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What can Sales Teams Learn from Performing Arts?

April 22, 2013 Leave a comment

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.

An Example of True Customer Centricity – When Banking is No Longer Just About Banking

April 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Fifth Third Bank and NextJob came together to address a challenge faced by most retail banks – Mortgage defaults.

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.

Do Your Customers Feel Being Bullied?

April 15, 2013 4 comments

Winning in the marketplace comes with a lot of hard work and sustained effort.

It is easy to fall into the habit of winning. Though it is a great feeling, one should be very cautious about a few things.

This winning habit could make your sales teams feel unbeatable, which could lead them to slowly become arrogant in their dealings with your customers.

This change is so slow and subtle, that it becomes very difficult to notice unless you actively look for it.

This could slowly lead to your customers starting to feel that doing business with your team is not easy or smooth. This is early indication that you are getting in the danger zone.

If unchecked, this could slowly lead your customers to feel being bullied, resulting in them dropping thier business with you at the first possible instance.

Some early signs that should warn you of this could be

  • Customers complain that doing business with you is getting more and more difficult. 
  • Winning in the market becomes the single most important thing for your sales team that they want to do it at any cost.
  • Customer satisfaction starts going down for no obvious reason.
  • Your sales continue to grow despite a slowing economy. This could either be due to the great value proposition that you have for your customers or due to your sales teams squeezing business from your customers. You need to be able to see the reality and adjust instead of believing one to be true than the other.
  • You start losing customers for no obvious reasons to hitherto unknown competitors.

No customer will come forward and tell you how they feel about doing business, unless you start noticing these little things.

Nothing can be as damaging as finding this out late, as by then, there is nothing you could do to correct it.

The more successful you are in your market category, the more prone you are to this challenge.

Do take time to notice and react.. Do you agree with my observation? Share your thoughts on this post by commenting below or by tweeting to me at @rmukeshgupta.

What Do You Do When You Lose a Deal

April 14, 2013 1 comment

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.

Happy selling!

Categories: sales Tags: ,

Sales Forecasting

April 8, 2013 4 comments

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.

  1. Inertia: No one ever questioned the need for these calls or meetings, even when the CRM systems were put in place.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

PS: You could also look at my thoughts on Sales Review Meetings and sales quotas.

Customer engagement in a digital era

April 2, 2013 2 comments

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.

Short video that also talks about customer engagement in its entire journey.