For a sales person, the biggest consumable she has is time. If it’s gone or wasted on worthless prospects or prospects who are only out there to take “gyan” or knowledge then your income reduces by that much.
For most people who work for someone else, they sell their time for money. With sales people the advantage is that they can get incentives which can really multiply their earnings. So there is a lot of leverage on their time. And the more leverage that they can build, the more they can get rich.
So one is clearly identifying the accounts you want to work with. Sometimes the company would decide this and you have little options. Sometimes the company that you work for may also limit the products/services that you are allowed to sell. That makes life a little more challenging.
In that case the other big leverage that you can get is by using referrals. If you can create happy customers and they can refer other customers to you, then you can get an amazing amount of leverage on your time. Happy customers are always the best source of new business because then there are less hurdles to cross even with the company you are referred to.
Most sales people however feel scared to ask for referrals because they think the customer is doing them a favour. I also used to feel the same way and used to ask it in a very apologetic manner. However, has a friend asked you for help identifying a good “Chinese” restaurant. You have felt happy to recommend a restaurant, if you have had a good experience. This thought was brought out to me by Dean Jackson and Jay Abraham and since then I keep thinking about various ways to be in front of my customer when they are having a conversation where I can be of help. Think from this angle.
Everyone has a time constrain, but for sales folks it has direct impact on their earning capability so choose your customers well and figure out ways that you will create happy customers and then create ways to get a steady state of referrals.
Till next time then.
When I was younger and people would ask me what I did for a living – my typical answer would be – I get out of the house on my rounds and sell whatever I have been asked to sell that day – some times its potato chips, sometimes its computers. That was in a lighter vein but over the years I have been involved in selling so many different products and services that I don’t actually see too many differences.
I fundamentally believe that selling is selling. Irrespective of what you are selling and to whom you are selling. Whether you are selling a product or a service, at the end of the day, the customer is buying a result that the purchase will give her/him. So you need to figure out the result that the customer is looking for and how you can get them the result. However there’s a lot of academic discussions which talk about why they are different.
My two cents on this topic are as follow
- Every thing that you sell has a nuance to it. Even within products – different products would have different kind of audiences , different price points, different results, same would be the case with different kinds of services
- The orientation of the consumer sale would be different from the business sale, in terms of the complexity involved in the business to business sale (i.e. number of people and steps) and the time involved.
- The way you showcase the result could be different – in consumer products you use advertising, while in B2B you might use a direct sales team.
- The way you solicit the business may vary – but some consumer products are also sold to businesses and what was once considered a business product (like computers) could soon become a consumer product.
Inspite of all the above points – one distinct difference is that , generally, products have well defined boundaries while it is tougher to put boundaries on what is constituted as a service because humans are involved in the delivery. So standardisation is much tougher.
In most cases today, the product and service get intertwined – do you go to a restaurant because the food is good or because the ambience and service is excellent or all of them.
Till next time then – it doesn’t matter what you are selling as long as you know the result you get for the customer – rest of the things can be managed.
In yesterday’s post I wrote about how your plans and forecasts go wrong, if the product on which you have based your service model itself doesn’t succeed or the OEM loses focus.
Today we will look at other aspects where because we didn’t see the obstacles in advance, we couldn’t meet our forecasts. This is again from a B2B perspective where we were involved in direct sales to customers.
One big gap which generally arises when we the product managers, do forecasts, is discounting the human factor. We are so focused on the positives of our product or services that we forget that our product has to be sold by someone. I have tried giving targets and I have tried to get sales people to create their own targets and I have failed in both situations.
The key reasons I think, are because we believe that human beings will work consistently like a machine. We lose focus quite fast. If you have to ensure that your forecasts don’t fail then you need to incorporate the factors which can get your persons de-focused.
So think in terms of what all obstacles may come up that you will need to face and what will be your plan. This doesn’t mean that other things can’t go wrong. Its about figuring out what all you can think of in terms of the obstacles. Also understand that I am not looking at moves your competition will make.
As an example one project execution has not gone as per schedule….and your sales person has to hand-hold the customer. How will he make the sales calls then. What happens if half your sales force leaves together or spread across the year and you are not able to hire the right kind of sales people on time. In B2B sales where the lead times are high getting the new person fully operational is a very big challenge. Same could happen on your delivery side.
The more assumptions about your plan that you can call out in advance, the better you can work your forecasts.
Till next time then.
For the last few days I have been reading Adam Grant’s book Think Again. One of the topics is about accepting that your pre-conceived notion could be wrong and how because of it you actually grow even more. It can be extremely liberating.
That made me think how often haveI been proven wrong and accepted it in public.
One big one was Sugar and sugar substitutes. I have written extensively in multiple posts on how my father had mentioned about sugar being a poison almost 20 years back but it took me so long to give it up almost completely. Over the last few years I did try some sugar substitutes but I have now realized after reading a lot of studies, that they are equally bad in a different way.
But I also now happily share, how rectifying my liking for sugar has helped me on a daily basis.
The above was a personal realization. Another one, a few years back was on the professional front.
One of my sales person was following up on an account for almost 8-9 months. Even though our typical lead time can be between 3-6 months, anything which crosses about 8-9 months is a very suspect case.
In this there were buyers who were changing which made me even more skeptical of the whole deal. But this sales person kept after them through all the changes and brought in the order.
The reason for me to feel happy was not that he had picked up an order because of the size of the order – the order value was not anything great. The fact that this was a completely new logo that we were acquiring, was made it feel good. If I had removed this sales person from doing this deal , because I thought it would not happen, we wouldn’t have acquired this logo.
I felt happy to be proven wrong. There have been other times also when I have been proven wrong and learned a valuable lesson, but we will keep it for another day.
Till next time then