Wish you all a very Happy new year! I am hoping that you have had a great start to the year.
Thanks to all your support and love, the blog has grown and with growth comes the need to keep up. So, in order to grow with you and your love, I have decided to move my blog from wordpress.com and decided to host it myself.
This does not change anything but the URL. The new URL is http://rmukeshgupta.com.
I request that you do visit the new URL and subscribe. I am seeking help from the kind folks at wordpress.com to automatically move all your subscriptions. However, I would really be grateful, if you could visit the new site (http://rmukeshgupta.com) and subscribe/like/follow again so that you continue to read my posts and share your love.
In the recent past, there has been a lot written about the fact that the entire buying process has undergone a sea change and due to which selling is becoming more and more difficult.
I am herewith suggesting a process if when followed can still help sales teams succeed.
S — Surprise: This is the first step in the process and also the most important step. In order to be able to do this, you need to understand your customers business better than they themselves know and find an insight which will surprise them. You can uncover these insights by any one of the below steps:
- Network across layers of the organization: Most organizations are really complex and it is almost impossible for CxO’s to have access to their own front-line staff. If you are able to connect with both and the folks in-between, you have a good possibility to uncover insights that the CxO’s might not otherwise find.
- Talk to their customers or suppliers or partners: Depending upon the stated objectives of your customer, go talk to their customers or suppliers or partners. For example, if your customer is focused on top line growth and has taken up agressive revenue growths, you could go and talk to their customer/prospects. Try and understand from their perspective, what is their expectations from their supplier and see if you are able to uncover a blindspot for your customers.
- Industry Swaps: Think if there is something that they could learn from other industries, which when adapted in their organizations could give them an edge over their competitors.
I — Inspire:
- Paint a picture for your customer about what their future could be, if they act on the insight that you have uncovered for them.
- At this stage, average or good sales people build a business case to support whatever they are trying to sell and start pushing for a close. However, Great sales people will not do that yet. They will paint a bigger picture of the future. They will try and inspire their customers to go after that future.
M — Motivate:
- Once, they have inspired their customers about the possibilities in the future, they will motivate their customers to act on the insight.
- In most cases (if not in all), this involves getting your customers to set-up internal meetings, sharing the insight with their colleagues and start discussions internally about the insight and by doing so, own the vision. This ownership keeps them motivated to build consensus within their organization to act on the insight.
- It is the role of the sales executive to ensure that the level of motivation does not go down.
P — Position:
- Once there is consensus built within the customer organization, great sales executives will them position themselves to be the best partner to help their customers to realize their vision.
- This is the time when they actually start talking about their product or service or solution and how they can help realize the vision.
L — Lead:
- Once they have positioned themselves well, they will then lead their customers during the discussions around the negotiations.
- Instead of negotiating with their customers, they will consistently lead their customers to a situation wherein everyone is happy with what they got.
- This is when they close the deal and get the order.
E — Execute:
- Great sales people do not stop there. They will continue to work with their customers to ensure that the execution of the product or service or strategy is executed so that their customers realize their vision of the future they had started out with.
- This one step along increases their value and trust on them so much that the next round of sales becomes much easier and faster. This is also the step where most of the average or good sales executives falter.
At the engage phase, they again start looking at ways to surprise their customers again and re-start the cycle.
Now, if you follow the SIMPLE framework, I think you will end up not only meeting your sales quotas but exceeding your quotas, year-after-year. You will also have a list of customers who might even give you a chance by going out of their way, just to do business with you.
What do you think about this framework? Do you think this will work for you? Share your thoughts and comments.
Today, I went to watch a movie at the INOX cinemas in Bangalore with my extended family. There were five of us and a small kiddo.
We bought Gold Class tickets and went and took our seats. The entire experience so far was neither too good not too bad. I was fine with that.
The movie started and 10 minutes into the movie, someone came by and asked me to show my tickets so that he could verify if we indeed had Gold Class tickets. I let this go once. Then came the interval. We ordered some snacks and came back to watch the movie.
10 mins into the movie, someone else came asking to check my tickets again. Now this made me furious and spoilt the entire movie watching experience as I had to take out the movie tickets in the dark and I missed an important scene in the movie.
This was total self-sabotage.
The movieplex already knew how many Gold Class seats they had sold and the seat numbers of these seats. If they wanted to check if there was an unauthorized usage of the Gold Class seats, all they needed to do was to cross-check the people seated with the tickets that they had sold and only go to someone who is sitting on a seat that was supposed to be empty, instead of spoiling the fun for all their customers, and at that, their most valuable customers, as the Gold Class seats are the most expensive in the cinema.
Do you or your organization do something similar and sabotage yourself ?
Instead of augmenting the experience of your most important customers, do you annoy them?
This could be by asking them to fill in additional forms when you already have the information or making them wait in long queues or asking for information that you could find out by yourself or for that matter any other such trivial act that leaves your customers with a bad experience.
Not many customers will provide you feedback about their experience, but most will talk about it to their friends and you know what that could mean for you and your brand.
Instead of having fond memories about the movie, here I am writing about the bad treatment I got from INOX.
Now what could they do differently?
What they should instead is the exact opposite.
Instead of policing if their customers are buying using Gold Class tickets without buying them, they should think of finding ways to upgrade some of these customers to use Gold Class seats if there are empty Gold Class seats still available at the start of the show.
In an earlier post, I had suggested that movieplexes could have monthly passes that could then be used to identify customers who could be upgraded. If that seems to be a challenge, at least have a regular CRM system (using points based on spending) to decide who gets the upgrades whenever these seats are available.
This will ensure that movie enthusiasts will not only continue to patronize your multiplexes, but will also be constantly left guessing if they will get upgraded seats.
I am sure that some of this also means that customers who might have bought Gold Class, might buy a cheaper ticket at times, but I am sure that the increase in the number of times these very customers choose to come to your cinema over other cinema choices will compensate for this.
This is also something that organizations that sell commodities that are time bound and are of no value if not sold by a specific date/time, for example, travel industry, hotel industry, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc.
Share your experiences
Have you experienced something similar where a good experience was spoiled by a brand themselves by doing something stupid or innocuous.
Please share your experience so that we can all learn from that as a community.
One of the biggest hurdles in fostering a culture of innovation in an organization is the fear of failure.
This is one of the most critical aspects of a culture. The fear of failure creates a lot of additional hurdles in the innovation process.
- No Breakthrough Innovation: The biggest impact on the innovation process that the fear of failure can have is that this almost ensures that there will be no breakthrough innovation coming out of the innovation process. Any breakthrough innovation requires at some stage for the team to decide to follow an insight/idea that is unconventional or against the common wisdom. This involves some amount of risk that this might not work out and could lead to a failure. The fear of this failure will ensure that the insights/ideas that are the safest bets would be consistently chosen, which could result in average, small scale incremental innovation coming out of the process.
- Big Failures: The fear of failure could also lead to spectacular failures. The fear of failure stops employees from raising the red-flag at the first instance when they realize that the project/product is not working out. This leads to a situation where everyone knows that the project is a failure but no one wants to be the one to admit it, which then results in continued effort and resources being put in to the project, when the project should have been acknowledged as a failure and either closed or a pivot done to continue to vie for success.
- Lack of learning: This fear of failure also ensures that there is not much risk being taken and hence, not many projects fail, which also means that there is not much learning happening either. As we all know that failure is a much better teacher than success.
- Lack of Trust on Leaders: Primarily the fear of failure indicates that there is a lack of trust for the leaders of the organization, which by itself almost ensures that there are even bigger challenges that the organization needs to address in order to remain relevant and innovative.
So, what can we do to create a culture where the fear of failure is replaced by a culture of learning and course corrections.
Re-Frame Failure as Iterations: Re framing Failure as Iterations provides the employees the necessary cushion to explore slightly more riskier insights/ideas when going after innovation.
As with most of the challenges relating to culture, leaders should start talking and behaving in a way that not only tells the employees that it is OK to go after big challenges and fail now and then as long as they are able to admit failure, learn from the failure and do so quickly and cheaply, continue to pivot and address the challenge through pursuing different insight/ideas.
This simple re-framing also creates the culture of experimentation, iterations and pivots. This also reduces the overall cost of innovation, speeds up the innovation process and at the same time creates the possibility for breakthrough solutions coming through the process.
PS: Here is a video where children have re-framed failure to iteration and not only fare better but thrive in their schools.
What is your opinion? What would you do to address fear of failure in your organization? Do share your thoughts..
My last blog post was the 250th post on this blog. When I started this blog, I had not realized that this would be such a long, fulfilling and an interesting journey.
Along the way, I have met a lot of people who have shared my beliefs and those who did not share my beliefs. Irrespective of us agreeing, I have gained many more friends.
In order to write a blog post, I have read many different perspectives that have already been shared by other bloggers. This enabled me to stumble upon some of the best content and bloggers that the web has to offer. Each one of them and the blog posts that I have read have contributed to improving my understanding of the topics I have written about.
Some of my posts got great response (shared/read by a lot of people), some that i am very proud to have written but did not get shared as much. However, each one of these posts were equally difficult to write and equally satisfying.
I would like to thank you all, my readers who have read, shared and inspired me to continue to share my thoughts as blog posts!
I also commit to you all to continue to strive and bring to you different perspectives and thoughts to the topics that i write about.
I think it is important for us all to introspect and look back at our work every now and then and try to make sense of the journey, what worked and what didn’t and why?
I realize that most of my best work has been when I was emotionally involved and passionate about what I wrote. Most of these were in response to what I saw taking place in and around me in various organizations.
I also realize that almost all of the work that could have been better has been when, I have tried to keep up to a schedule of posting, so that I continue to post something every week.
This has made me resolve that I shall strive to write posts only when I am emotionally connected to the topic.
For all of you who want to check my best work thus far, please find below a list that I have created.
Top 5 posts (from a readership/shares) perspectives:
- Building High Performing Sales Teams
- What Do You Do When You Lose a Deal
- Customer centricity & Chief Customer Officers
- Tips on how to sell to a CIO by a CIO
- 3 qualities of a great sales manager
5 posts which I think were some of my best work (apart from the one’s above):
- What’s the Measure of a Sales Managers Success
- Effective sales review meetings
- Step by step guide for success with social media
- Building an effective marketing strategy..
- Customer Loyalty is Not Just About Having Loyal Customers
Do let me know which of my posts did you like the best thus far.
Hoping to continue to have your support!
In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to interact with sales leaders in India, China, Singapore and Australia. One thing that everyone agrees is that selling, and more importantly, B2B selling is getting more and more challenging.
Buyers are getting more and more intelligent as they are able to do all the research even before inviting any sales teams in for discussion. This also means that most of the interaction tend to lean towards order fulfilment or what I call “Selling to Specs”. This is a zero sum game with no clear winners at all.
- The customers tend to believe that they know what they are doing due to all the research they did before connecting with the sales teams.
- The sales teams are hard pressed to show value in every interaction with their customers despite not knowing the real challenge that they are trying to help with.
- Train ourselves to be curious and inquisitive, ie, re-learn to be child like.
- Learn and practice the art of observation. We need to learn to observe not only our customer in action, but their customers in action, their competitors, their substitutes, try and delve deeper to understand the reason behind the specs that the customers have given us.
- Learn the difference between information and insight and keep looking until he/she uncovers new insights.
There are different techniques that employ the same process albeit in a little more polished way. One such methodology is “Challenger Selling” or applying the principles of “Design Thinking” in the sales process.
One approach that i have found very useful in this scenario is to look at our customers business and their interaction with their ecosystem (including customers, employees, partners, suppliers,etc). If I am able to understand their interaction with their ecosystem and some of the challenges that these members of the ecosystem have with our customer, it provides a very interesting perspective and has immense possibilities for new insights to emerge, which potentially could provide a good discussion point and create a totally different discussion than the one that the customer intended in the first place.
This is exactly what you want as a sales executive. This again puts you in the driving seat and instead of matching specs, you are now in a position to define the challenges along with your customer and pitch in how you could play a part in solving these challenges.
In most cases, some of these challenges can be addressed by your product/services. The other part of the challenge that you are unable to solve, you could either suggest someone who could be of help or allow your customer to figure this out.
Irrespective of which methodology you use, the ultimate aim should be for the sales teams to learn to uncover insights that their customers are unaware of about their own business/process/challenge and use these insights to drive their sales process and continue to remain relevant and in control.
Do you agree with my views. Share your views and opinions as comments and we can continue our conversation.