Choosing your customers

Today, I read a post by Seth Godin with the same title and was struck with just one thought – How many times do sales people see this point-of-view. My take is that this is a blindspot for most of us. I would like to re-iterate the questions again:

  1. How much does this type of customer need you? 
  2. How difficult is this sort of person to find…
  3. How difficult to reach
  4. How valuable is a customer like this one…
  5. How demanding?
If we are able to build our sales strategy based on the answers to these questions, selling would become so much more focussed and fun. 
Market definition is a much more simpler form of answering these very questions. However, I have not seen many companies define their markets as precisely or even update their definition of markets over time. Everyone is so busy doing our regular work that nobody sits down to ask these. 
Thanks a lot Seth for bringing this up. I am sure this will help me and a lot others like me to again go back to asking these questions.  

Go-to-market strategies that can kill innovations

I think we can learn a lot from our own failures and also from how others around us fail. I would like to take a trip down my memory lane. Early in 2001, there was an interesting organization called iNabling Technologies founded in 1997 by John Aravamuthan. It also got a funding of  $3 million (B V Jagadeesh, Infinity Technology Investments, ICICI)

Making e-mail access affordable was the mission of Bangalore-based iNabling Technologies. The indigenously developed iStation was a low-cost e-mail device loaded with Engati software, which allows multiple language usage. The iNablers (as they call themselves) had also designed a POP server that costs one-tenth of a normal ISP server.

They had decided that apart from the consumer segment, they would also target Public Call Offices, where iStations can be installed to provide e-mail access at a nominal cost. STD/ISD booths have had remarkable success around India, so the idea of converting Public Call Offices into Public Email Offices was interesting.

They had a good working product providing a much in-demand service at a fraction of the current cost. However, they could not survive in the market for long. This was not because their product got obsolete, but because they were not able to sell their devices.

My understanding of the trouble was that the company hired people from the telecom industry who were ingrained in the philosophy of pushing stock to distrubutors and let them take care of the further downstream channel.

This approach did not work for the following reasons:

  1. The distributors (typically, the telecom distributors) were in no position to sell a niche product.
  2. No body spent time to build a brand around the product for the channel.
  3. Combination of the above lead to the situation that there was demand in the market (early adopters) but no one was there to explain the working of the product to these early adopters. They lost interest in the product and that was the doom of the product.

This is not an isolated instance where the wrong go-to-market approach can kill a good product in the market.

So, pls choose your partners carefully.

Have fun !!!

Journeymen, Mavericks & Superstars: Understanding Salespeople at Startups

Today, someone shared with me an article on the different types of sales people and when to recruit which type of sales person. I enjoyed reading this article. Hope you enjoy the same as well. 
Also, where do you think you and your key sales people fall-in ?
Do let me know. 

Are you an “18 second manager” ?

Today, I listened to an interesting video on listening skills by Tom Peters.

Hope you enjoy listening to this and learn from the video !!!

Are you an 18 second Manager ?

How easy is it to do business with you?

Today I visited a private bank in Bangalore. There was a person who wanted to open a savings account with the bank and deposit some money. The bank manager went on to inform him that the bank can open a savings account and accept his deposit only if an existing customer of the bank recommends.
Here is someone who walks up to your office offering business and the manager almost refuses the business or is willing to do business on conditions.
I think this is what happens to a lot of other organizations as well. As the organization gets more process driven, the processes can stifle your growth and it can become difficult for your customers to do business with you.
I think it is now time for us to stop and take stock of the situation and ask questions like:
·         Do we make it easier for our customers to work with us or the other way around?
·         Do we make customers wait in queues to do business with us?
·         Do we make them fill-out form after form?
·         Do we make it difficult for the customer to reach the right person within our organization?
·         Do we have multiple people talking to a customer, each talking about a different product/service?
·         How easy it is for our customers to understand the contract?
·         Can they understand the language of the contract themselves or do they need lawyers for this?
·         How long is the contract negotiation process?
·         How do we treat our customers once they sign the contract?
·         How easy is it to start using the product/service that we have sold to them?
·         Does the customer already know whom to contact in case something did not work?
·         How easy/difficult is it for the customer to receive invoice and release the payments?
·         How easy is it for customers who want to give repeat business with us?
·         How easy is it for customers to refer new vendors/customers/partners to us?
·         Do we reward customers who spread the word about us and bring in new business for us?
·         How difficult is it for customers to find the product that they want in your store (online or offline)?
I can go on and on with the list of questions, but the crux of the matter is this:
“Make it easier for your customers to do business with you
This can improve your customer satisfaction and will result in customers who would love to do business with you at every available opportunity and will also refer new customers for you.

They could be the best sales team that you could ever hire.