Tag Archives: Sales

Acquiring New Customers through Contextual Selling

Thursday, 25th June 2020 at 11 AM (IST)

Perspective: The success rate in conventional cold calls is less than 5%. Thanks to internet and with easy availability of information coupled with Covid-19 crisis, your potential customers are wary of meeting unknown salespeople; whether on-line or in person.

When the competition is a mouse click away, retaining old customers becomes a challenge. However it is only through new customers that organizations and salespeople can hope to achieve growth. The practical webinar will show you not only the roadblocks but also powerful techniques to reach out to new customers!!

Major Themes:

  • Shift in  Customer Loyalty due to multiple vendors
  • Imperative for Continuous acquisition of new Customers
  • Business Etiquette while selling ON-LINE and in person
  • Why are new prospects wary of talking to unknown salespeople?
  • Stereotypes associated with Salespeople  
  • Breaking the stereotypes through Trust & Rapport Building
  • Intent, Competence and Commonality: Toolkit to enhance Sales call success
  • Role of reference and recommendations in acquiring new customers

Resource Person: Rajan Parulekar, B.E. (Electrical), MBA

  • Author of Contextual Selling®: A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st century
  • Completed Enhancing Sales Force Performance program at IIM-A in February 2013
  • Trained around 15,000 managers and sales executives from 1000+ companies since 1995.
  • Conducted programs for culturally diverse groups in India, Malaysia, Singapore Sri Lanka, Qatar, Muscat, Bangla Desh etc.
  • Best Sales Performance in Asia award while working for Wiltron USA in 1990
  • Winner of International Taped Speech Contest by Toastmasters Int’l  USA in 1997
  • Worked with Larsen & Toubro, Wiltron and Toshniwal in Sales and Marketing
  • Advanced Toastmaster (ATM) certified by TMI USA.

For Whom: The program is recommended for sales executives selling high-value products, services and solutions from Automobiles, Engineering Products, Chemicals, capital Equipments, Electronics, Telecom, IT ( Software and hardware) sector. The program may not be suitable for OTC/FMCG sales.

Investment: Rs. 950/-, US$ 20 per person.

Payment Mode: NEFT/Credit card/Google Pay: +91 98802 36793/PayTM: +91 98450 14098

For details : contact : rajan@paradigm-info.com, madhura@paradigm-info.com

WhatsApp: +91 98802 36793/98450 14098

Paradigm Trainers Private Limited| https:// http://www.paradigm-info.com

Reason and Excuse: The Crucial Difference

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?

A: No

I: Did anyone prevent you from attending such programs?

A: No. But I feel training the executives should be the responsibility of the company.

I: Why?

A: Ultimately it helps to reach the company goals.

I: Do you have monthly, quarterly, and annual targets?

A: Yes.

I: Do you deserve to get your commission, incentive or bonus (whatever is applicable) if you were to reach your targets?

A: Certainly

I: Do you feel good quality training can help you improve your sales. Negotiation and communication skills?

A: Yes.

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?

A: Yes.

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, rajan@paradigm-info.com,

Behavioral Dynamics of Personal Selling

To understand the salespeople’s attitudes and beliefs towards salesmanship; a questionnaire used to be administered during the Sales Training program commencement. One of the questions said, ‘In a sales call who should talk more? Customer or the Salesperson?’ Majority of them voted for the latter. In a sample size of 285 participants, around 78% participants responded that they feel that they speak for 80% or more during a sales call.

The interesting part was the above statement was perceived by the group as a positive correlation to sales success.  When probed deeper about the reasons for dominating the conversations the answers given by the group were:

  1. To Engage with the customer
  2. To educate the customer.
  3. As I know more about my products, I have to talk more.
  4. To beat the competition.
  5. To close the order fast.
  6. As the time given by customer is very short, I have to speak as much as possible.

After taking the groups through a psychological process called Cognitive Dissonance, which is a gap between the beliefs and the reality,  the participants were shown that the above are apparent reasons and the real reasons why salespeople tend to dominate conversation is out of fear ( of rejection ) and the desperation to sell!

Let us try to understand the above language from a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) perspective. The language verbalized by the salespeople is not the reality but is the map of an  individual. The map is not the territory. The map is arrived at by three universal modelling processes which are Generalization, Deletion and Distortion. If there is a close approximation between the map and the territory then the salesperson is able to perform successfully in his given role.However with a great divergence, the perceptions will be flawed and he may not be able to achieve his quotas.

The above modelling processes have their validity and relevance in day -today life. However they may also create the problems depending on the context.

  1. Generalization: Generalization is the process by which elements or pieces of person’s model of the world become detached from their original experience and come to represent the entire category of which the experience is an example.* ( Leslie Cameron, Bandler 1985, p224) When a person has learnt a process, say of driving a car, he moves from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. While coming out of the garage, he knows to put the reverse gear, turn the car, change the gear and put on the accelerator without looking down. In a way he need not have to learn the activities every time he drives the car. In a similar manner from a sales perspective, when an executive goes for a sales call, majority of the activities are common like introduction of the self and the company, ice breaking, understanding the client needs etc.

However the dysfunctional aspects of generalization happen when he goes through some setbacks when the self -talk revolves around the following statements: Today, you can sell only on price. Clients don’t respect my time. They buy only from competition.

  1. Deletion: Deletion is the process by which people selectively pay attention to certain aspects of their experience and exclude others. This allows them to focus the awareness and attend to one portion of their experience over others. This process makes coping possible and protects them from being overwhelmed by external stimuli *( Leslie Cameron – Richard Bandler 1985, p225)

Some of the examples of deletion are the ability to focus on a book in the drawing room when TV is blaring and children playing. Another example is when you are in a party with a group of people and you are talking to an important client over phone. The negative examples of deletion is self-talk by a Salesperson: John does not respect quality products.

  1. Distortion: Distortion is the process which allows people to make shifts in how they experience sensory data. Without this process, they could not plan for the future or dream into reality.

Positive Examples: fantasy allows a salesperson winning the Best Sales Performance Award which motivates him to push harder; abstract and surrealist paintings by Picassos and Dalis are other examples of distortion. The dysfunctional examples of distortion are:  A successful salesman in the past who is reprimanded for his abysmal performance in the last three quarters says, “I am perfect.”When he has lost order due to poor follow-up he says , “ that’s because the design department didn’t give me the specifications in time.”

From the above it can be observed that modelling processes discussed above are not good or bad per se. Generalization helps us from reinventing the wheel on a day-today basis, deletion helps to focus on important issues and distortion helps us to be creative.

Let us look at the number of categories where the salespeople can get into a self-defeating mode and the ways the seniors, mentors can help them come out of it.

Sr. No. Deviation Example (as verbalized by a Salesperson) Challenge (as perceived by the Sales Manager)
1. Simple Deletion I am tense About whom. what?
2. Comparative Deletion Competition offers better product and at a lesser price.  Better in what way? Price how much lesser?
3 Lack of referential index Their salesmen are trained. Who are they?
4 Cause and Effect I have lost orders because Dinesh from Pre-sales did not give the support. Have all the orders been lost because of Dinesh?

What about those orders which you have won?

Any body apart from Dinesh you can contact?

5 Presupposition I talk more because I know my products are better than my competitor. Does the customer buy because of your product or has he a problem to solve?
6 Mind Reading My manager does not like me.

Customer is biased towards competition

How do you know that?
7 Nominalization (Event to be converted into a process for more possibilities) I am a poor negotiator. Is it possible to improve your ability to negotiate?
8 Modal Operator of Necessity I have to achieve my quota this quarter. Can you choose to achieve your quota? (Less anxiety)
9 Modal Operator of Possibility I can’t share the LOST ORDER statement with my manager. What happens if you share? (worst-case scenario)

Instead of can’t what happens if you won’t?

10 Complex Equivalent Customer hates me… he yells at me. Are you sure his yelling means he is hating you?

It may be noted this is an indicative list to identify the mental roadblocks faced by the young salespeople. The sales manager or the HR manager is advised not to use the challenges in an indiscriminate manner; lest the damage may be caused to the young executive. An adequate amount of credibility and trust which needs to be created by the manager which will enable the executive to make the necessary behavioural changes in reaching the designated goals.

Rajan Parulekar , Paradigm Trainers Private Limited,  rajan@paradigm-info.com , 98450 14098

Putting your best foot forward- Does it work all the time?

As a startup founder, if you were to make a presentation to your potential investors, with an opening slide: Few Reasons why you should NOT Invest in our Company, what would be the outcome? You would sum it up as nothing but a disaster!

Rufus Groscom and Alisa Volkman started a company in the US called Babble which was an online magazine with blog network. The company had positioned on the new paradigm of parenting by  challenging  the dominant parental clichés. In 2009 when they approached for the Venture Capital (VC) funding, their first slide was:  Five reasons why not to invest in Babble. They received a $3.3 Mn funding.

Looks a bit counterintuitive! Isn’t it? Normally the convention is to highlight your strengths which works well when your target audience is either neutral or has a positive disposition towards your offerings. But does a typical investor look upon you in a similar way?

Just imagine when you say that you have a ‘killer idea’ and that you will reach your breakeven in the first year and  will scale up to 20x revenue in the next two years what must be going on in the investors’ mind? Rather than getting impressed, a conventional sales pitch is normally looked down with scepticism. The investor is also operating from a position of strength which is due to the funds at his disposal as well as the number of ‘killer ideas’ he has encountered in the past.  Psychologically he is tuned to find out the follies in your sales pitch. What happens when you take a counterintuitive approach of focussing on your weaknesses?

  1. You create Trust: When you put your cards on the table you look vulnerable which makes you look trustworthy. Your investor feels that if you are speaking about something wrong, there might be a lot of things you may be doing right. You are perceived with a positive intent. In the conventional sales pitch, the intent is perceived as getting the funding by hook or by crook! (for details refer Trust: The Difference that Creates the Difference, from Contextual Selling)
  2. You look smart: You may speak about your strengths but if they are hyped the investor may feel you are beating your own trumpets. However, when you critique yourself, you may be perceived as smart.

Teresa Amabile, professor of Business administration at the Harvard Business School conducted an experiment on how a writer is perceived by her audiences. A sample of a New York Times book review was taken. The book review which was primarily of a complimentary nature was modified with a critical tone; major part of the content remaining the same. Minor modifications were made from inspiring to uninspiring, tremendous impact to negligible impact etc.

People rated the ‘critical’ reviewer 14% more intelligent and having 16% greater literary expertise vis-à-vis the ‘complimentary’ reviewer. After all an amateur can appreciate art but only a professional can critique it!

  1. Objections are Pre-empted: There are two groups who have been given a task of identifying reasons for being happy.  Group A has to list three reasons whereas group B has to list for 12 reasons. Which group according to you should be happier between the two? Most of us would opt for group B.

Norbert Schwarz (Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California) in his article Ease of retrieval as information has given an interesting example on Availability Heuristics.  Also called as availability bias, it refers to the mental short cuts that come to people’s mind while evaluating and solving a problem. Group A may think the reasons of happiness can be attributed to spouse, children and the career. The available answers which were quick to find makes them happy. Group B may explore possibilities beyond the first three which may include vacation, hobbies etc. but may find it hard to reach the magical number of 12 and they start questioning themselves whether they are happy in the first place or not. So, the counterintuitive answer is A.

Looking at the Startup founder’s admission about his challenges the investor now has to struggle hard to find out new problems (as those have been already pre-empted in the first slide) and he concludes that the startup’ s problems are not that significant!

Coming back to the Babble story, a few years later Rufus and Alisa approached Disney for a takeover. The opening slide was:  Why you should NOT buy Babble? And the reasons included

  1. Poor user engagement,
  2. Only 3-page views per visit
  3. despite being a parenting website 40% of posts were from celebrities etc…

Disney bought Babble for $40 Mn.

A note of caution: Aspects like technology model, IP, revenue stream, scaling, breakeven, competition, manpower cost, future disruption etc are going to be equally important and the presenter needs to be focusing on the strengths too. The article only wishes to point out that speaking about the negatives may be also relevant at appropriate times!

Rajan Parulekar, rajan@paradigm-info.com

Achieving expertise also depends on the domain!

Why is there a gap between efforts executives put and the results they get? The linkage between the improvement in one’s skills vis-à-vis the efforts put can be termed as structure of growth.

Last two weeks I was conducting training programs on Effective Value Selling for Capital Equipments which were in the price range of Rs. 50 L to Rs. 1crore.( Approx. $100k-200K) Selling of CNC machines involves considerable technical complexity and the sales engineers need to understand the customer behaviour in a sensitive manner. For most of the participants, I perceived a huge gap between the job role and the skill set possessed.

Remember the adage, practise makes a man perfect. Generally it is assumed that the improvement of a skill is directly proportional to the efforts, time spent and the intelligence of a person which is partially true. But it also depends on the domain in which one is working. Most of the domains may have the following types of growth structure. There are a number of growth structures but the major ones are: Logarithmic, Exponential and Sinusoidal ( Please refer figure: growth figures      )

  1. Logarithmic Growth: Here one tends to get visible results during the initial phases of activity. But the growth becomes harder as you go along. For example, in athletics running 100 metres in 14-15 seconds looks an achievable task for a beginner. Chopping off the next second or two is relatively easy. But to break the 10 second barrier only athletes at international level can achieve. One needs to be an Usain Bolt to reach a figure of 9.79 seconds where the runner up can be behind by just hundredth of a second. Same is true in cricket where a cricketer can scores a century on debut and become a celebrity but then it is only people like Sachin Tendulkar who go on reinventing their styles and techniques even after reaching a few milestones.

The first phase of logarithmic growth is steep and success comes easily. The second phase is like a plateau where the rate of growth slows down considerably. (refer figure a. logarithmic growth)

Thanks partly to media hype, you see such growth in music ( with pop stars, Little Champs in Saregamapa shows etc.) and in sports like IPL Cricket. With some talent and average efforts some people in such domain, become instant celebrities overnight. The real challenge is in phase 2 where you need to maintain your disciplined habits. You need to move away from your regular routine and break away from those habits. You can even develop a technique which may be beyond the textbook. Tiger Woods reinvented his swing in the second phase.

  1. Exponential Growth: There are some fields where one needs to put lot of hard work initially and the results will not be visible for considerable time. Mastering a field like Physics, computer science, music takes a hell lot of time. In the HBR Article titled The Making of an Expert by Anders Ericsson, Michel Pretula and Edward Cokely, the authors propose that to master a particular field it takes around 10,000 hours of systematic efforts. The results may not be visible initially so one needs to have lot of patience (refer figure b. phase 1 of exponential growth ). And one day, a miracle happens. Suddenly things fall in place and what you were struggling all these days and years, the obvious answers are revealed. The pieces of jigsaw puzzle get into the right place. Kekule developed the model of Benzene ring in his dreams by correlating a serpent swallowing his own tail, Einstein worked on his special theory of relativity for a number of years as a clerk in a Swiss patent office. Marie Curie had to process tonnes of pitchblende in inclement weather and in an ordinary laboratory for a number of years before extracting a few milligrams of radium. Science whether applied or pure is a typical example where the structure of growth is exponential. Einstein, Kekule or Marie Curie did not get the success overnight but had enough perseverance to sustain the phase 1
  1. Sinusoidal Growth: Fields like spiritual growth are neither exponential nor logarithmic. You do not start your spiritual journey as your hobby or for earning a livelihood/achieving fame. ( with the exception of fake gurus,babas & bapus ) It only comes out of genuine suffering or existential dilemmas of life. ( Refer figure c. Sinusoidal Growth ) It is said if you have not suffered a breakdown you may not get a breakthrough. Initially you start from a negative state, you may get results for some time, again you fall down and each time you raise the bar. Siddharth Gautam had to experiment with different techniques that were available in his time from the age of 30, and by 36 he realized chasing the techniques itself was a mirage and he was enlightened to realize his Buddha nature.

Each field may have either one or combination of the above growth structures. So to be an expert and an authority in a specific domain, it is not only important what traits you carry ( which is your DNA ) but to see whether there is a synergy between your traits and structure of your domain.

Remember, Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar had similar talent. Sachin could sustain in the phase 2 of logarithmic growth; Kambli could not.

As a professional remember, a formal education at the university does you no harm, provided you start learning there afterwards. It is simply beyond attending a 2-day company sponsored training program.

Ground-rules for Implementing Key Account Management

Can I send Salil, my Sales executive, age 23 years for the Key Account Management programs? said Jagdish,,Sales Manager of an engineering company. I had to tell him the following aspects which determines the ground rules for implementing Key Account Management (KAM)

  1. Needs a Different Mindset: Successful Companies who have implemented KAM look at it as a Strategic way of doing business and not a sales activity. You need to have commitment to work with priority customers differently. For example Supply Chain management can be an integral part of KAM
  2. Commitment from Top Management: It cannot happen at the Sales Manager’s level. The buy-in has to be at the CEO, CMO, VP-Sales level. The sr. people should sponsor at least 1-2 such accounts and interact/visit them regularly.
  3. Select the Right Person: Maturity is the most important attribute while selecting the Key Account Manager. It is not necessary that your top-performing salesman can become a good Key account Manager. He has to be more of a generalist with good understanding of finance, inventory, planning, influencing skills and the ability to see the big picture. A typical salesperson who is desperate to close order may be a misfit. One key competency is to understand the customer’s business beyond his immediate requirement.
  4. Identify Key Accounts Carefully: Lynette Ryalls in a HBR article says the number of accounts should be within 5-25. Even a company like Xerox does not have more than 100 customers as Key Accounts.
  5. Appoint and Train the KAM: The communication and influencing skills of the Key Account Manager has to be exceptionally good. He should be able to talk technicality at lower levels as well the macroeconomic environment, the interest rate with CFO and CEO comfortably.
  6. Put the right Metrics: He should not be judged on top-line results. In case of rate contracts with low margins when the cost of servicing a key account is high, the consequences can be disastrous. Performance should be judged more by the margins or net contribution. Another yardstick can be the lifetime value of the customer.
  7. Rework on the KAM cases every six months: All major accounts need not be key accounts. There are some unique parameters on which you should decide which customer remains in the Key account basket and those who need to be taken away.                                                                                                                            Key Account Management Workshops : Bangalore ( 16th December) &  Mumbai (18th December). For more details :www.paradigm-info.com

How Culture affects your Context and Behaviour

A number of readers ask me the significance of the word Context in my book Contextual Selling. Generally speaking American, European cultures are considered to be low context cultures whereas the Asian cultures like Japanese, Chinese, Indian are considered as high-context cultures.

Social Psychologist Richard Nisbett says that the orientation towards independence (low-context) or interdependence ( high-context ) actually decides the cognitive processes of thinking, decision making etc. In one of his experiments, a group of American and Japanese people were shown images which consisted of a big fish and a number of small fish with sea weeds around. The Americans were able to recollect the big fish; the Japanese more of the small fish and the seaweeds. That background of any situation can be termed as the context.

In the low-context cultures your communication has to be clear and to the point. People are individualistic and perceive themselves as being unique, self-made and autonomous. The communication is understood at a binary level yes/no, black/white 0-1 etc. In a business meeting involving Americans/Germans, you talk business and come to the point straight. If he does not want to buy your product he may say , “ Sorry I do not want to buy your product.” On the contrary, in Asian cultures, there are shades of grey between black and white. Remember, when an Indian client tells you, “we shall get in touch with you”. You need not necessarily take him at face value. The meanings can vary from: you may go now, I do not like the product/your demeanour, I am busy, I have already bought it from your competitor etc. That means one need to read between the lines in Asian culture. You not only have to hear what your customer says but also what his body language conveys. In case there is a divergence between his body language and the words; better believe the body language.

Independence is the hallmark of low-context, In high context culture there is equal (sometimes more) emphasis on other people’s opinion, the interdependence. Now do you know why we value others’ opinion more than us? And why most of the career options for students get narrowed down to engineering and medicine. If it is matrimony, then the bride has to fair and lovely no matter whether the groom is pitch dark.

Hazel Rose Markus, another social psychologist carried out an experiment at the San Francisco international airport. He had kept four blue and one orange pens at a counter to fill up the immigrations form. The US/Europeans picked up the orange pen which was distinct. The Asians picked up the Blue which was more common.

Thomas Talhelm, a psychologist from University of Virginia has made an interesting hypothesis in his article in Science in May 2014. He says the culture whether having high or low context is linked to farming of rice and wheat.

Rice which is mainly grown in Asia needs complex irrigation system, standing water which needs to be drained out every season. One farmer’s use of water may affect the other’s farm which gives rise to an interdependent paradigm. Wheat on the other hand, generally requires only rainfall and needs half the effort of that growing of rice. It also needs less of coordination and cooperation. ( Remember the giant mechanized wheat farms in the US?)

To test his hypothesis of wheat and rice corresponding to Independence and interdependence mindsets, he carried out an experiment in China. Wheat is grown in the northern side of Yangtze river, whereas rice is a major crop on the southern side. Talhelm asked the two groups to identify two common items from bus, train and a rail track. The people from north identified bus and train which are modes of transport ( low context) whereas people from the south side identified rail and rail track having commonality. ( High-context) when asked to draw pictures of self and others the farmers from north showed a big picture of self vis-à-vis small picture of others. Whereas for the rice growers of south, it was the other way round. May be this is the way our context, our environment conditions our thinking. I do not know whether the South Indian and the North Indian orientation has anything to do with the above hypothesis. ( with inputs from an article originally published in NYT by Mr. T.M. Luhrmann)

Does success in Small Value Sales a Guarantee in Key Accounts too?

This question when asked by my clients,  I am reminded of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got you Here, Won’t Get you There!   One of our clients nominated his star performer, Akshay for our training program. The main reason being he was not able to reach his desired targets in selling high-value capital equipments, the way he was selling laptops and mobiles in his previous organization. It is generally believed that a great salesman can sell anything to anybody. Translated otherwise, most of us feel that a great salesman is the one who can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. The above statement is not true for the following reasons:There has been a paradigm shift from a Sellers’ to a buyers’ market. Today’s customers have more choices vis-à-vis their counterparts in 90s.

  1. Thanks to internet, today’s customers are knowledgeable. A person before buying a mobile or a car has done enough research on the net comparing products technically as well as commercially.
  2. If you try to sell something a customer does not need, there is possibility the customer express his anger and frustration on twitter/trip-adviser etc. and in no time the contents may go viral.
  3. In a low-value sale, generally the customer knows what he wants to buy and the interaction between the salesperson and the customer is transactional. The salesman needs to inform the product features, the price and the competitive comparison.
  4. In case of a high-value sale, or a key account sale, quite often the customer may not clearly know what he needs, he may have a vague idea. He needs a solution not a standard sales pitch. Precisely for this reason the salesman needs to be an active and empathic listener and also willing to probe deeper. He also needs to understand the customer’s business that is customer’s customer. Here the interaction is more on relationships.   You will observe that the some of these competencies can be acquired but others are natural traits like strategic thinking. This is one of the reasons why a Star Performer in Small Sale may not always succeed in high-ticket deals or Key Account Management.

 Paradigm Trainers Private Limited is having training programs on Key Account Management and Advanced Negotiation Skills in Bangalore ( 14/15th Nov.) and Mumbai ( 21/22nd Nov.) for more details : www.paradigm-info.com

How Does a Customer Perceive Value – A Case Study

Allied Technologies is a manufacturer of Special Purpose Machine (SPM) and friction welding machines in Bangalore. The company had received an order to manufacture tablet filling machines from one of its clients. Servo drives is an important sub-assembly for this application. Being an SPM, the company had invited a market leader called MACK servo ( name changed) along with a medium sized company called Leonardo Automation. In the morning session, after the client gave a presentation about the SPM dimensions and application, the senior managers of MACK Servo started pitching in their products. The MD was a bit perturbed as he could sense the sales pitch. He was expecting the vendors to provide a solution rather than pitch a product.MACK Senior managers changed the approach sensing  the client discomfort.

Mr. Anil Purohit, the Director from Leonardo is a person known for his technical expertise. Rather than speaking about his servo products; he started speaking about the machine design and the relevance of the number of units needed in the SPM as suggested by the design team ( of the client) At one point of time Anil even  suggested the client that the same result can be achieved by using less number of servo drives. The design team was quite apprehensive as the vendor was challenging the former’s competence.. However the client MD gave  a patient listening to Anil’s proposal.. The meeting with both the vendors was over prior to lunch.The team from MACK were thanked profusely for their efforts. Anil was asked to wait.

After lunch the MD called for another round of  meeting with the mechanical design team where Anil was also invited. The team listened to his novel idea of bringing down the machine cost by innovative design. A decision was taken where Leonardo was considered as a sole vendor and the order was placed on it. The price of Leonardo Servo was higher vis-à-vis MACK. However the overall cost was lower due to an innovative design approach.

This was achieved due to the technical expertise of Anil about his product but also for value he brought for the client’s  machine design.

Quite often salespeople feel price is the main factor in today’s business environment. However it has more to do with your technical expertise and what value your bring to the customer. Can the salespersons change their paradigm from price to cost of ownership?

Rajan Parulekar, rajan@paradigm-info.com

New Strategies to Manage the Downturn

It is said that when the going gets tough the tough get going.  Some of the strategies companies are employing to beat the downturn are:

  1. Find New Niches: Some companies are finding new niches which are more visible, easier to record and have a lower cost of acquisition. Maruti is targeting priests in Tamil Nadu and turmeric growers in Nashik.  Groundnut and cotton growers in Jamnagar due to the bumper harvest are cash-rich and are buying mid range and high-end Maruti cars. The sales team was also able to sell 40 Eeco vans as a cost-effective mode of transport to restaurant and motel owners on the highways of Ahmedabad and Baroda.

The niches can be in rural market too where there is more scope for growth vis-à-vis the urban centres. Mayank Pareek, the CMO of Maruti has identified 300 new niches which account for 10% of company’s growth which include potato growers in West Bengal, blue-pottery makers in Jaipur, timber merchants in Gujarat, granite polishers in Hyderabad, painters in Madhubani in Bihar & Nut-bolt manufacturers in Sonepat.

For the migrant workers in Mumbai using entry-level feature-phones, Vodafone launched an application of booking train tickets on IRCTC , says Vivek Mathur, Chief Commercial Officer, “with an application much cost-effective than a  connection of MBs  of a data plan.”

Godrej was selling Aer, its car freshener as a FMCG product through its traditional trade channels. But the response was not encouraging. The consumer care research team found that the car owners are possessive about their cars and the accessories and may not visit the conventional FMCG outlets to buy a ‘freshener’. Godrej changed the strategy and appointed different distributors mainly from the car accessory market. The sales started picking up.

2. Get out of the Office: Axis Bank is  coming out with similar initiatives which include involving senior citizens to open accounts. The Senior Citizen Privileged Account offers health checks, bill payment, an ID card for medical emergencies and a CD of old movie songs. Manish Lath, head of marketing says, “it is not about acquisition business but more of people relationship.”

3. Listen to the Sellers: Dealers, retailers considered as an extended arm of an organization  are the important touch-points with the customers. Aircel has launched a new reward scheme for the retailers who sell the highest number of mobile connections. The star performer’s wife is eligible for a brand new Hyundai Santro car and the runner-up gets to meet MS Dhoni in person. Chandu Virani,  MD of Balaji wafers has meetings with 800 dealers in group of 40-50. The purpose is not about sales and achieving the numbers but to listen to them and resolve the bottlenecks.

Whatever business you are in;  can you identify the new niches which were hitherto untapped and with whom there is a greater fit between your offerings and the niche’s requirement?