Posts Tagged ‘Sales Culture’

“Sales Culture” Reprise!

January 11, 2013 11 comments

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?


“Sales Culture!”

January 10, 2013 15 comments

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?

Categories: Sales Tags: ,

Guest Relations- a changing concept?

December 8, 2012 3 comments

Dear Friends,

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.

Guest Relations Officers

Guest Relations Officers

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!

Be there

July 4, 2012 4 comments


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!

Role of Talent in Corporate Performance

June 19, 2012 8 comments

Sample picture

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

(Commitment/Compliance/Competence)             (Process/Culture/Benefit)

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

–          Empowerment

–          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!”

Bad weather!

June 16, 2012 6 comments

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 other replied, “Thank God he does not turn up often.”

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.

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