Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sales Is A Process...

My daughter called me and asked for some of the issues I faced as a manager and how I overcame them. This was for her assignment. This is what I wrote. Do you agree? :-)

One of the biggest headaches a manager faces is when people don't do things on time and are not clear what is it they are supposed to do. Normally the issue are vague statements such as OK I will do it. When you check with them they normally miss their deadlines. In sales management this is very serious as the sales team can miss revenue targets amounting to millions of Ringgit. Typically a four man team would generate close to RM20 million in annual sales revenue.

Major multinational companies like Fuji Xerox have a process of overcoming this by defining the areas of ambiguity and use specific documentation to help breakdown the required activities and guide the inexperienced executives. The critical role here is for the manager to understand and implement the process on a regular schedule. In the beginning the manager has to spend a considerable amount of time coaching the sales people on how to go about on using the tools and be familiar with the common terminology (language) so that everyone can communicate at the same level and wavelength. The coaching skill of the manager is very important as coaching need to be done on a regular almost daily basis for his team members. At the end of the exercise, the sales team becomes more systematic and process driven. By focusing on executing the right processes and derving the right metrics from these process and feeding back into the process, the results will come just like the well tuned engine of a fine sports car will give excellent performance in a grueling race.

Documentation is the key here. Relevant steps of the process must be identified and often a questionnaire type of form is most useful for guiding the novice sales person on what to do. The next thing is to draw a timeline of the critical events that has to happen for the results to happen. A simple straight line will do with relevant mile stones marked, dated and agreed upon. Once the timeline is established, this will become the reference for future discussions and issues that were less visible becomes more clear and countermeasures may be formulated and incorporated into the timeline.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sent in 1999 - Engage the customer early, build strong trust and then form the buying criteria with them...

I was just searching my hard drive when suddenly this old note to my team written in March 1999, popped up. Hmmm, I didn't realize I sounded so bossy but then that was what a boss is supposed to do right? Anyway, here is an edited version of the note (took out some of the internal corporate bits etc) with some of my comments in square brackets. I sent this through my personal Jaring account as in those days policies regarding corporate communications were still a bit loose. Tell me if you think what I told my team then is as relevant or even more so today as solutions have grown more complex and more things can go wrong in the selling cycle?

Dps [This is acronym for Document Production Specialists selling the biggest, baddest server driven electronic printing/production systems that Xerox sold],

As you all know I have just conducted the last deal plan session with the key accounts sales teams. I have stated to management that from now on there will be no proposals submitted to customers without a deal plan. If you read in the deal plan manual, a proposal goes in after you have discussed the key points with the customer and he or they have agreed to the data, recommendations and the proposed implementation timescales towards an installation of our systems. Otherwise the proposal is simply just a free piece of consultancy. I hope that you guys have seen how I have done in even for commercial cases such as a publisher.etc. Sit down and draw out the timeline together with the customer of the key events that has to happen right up to implementation and post sales and get the customer to agree.

In the case I have mentioned, by agreeing to what I put down in the timeline with him let us gauge his commitment to us. Subsequently the proposal must incorporate the timeline that he has agreed on with us. Therefore, the proposal becomes a distillation of our discussions with the customer and a summary of our and his commitments and thus the sale moves to the next step.

Also, in order to build the buying criteria, we need to ensure that we engage customers early on and build his criteria together with him. You can only do this if he trusts you. Note that in practically all of the cases the customer was willing to give info such as profit margin and annual turnover using various probing techniques such as "shooting low and shooting high".. In each case this info is crucial to identify if DT is viable for him.

As DPSs you must develop the interpersonal skills that make this happen.
The more you are able to do so, the more successful you will be in any business.

You can only do this if you establish credibility with the customer. I do it by first demonstrating my knowledge in an area they may be less familiar about but know is important to them (in my case the Web - Pendekar.Com is a sophisticated form of vanity publication that is more than just a simple publication of ideas, it is an on-line community of martial artists and a means of knowledge capture). I offer information to earn the right to get information, in short using principles learnt in Account Development Strategy, I "orientate" the customer to earn my right to continue the discussion with him.

Here I can be of help to you guys for the "break in" into the account but I consider it an essential skill for a DPS to do it on your own. You must know how to deliver your own personal Initial Benefit Statements [Does anyone use this today? I get a lot of calls from Insurance sales people etc to try and make appointment with me but offer no IBS as we call it. They won't get an appointment with me unless they tell me a good reason for me to see them. Even I get rusty when I don't practice this :-)] that will earn you the right to go on to the next step with the next customer. Each person must develop an approach that is suitable for him, don't try and imitate me as I am different and can get away with certain things due to my personality and you may get away with other things due to your personality. You must however develop your own approaches [Very important!].

On proposals, I would from now on like to see a proposed implementation plan in the proposal as well and will not sign off any proposals (except for concept proposals which are designed to create interest and has no specific pricing) without at as this indicates that you have not done adequate groundwork... [I actually provide a service for clients where we sit and review the coming years business and provide a reality check for the sales team, after signing an NDA of course. We must ensure that there are no Ostriches around in the sales team... ;-)]


Copyright Abu Mansur

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tafsir Class At Seri Petaling Mosque Every Friday Evening Between Maghrib & Isya'

Probably this is one of the best kept secrets in town. One of the best Quranic Tafsir class I have attended is actually held every Friday evening after the Maghrib Prayers the Sri Petaling Mosque in a room on the right hand side of the mosque.

This is different from the one held in the main hall which is usually quite a big crowd. The class is delivered by Ustad Mansur Al Hafiz who apart from memorizing the entire Quran, is also an alim who went through the traditional madrasah system (usually about 8 years of study).

In these classes we also find that many of the verses such as in surah Ali Imran are in response to the actions and queries of the various delegates of the Jewish people and the Christians who from their scriptures were anticipating a new Prophet of God. The history behind these verses are really interesting. Ustad Mansur also give the names of the various personages from the Jewish and Christian delegates etc. Some embrace Islam and some for political reasons do not...

Since the class is only once a week and covers the tafsir of 2 to 3 verses in one sitting of about 40 minutes, we are now just at surah Ali Imran after almost 10 years! No politics, just good quality knowledge. You can find some details about the Sri Petaling Mosque at Masjid Seri Petaling website and class location at GPS coordinates 3 04'10.07N 101 41' 20.50E. This will lead you to the exact location of the class.

Address is Masjid Tmn Sri Petaling, Jalan 3/149j, Taman Sri Petaling, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is not far too far off from Carrefour Endah Parade which you can see as you drive through the Kesas highway. This is just opposite the Bukit Jalil Stadium area.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Selling Skills In The Age Of The Internet

As we move further into selling on-line on the internet, we must not forget that while first contact with a customer may take place through a free try and buy or totally free download (as is the case with many open source software applications), at some point in time, especially if your are selling to enterprises, human to human contact is inevitable.

At this point in time, selling skills become very important. This applies to the CEO, the sales force and right down to the technical support staff. Failure here can result in significant and, if you are a start up with usually limited funding, possibly fatal loss...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Malaysian Attitude

The problem with my microwave oven was fixed some time back thanks to the very helpful GM. He sent and engineer (not a contractor) who demonstrated a professional attitude that I have come to know and expect of a true quality Japanese corporation (I used to work for Fuji Xerox). I think high quality products and services will be the key differentiators for Japan as manufacturing costs get hit with that of China, India and the rest of the world. One area is common criteria compliance in consumer products such as digital cameras etc. Can you give me an assurance that the picture taken in the camera has not been manipulated and tampered with with the correct meta data such as gps location, time etc? This means that the data in the camera and other products become trustworthy and can be relied upon for whatever legitimate purposes. This has great significance in the world today as cyber security and cyber warfare becomes the new arena for potential conflicts.

The reason I highlighted this particular issue was the issue of the Malaysian attitude and how we lag behind the developed nations despite having a highly developed infratructure. It is the little things that matter such as professional commitment on the part of the individual. Professional commitment means doing the right thing (not just because it is expedient to do so) and doing things on time. This is quite important as if you really know your job you should have a good idea of how long it should take you even with all the real world interruptions that occur. If you don't, then something is seriously wrong and maybe you should not be in that role. There first few times is OK as one is learning about what to do but if this goes on and on, maybe the conclusion we can draw is that you are not interested in doing the job...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Malaysian Service Attitude - My Microwave Oven

We have a super reliable Japanese Microwave Oven that has lasted about 20 years. While we are happy with the unit itself, we have not been happy with the service levels or the attitude of the service people over the years.

This makes one think, if this is so typical in Malaysia, how can we build a world class Malaysian organization.

We reported a problem with the unit on the 1st of June, and while the original problem was fixed, the bulb blew and has yet to be replaced and the service personnel seems to have a lack of respect for the customer's (that's us) time.

They don't seem to understand that we have other time commitments (it is the school holidays and we have places to go, people to see...) and that these delays can cascade to other people. It is very important to deliver in a timely fashion as the whole ecosystem is affected. Maybe that is why Malaysians have a problem with punctuality because of other people within the the Malaysia Ecosystem...