The Salesperson of the Future: A Profile reference for the “Future Ready” Sales performer!

Hi readers,

The future is upon us, it is now!

Evolution of the critical role of sales in an ever evolving , global market place is a reality that we in sales must willingly embrace and be willing to change for in order to maintain our continued relevance.

I know this is easier said than done; BUT it is not impossible.

This blog is based on my learning from the Solutions Marketing course at the HULT Business School, Boston. Extensive reading and submissions of papers pertaining to the future of marketing set me thinking about the sales person of the future, keeping in step with changing marketing requirements.

The result is this ready reckon er for current sales reps to consider making changes to themselves so that they are battle ready for the foreseeable future!

According to my research….The salesperson of the future will be…

  • …introverted rather than extroverted. Traditionally, most of the people drawn to a sales career have been of the “interesting extrovert” variety but, today, the “interested introverts” often do better because they tend to be curious about the customer and more willing to let the customer dominate the conversation, as opposed to the extrovert who is constantly trying to prove how interesting he or she is. Source: sales guru Tom Hopkins.
  • …a collaborator rather than a communicator. With the Internet, the customer and the sales rep typically knows a great deal about each other’s firms.  As a result, the selling process becomes a matter of filling out the details and coming to a deeper understanding. Rather than providing information, the seller participates in a mutual educational process between the supplier and the consumer of a product or service. Source: Bob Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems.
  • …a negotiator rather than a convincer. Traditionally, selling was seen as a way to change the preferences of a potential buyer so that he or she is more likely to buy.  Over the past 20 years, however, this has undergone a big shift, so that sales is now seen as a negotiation skill that helps people reach agreement. Source: Max H. Bazerman, Professor, Harvard Business School.
  • …an expert rather than a generalist. Because sales jobs are becoming more specialized and professional, it is easier to teach the sales process than it is to teach business knowledge.  For example, companies that provide process control systems to refineries now look to hire individuals who have been refinery managers, while companies selling ER management software look to hire ER nurses.  Source: Jeff Thull, CEO of Prime Resource Group
  • …a professional rather than a tyro. Business schools are taking sales more seriously.  Universities are definitely adding sales into the curriculum, even though in the past it was not considered theoretical enough.  Sales as a profession has gained status as people, both in business and in academia, realize that sales engagements are much more complex than in the past.

These ideas are definitely turning all known sales axioms on their head because they come from some of the best thought leaders in their fields.

This is certainly serious food for thought and for assimilation at the highest priority!

The Six Rules of Selling for Start-ups

Hi readers,

This blog is a result of my current professional engagements with 2 great start-ups, that I believe will disrupt our markets in India and empower the key stakeholders in their respective eco-systems, like never before.

THATs why I am with them!!

START-UP number 1 – Confidential / Secret/- Disruptive tech based and enabled platform for the $ 5 billion marriage services market.

START-UP number 2- http://www.fleximoms.in/ – Disrupting the flexible work niche in the labor market in Indian AND empowering women (yaay!!) at the same time!! (Double yaay!!)

These 2 great start-ups define awesomeness! and as I would say in Boston, …they are WICKED cool !!

So , the question is you have a tech enabled platform, ready to rumble and roll, NOW WHAT?

Well…revenues silly!

Who gets the revenues? The sales team of course?

And how do they do it in a start up? thats the million dollar question I wanna answer in this blog- hope you like it…

Selling for a startup presents unique challenges even for highly experienced sales professionals. Because your company is new, your potential customers don’t know anything about it and, sad to say, in business unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Not to worry, though. Here are the six rules of selling for startups:

  1. You are an entrepreneur. You aren’t in a big company, so ultimately the only person you can really count on to get things done is yourself. Don’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to move the sale forward, even if it means giving up your weekends.
  2. Don’t be afraid to bail. If a deal doesn’t make sense for your company, it’s not worth pursuing. Don’t let wishful thinking propel you into wasted effort. For example, if you can’t meet with the real decision-maker, you aren’t going to get the business. Period. Move on, without regrets.
  3. Don’t be taken advantage of. Insist that every customer relationship is a relationship between equals. Adopt a policy of “Quid Pro Quo” – that anything the customer or prospect asks you to do give you the right to ask them to do something comparable in return.
  4. Believe in your greatest strength. What startups offer customers is unique, and that’s good news, because top executives don’t have the time to sit with down with cookie-cutter sales reps, but always have time for somebody who can redefine problems and devise solutions.
  5. Don’t scuttle your credibility. Never take on an apologetic air, try to explain away the inexperience of your firm, or (ugh!) beg for the business. Savvy customers can smell fear and will ask for steep discounts or even amuse themselves by making you jump through meaningless hoops.
  6. Dare to be honest. Share your feelings with the prospect to move the sale forward. If you believe that the customer is treating you unfairly or asking too much, respectfully point out why you see the situation that way and then ask for reasonable concessions.

Priceless Contribution of our political class- fundamentalists in a secular democracy!

This goes out to all enlightened Indians, across the globe, and definitely in India.

I hope that these series that I propose to write regularly as the contribution of our political class will become a platform for serious debate on what has really transpired under the guise of “parliamentary democracy” for the past 65 years.

These thoughts in these blogs are also meant to highlight the reality of the Indian democratic system and its evolution ( de-generation) over the past 65 years.

Thoughts, inputs, and ideas are very welcome, obviously.

Today Kamal Hassan made a heart rending appeal to his fans and the common man , demonstrating his utter helplessness to fight a political heavy , and skewed system, that will not even listen to independent thought leaders, and will use power to buttress power brokers, and illiterate voting populations ( ever heard of the VOTE BANK…if you haven’t , it exists in India, and has been nurtured for the past 65 years by the political class by keeping these voting banks, illiterate, un-educated and on the fringes of poverty and deprivation…cool strategy hunh!!)

His latest movie, VISHWAROOPAM, has been embroiled in controversy, which was ostensibly started by a fringe Muslim group, protesting the depiction of terrorists as being from the Muslim faith!! This was ably fanned by political class of ALL hues!!

Now the question you must ask, is why did ALL political parties start supporting the muslim protesters–……well, didn’t I just tell you about voting banks!! NONE of these political leeches, would wanna fritter away the opportunity to get the muslim vote now ..isnt it ?

So here is this artist, who should have freedom of expression of interest under our “democratic” constitution and institutions, BUT has to run around the courts of the land to scree his film, whose future has been hijacked by a few protesting muslims, supported by the political class, who have kept these muslims illiterate for the past 65 years, and the muslims dont even realize who is to blame for their pathetic situation, and are therefore for lack of any substantial cause in life, take to the street, at the behest of their equally illiterate, uneducated leaders to protest an assault on their religion!!!

Is this convoluted or what!!

Has not this country not been converted to a dignified banana republic in a matter of 65 years , and its potential quashed by the political class through the following INITIATIVES… (Yes folks ..the following are the ONLY INITIATIVES that the political class have been serious about , since taking our rule from the British and ruling this country..)

  • Siphoning off tax payers money into overseas accounts.
  • Converting money laundering ( tax payers and bribe money) into an art and a science ( Mafia , eat your heart out, come to the academy of the Indian political class, and they will teach you tricks you didnt even know existed )
  • Using graft and bribe money to buy into vote banks- over and over and over again, till death did them part from their office!
  • Dodging responsibility by converting “passing the buck” to an art and a science- slippery as an eel has a different level in India and for the political class.
  • Turning QUID PRO QUO to an art and science- One political party uses state instruments, which are supposed to be independent, as gatherers of dirty secrets on political opponents, and leveraged to ensure that their very own dirty secrets are never revealed by their opponents, should they come to power in the veneer of our democratic institutions!! So all these political parties, the political class know each other dirtiest of secrets and make for a perfect understanding under classic quid pro quo terms!!

While the political class has ensured its continuity into geriatric politics, they have deliberately done nothing about investing in educating the teeming uneducated masses, that remain uneducated, illiterate to the day. This has proven beneficial to them in many ways, most notably these illiterates have lost the faculty to think rationally and analyze logically, laying them open to emotional and casteist exploitation by the political class over 65 years….the nest result, ready to use, ready made , illiterate , fundamentalists in our secular democracy!!

If there ever was a strategy that worked for you this would be it !! Kudos to our Indian political class!!

 

Effective Sales Questions that get results!

Hi readers,

This blog follows the other topics on which I have written about in the past weeks.

During the training programs that I attended and conducted over the last 18 years, I was often asked, and I myself asked of my trainers- which are the best questions to ask your clients/customers, so that the response meets your key objectives in the sales process?

By compiling elements that I learnt through class room training, numerous Rank Xerox PPS (Professional Selling Skills) programs and field sales experience I have come up with the following questions that I believe are effective , cutting across domains and verticals.

While these questions are primarily derived from my experience with B2B clients, I suspect that they will prove to be just as effective in the B2G  ( Business to Government) business eco-systems. ( Let me have your views as I have no understanding of this space)

Here are the fourteen absolutely indispensable questions ( power tools)  that should be in every sales rep’s bag of tricks:

  1. What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
  2. What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
  3. What don’t you like about your current situation?
  4. What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
  5. What can you tell me about your priorities?
  6. What prompted you to start this project now?
  7. What can you tell me about your decision-making process?
  8. How do you handle budget considerations?
  9. What other options are you looking at?
  10. What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?
  11. What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?
  12. How will you be evaluating different options?
  13. How will the funding for the project be justified?
  14. How much support does this have at the executive level?

According to me –

Get the answers to these questions, and take action based on those answers, and you’ll get the sale. It’s that simple.

This is based on the KISS principle- Keep it simple and sweet!

The Seven Deadly Sins of Selling

Hi readers,

I have been blogging at length about sales management, selling skills, personal attributes of great sales stars, selling acumen and so on.

I also wrote about the tricks that our customers play on us and watching to see if we would blink, and then take advantage of our intrinsic weakness to “close the sale” and achieve our quota targets….

I have been meaning to speak of 7 major points that for me are the proverbial “deadly sins” that often impede our performance as sales professionals.

These are the Seven Deadly Sins of Selling.

  1. SIN #1: Not being personally accountable. Don’t pass the buck somebody else in your firm; your customers want your personal skin in the game.
  2. SIN #2: Failing to understand the customer’s business. Don’t expect customers to answer dozens of questions just because you didn’t do your research.
  3. SIN #3: Being an adversary, not an ally. Since customers are risking their career doing business with you, they expect you to represent their best interests.
  4. SIN #4: Selling products not solutions. Don’t burden customers with features and functions; tell them how your solution will help their business.
  5. SIN #5: Being inaccessible when needed. If customers are important to you, you’ll answer their email or voice mail within minutes, not hours.
  6. SIN #6: Selling rather than helping. Customers want you to be thinking about how to help their firm, not how to sell your products.
  7. SIN #7: Wasting the customer’s time. If your solution isn’t the right choice for the customer, say so.  Don’t waste their time pitching something they don’t need.

The True Meaning of B2B Sales in the Solutions Marketing context

Hi readers,

My understanding of Solutions Sales in a B2B business has been enhanced considerably after my MBA program where I had taken Solutions Marketing as one of my key electives.

Based on my experience in B2B solution sales of 18 years and contemporary coursework in Solutions Marketing taught by Prof. Stephen Hurley, I am sharing what I believe is the essence of B2B sales in a Solutions marketing context.

B2B sales, as I was taught, and which I have practiced  is heavily dependent on an ROI analysis. The numbers used in the ROI analysis are the customer’s numbers, gathered through effective questioning.

(NOTE-2 key skills MUST HAVEs for a successful solutions sales professional- Financial analysis capability AND Interviewing /researching skills)
I taught my B2B sales people to look for ways of contributing to the prosperity of their customers’ business in five key areas: (1) sales, (2) employee or process productivity, (3) profits, (4) competitive advantage, and (5) cost control…If a B2B salesperson is talking about anything other than those five issues they are probably wasting their time and their customer’s time.

(NOTE- Keeping a focus on issues that are top priority for your client is key to success, otherwise there is the real danger to scatter your thoughts and energy all over the place and end up delivering nothing to your client, and certainly losing your incentives!!)

The five elements, mentioned above are interesting because they’re a map of what most companies think are important — and therefore provide hooks for B2B selling. 

I claim that there are only important two (2) goals inside every company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.  

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the five elements mentioned earlier

  1. Sales.  Nobody wants to decrease their sales, so this element is simply a restatement of the goal to increase sales revenue.
  2. Employee/Process Productivity.   Increased productivity decreases the cost of doing business, thereby decreasing the cost of sales.  If you increase productivity somewhere in a company in such a way that it increases the cost of sales, you’re decreasing profitability, which is stupid.
  3. Profits.  Increased revenue and decreased profitability means more profit, by definition.
  4. Competitive Advantage.  Any one can beat a competitor by giving away more value for less money; the trick is to grow at the competitor’s expense and still remain profitable.  Therefore, competitive advantage consists entirely of increasing revenues while either decreasing the cost of sales or keeping them stable.  Even product development (like building a better mousetrap) is actually just a way to increase revenues by making more sales.
  5. Cost Control.  You’d have to be an imbecile to control costs in one part of company in a way that ends up increasing the cost of sales and/or decreasing revenue.  Therefore, the only meaningful cost control consists of decreasing the cost of sales.

To repeat, there are only two (2) things important in a company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.

Therefore, if your B2B offering, through a solutions sales proposal,  focuses on helping your customer do either of those two things, you’ve got something that’s worth buying.

And if your product does both of those things, you’ve got a real winner.

So, in order to help you succeed in your product driven solutions sales efforts, you need to brush up your solutions marketing skills!!