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Posts Tagged ‘Sales Interactions’

What’s the rush?

April 18, 2013 12 comments

(Part -2 of the 3-part study on Customer Experience.)

As a customer I have always felt something’s amiss when the Salesperson rushes me to make a decision. Statements of the sort, “You have to tell me in the next one hour!” or “The offer lasts only till the end of the day”, made me smell a fish. How about you?

Prakash and Priya were buying a car – the need was a city runabout, a small car that would be easy on the pocket, on upfront cost and recurring cost. Priya would be the user, but Prakash, being the more car-savvy one of the two, did the buying. In Part-1 we saw them reach a decision and buy the car from a popular maker.

But in the run-up to that purchase Prakash had visited numerous outlets to test-drive cars and to gather information on the models that were priced in their budget range. The reception he got from the Salespersons at the dealership and the steps they took to acquaint him with the car and the process were worth further study.

There was one particular 3-day spell in the month-long exercise during which Prakash felt choked and haunted. He was analyzing a car that was at the higher end of the price range and the terrible episode was sparked by his first call to the dealership. The designated salesperson immediately brought a car for a test-drive and delivered the message in the sweetest manner possible. He increased the self-esteem of the potential buyer by remarking how smart Prakash looked in the car and how it would feel each day to use such a classy car.

After the drive the Salesperson requested Prakash to visit the showroom in order to check their facilities and also to get information on the finance and registration formalities. Prakash obliged by making the visit the very next day.

Prakash was not sure that he and Priya would buy this model – mainly on account of the acquisition / maintenance cost. But, the Salesperson wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer. He asked how soon they would make a decision and Prakash gave a vague reply because he had more or less made up his mind, after a quick chat with his wife, not to buy this brand / model.

But the Salesperson, quite obviously under pressure to make the sale, kept calling. He would call 3 – 4 times in the day and each time give some sort of inducement or speak about the benefit of an immediate decision. He would call when Prakash was busy at work and later when he is relaxing at home. There was no way of getting away from this person – and when he wasn’t calling there would be text messages to remind the customer about the pending decision.

Prakash had mentioned after the first day that although they had not decided yet they would going for another brand, but the Salesperson was not willing to give up. However his constant follow-up was actually driving his potential customer nuts.

On the third day Prakash had to use harsh words and threaten the Salesperson with dire consequences if he called again. He had been driven up the wall and couldn’t handle it any longer.

While enthusiasm and perseverance are good qualities it can’t be taken to the extent that customers feel annoyed or harassed. A professional sales person would know where to draw the line in this regard. He would stop following-up on the sale when he realizes that the customer has made up his mind to buy another product.

He also knows that the thoroughness of the work done by him will ensure that the customer would call him if there is any change of plan.

In fact it’s something he would do as a closing routine “I would have loved to get your sale, but I respect your decision to go elsewhere for the purchase. However, if you do change your mind feel free to call me. Happy driving!”

That’s the focus of your pitch – to make sure that the customer goes away having positive thoughts about you and your product.

Haste only makes a great waste!

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Your face is your fortune!

April 1, 2013 14 comments

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.

ImageWhile 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!

How bad do you want that sale?

January 31, 2013 24 comments

I walked up to the Convenience Store near my office to buy a packet of chewing gum – the man in charge of the store was seated at the entrance, gazing at the world going by. He reluctantly got up and fetched the item and extended it to me.

I paid him Rs.10/- and waited for the change – he smiled and said: “No change!”

There is a shop right next door and he could have easily walked across to ask for a small loan, just enough to pay me, if they didn’t have change for 10. The amount could have been returned later in the day.

But he didn’t do that! I stared incredulously at the man for a few moments and walked away. I am sure he expected me to fetch the change, because the need was mine. Well, he had another guess coming. One is never desperate for gum … Not me, for sure!

Have you seen this happen – you walk into a store and the Salesperson doesn’t seem interested in your custom.

In another instance I walked into a white-goods outlet and saw the entire team in the store gathered in front of the TVs on display to watch India play Pakistan in an ODI match. They were so engrossed in the proceedings on TV that my presence was not noticed till I called out to get attention. And then it was a reverse tug-of-war with each of them trying to coax one of others to attend to my needs – I am sure each of them was saying “Killjoy!” in their head – it was quite evident from their expressions!

(Purely as an aside let me ask, have you noticed how during cricket matches in India the Policemen positioned at the periphery of the ground are seated with their backs to the audience and enjoying the match, while in England you would see them with their backs to the playing area to make sure that law and order is maintained in the stands. Now, who is the smart cop?)

The margin available on a packet of gum would not be significant, but if the Salesman were to repeat such behaviour on a regular basis the consequent loss of income in a month would be huge. And in both the examples given above it is likely that over a period of time less and less customers would show interest to do business with them.

Often it’s because the person is totally demotivated and lacking interest in his job – for a variety of reasons. This little convenience store on a side road would not be receiving much business on any given day and hence it makes the owner’s behavior monumentally stupid. One hopes that he has read the writing on the wall and shows more enthusiasm and interest in his customers.

If the entire complement of staff in the white-goods store were to focus on a game or behave in a lukewarm manner when customers walk in, the outlet would soon be on the chopper’s block – the owners would have to shut shop. This outlet belongs to a retail brand that has a number of outlets across the city. Poor performance on a regular basis at one outlet could cause a lot of negative publicity in the market that can impact the entire chain and potential loss of revenue for the stake-holders. Are the Supervisors / Managers aware of the situation?

I hope for their sake that my experience was an exception, a minor aberration, and that the behavior is more energetic and correct at most times.

It is essential for senior managers in the organization to sense-check what is happening in their empire. It shouldn’t be that things were rotten and the smell reaches them only after things are way beyond repair.

Employees need to be reviewed, trained and coached regularly to ensure that they battle ready and eager to provide service – they need to stay motivated all day, all year round. There is no room for complacency and slackness.

Customers need to sense that their presence is appreciated and that their patronage is valuable.

Sales Pros, please put your best foot forward and give them your best smile. The customer may not knock a second time because he has other options today.

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.

Buying a Computer: Part-1 :: Cold Start!

December 6, 2012 2 comments

computer-salesmanBought a laptop! Nothing fancy – just a sturdy, middle-of-the-road, Samsung. My son endorsed the purchase saying, “Good choice! We had the least returns and complaints for Samsung laptops!” He should know, having worked for a year with India’s leading electronics retail chain.

Before visiting the outlets in town I did the following:

–          Asked a few of my students – the young set should know these things

–          Discussed with a friend who is a Software Engineer

–          Checked a few online retail portals known for special prices and offers

The next step was to visit couple of good stores in town to touch and feel the models and maybe get a test drive too. But I was disappointed – the shops that I visited couldn’t demonstrate the model I asked for.

 Now, isn’t that a major gap in Electronic Goods market – most of the Camera, Computer and Smartphone retailers don’t permit you to test the product. They either have Dummies or show you a catalog. The products are in sealed cases that are opened when the sale is complete. How stupid is that?

Add to that a set of Sales Executive who know precious little about the products or the software applications! At the shop where I eventually made the purchase the Sales Executive who met me first had been working for that outlet for just one week and his previous job was with a two-wheeler dealership. Wow!

I probably would not have bought from this shop either if this tyro had continued dealing with me; fortunately, someone who knew his job took over and I ended up taking a speedy decision on the purchase.

But before I go into those details let me describe the scene at the store I visited first; it is a popular one – they’ve been in business for a few years. I had short-listed 2-3 brands for further investigation, but curiosity made me look beyond that; since I was already there it didn’t hurt to check everything out.

But the Sales Exec in the store had other plans – the moment he discerned that I am Mr. Middle Class and looking for nothing fancy his responses turned perfunctory and cold. It was not as if there were other customers in the store – I was the only prospective buyer in their large showroom. But after showing me 2-3 pieces he moved away to talk to his superior and left me to fend for myself.

I did the obvious …. I walked out. And you know what, this boy did not even care enough to take my name and phone number! How unprofessional was that? I probably would not have shared information after that experience but it was his job to ask. It’s as if he had not even considered me as a prospect.

The store had lost a prospect for good!

Why didn’t I just purchase the item from a website and avoid undergoing such disappointments?

–          Delivery Time for online purchases is a week

–          Still worried about the lack of human interface for big ticket purchases

–          The difference in price was not large enough to swing my decision

Maybe the concerns about buying things on the Internet would change when the online business gets better and more established – this is purely from the Indian context; so much hanky-panky taking place in the market. I guess websites are best for commoditized or low involvement products and impulse purchases – am not so sure whether customized products could be sold as well in this format?

The other thought  that I wish leave with you is that the lack of connect on the Sales Executive’s part had left me cold. He didn’t make an effort to win me over. I felt like a car in cold weather, not ready to go!

To be continued …..

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Stupidity has no Age Limit!

November 10, 2012 8 comments

Out on the beat to get participants for one of the scheduled training engagements I walked into the office of a senior functionary of a well-known Builder. After checking that he could spare a few minutes I plunged into the pitch.

Instead of going through the process of understanding the size of the opportunity, or even the existence of the need, I talked on about the training program and at the end of the conversation handed over the program brochure and asked him to nominate people from his team for the session.

After walking out of the room I asked myself these questions:

  1. What was I trying to achieve in that call?
  2. Do I know how many participants would attend?
  3. Do I know the size of his team and hence the potential business opportunity
  4. Did I inform the man that it is a paid program?

I analysed the call afterwards and realized that in the lead up to the visit I had not prepared the following:

  1. The clear outcomes – it could just be confirming that the customer has understood our proposition or me understanding the size and scope of his operations and the strength of his team. The Sales Professional has to keep a set of smart questions ready and getting them answered will take him firmly forward in the sale.
  2. Check Understanding – I did not confirm before leaving the prospect that he had understood the scope of the program or its price. I had left the brochure and hoped he would find out.
  3. Next Steps – No clear commitment was take from the prospect, nor was any timeline fixed for the next interaction. What he would do post my visit to help me win a sale wasn’t discussed.

All afternoon I had been preparing proposals meant for other clients and had rushed for this meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m.; to make things worse I had an appointment following this one and the client I was meeting had indicated a time-window following which he would not be available. That deadline caused some stress and I had rushed into this meeting as if it were a filler item.

No visit to the customer should be treated as a casual affair. You are begging for trouble if you walk into a call unprepared. Your reputation is at stake – your organisation’s reputation is at stake.

Today there are a dozen other options available in every sector; there are competitors snapping at your heels at every turn. Being stupid is not an option.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

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