I read a wonderful post by Shane Parrish titled “Warren Buffet: The three things I look for in a person“.
Here he shares three qualities that Buffet looks in a person:
He also thinks that without the first, the other two don’t matter much.
This reminded me of my mentor and his principle’s while deciding to work with someone. His list was as below, in the order of importance:
Again, he said that without the first, the other two are a sure recipe for disaster. However, when you add that in the mix, it plays the role of a “Philosopher’s Stone” and transforms the person.
Strangely, these are exactly the qualities that I look in a sales executive.
You can’t infer a person’s ability to sell by looking for these qualities. However, in my opinion, if you have these three qualities, one can succeed in any role that they get into. If you observe, none of these is a skill. They constitutes our character.
Skills can be learnt, but character needs to be built and it takes a long time to build one’s character.
Now, the question is how do you check for these qualities before you hire someone.
Its easy to check if someone is ambitious or passionate from their past works, social profiles and the initial discussions. The most critical and difficult thing to check for is the integrity of a person.
My mentor did a few things to check the integrity of the person:
- He would leave a 100 rupee bill in an empty room and get the person to wait in the room. The currency is not on the table but in a place where it will be definitely be seen and observe what the person does with the bill. This tells a lot about the person and his integrity.
- He would get one of his assistants to serve coffee/tea to the person and that person would deliberately spill some tea or coffee and observe the reaction. He always used to say that the true identity of a person comes through in their conduct with people weaker than themselves.
- In the middle of the conversation he would plan to receive a call on his phone and get all worked up about a situation on the phone and react in a way that he would not want to react/behave. He would then start chatting about the situation with the person and gradually bring up how he reacted and ask this person what he thought about his action. The response will say a lot about the integrity and character of this person.
Some other interesting ways to try and understand the person that i have found helpful for me are:
- Get someone from the team to talk to the person informally before the actual interview over a cup of coffee. This conversation will provide a lot more insight into the person than a formal conversation.
- Make the person wait for a few hours with no one to talk to or meet. And then put them in pressure by cancelling the interview by giving some flimsy reason. The reaction to this situation tells a lot about the person than any formal interview could. (Though, post that prank, you do let your hair down and continue the interview with him or her, for sure).
What do you do to screen your hires? Do share what has worked for you in the past by commenting below or tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.
PS: Video of Warren Buffet talking about the importance of Integrity:
Are you under constant pressure to deliver an ever increasing sales targets?
Do you want to explore if there is a way that you can build a culture that enables high performing sales teams and guide them to consistently push the limits and deliver quarter after quarter?
Then join me in my quest to find out what it takes to build such a culture.
In my opinion, there are three components that contribute to building a culture that enables a high performing sales teams:
- Sales Process – Do you have a clearly defined sales process and do your sales execs follow the process
- Manager’s role – What role do managers play and how they are measured
- Sales exec’s incentives – How are your sales execs incentivize and measured?
Now lets check each one of these components in detail.
Having a clearly defined sales process is key in enabling your sales team to perform at extremely high efficiency. Some questions that will help you realize the strength of your sales process are:
- Do you have a clearly defined sales process, with clear accountability on who is responsible for what?
- Who brings in the new leads? Who qualifies these leads? How do you qualify these leads?
- What is your go-to-market strategy? Does it include coverage of the entire market?
- Is there a sales methodology that you follow
- SPIN Selling
- Challenger sales
- Solution Revolution
- Does your sales team know the process that they are supposed to follow? Are they expected to follow the process? Do they follow the process? What happens if they do not follow the process?
- Do you have a win/lose analysis for every opportunity at the end of each opportunity’s closure?
- Do you have a system to capture leads, opportunities (CRM system)? How simple is this system to use? Does it always have up-to-date information?
- How often do you appraise your sales team – Annual, Half-yearly or quarterly?
The role of the sales manager is the most critical in sustaining high performance in any organization. Their actions, interactions and influence on the sales executives will determine if you are able to build a high performance culture in the sales organization. Some questions that you need to reflect upon to understand if you have solved this puzzle are:
- Are the sales managers just measured on sales quotas? Are they measured on the success of their direct reports?
- How do they deal with a sales executive who has not met his sales quota? Do they apply more pressure on him/her? Do they sit down and try to understand the reason for the miss & then coach him/her?
- How do they deal with someone who achieves his/her sales quotas but does not follow the process or could be potentially a bad influence on the culture?
- How do they run their team meetings & forecast calls? Do they use these opportunities to coach, recognize and explain good performance? Or do they focus on the transactional details about the deals in the pipeline?
Arriving at the best sales incentives is a tough job. Hence, most companies end-up having simple incentive structures, primarily incentivizing with money. We now know enough that money, by itself, is not a great incentives. Though sales executives expect to be incentivized based on the revenue that they bring in, high performing sales teams realize that money along is not a great incentive. Some questions that you need to think about incentives are:
- Is your sales incentives aligned to your long term strategy? For example, if your strategy is to increase market share & profitability, are the incentives aligned to the strategy? In this case, do you incentivise a sales executive who brings in a large deal but with low profits and a sales executive who brings in a relatively smaller deal but with higher profits, equally?
- Do you consider other alternatives of incentives like a paid vacation, or paid education or an interaction with a celebrity or the opportunity to fulfill any of their dreams? For example, if I have a dream to publish a book, can my organization help me publish the book if I achieve my sales quota? I would value this much more than getting some additional cash. This would also enable me to be much more engaged with my organization and result in a lower turn-over.
In order to build a consistently high performing sales team, you need to have a good mix of all the three elements.
These are my thoughts. What do you think? Do share your thoughts by commenting below or by tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.
Selling has a lot in common with performing arts than visible at first glance.
One of the most important goal of a performing artist is to take their audience on a journey with them, the more immersive the experience, the more successful is the performance.
The same is with selling. The goal of a sales executive should also be to take the customer on a journey with them. The more immersive this experience, the more successful will be the sales executive.
Some lessons that sales executives can learn from performing artists who are very successful are:
- Weave a story: There is always a story that flows through any performance. The more interesting the story, the more interesting the story-telling, the more likely that you have a hit performance. So it is with selling. Every sales executive should lead his interaction with his customer with a story and hone is story telling skills.
- Create and manage emotions: The artists know exactly what they want their audience to feel at any given point of the performance. Emotions are a very integral part of every successful performance. No performance is deemed successful until the audience did not feel about the performance. Selling is not just about logic, value and RoI. It is also about managing the emotions of the buyers. More often than not, it is the emotions that decide the final outcome irrespective of the logic, value or RoI. So, do not ignore this important facet of selling. More important than empathizing with the customer is to take him/her on an emotional journey knowing fully well, what you want them to feel at every stage.
- Continuous Experiment & learning: The artists continually experiment with their approach to learn what works best for them and then try to keep improving. So should sales executives. What works with a customer might not work with a different customer. It is always good for the sales executive to know his and his organizations strength and to continue to explore different approaches within these areas to have a repertoire that he can dig into in any given customer scenario.
- Hidden planning & activity: There is a lot of planning and behind the scenes activity (frenetic) that goes on to enable the performance that is hidden from the audience. All the audience sees is what it needs to see and feel what they need to feel. So should the sales executive manage the performance. He needs to manage the entire show without the customer needing to know about the frenetic activity behind the scene. He/She does not need to know the kind of madness (controlled or otherwise) going on within your organizations.
- Practice, Rehearse & more practice: It takes enormous amount of practice, rehearsals and fine-tuning to bring to life a good performance. So it should be with sales executives. The sales executives should also put in a lot of practice, rehearsals and fine-tuning before they go in front of their customers. They should also keep fine-tuning their pitch as they get feedback from their interactions with the customers.
These are some lessons that I have taken from being a performing artist & a sales executive myself and they have served me really well so far.
Everything mentioned above for sales executives can also be held true for Customer service executives. They can take similar lessons from the world of performing arts to create a stunning experience for their customers.
What do you think? Do you agree with my observation or do you have a different experience? Do let me know by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.
According to the press release from the company, Steven Alonso, executive vice president and head of Fifth Third Bancorp says -
“Up to half of mortgage delinquencies are due to job loss. With NextJob, we immediately recognized an opportunity to go the extra mile to assist our customers. This is specific, one-on-one training that helps people identify their transferable skills and re-gain the financial stability of a new job.”
Mortgage defaults can eat up a banks profits very quickly, hence most banks look inwards and start putting in place stricter controls on loan disbursement to reduce the risk of default.
Instead of looking inwards, the bank went outside and decided to help such clients (who were jobless at least for 22 months) find a job, so that they could get one with their mortgage payments.
In the process, they have also turned their worst customers into their most loyal customers.
The ingenuity of the solution is that the bank can still continue to sell mortgages and at the same time worry a bit less on the risk of defaults.
A banking challenge (mortgage defaults), solved by a bank, by using a non-banking service idea, is innovative problem solving at its best..
Wishing Fifth Third Bank a resounding success with this initiative.
PS: The press release from the bank is @ https://www.53.com/mkg/press-releases/press-release-2013-02-06.html.
No matter how good you are, you are bound to lose some deals to your competition. However, all is not lost. As they say, “Losing a battle doesn’t mean you shall lose the war”.
How you respond and act in such a situation can go a long way in ensuring you continue to succeed in selling.
Here are a few questions that could help you in making the most from the lose sale:
- Do you thank the prospect for giving you an opportunity to compete for their business?
- Do you wish them success with their purchase?
- Do you ask for feedback about what they liked in your product/service /engagement and what could be improved?
- Do you ask for a referral?
- Do you go back and check if the purchase was successful and it they were able to achieve their objectives with the purchase?
- Do you stay connected with your prospect?
- Do you share interesting articles or information to your prospect?
- Do you ask them how and on what could you work together?
Do ask yourself these questions and decide to do whatever you think is possible.
These are fairly simple things that you could do and will leave a lasting impression about you and your organization.
Most importantly, these are the right things to do as well.
What are the things that you do when you lose a deal? Do share what you do when you lose a deal by commenting below or by tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.com.
Every sales organization has a sales forecasting process in place. This is usually done in a meeting or on a tele-conference.During this call each sales team talk about how much sales closure do they each expect for the week, month or quarter.
This is also the meeting where senior sales managers (2 or 3 levels above the sales executives on the road) want to know the status of the pipeline and determine if they will be able to achieve their sales quota for the respective period, as they are measured on delivering their sales quotas.
Typically, everyone in the sales team is present on these meetings – from the sales executive on the road to the Head of sales and everyone in between.
These calls were very important or sacrosanct for the senior sales executives to be able to determine the health of their pipeline.
However, with the advent & large scale adoption of the different CRM systems in each organizations, these calls are no longer necessary as the CRM can help the senior managers to get the same information from the system.
These forecasting calls or meetings are still held in almost every organization. Why? There could be multiple reasons for this.
- Inertia: No one ever questioned the need for these calls or meetings, even when the CRM systems were put in place.
- Trust: Sales leaders did not trust the information in their CRM system. This could also explain why CRM could never fulfill its true potential – transform the sales organization.
- Pressure: Sales leaders also use this call to motivate their sales teams (more likely, apply more pressure). They could never do that through the system. In some cases, applying more pressure works but is usually counter-productive and in the long term is never good for any organization.
Do you still need these forecasting calls/meetings?
In my opinion, you could do away with the forecasting calls totally. Instead, I would recommend that they be transformed into the following:
- Trust: Sales leaders need to ensure that their teams know that they are expected to maintain and manage their pipeline in the system being used (CRM or otherwise). That the status in the pipeline is always up-to-date. This is a culture that will lead to the system being more trustworthy and transparent.
- Coach: Sales executives could use these calls instead to seek assistance or inputs from the senior managers on handling a specific sales scenarios or seek their help in closing specific deals. The sales leaders can use these call to coach their teams so that everyone benefits from their experience.
- Culture: By building trust & coaching their teams, sales leaders can build a culture of trust and high-performance.
We also know that forecasting accuracy is never high enough for us to consider them as critical. Also, every sales manager that I have know thinks and wants to improve the accuracy of such forecasts.
Accurate sales forecasts is an oxymoron.
I would however, recommend that you should do away with your forecasting calls/meetings and rely upon your system to monitor the health of the pipeline.
What do you think? Do share your thoughts on this topic by commenting below or tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.
There have been reports that the overall customer engagement at banks for customers using one of the digital channels like Online banking, mobile banking, etc.
One of the most important aspect of customer engagement, is in fact engagement.
You need to continuously engage with your customers through out their journey with you.
This implies that you need to know what a customers journey is with your organisation:
- What are the touch points where you come in contact with your customer;
- What does the customer want to get done at each of these touch points & why?
- What could be the potential challenges at that point for your customer & how could you solve it?
- How easy is it for a customer to engage with your teams whenever they want?
- Are there enough reasons for you to reach out to your customers? Reaching out to sell your additional services doesn’t count.
- Do you provide reasons for your customers to talk about you to their friends and family (Random gifts to your customers)
- Do you provide such reasons regularly? (Surprising gifts)
- Do you listen to them when they talk about you to their networks? What do you do about them?
These are just some pointers for banks to think about how much do they know about their customers & if they provide or create opportunities for engagement.
True engagement can come once they know their customers well and have a strong intent (senior leadership focus) to engage with them.
Engagement is also a two-way street. It is not enough for you to be willing to engage with your customers; they should feel the same way too. If they do not want to engage, the banks have an even more serious task at their hands.
Digital can and should never replace physical in-person relationships. They work best if you could enhance & compliment the in-person relationships.
As leaders of an organization, one is always confronted with the need to constantly find avenues of growth to keep their share holders happy. If you are leading one such organization, you are also constantly grappling with the question about where could the next level of growth come from.
Do you have innovative products or services in your portfolio which can lead you to the next level of growth? If you are like most of your counter-parts, you usually find out that your innovation pipeline doesn’t look very lucrative when it comes to high growth products or services. Then you start looking at probable acquisitions (usually strategic) that you could make to be able to grow fast enough.
Now, there is enough evidence in the world that most acquisitions do not work. Examples are abundant of failed acquisitions. Also, acquisitions cause a lot of disruption in terms of integration with your products, services and employees. Also, the talent that you acquire with the acquisition, mostly leaves the company at the first opportunity. So, you are left with a product/service that you could maybe exploit for a bit of growth and with all the people who did not add very much value in creating the product or service itself. You again find yourself at a junction where you again face the same question – where can i find more growth? What acquisitions can i make?
Add to this, the cost of acquisition, the model is a self-sustaining loop and also takes you away from the probability that you will ever be able to find the next block-buster product or service in-house.
So, the question is how do you get out of this trap and continue to grow:
Long term profitable growth can only be possible if your team is able to identify the possible growth areas and are able to design products and services to exploit the same.
This however is easier said than done. In order to enable this, you must be willing to invest in your innovation engine. There are two types of investment that we can talk about here.
- Monetary investment: I am always surprised to see companies spend millions and billions of dollars on acquisitions and at the same time make it so difficult to fund some of their innovation projects by a few 100 thousands or a few millions. Unless you make it easier to find funding for innovation projects you shall never be able to get block-buster products or services.
- Emotional investment: You find that a leader is heavily involved in all the discussions around an acquisition. However, the same leaders do not spend even half that time in supporting the innovation projects running in their organisations. The lack of their public support also has a big impact on the success of their innovation engine.
There is enough being said about innovation and how to run an innovation program or create a culture of innovation. Most of these advise is common-sense but as they say, common sense does not necessarily translate to common practice.
This does not mean that acquisitions are always bad. If you acquire for the right reasons and the right thing, acquisitions can add a lot of value. Some reasons where acquisition makes more sense could be:
- Acquire IP or product lines which when combined with your current portfolio (current and pipeline) can provide you competitive advantage in the market.
- Acquire a business if it is a good investment opportunity in your market. Do not try and integrate it with your existing business. The integration is mostly a wasted effort and mostly does not lead to improving the overall business.
- Never acquire for the talent or the business process of culture of the organizations. Culture and business processes cant be transferred from one to the other and the talent usually leaves at the first opportunity.
So, building a good innovation engine which consistently produces breakthrough products resulting in high growth is simple and effective, but not easy.
Acquiring companies is easier but not simple or effective.
What do you chose to do? Innovate or acquire?
Do let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweet them to me at @rmukeshgupta.
Today, we celebrate Holi – a festival of colors. This is also a festival when we encourage people to forgive, forget and re-new all our relationships!
This festival is all about giving another chance to ourselves and restart the year with a clean slate.
Organizations, like individuals, also develop good, bad and worse relations with other organizations (customers, partners, etc). It would do the organizations (CEO’s and leaders) a world of good, if they also did something like this
- With partners
- Re-new, reiterate commitment to work together & support each other.
- Ask them the question – “How do you think we can work better?”
- With key customers:
- Reiterate commitment to support them in their journey
- Ask them – “How can we support your business better?”
- With customers/prospects where you lost business in the past:
- Ask them “How can we work together this year”
Though there are regular review cycles that are planned and executed, it always works wonder if you reach out to these folks with an open mind and a willingness to improve (outside of the formal settings).
This is the responsibility of the leader to initiate and engage in this dialogue. This will also provide them new insights on which relationships are working and which one’s are not.
In times of uncertainty, this insight can prove to be critical.
Holi is also about forgetting everything and having a blast! It is also important for teams and organizations to also not to forget having a blast!
Happy Holi to all!
PS: Do let me know your thoughts on this by commenting below or by tweeting your thoughts to me at @rmukeshgupta.