…Sheer magic, yes, and nothing less.
Read about it here:
It is often a curse to have a manager who has never sold in his life to head directly or at a level or two above the sales operation. This guy would not be sensitive to conditions on the field nor would he have the insight required to correct internally whatever needs to be corrected. I remember of a boss – otherwise a nice upright guy – who always pulled up his field managers for not realizing from customers an unrealistically hefty premium the manufacturer – a technology freak – was charging for his range of sophisticated electronic-instruments. Granted the manufacturer was a market-leader in his product-space, the price-performance pay-off was totally out of line with the market conditions. Needless to say the salesmen had an uphill job of selling at full list price to customers without any discounts or freebies, a near impossibility in Indian market.
This post however is about an amazing sales-manager who successfully corrected an internal issue among the field sales force reporting into him.
The company historically sold Automatic Ledger Posting Machines (ALPM’s) to banks. With the advent of PC’s the company rose to the challenge by announcing a CP-M/8” floppy based solution with application software sourced through partnerships. To achieve scale, the PC’s were made available for the general market also. Differentiating from other vanilla players, packages were configured with appropriate software solutions. There was one for mechanical CAD market with Autocad, another for PCB layout design and yet another for GP-IB based instrumentation controller applications, etc. etc.
Summing up, it was positioned for a few commercial applications especially in banks and for a few engineering applications such as design, CAD, etc.
A number of sales-engineers (and service-engineers…) were hired with experience in selling in the local market. The engineers selling ALPM’S to banks were retrained to sell the new line to banks and for other financial applications. Protecting their jobs was a decision taken at the highest levels of management.
It was these redeployed sales engineers who ran into trouble almost immediately. At the end of the first quarter the performance was pathetic. They did not score with the banks as the buying cycle was painfully long. With non-banks, it was worse. Reasons cited: ‘The company is virtually unknown in this space (yes, it was a late entrant in the PC market)’, ‘Who knows how reliable these Taiwanese assembled machines are?’, ‘What about the support services?’, ‘The price is very high with no redeeming features (not strictly true)’, etc. etc.
And hence, not surprisingly, ‘There’s no way we can push these into the market unless we drop the prices significantly’.
The protagonist sales-manager made some tries counseling them on tactics and techniques. Even helped them with leads to follow up. No results, yet. The one thing he did not do – strictly speaking it was not an option readily available to him – was to rant: ‘OMG, what else from a bunch of ‘Neanderthals’ thrust on me?’
He changed his tactics.
Over the next couple of weeks, he went out on call with the sales-engineers. Some of those prospects were already known to him from the past. He placed his personal reputation and experience in the market place on the line, countered the objections wherever possible and pleaded for a deal where the prospect was his customer in the past. Result: He scored many successes right before the eyes of the sales-engineers overcoming objections.
Very quickly the sales-engineers learnt first hand it could be done. They gained in confidence and learnt the technique. All those objections were mere myths to be debunked.
Before long they were on their own without their manager and their performance improved substantially.
Well, I haven’t seen in my long years many sales-managers go out and demonstrate without any fuss what they expected of their men when the occasion demanded. Especially when their men were seasoned salesmen firmly believing in their own reading of the market.
It was a great experience and my good fortune to see how he squeezed the performance he wanted out of his less-than-ready team.
Thanks, Sharad (Gupta), a guy given to seeing the sun behind the obscuring clouds.
To tie up a loose end, many of those ‘Neanderthals’ did very well for themselves and their organization in the following years.
Source: Sales Guy from openclipart (doodleguy)