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Tag Archive : sales

How to sell anything to anybody

I did several part-time jobs while in college but the only part-time job that I held for all the four years of my degree was as a salesman in a jewelry store. The managing partner of the store and still like an elder brother to me, Haresh, gave me this book, How to sell anything to anybody by Joe Girard. Haresh considered this book to be his bible on sales, and once I read it, it was my sales bible too. However, this book is not about sales.

This book is about creating a systematic approach to

  • Recruiting new customers without burning a hole in your pocket
  • Getting your customers to like you
  • Getting your customers emotionally attached to the product
  • Attaining (and maintaining) a high closing percentage
  • Engaging with your customers even if they don’t buy right away
  • Engaging with your customers after you have made the sale 
  • Getting referrals from customers, friends, family and service providers (including your barber!) to grow your business
  • Creating a team around you to ensure you get the highest return for your own time

Joe Girard sold 13,001 cars in his sales career. That is a staggering number because his sales career ended in 1978 i.e. way before the internet; WhatsApp or Facebook made it easy to reach out to a customer.

Joe was profiling his customers, listening to their needs, adjusting his approach to sell his customer. He also made several sales by reaching out to his customer just at the time that their car was ready to be replaced!

How did he know when to call? He kept all this valuable information on his customer in a physical CRM i.e., way before Salesforce, Dynamics, PipeDrive, etc. made record-keeping infinitesimally easier. 

It is for these reasons that this book is a must-read for all founders whether they handle the sales function or not because as I had mentioned before this is a book about creating systems. Therefore I recommend that every founder know how to support the sales function whether they sit in tech, operations, HR, or fundraising.

I have re-read this book several times in my career. Most recently, I re-read this book to create a system to approach, engage, and recruit LPs for my fund. The system ensured that only 13% of the 115 crores we have in commitments came from distribution relationships. Therefore, in the remaining 87% of the cases, I utilized Joe’s system to recruit, involve, and close LPs. My team used a CRM to manage follow-ups and we created new content to reach out to our LPs.

This approach saved us almost one crore a year in paying out fees to distributors, which is a massive cost saving for a MicroVC fund like ours. What is the investment?

Rs. 280 and 8 hours of reading time.

You don’t require a finance degree to explain that these are fantastic returns on your investment and time.

Now it’s up to you…

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My atrocious car buying experience is a lesson in after sales treatment for all founders!

I am re-reading How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard (book review coming soon).

Earlier today, I finished his chapter on Winning After the Close wherein Joe talks about the importance of ensuring customer satisfaction AFTER completing a sale. He gives examples of how he goes out of his way to ensure that his customers sing his praises to their friends and family. He links the importance of satisfying his customer to the Girard’s Law of 250, i.e., each person has a direct connect to 250 people; therefore, an unhappy customer can directly influence 250 people. Consequently a salesperson or a business that disappoints two customers a week will have 26,000 negative influence every year!

Why is it important to follow what Joe Girard says? For starters, the man still holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most successful car salesman in history. This man was selling six cars a day (on average) while the average salesman struggled to sell one. He was out making $500,000 a year selling cars in the 1970s, i.e., eight times the per capita income in the US of A – TODAY!

So yes, when that man says something – it is worth our time and attention.

I am coming back to my point for the post today.

I just bought my first car in India. It was an important moment for my team and me. We were ecstatic on getting the car delivered on Tuesday evening. However, instead of reveling that moment and remembering it for the years to come, all we cannot forget is how the salespeople delivered the car with just enough fuel to get the vehicle to the closest petrol pump!

The saleswoman blamed the empty fuel tank on some dealership policy of ensuring that customers get a bone dry fuel tank. I could not disagree more with her firm, her firm’s strategy, and finally with the saleswoman herself. If she was so embarrassed about her firm’s stingy policy, she could have ensured a happy customer by filling up the tank herself – she would make more than the Rs. 2200 it cost me to fill the tank.

Buying a car is one of the most important purchases in one’s life. I can still remember, like yesterday, the first car I bought with the money I earned by working during the first summer semester in college – a 1996 Mercury Sable with a v6 engine. I was so proud of the car even though it was six years old at the time of purchase. The moment gives me goosebumps even today.

Then 17 years later I buy my first car in India, a Honda Civic, and it is an expensive car (for my standards), but it was delivered as though the dealership was running out of money. It left a sour taste and you won’t have to think hard whether this dealership (Arya Honda) will be recommended by me to anyone. The answer is no.

I must re-emphasize that a happy customer is the best salesperson. He/she will boast about his/her positive experiences to their closest network. On the other hand, an unhappy customer will tell anyone that would like to hear him/her of their negative experiences and feeling cheated by a car dealership. Unfortunately, these car dealerships operate under old maxims therefore continue to misread their customers. Any start-up founder that is reading this post should not.

Your customer whether they are B2C, B2B, B2B2C or B2B2B or B2B2B2C (and so on) must be happy with their purchase of your goods or services. To hide behind the veil of corporate policies is the old way of doing business, and you must ensure that your salespeople are sufficiently empowered to ensure post-sales customer satisfaction, at all costs! It is just as important that those negative experiences are corrected by changing policies and processes.

The process in which the company acquires a customer, gives them lousy experience, and allows the salespeople to blame an insane corporate policy is a sure indication of a deeper rot settled in that organisation.

A rot that every entrepreneur should guard their companies against the cost of all their corporate policies.

The Udupi Approach

In many cases, food-tech founders extend their line of products to capture as many customers as possible, if they aren’t convinced about the size of their target market. There is a business case for extending into multiple product lines to provide complementary options to a loyal target market, but the decision to go wide right at the start is like opening a new udupi restaurant in Mumbai  that serves all cuisines to cater to  every guest but loses its core of serving the udupicuisine. Therefore, I jokingly call a ‘go wide’ approach of an early stage founding team as the ‘udupi restaurant approach’ as this approach is harmful whether you are in food-tech or not.

Let’s be honest, sales matter. But when you have limited resources in an increasingly noisy world, the quality of sales matter even more. Therefore, it is important to build a niche and own that space in your target segment. That will make your customers your best salespeople i.e. they will recommend you to their network which will bring in tons of new customers. For example, when I randomly asked people in my network for the best place for South Indian food in South Mumbai the answer was Muthuswamy, for people in Central Mumbai it was Madras Café, in Bangalore it was MTR and in Hyderabad it was Chutneys. These people were willing to advocate why their recommendation was the best.

However, when I asked the same audience for the ‘best food place’s in their vicinity, – they were stumped. They almost immediately questioned me about what my preferred cuisine is, whether I was looking for a family restaurant or a date place, what my budget was etc. They did not know how to answer the question until they had some clearer direction. Can you imagine (now) what happens when your start-up does everything? Even your best and loyal customers will not know what to recommend you for!

What is dangerous is that they could be recommending you for something that isn’t even the path you planned.  More dangerously, the customer who is promoting your product may not even be in your target segment. And most dangerously, they may not be promoting you to people who fall under your target segment. Such a sale is more toxic than beneficial!

I understand that it is scary to be focussed but there is a lot of value in doing so. Customer feedback focussed on a concentrated product line will indicate whether you should pivot or accelerate your build-out. However, when there are multiple product lines catering to several audiences it pollutes the feedback, creating a lot of noise, making it hard for you to tune out the disturbance and assess what’s important in order to drive decisions – much like choosing what to eat at a Udupi restaurant at mealtime!

36/2019

The Matrix (for your sales program)

The way a company pays its sales people can make or kill the company’s sales program. Very rarely do I encounter a start-up that provides the right balance in base pay, incentives and minimum targets that motivate its sales force.

Base pay is the minimum amount a sales person will make whether they perform or not. I have always looked at the base pay as a draw against the minimum target that the salesperson is supposed to achieve in order to keep the base.

Matix of Paying Salespeople

Getting the sales program right is a delicate balance; It isn’t rocket science, just a simple understanding of human psychology. When a tech, operations or finance program creates the sales program it invariably ends up being lopsided. Therefore, in my opinion, the sales program should only be designed by a salesperson that is part of the core team and preferably the best sales person in the company. A bad sales program can destroy the best of companies.

How does your sales program fare on this matrix?

38/2018

Dont Quit

Looking out at the inclement weather from my car window I reminisced my days as a door-to-door sales agent. Door to Door sales could be an excruciatingly painful job on occasions when the inclement weather coincided with a day with no or low sales. It was at those times that this poem, “Don’t Quit”, shared with me by my boss, helped tremendously to tide over the tough days. My boss got this poem from his boss.

Later, when I became a manager, a founder and an investor. This poem helped me get over the tough days when the perfect storm brewed right above my head. At times like these that I recite this poem to myself – quietly.

 

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–

You may succeed with another blow.

 

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

 

Success is failure turned inside out–

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

 

The poet remains anonymous. If you know who he/she is, please share it in the comments section.

The Art of Losing a Sale

An experienced sales person will tell you that the most nervous moment for a salesperson, who is about to close a sale, is the moment right before a buyer has either agreed to buy their product or is. There is a momentary silence as all the sales talk and the internal chatter of the buyer converge into a final “yes”.

The adrenaline rush of that moment leads to what I consider to be the most important moment of the sale, the time between the “yes” and the closure of the transaction i.e. signing the sales contract or to pay at the counter for the product.

Many times I have noticed as the buyer, that the salesperson tends to do screw up the sale after I have been convinced and causes me to rethink my decision. I would imagine that something like this would drive a salesperson up a wall but it happens so frequently with me, I realised that this isn’t something that has been plaguing the salespeople that call on me, in fact it must have infected hundreds of thousands if not millions of salespeople that have started a sales career recently and in fact may have even infected salespeople that have been selling for a while.

In fact I think the lack of training or planning for this critical time in the sales is sacrilegious and can safely be termed – the “art” of losing a sale.

Let me use a recent example, I was (at the time “am”) in the market to buy a guitar and with a lot enthusiasm I went to a store called Furtado’s. After much deliberation and with very little convincing, I picked out a guitar that I wanted and proceeded to the counter to pay for it. Now the only question that I had was, (as a southpaw), whether they could switch the strings from right-handed to left-handed.

The sales agent calling on me, said it is quite easy and can be done post the sale – something his manager must have trained him on. However, when we got to the sales counter, there was a new person there. Probably the counter clerk or an accountant, and in a bid to save himself and/or the store the cost of switching the strings gave me new advice to keep the strings the way they are and to learn the guitar right-handed.

My lack of comfort at making that decision did not deter his conviction and in a bid to convince me not to switch the strings he mentioned that even the guitars that come from online websites like Bajaao.com where the patrons want their strings switched, he recommends them not to.

In that moment I realised that I had not actually researched the price of this guitar online! In fact I had not researched anything about buying musical instruments and how to test for their quality. I was in my own cocoon until that awesome clerk reminded me that India was the land of e-commerce. I quickly made up some fictitious excuse to talk to a tutor to get “expert opinion” and went outside the store, looked at the cost of the guitar online on Amazon.com and Bajaao.com and found the guitars there to be 10%-15% cheaper.

As a courtesy I told the counter person I’ll be back and as if by design by the time I reached home, I had already ordered the guitar on Amazon.com. If I was in the place of that salesperson who made the sale I would have tied all the strings of the guitar around the neck of that clerk and made him give out a note or two.

Jokes apart, what went wrong with that sales process?

  1. Unless it is imperative the person who makes the sale should be the person closing the final stage of the process – the emotional connect was with the person who made the sale and the new entity in front of me now will have to rebuild those emotional connects which rarely ever happens!
  2. Do not, and I mean DO NOT ever mention or talk about the product AFTER the sale has been made – this will only lead to the lesson from point 3
  3. Understand and respect the buying line at ALL times

What is the buying line?

The buying line is the emotional or interest level above which a buyer is ready to buy a product or a service.  A salesperson worth his weight is salt pay close attention to the verbal & non-verbal cues that a buyer gives off when above the buying line and is well prepared to go from any point in his presentation to the close when he realises that his customer is above the buying line.

What those clues are and how to identify them is the subject of a completely different blog post.

buying-line

(image credit)

During my internship selling jewellery at the mall in Sherman and my post-graduation job as a door-to-door sales agent selling long term energy contracts I was provided excellent training in handling the awkward moments between the “yes” and the “thank you & come again” moment. In-fact they even trained on how to recover from a screw up like the one I had witnessed. Alas, such training is very rarely given and unfortunately even more rarely learnt and followed – but to me it was the critical.

In those moments, I was trained to and train my sales agents to

  1. Completely stop talking about the transaction
  2. Build rapport by bring up topics or information that you gained about the buyer before or during the transaction
  3. Do not let there be any silence during which the buyer can reconsider
  4. (most important!) Have your sales closure process known to you like the back of your hand such that the entire process should continue on auto-pilot while you concentrate on points 1 to 3.

These things may seem very trivial to a new salesperson but ignoring this most important process is fraught with grave danger – the danger of losing a person who you have invested time & effort in getting above the buying line and something as minor as introducing just the name of the competitor can lead to the loss of the sale – could you imagine how frustrating that could be!

I must thank the clerk at Furtado’s for two things, one for inspiring me to write this article and two, for reminding me to check for the price of something online before going to buy it offline!

My sales mentors gave me the knowledge of selling without any expectation of return but they requested that I give this knowledge that was imparted to them by their mentor to those that can most benefit from it. Therefore, through the medium of my blog I wish to help and support sales people, facing frustration from daily failures at their painstaking job.

If you have questions regarding your sales process you can mention it in a comment or mail it to ask@anirudhdamani.com