Monday, July 6, 2009

Sales Strategies............. how to forget about those useless "Sales Training" Companies..

Recently, the MD of a successful company was discussing with me about the most important things which need to be taken care of while launching a product. Sales strategy seemed to be topping the list, and among the requirements of successful sales strategy the most important was to prepare the right salesmen for the job depending on the product requirement. It has been seen that it generally takes a lot of time to prepare an appropriate salesman. Even a person who claims to have experience in Sales takes at least 1-2 years before he is able deliver his best, especially for a product similar to the one the MD was talking about.

So here are a few 'Ashwin strategies' on how to ensure the formation of a leading Sales person. Don't worry, I am not aiming to take away the job of the so called "Sales training" companies which provide courses to sales executives of the company to make them experts. They have got their own set of expertise and its possible that they may prove helpful for some salesperson, but I personally believe such training courses are only as good as the trainees.

So lets begin stepwise. The first step- Selection.

We have to agree that true salesmen are very less in number, and the ones which are, are already part of some big company with a high pay package. So what does a new company, with serious constraints on budgets, do? A part of the answer is the famous 80-20 rule; have at least 20% of the salesmen as experts and the case of the rest of the 80% shall be dealt with later. So coming to the top 20%, how to attract them to the company with lesser salary and lesser name?

For this, let me exemplify through a case which I had experimented when I was in school: My class had a number of good looking girls and one day entered this new girl who was average looking. Let me tell you, I actually did this as an experiment (I used to experiment with human psychology even back then), and suggested to all my friends that this new girl was the most gorgeous of them all (a few of them were part of the experiment who were the actual ones spreading the news, and the rest were objects of experiment). In a few days, this new average looking girl was suddenly the most talked about and sought after girls in the class. Let me tell you, this was a case when we were in Class 5, a stage where it is easy to mould your mind. This means it is in the Human Nature to get attracted to something which is challenging and may be new (challenge was there for the best looking guys in the class when they saw that others were fighting for the particular girl). [Or why go so far into my childhood; take the case of a dog who jumps after a thrown piece of food even before it completes the piece which it is eating. But I didn't want to compare salesmen with dogs otherwise I would have been in an embarrassing situation, hence I didn't use this example]

Now let us bring out the analogy of the terms used above, in the context of salesmen:
Good Looking Girls- High Salaried Jobs in Known companies
Average Looking Girl- Average Salaried Job with Challenge in the work
Best looking guys- The best salesmen who love to challenge themselves
Class 5 students- Young salesmen with the passion in them but experience very less

Hope the example above is quite clear now. Such companies can attract the 20% needed brilliance through the challenge thrown at them which is always associated with new products. The spice in the challenge can be increased through the increased use of perks (now that FBT is abolished). Perks can be made dependent on the Sales done. Competition within the team, can be another idea, already experimented in a few companies. This means that the highest seller in a team is treated with perks by the worst sellers in the team, thus ensuring that no money is used from the pocket of the employer while churning out the best results. Such experiments can be done, but won't prove to be pathbreakingly useful. What is most important is to attract the best, by letting them know that they'll be becoming a part of the history by marketing the new product, which will take them to a new level in the corporate ladder. Ambition is another Human Nature which can be 'exploited' through intelligent strategies. And every intelligent salesman is not shortsighted enough to just look at the money but is highly ambitious and thinks of things lying ahead of them.

So this is how the 80-20 selection will be feasible.

Now lets move to the next step. Bringing the best out of the 80% less brilliant sales people.These rules may also apply to the brilliant guys.

First let me tell you what are the most important qualities needed in a salesman- confidence, motivation, convincing skills, power of persistence and greed. Some of these qualities are in-built but some of them can be built. These qualities need to be coated with the knowledge of the product. Once you know about the product and yourself believe in its high potential, you are confident enough that you can convince others of the same. But there are products which take years to understand. So for these cases, we need to derive something from the famous "guerilla warfare techniques".

Some of you might have heard of the 'guerilla marketing tactics' to launch a product (where you target your potential market in numerous short and powerful stages), but 'guerilla sales technique' sounds quite absurd, doesn't it. No, but it is not absurd, I shall explain you how. Guerilla tactics mean attacking the enemy in form of different small groups in multiple stages in order to weaken the enemy's stability and force the enemy to act in a state of over-zeal. Our prospective clients will be divided into various sectors, based on the product, and the salesmen will be divided into groups based on this. Then the guerilla technique starts. In the first stage, the best parts of the product (based on the requirements of the prospective client sector) and the basic knowledge will be taught to the salesman and with this the attempt to finalize the deal with the client shall be done. Then if needed, a second attack will be done with added knowledge of the details of the product, by the salesman who has become slightly better with experience. Thus the attacks (in form of the benefits of the product) continue steadily; and at the end our salesman is also an expert while the client is also in hand. Now the same salesman will take the deal to a complete closure, as he knows everything about the product, even technicalities. This technique may have the disadvantage of being a bit slower but it is always better than a failed client attempt and time needed for salesmen to become competent.

Now it is not as simple as I have explained above, as there are certain rules and exceptions associated with it, which can be easily known when plan is strategized in detail.

Thus using the '80-20 rule', the 'exploition of Ambition and Competitiveness in Human Nature' and the 'Guerilla Sales Tactic', new dimensions to formation of sales people can be created. But these tactics are not the end of all; as lots of changes in the techniques and their implementation will depend on the nature of product and market analysis of the product. There are certain other unconventional techniques as well which need to be followed along with these.

Coming back to selection:
Even the selection of the appropriate salesmen for the job will be dependent on these factors, especially the prospective market. Its the nature of a salesman that he'll always have an expertise of a particular kind, we need to identify what kind is present in a particular salesman and what is the appropriate market where this kind can be used. Based on this, the selection should be done. There is another interesting method I have in my mind to do the selection based on the words said above. A large number of qualities existent in any salesman is listed down and qualitative judgement on each quality is done. Based on the combinations of the result for each quality, the expertise of a salesman can be known. Now, details of all these things Later.................

Too many words...... too much gyaan..... Aaj ke liye this is enough.

Union Budget 2009- a review in my style

I am no Tax expert, neither do I know the difference between MAT and DDT. But the Budget 09 is certainly something which needs to be followed by everyone like me, owing to the fact that this budget led to a fall in the 'Sensex' while trying to please the 'common man'. But what does it bring for the people who are stuck in the middle of these entities- the common man trying to become uncommon by becoming a common part of the business world. The word 'common' is too commonly used, hence it needs a caroused explanation (sorry for the bad joke :), I just wanted to build the mood by establishing that everything this budget does is for the word 'Common').

So, as mentioned in my earlier posts, the driver of the Indian market in this period of economy is going to be SMEs and to some extent, startups. The market is seeing a surge and every new and small innovation is going to benefit. What does this driver stand to achieve from this market, how will things change for someone who is about a launch a new product, how is the Union Budget 2009 going to affect small businesses.

Lets first have a look at the interesting features of this budget- Fringe Benefit Tax abolished, sharp hike in Defence Budget, Branded Jewelleries get cheaper (non branded ones... take a plunge), IT Exemption limits increased, lots of money for higher education through IITs, IIMs etc. This is clearly budget which, in its first sight, seems short sighted and aimed only at popular developmental issues.

But SMEs will definitely benefit immensely from the FBT abolition. FBT is the tax which was put on all amenities and perks provided to the employees apart from the regular salary. This had led to a lot extra expenditure for employers, specially in marketing firms (marketing firms because their a large amount of traveling and business trip perks associated with such businesses). Now that FBT is abolished, SMEs will have their way again by luring new employees not through their basic salary, but through the option of earning through perks which the company provides. When SMEs are benefited, entrepreneurs and new ideas are benefited too. FBT abolition can be used as a unique weapon by these smaller firms, as these firms always need some unique weapons for winning over prospective employees (since they lack normal weapons like high pay package or big brand name). Now, they have a chance which every calculating mind will utilize to the best of its advantage.

Is there anything apart from the FBT news, which is going to bring a drastic change? Yes, there is. At least on paper, there is. Special funds for easy lending to smaller and micro enterprises has also been formed. Though the focus currently is rural market, it won't be long before these micro and small enterprises will benefit much more. The FM, while deciding the budget, must have kept this into mind that the base need be strengthened to allow a towering structure to be made. Thats why he focused on the right segment of market at least in this part of the budget.

But didn't the market expect much more from this budget; there is no doubt that small enterprises can thrive only when the market receives more from the FM. But lets look at the best part, the budget clearly seems to have inclined itself more towards the bigger benefits of MSEs (Micro and Small Enterprises) rather than bigger corporate houses, a clear sign that the road is going to be easier for every person who has the plans to startup. Easing the taxation system in the few months, will make this road even easier. Soon, India will also be the country with lots of hassles while having a startup removed, thus leading to greater investment in startups from established firms and VCs.

Things are looking good :) ........