Note: BAR is Bob and Raj. Bob and Raj discuss Sales strategies in bars – hence, the blog title
Raj was a new recruit in the Sales team at a small professional services company, Intelqua Solutions Inc (ISI). ISI wanted to differentiate itself by being an innovative organization. What a differentiator, eh?! Raj was new to this environment and his manager was Bob, an American, who moved from a large bank to join ISI. Bob wanted to ‘experience’ business from the other side of the table. He had been a senior executive from Procurement side in his previous role. In that capacity, Bob had interacted with Indian companies before but he didn’t know the modus operandi in detail. He had also seen the movie ‘Outsourced’ with a few Indian friends from AdityaSoftech at Richmond. Outsourced has also inspired him to switch to a provider organization. ISI’s CEO had met Bob at a golf game and talked him into joining ISI. Bob was thrilled that he had opportunities to bring his rich perspectives and make a difference. Added incentive was also that he would get to make multiple trips to Coimbatore and Durgapur, understand Indian culture. Bob’s long term plan was to eventually join Mckinsey in their BTO organization as a strategic consultant guru in about 4-5 years time.
Raj had joined ikuiki, a trading company after his MBA from Katz School of Business. Ikuuki was a leading trading firm, ranked in the top 5 in Fortunate 50 list for the last 10 years. While the name Ikuuki suggested that it was a Japanese trading company, it was actually founded decades ago by a group of Indians (the dot, not feather type Indians, as Goodwill Hunting had pointed out while referring to Ramanujam!!). Ikuuki had stood for idhar ka udhar, udhar ka idhar, but of course, that was a well guarded company secret 😉
Bob and Raj were at a bar called Alibaba, on a Thursday night. Alibaba was a sports bar and Raj was trying to absorb everything American while sipping on Glenlivet and eating falafel. They watched a Steelers football game, where the local Pittsburgh team (for a change) was beating the hell out of San Diego Chargers. Poor Chargers had been summoned from the warm San Diego lands and asked to participate in a game where half the field was covered in snow and it was still snowing. Raj was reminded of how the Indian cricket team had beaten Australia in hot and humid Calcutta conditions in a test match. Steelers were stealing the show and Chargers seemed extremely charged up only to board the flight and go home!
Bob: “Look Raj, you must think of innovating all the time. You are 2 weeks old in the system now. What have you thought? Any different line of thinking, dude?”
Raj: “Bob, I think we need to position ourselves differently. We have to create more stickiness with customers, focus more on our client relationships, may be even brand our relationship itself”.
Bob: “Wow! Interesting thoughts! What exactly are you thinking?”
Raj: “Our existing accounts are called ‘Engagements’. Now, that’s the term all companies use – engagement or account, right? We need to take relationships to the next level. After engagement, in personal life, we get married. So, our important customer engagements should be called ‘Marriage’ henceforth”.
Bob: “What?? Awesome, bugger! What about Engagement Managers or Directors? We need to change their designations to Match Makers or what? This is interesting but hilarious! You have potential, chief!”
Raj: “Hey, Bob, brainstorming means no ridiculing, ok. I think, we sales folks are the Match makers who give rise to Engagements. The Engagement managers need to be rechristened as Delivery Managers / Delivery Directors. They are the ones who deliver solutions. And if you think about it, without marriage, their delivery in an engagement status is just a bastard child!”
Bob: “Oh my God, you are really funny, dude! Interesting, very interesting, I will arrange a call with Rambo and discuss this idea. (Rambo was ISI’s Ceo, whose actual name was Ram Borde!) What else you got? By the way, lotsa kids born in the globe are not born out of wedlock. You need to understand our culture and get used to doing business here! Shoot, man shoot”
Raj: “I am new to IT. I used to trade coffee beans earlier. Can you give me some insights on technology?”
Bob: “Hey, I am also new to this field, too. In Procurement, we focused on Project Plans and metrics to drive efficiency improvements and rate vendors on productivity based performances. But I keep it simple. You must, too as a MBA grad. So, what do you want to know?”
Raj: “Any inputs on UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and advantages of off shoring?”
Bob: “You have a great jacket, you know. Remember? When you bought it, did you not try it out at the fitting room? That action of trying it on to see if it fitted you well – that’s UAT. Simple, isn’t it?
Off shoring is simple, don’t think too much about it – everybody does it and clients are mature enough to not get into basics. Basic advantages are costs and because in India, times are ahead of America, you can send work at night, which is their morning and by the time you come back to work the next day, voila! your work is done. Just like that! Thus, you have successfully set up a 24 hour factory. Got it?”
Raj: “You are a great thinker, boss, err Bob! But I was looking for innovative answers for the off shoring part”.
Bob: “Hey, you shouldn’t get too bogged down by innovation. Hic …. be innovative but it is not like everything and anything you do, has to be innovative. That would be an over kill. Focus on basics and I am sure you will do well. Remember, you are not a Hollywood script writer or you don’t work for Spielberg’s Dreamworks. You are not attempting to come up with a screenplay for a Broadway show. See what I’m saying?”
Raj: “That would be Selective Innovation – ‘Into Selective innovation’, is that ISI stands for? No, Bob, I am going to take time to see where I have to innovate and where I need not. You guide me, ok. Don’t mind if I use you to bounce my ideas”.
Bob: “My pleasure. Ok, so what else on stickiness and deepening customer relationships?”
Raj: “I was at Africa and I have been to really hot places. Temperatures reach 50 degrees there!!”
Bob: “Hey, buddy, here, we speak in Fahrenheit terms, 50 degrees is quite cool, ok”.
Raj: “Oh, ok. It was about 120 degrees. Even in that heat, people would go out to smoke cigarettes! Now, I see similar behavior here. In Pittsburgh, where it is minus 7 or 8 celcius, oh, I mean, its 15 degrees today, but people still go out to smoke. They shiver, but are addicted. I want our customers to be addicted to us”.
Bob: “If a dude smokes Marlboro, do u think, he will walk 5 blocks to get that brand. May be not, in this cold weather. So, we need to kick competition out and place our products near client for you to achieve ‘client addiction’, if you will!” (Raises his hands and makes an action to show ‘client addiction’ is in quotes)
Raj: “But our client wants multiple vendors to get the best. He wants to foster competition.”
Bob: “Do you think display in Wal-Mart doesn’t play a part in customer choices? How many times have you bought a product because of the easy access or attention the product manages to grab from you?”
Raj and Bob are joined by Sam, a prospect, who is drunk and thrilled that Chargers have lost the game 20-7. I just won a bet of 250 bucks, man, he announced, and joined them!
Raj and Bob waited for Sam to go to the restroom after 2 more drinks and then decided that they would meet at a new bar every alternate Thursday to discuss Sales and Marketing strategies. They felt enlightened today!
Ranga, an independent blogger, would eavesdrop on BAR (ISI agents) and report by Sunday on this blog. Look out for more updates every 2 weeks.