Amit, a participant who had attended my sales training program around four years back called me over phone two days back.
A: Sir, I am working for a small Indian company selling Test and Measuring Instruments (TMI) What is the secret that our competitors, the giant multinational companies, go on consistently getting orders from customers beating us all the time? I know they have technically superior products. But are their sales engineers likewise?
I: Amit: such companies not only have a good product range but also have a systematic sales and a training process.
A: Now I understand why the salespeople from MNCs are so good.
I: But is that your real question? What is bothering you?
A: My main worry is, how do I improve my order booking performance? I am not sure of my job in these difficult times.
I: what is the reason?
A: I come from small town called Akola, working in a company which does not have a great brand. On top of that, our company does not spend much on training either. I am so passionate about attending training programs and learning new things.
I: You said you have attended my training program four years back. After attending did you ever felt like clarifying your doubts or getting new insights from the trainer?
A: No sir, I was extremely busy with my work.
I: Did you ever get time to refer to the course material?
A: No sir.
I: You said, your company does not believe in training, but you have attended my program.
A: Yes sir, that was an exception.
I: If I am not mistaken, along with the course material, I had presented a copy of my book Contextual Selling?
A: Yes Sir, I have started reading the book now. It is quite interesting.
I: After four years?
A: Now I am having some time. All these days there was absolutely no time.
I: Did you pay for the training program?
A: No sir, the training program was sponsored by the company, and the course material as well as the book was a part of it.
I: So you did not buy the book either!
A: Sir that is OK, being from a small town, I have an inherent disadvantage compared to my counterparts from competition who are from metros. They have all the exposure and opportunities.
I: Out of the three legendary Khans in Bollywood, who have the advantage of lineage and pedigree?
A: Obviously it is Amir and Salman.
I: Anyone who did not have such an advantage while entering the industry?
A: I think it was a Shahrukh.
I: Any other examples you can think of who have made it big and carved out a niche?
A: Irrfan Khan, what a great actor he was!
I: Anybody beyond the Khans?
A: I think of Nawazuddin Siddiqi, Ayushman Khurana etc.
I: You said you belonged to a small town which was your main disadvantage. Can you think a of a cricketer from a small town and still made it big?
A: Is it Dhoni from Ranchi?
I: You are right. Which year did you complete your engineering?
A: In 2008.
I: Did you attend any training programs or self-development activities for the last 10 years?
I: Did anyone prevent you from attending such programs?
A: No. But I feel training the executives should be the responsibility of the company.
A: Ultimately it helps to reach the company goals.
I: Do you have monthly, quarterly, and annual targets?
I: Do you deserve to get your commission, incentive or bonus (whatever is applicable) if you were to reach your targets?
I: Do you feel good quality training can help you improve your sales. Negotiation and communication skills?
I: Amit, in that case, can you see that you also need to take responsibility for your development.
A: I can see your point.
I: Let us look at a concept of Locus of Control.
Locus of control states that the degree of stress perceived by a person depends on the control (or the lack of it) that he/she has on the situation. The cause of the stressor may be seen as stable or unstable, global or specific, and internal or external.
1.Stable and Unstable causes are enduring and temporary, respectively. My competition is always going to have an upper hand is an example of stable interpretation.
2. Global and Specific causes are relevant to many events or to a single occasion, respectively. E.g. Competition products are technically superior, is an example of global interpretation.
3. Internal or External causes indicate personal characteristics and behaviors or the result of environmental forces, respectively. E.g. I feel inferior because I am from a small town and not trained is an example of internal representation.
The more stable and global the cause of a stressor seems, the more people feel and behave as though they are helpless. Likewise, the more internal the cause of a stressor seems, the worse people feel about themselves. Together, these feelings and behaviors contribute to a depressive reaction to the stressor. Let us look at an example:
It is not advisable to take either of the extreme positions (Global or Specific, Stable or Unstable etc.) but should be treated as a continuum where a combination of both can be thought of.
Test & Measuring Instruments (TMI) range consists of products like Oscilloscopes, Logic Analyzers, Protocol Analyzers, Signal Generators etc. TekEdge was considered as a market leader in TMI in general and Oscilloscopes in particular. There was a small company called Le Croy which had some unique offerings in Protocol Analyzers. However the company was much smaller to TekEdge. Analogous to David Vs Goliath battle, the Le Croy engineers while making an offer used to intentionally keep their price low vis-à-vis TekEdge offer.
A new manager called Santosh wanted to question the Global paradigm of TekEdge being superior in all respects. To one of his clients, he quoted a price which was $1000 more than the competition. When the customer questioned Santosh’s logic, he said, “even though my competition is big in the overall TMI market, my company has a unique advantage in the niche Protocol Analysers segment which is tailormade to your application. Santosh changed his paradigm from Global to Specific and was able to close the order with a premium.
Another example: consider a case where a guy’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he thinks that his love life is always in the dumps (i.e., a stable interpretation), that nobody really cares about him (i.e., a global interpretation), and that he must not be a dateable guy (i.e., an internal interpretation). Such an interpretation could contribute to a depressive reaction, such as him coming to the conclusion that he might as well not try because there is nothing he can do about it and that he is pretty much a lost cause.
I: I hope you might have understood the concept of Locus of Control and that your interpretation (of your competition, your company, customers and yourself) being stable, global & internal was causing you considerable stress. Would you agree with that?
I: I shall ask you three simple questions, One, what was your original problem?
A: Sir, my original or the surface problem was: What makes the sales engineers from competition so successful?
I: What was the actual or the fundamental problem beneath the surface problem?
A: How should I improve my performance?
I: What is the root cause?
A: I am lazy. What I felt as genuine reasons were excuses. I need to take responsibility for my development.
As human beings we go on telling a number of lies to others, but rarely do we recognize the lies we tell ourselves!
Rajan Parulekar, firstname.lastname@example.org,