Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are you offering a Merc when he's looking for a Maruti? – Are you scaring your clients away?

It's but natural that given the economic situation, companies are selling hard and aggressively in the market. But all the hard selling and aggression can be futile if this does not match the need of the market. Given the crisis in the industry, most companies have evolved methodologies and processes to strengthen their systems. This in turn means that their sales teams are under double the pressure to market these competencies as well as fetch business. Here are some pointers from personal experience about how to make a customer-focused pitch without diluting your core competency or making an overkill.

a. Are you scaring your clients away?

Often, more than the cost, an overly grandiose proposal can scare your clients away. Recently, when we were sending out a proposal to a client, Rahul our director sales and marketing upon receiving the proposal called back frantically saying that the proposal looked quite daunting. The detailed description of our methodology could scare the potential client who is looking for a very specific part-solution. Well, although our intention is genuine wherein we want our clients to know the depths of our processes but too much information for a busy client can overwhelm them. Some may equate extensive details with high project cost and shy away from proceeding with the proposal.

b. What is your motive? Offering a solution to the client or generating additional business for yourself?

Many believe it is good business sense to create additional needs for your client and in the process generate more work for themselves. However, I believe it is foolhardy to make the client spend more that what they currently need (more so given the economic situation). In fact, I believe the solutions that we offer our clients should not just meet but always surpass their expectations. Only then will your clients trust you and respect your ideas.

c. Have you captured your clients' needs before proposing to them?

Am sure most of us practice this. But what I want to emphasize is do we really probe and discuss with our prospects to understand their 'real' need? Here's an example. A client comes to us saying that they want us to train their telesales about some basic technical concepts. The usual practice would involve understanding the domain, gathering information about telesales and subsequently designing the training. However, the key here is to understand 'why' does the organization need this training? If they have internal trainers why are they looking outside? If they have had this training before, what is it are they expecting to be 'different from this training? It definitely helps if you can gather informal information about their expectations, their experiences from earlier training etc.

d. Do your clients need what you are selling?

Are you offering a solution because you have one and must sell or are you offering it because the solution best fits your client's need? In the past, eLearning earned a bad reputation in the Indian market because many eLearning companies pushed eLearning to clients who were not ready for it. Many of these clients got carried away by its sales spiel (cost-effective, no geographic constraints, no recurring cost etc) only to realize later that this mode of delivery was not right for their industry or their employees. Consequently their investment in eLearning went waste. This led to distrust and loss of credibility for eLearning and other training providers in the industry.

You may have a solid methodology, a great product, and a fantastic development team. However, over-pitching may scare your clients away!