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Posts Tagged ‘Sales Techniques’

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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Please visit my new look website – http://akshworld.com/

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Fishing in Troubled Waters!

November 12, 2013 4 comments

This article was featured last month in Dhanam magazine, Kerala’s leading business fortnightly.
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Thomas, the owner of Go Cabs, is a worried man – in the last six months his taxi service has been running on rocky roads and that’s not because the Government hasn’t filled the potholes. His problem is that clients who regularly hired vehicles from his fleet aren’t calling now.

Kumar, a resort-owner at Kumarakom, used to take pride in saying he is booked for the entire year but is now faced with the problem of finding ways to fill the room-nights even in the main tourist season.

And these are not isolated events!

Retail industry is complaining of huge drop in footfalls, automobile dealerships are fighting each other to grab the few buyers still left in the market and lack of interest in buying new apartments is forcing cash-strapped real-estate developers to delay projects. Sales teams in many organizations were facing an uncertain future due to steep fall in performance.

Most corporate buyers and individual consumers are buying just the essentials and avoiding non-critical purchases in this inflationary and unpredictable scenario.

So, how does one sell in such difficult times? Is there a game-plan to beat the recessionary trends in the market?

  1. Never lose sight of your best customers

In the booming market companies often ignored customers because there were enough buyers in the market. Service quality was poor. But in a recession suppliers and service providers need to pull up their socks and improve their performance. It’s important to listen to what they are saying, especially your biggest and most loyal customers, and serve them better. Retain your best accounts and you will have a steady revenue base to build upon. Downturns are good times to run loyalty programs that give your customers extra benefits and you additional business – try a Member-get-member program and tap into your goodwill!

  1. Meet more customers

Yes, it’s time for everyone in the organization to leave their chairs and go in search of buyers. Make more visits, see more prospects and make your products more visible. Everyone in the organization should operate in the Selling mode – train non-Sales employees on your product portfolio and tell them to get leads for your Sales Team.

  1. Be seen as an essential

Can you develop themes that make your products/services indispensable? Can your offerings become part of your customer’s list of essentials? Can a holiday Resort reposition itself as a value-for-money incentive item or a destination for a Sales Conference? In difficult times organisations need to motivate their sales team and that fits nicely into the Resort’s business plan.

  1. A Pull Product or Scheme

For eg., restaurants and retailers can run campaigns based on “Item(s)-of-the-day/Week”. Such item(s) can be attractively priced (at cost price or a thin margin) to pull customers in and then they can be convinced to buy additional other products, which are sold at regular margins. White Goods dealers can run “Only-for-Today” schemes that compel buyers to speed up their buying decisions. Tying up with finance companies to offer staggered repayment option can help improve sales.

  1. Find alternate channel

Good quality Salespersons are hard to find and the ones you have often don’t stay long enough or don’t seem interested to make the effort. So it may be smart to find other ways to sell your product. Our Resort owner and Taxi-fleet owner can help each other sell by working out a deal to promote each other’s services. Banks are Sales Channels by insurance products; restaurants sell books, clothes and jewelry. Can you work out a deal with another business to promote your products?

The Internet is now available as a smart, low-cost way to reach more customers. What is your net-strategy? How good is your presence on the Internet?

It’s true that the economic scenario is bleak – but it’s not as if customers have disappeared, they have only become harder to find. You need to widen your net to catch them.

Stick to basics! Economic downturns are good times to recalibrate your business objectives and to test your strengths. Improve your Sales Strategy and sharpen the skills of Sales Team because it’s in such times that you need them to perform at the highest potential.

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Jayadev Menon is a Sales Consultant / Trainer – you can reach him at jayadev.menon@akshworld.com

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!

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.

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-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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