the deal my friend did the opposite. When we reached the System Administrator’s office PG started asking about the IT infrastructure the college had in place and what thy had in place for managing security and for intrusion control. He permitted the man to speak at length about the IT policy, the equipment being used and the people who were currently supplying products; eventually it was revealed that they were indeed looking for Security Solutions.

But, like PG had already surmised the solution being considered by the college was of a lower specification and it wouldn’t make sense for him to push anything from his portfolio. Instead he spoke about ways in which he can help them build on what they have so that the IT infrastructure is more robust and safe. He offered his expertise for free and, I am sure, that made a huge impact on the Systems Administrator. He would definitely call PG for advice and support when they plan the next upgrade of the IT infrastructure.

While at the outset it may have seemed unprofessional to let an opportunity go by it became evident later on that he was laying the foundation for bigger opportunities in the future.

And this was later confirmed by two other friends who done business with PG – they were buying broadband connectivity from him and the approach I mentioned above was seen in action by both. It would have made sense for him to give more bandwidth that was required when these gentlemen asked. They also asked for equipment that would be of a higher specification than their current requirement. PG persuaded both gentlemen to go for a lower spec item because it would do the job just fine and that if they required more bandwidth it could be acquired cheaper on a future date because given current trends the cost of bandwidth would drop further.

Both gentlemen were impressed with my friend’s soft selling style which gave them long-term value. He could have gone for the kill but staunchly refused to do so and thereby built stronger relationships with his clients. They wouldn’t think twice about recommending him to all their friends and business associates.

By selling less, he was selling right; PG was actually opening doors to bigger business opportunities – its smart selling.

Let it not be thought that PG doesn’t Sell, he sure does that but with a softer, more long-term approach. His customers may take time to buy, but when they eventually do so they would keep buying from him for longer periods of time.

Now that is real selling!

Isn’t that a great way to begin the New Year? May you succeed in all your endeavors this year … Wishing all of you the very best in 2014!

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Words rush out from the fingertips!

December 7, 2012 19 comments

I used to read a lot – it was fiction most of the time and the love affair with tales had started early in life. My siblings and I were encouraged by our parents to read as much as possible. We read every book we could lay our hands on. I guess we were fortunate that the TV was a relatively unknown and expensive gadget those days – the ubiquitous radio belted out the latest songs and brought us news. Computers and the World Wide Web were things that we read about in Scientific Journals and Sci-fi books and the mobile phone as we know it today had not been invented yet. So other than fun and games with our friends and stories from our parents books were our permanent companions.

That liking for words has remained strong throughout and somewhere along the way came the desire to express myself in words. Though I usually wrote essays a few poems have escaped from my pen – I would be terribly embarrassed to show them to anyone today. And I was not very systematic or determined those days – so that desire to write remained on simmer most of the time. When I started working people discovered this ability and asked me to compose business letters and some of my dad’s friends asked me to help their kids write essays.

And then the skill went into cold storage for an extended period till four years ago when someone suggested that I start a blog to express my thoughts. Thus commenced my first attempt at blogging – the articles presented at the blog on Blogspot were interpretations of current news and things I observed. After a while the fire died and the blog went into a long slumber – it remains dormant even today.

The current productive spell got sparked when I was in Oman. A bit more than a year ago, over a coffee at Qurum City Centre, Muscat, I was discussing ways to get myself established as a Trainer / Consultant – across the table sat my new friend Shantanu Sengupta. We got connected on LinkedIn and decided to meet each other to discuss strategies to get entrenched in the Oman market – like me he was new there too. It was Shantanu who stuck a lit matchstick between my toes and jump-started this blog. No, he didn’t actually torture me to get this blog going but he fired my imagination by creating a wonderful picture of what the blog can do for my practice. Shantanu didn’t let it go at that – he made me set targets and list down topics that I would write on. He even helped to choose the blog design and fine-tuned the layout. No amount of thanks would be enough for the help he provided.

It was Shantanu who hit the Like button first when articles were presented and posted encouraging comments to keep me interested and motivated – he shared feedback and useful tips too.

A few months after the Sales Coach blog got going I left Oman to resettle in India and he moved to Delhi. But Shantanu kept checking on my progress and gave many more useful tips. The last few months he has got stuck into a new job and the responsibilities of parenting and I have not been hearing from him so often.

The push he provided a year back and the vision he created remain alive and exciting – I enjoy writing and remain committed to doing it regularly. I may not have written an article a day as initially planned nor did I write short articles as suggested, but write regularly I did. In the last 365 days I have presented 243 articles including this one.

Shantanu had made me me activate one more useful and important feature to promote the blog – A Page on Facebook. Thus started the Sales Coach Blog page on Facebook in Feb 2012, a little over 2 months after the blog was launched.

That Page became the main platform to promote the blog on Social Media and it has 173 subscriber now. I post links to the articles on Indiblogger, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ too, but its Facebook that helps to drive readership.

I must recognise a set of friends who are regular readers – Jamy Latheef, Raji Sumanth, Shoba Sriaiyer, Sajan Nair, Sourav Das,  Uma Shankar Pandey, Jayashree Vats, Kailash Acharya, Sunil Menon, Catherine, Anatha, Raaj, Vasant, Prem, Jithin …. I can go on. Thank you, Friends!

I am aware of their unstinting support thanks to the comments posted after reading the articles. But then there are as many or more who regularly read but don’t leave a message in any form afterwards – but read they do. I am extremely thankful to them too, every one of them!

There are those who send a discreet note when a typo or a grammatical error is noticed – without their support this blog would be a mess!

Although the name suggests prevalence of articles pertaining to Sales Management and Selling Skills I have blended in articles on Managerial Excellence, Entrepreneurship, Career Guidance, Nature and Hobbies.

My articles try to tell a story – I use this method because people love hearing or reading a good story; stories have hooks that ensure that the messages remain fastened on the person receiving them. I have also tried to keep it simple – there is enough serious stuff available in books and on the Net; so I thought it made sense to deliver the message differently. Feedback coming in from readers tell me that its the right approach.

The most heady feedback received – “My friend reads your blog before attending an interview; he gets motivated by reading your articles!”

Its been an amazing journey so far and I have barely started. There is so much left to do.

I have been able to stay engaged, committed and focused – my blog completes one year today. It would have been great to present 365 articles by this day, but 243 is not bad …. don’t you think so?

The Sales Coach blog has been noticed by prospective clients too and hopefully business will follow – but in the first year the main purpose was not business development. Now that the targets have been achieved I have to recalibrate and push ahead.

The new year begins in a few moments and the journey starts all over again – I have to create persuasive messages and experiment with interesting new formats.

There are many new ideas to be explored … watch this space! I do hope that in the new year the readers will stay engaged and connected with the Sales Coach Blog …. it’s my job to keep them interested with my Sales Tales!

The next story is on its way … Read on!

Buying a Computer: Part-2 :: Booting Up!

December 6, 2012 8 comments

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.

Courage under fire!

June 18, 2012 7 comments

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!

Just 3 questions

May 7, 2012 3 comments

A busy day ahead of me …. maybe I will have time at the end of the day to write an article; but I have to keep you busy. So, instead of presenting you new material I am asking you to put your thinking cap on and answer 3 questions!

1. What would you do before you make the first visit to a client?

Those of you who are in Sales can take it as a Sales Call, a student can treat it as an Interview Call or maybe you are going there to get your program sponsored by the person you are visiting – it could even be that you are representing a Charity and expecting a donation.

2. What are some of the ways you can influence this person?

Think of the things you can do to convince the person to buy or sponsor or donate?

3. What will be the indicators of your own conviction in the product or service you are representing?

Answer these three questions in the comments column …. I shall meet you again at the end of the day.

Have a wonderful week!

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