Wednesday, 18 July 2018

How Culture affects your Context and Behaviour

A number of readers ask me the significance of the word Context in my book Contextual Selling. Generally speaking American, European cultures are considered to be low context cultures whereas the Asian cultures like Japanese, Chinese, Indian are considered as high-context cultures.
Social Psychologist Richard Nisbett says that the orientation towards independence (low-context) or interdependence ( high-context ) actually decides the cognitive processes of thinking, decision making etc. In one of his experiments, a group of American and Japanese people were shown images which consisted of a big fish and a number of small fish with sea weeds around. The Americans were able to recollect the big fish; the Japanese more of the small fish and the seaweeds. That background of any situation can be termed as the context.
In the low-context cultures your communication has to be clear and to the point. People are individualistic and perceive themselves as being unique, self-made and autonomous. The communication is understood at a binary level yes/no, black/white 0-1 etc. In a business meeting involving Americans/Germans, you talk business and come to the point straight. If he does not want to buy your product he may say , “ Sorry I do not want to buy your product.” On the contrary, in Asian cultures, there are shades of grey between black and white. Remember, when an Indian client tells you, “we shall get in touch with you”. You need not necessarily take him at face value. The meanings can vary from: you may go now, I do not like the product/your demeanour, I am busy, I have already bought it from your competitor etc. That means one need to read between the lines in Asian culture. You not only have to hear what your customer says but also what his body language conveys. In case there is a divergence between his body language and the words; better believe the body language.
Independence is the hallmark of low-context, In high context culture there is equal (sometimes more) emphasis on other people’s opinion, the interdependence. Now do you know why we value others’ opinion more than us? And why most of the career options for students get narrowed down to engineering and medicine. If it is matrimony, then the bride has to fair and lovely no matter whether the groom is pitch dark.
Hazel Rose Markus, another social psychologist carried out an experiment at the San Francisco international airport. He had kept four blue and one orange pens at a counter to fill up the immigrations form. The US/Europeans picked up the orange pen which was distinct. The Asians picked up the Blue which was more common.
Thomas Talhelm, a psychologist from University of Virginia has made an interesting hypothesis in his article in Science in May 2014. He says the culture whether having high or low context is linked to farming of rice and wheat.
Rice which is mainly grown in Asia needs complex irrigation system, standing water which needs to be drained out every season. One farmer’s use of water may affect the other’s farm which gives rise to an interdependent paradigm. Wheat on the other hand, generally requires only rainfall and needs half the effort of that growing of rice. It also needs less of coordination and cooperation. ( Remember the giant mechanized wheat farms in the US?)
To test his hypothesis of wheat and rice corresponding to Independence and interdependence mindsets, he carried out an experiment in China. Wheat is grown in the northern side of Yangtze river, whereas rice is a major crop on the southern side. Talhelm asked the two groups to identify two common items from bus, train and a rail track. The people from north identified bus and train which are modes of transport ( low context) whereas people from the south side identified rail and rail track having commonality. ( High-context) when asked to draw pictures of self and others the farmers from north showed a big picture of self vis-à-vis small picture of others. Whereas for the rice growers of south, it was the other way round. May be this is the way our context, our environment conditions our thinking. I do not know whether the South Indian and the North Indian orientation has anything to do with the above hypothesis. ( with inputs from an article originally published in NYT by Mr. T.M. Luhrmann).
For more insights on realty selling please refer Contextual Selling – A New Paradigm for the 21st Century by Rajan Parulekar who has conducted customized training programs for companies like Adarsh Group, Brigade Group, DLF, Karle Infra, Skylark, Puravankara, Vascon Engineers etc.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Why market pulse is more critical than a superior product design?

In the early 90s Airbus and Boeing, the two major players in commercial aircrafts decided to come together to manufacture Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT). Later on both the competitors parted ways as their business strategy could not synergize. Ultimately in 1994 Airbus decided to go solo on this venture and the project was codenamed A3XX. And thus the first flight of A380, the largest commercial aircraft happened in 2007 which is a double-deck, wide body 4-engine aircraft with 6000 square feet of usable space, 40% more space than its nearest rival product Boeing B747-8. A380 could accommodate 500 seats in 3-class capacity (Economy, Business and First Class) or 850 in an all-economy class.
With several delays the project cost escalated from the initial 9 billion to 13 billion Euros. 
Product Pricing and Positioning: The A380 had a seating capacity which was 5 times the Airbus A320 Neo but the price point was 4X . The List price of A 380 was $430 Million whereas A320 was $107 Million. The product was received well after its launch. However in the last few years the customers, the airline companies are either cancelling the orders or postponing the delivery dates. The peak production which was at 30 aircrafts per year has dwindled to 12 per annum.
In spite of excellent product features, good quality (50% quieter than competition product) and the right price, why did Airbus started losing on the business for A380? The anticipated exponential growth in passenger traffic from hub-to–hub was the cornerstone on which Airbus decided to make A380. Hub-to-hub traffic for Air India is like New Delhi–London, for Singapore Airlines it can be from Singapore to Dubai or Frankfurt etc. One aspect that was overlooked was that of the point-to-point traffic. When the traffic between two points crosses a minimum threshold, airlines can afford to have small or midsized aircrafts which are more economical than transferring through the hub.
Even though the air traffic grew considerably; instead of it growing from hub-to-hub it started increasing from point-to-point. For example 10 years back, Air India used to have seven flights from Delhi to London and passengers were picked up from Hyderabad, Bangalore etc. Now all this airport being choc-a –block, it makes better business sense for airline companies to transport passengers directly from Bangalore to Cardiff/Manchester rather than routing them through hubs like Delhi and London. What is the learning for Sr. management from these?
1.     A technically superior product with better specifications even though necessary is not sufficient for long-term success.
2.     Appropriate price positioning even though crucial need not be a game changer.
3.     Factor X: Identify the factor x which is insignificant today but can become significant in future (that is generally overlooked) which can seriously affect your business strategy. ( In this case it was the point-to-point traffic) In case of Nano car, legend says that Shri Ratan Tata while doodling decided to launch a cheap car while seeing a family of four on a scooter. One factor which was overlooked was for majority of the Indians having a car was more of an aspiration and a status symbol ( emotional decision) than a cheap car as a mode of safe and convenient transport.(logical decision) Doodling can sometimes be an expensive proposition!
And last but not the least, there is nothing called as a right or wrong decision. All decisions are evaluated in posterity. Time is the best judge!
Training Programs on: Value Selling Techniques in Major Sales:Chennai, Mumbai and Pune-
Nassim Nicholas Taleb author of books like Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness or Anti _Fragile says for most of us absence of evidence is interpreted as evidence of absence(Please read the book review: Anti –Fragile: How to Live in a world we don’t Understand) Be Humble!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Can you Improve Your Negotiating Leverage thro' Sales Funnel?

I was conducting a program on EFFECTIVE VALUE SELLING FOR CAPITAL EQUIPMENTS last week. One of the main problem the sales executives were facing was that the customers were  insisting on  a target price for the machine rather than through a quotation. The sales executives were falling into the trap and asking their managers to give a revised ( read discounted) price.
This problem apart from the market dynamics is also decided by the BATNA of both the parties. Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement was first coined  by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their book Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In. The authors from HBS work on the Harvard Negotiating Project.
BATNA is a concept which discusses the options both the parties have in case the negotiation fails. In such  a situation the party ( buyer or the seller) who has more options has a better negotiation leverage. For example if the buyer has 3 other vendors to talk to; and  the salesman has this buyer as the only option, then the BATNA of the buyer is higher.
Sales Funnel is a very important tool to not only improve your BATNA but also the order forecasting. A program on Value Selling Techniques for Major Sales on Chennai-15, Mumbai-17, Pune-20 February 2018 @ 9 AM for more details please visit

Friday, 2 February 2018

Contextual Selling: A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st Century

sales Book

A brief chat with Mr. Rajan Parulekar, Managing Director of Paradigm Trainers Ltd., a firm specializing in Sales & Behavioural /Soft skills training since 1995.    Author of Contextual Selling: A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st Century

When did you decide to start writing this book?
I wonder if there is any salesperson who can say that he hasn’t lost an order. One learns the hard way in life and I have lost a lot of orders too. Back in 1983, when I started out, selling was easier. It was more of a sellers’ market, with fewer brands and less competition. You could revert to the customer’s query the following day. These days, especially post-liberalization, the market has become hyper-competitive and cut throat. The customer expects all queries to be resolved instantly. If not, there is a competitor ready to grab the opportunity!
I started writing the book in 2005 and the book was released 6 years later. The reason I decided to write the book is, even though I learned by trial and error, the younger generation need not go through that. They should have a template of a structured sales process.
The inspiration for the book?
My sales career started in 1983 with Toshniwal after completing my Electrical Engineering. Toshniwal, were the pioneers in instrumentation in India. On my very first day, the boss handed me a brochure and said “ Go to the field and sell.” I was supposed to sell an Oscilloscope, a device used for testing electronic assemblies, products etc.  I hesitantly told my boss that I don’t know anything of my product. . He said “It doesn’t matter, don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.” So, I stepped out into the field, and as I feared, the customer asked me some very difficult questions which I was unable to answer. Embarrassed, I nervously told the customer that I would get back to him. That was my first day at work!
Here, I’d like to share a very interesting anecdote. I wrote about this in the introduction in my book too. Once, I had to sell oscilloscopes to Dr. Mohinder Singh, Head of the Department, Physics at Khalsa College, Mumbai. He obviously knew oscilloscope thoroughly and asked me few technical questions which I was unable to answer. Being a very kind man, and sensing my apprehension and lack of familiarity with the product, he sat me down. For the next hour, Dr. Mohinder Singh patiently educated me about the product. He added that the oscilloscope I had carried was indeed  a great product and proceeded to place an order for five pieces! That was the story of my first sale!
I must add that even though I was not technically familiar with the product, I allowed the other person to go on talking without interrupting. That, I feel, is important during the selling process.
I started Paradigm Power in 1995, and started conducting my training programs in sales. From then on, in the last 22  years, through Paradigm Trainers Private Limited, I have conducted training, both in India and abroad, for over 1000 companies across various verticals like electrical, electronic, Real Estate. IT, IT Services, etc.  A lot of customers suggested me to write a book. So, the inspiration for this book came from my customers and students!
Target audience?
The book is targeted towards working sales professionals or those who wish to make a career in sales. It is a practical book, unlike the conventional theoretical marketing books which are more suited for the management students.
The book is also for the people who are unable to attend my training programs due to price, time or distance constraints. My book encapsulates about 7 to 8 days of my training programs and covers all aspects of Sales from the negotiation process,  Key Account Management,( KAM)  to collecting outstanding payments. The book is written in a conversational tone, making it easy to read and understand. Due to the pressure salespeople tend to talk a lot than what is needed. After attending my training programs, people have told me they feel more confident, relaxed, and under less pressure to talk all the time. This book also seeks out to inspire that confidence in a salesperson.
How is it relevant today?
There is a quote which reads “A great salesman is one who can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo”. Today about 95% of salespeople will agree with this. This kind of approach breeds “con-manship”.
This critical issue of ethical selling is the core foundation of my book.
This attitude of selling anything to anyone was never appropriate all these years.  20-25 years back you could get away with it, since it was a sellers’ market. But today, if you try and sell a product to an Eskimo that he does not want, you will be pilloried all over social media. You and your brand could lose future sales and worse, credibility as well. It is only through creating trust and credibility, that one can succeed in building long-term relationships to create an effective selling environment.
Sales can be a pretty challenging job sometimes..
Well, sales people go through a lot of stress compared to their counterparts in other departments, like programming, shop floor, administration, HR  etc. These people often work from their office premises.
On the other hand, salespeople usually conduct their business in the customer’s space. In the customer’s premises or at the customer’s time (for phone sales). In a way, they are operating from “enemy territory”! Customers are often rude, unsympathetic, disrespectful, and do not even show basic courtesy to sales people.
Sales people are constantly under pressure to achieve targets. Unreachable targets, mostly!
According to you, what are the qualities that make a good salesperson?
The first important quality is effective communication which includes not just talking but paying attention, asking the right questions and knowing when to and when not to speak.  Secondly, one should have a sound product knowledge with clear fundamentals. Thirdly, the ability to take rejection and bounce back is very crucial in becoming a successful salesperson.
Any advice for upcoming salespeople?
These days there is a tremendous opportunity for sales people, yet there is a dearth of good sales people. Nowadays, sales is a very respectable profession. So anyone with the right attitude, and the ambition, one can become very successful.
Thank you, Mr. Rajan, for your time and valuable advice. I am sure all our readers, especially the upcoming salespeople, will benefit immensely from this.
– Hubert J D’Mello

Sales Expert:  
Rajan Parulekar – Founder  Paradigm Trainers Pvt Ltd

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Does the Product Value Lie Inside your Product? | Value Selling

It is assumed that the value perception of a product lies in the product features, workmanship etc. which is proved otherwise in this example.

Recently I was conducting training programs for the Pan-India Sales Team of  Bharat Fritz Werner (BFW). The topic was Effective Value Selling of Capital Equipments. BFW is a renowned manufacturer of Machining Centres, Special Purpose Machines, Turning Cenres, Lathes etc. Murali, one of the Sales Engineers who is an expert in lathes for the last 15 years; narrated an interesting example. While working for Batliboi, his previous company, he used to approach a company called Priyanka Enterprises in Coimbatore. Mr. Ulaganathan who used to make automobile components had upgraded from a normal lathe to a CNC lathe so as to cope with the increased volumes. A sales engineer from a CNC Turninng Company convinced him to go for one.
By his misfortune, the  new machine failed to deliver as per his expectations and Ulaganathan was repenting for having invested Rs. 4 lakhs in the machine. He wrote it off and went back on the manual lathes. When Murali went there to explore new opportunities; he encoutered a hostile client who refused to believe what Murali had to say. However Murali persisted. Almost for six months he followed up with customer. At last looking at his sincerity and perseverance he placed a trial order for a CNC Turning Machine. Murali provided an exceptional service to the clinet.
Over  a period of time the client went on buying 8 such machines from Batliboi through Murali. Being a SME he  had to arrange for funds for this capex from Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Investment Corporation (TIIC) Mr. Ulaganathan was felicitated by TIIC for not only availing the loans, but also for being prompt in repayment of the same.. Mr. Ulaganathan in his acceptance speech attributed his success not only to Ms. Chitra of TIIC who was quite professional in disbursing the loans but also to Mr. Murali who ensured in his commitment in making the customer profitable by supplying good quality machines with exceptional service. Now Murali is with BFW and it is no wonder Mr. Ulaganathan does not mind shifitng his allegiance where Murali is working!
When products are simliar, who is the brand, the company or the salesman?
For more such interesting stories, please refer our Sales Book ,  Contextual Selling (A New Sales Paradigm for 21st Century) by Rajan Parulekar from Paradigm Trainers Pvt Ltd.

For More Details pleses contact us at Paradigm Trainers Pvt Ltd  Email id: Call us: +91-08 2389 7930

Friday, 1 December 2017

Games Customers Play to Extract Maximum Discount

Who is the Managing Director?

Suresh, narrated this interesting episode when he was the Sales-cum-Service engineer working for a  Special Purpose Machine (SPM) manufacturing company in Bangalore. There was an important proposal submitted to a client in Delhi. The vendor from Bangalore did not have any market presence in North India and consequently no sales setup. The customer called the vendor for price negotiations. Suresh was sent to Delhi to close the order.

He landed at the factory and enquired for the concerned Purchase Officer at the reception. It was around 9.30 AM. He was asked to wait in the conference room. Ten minutes later, a man in his early fifties dropped in the cabin.

After exchanging pleasantries, he said, "Tell me, what is the best discount you can offer?"

Suresh: "Sir, the best I can offer is 5%."

Man: " Ok, I will talk to my MD and come back to you. He is a busy man. You may have to wait."

After 2 hours, at around 11 AM, the same man turned up and said, "Our MD says the price is too high. He wants a minimum of 20% discount."

Suresh thought for a while, talked to his boss and offered 10% discount.

The same storyy repeated. The man went back inside and turned up at 12.30 PM.

He said, "Our MD says still the price is high; he wants a minimum of 18% discount."

Now Suresh was in a fix. He could not say 'NO'. He had a clear mandate from his boss that he should collect the order at any cost.

Many such rounds of negotiation continued till 4.00 PM and the man was shuffling in and out of the office.

At last, Suresh was able to close the order by offering 15% discount.

Two monts later, Suresh was deputed to install the machine. 

At the shop-floor, while the installation was going on, Suresh saw the same man from a distance whom he had interacted with two months back.

He asked th Production manager, "By the way, who is that man? Is he the purchase officer? He was the one who was coordinating my proposal with the MD."

The production Manager said, "He is our MD."

For More Details pleses contact us at Paradigm Trainers Pvt Ltd  Call us: +91-08 2389 7930

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Flip Side of Google Search

Rahul, a fresh engineering graduate, was trying his hands at rubik’s cube. He said,” after doing google search and watching youtube videos, I have been able to crack the code. The world’s fastest player can solve the puzzle in barely a minute. I have studied his instruction set 15 times and I am able to crack the code in approximately 4 minutes.” What happens when you a solve a puzzle without applying your mind; relying on google search or a guide in the first go?

In this process of solving a puzzle, I was wondering whether the goal is more important than the journey or the end is more crucial than the means?
What happens when we are obsessed with the goal (scoring marks, getting a job, expecting a promotion) without giving due importance to the means ( thinking, creative problem solving, putting the right efforts in getting results etc) Students may score marks without a deeper understanding of the subject. Managers may get short-term results by taking short cuts (quite relevant for sales managers in March, the year-ending) and feel that the company is doing great because of them, quite often, it is in spite of them. In short we tend to remain mediocre.
The following two examples of Nobel laureates underscores the importance of fuzzy logic and creative thinking over the desire to get the right answer.
A physics professor asked his students, “How would you measure the height of our department building if you are given a pressure gauge?” Most of the students gave the expected answer which is based on the correlation of pressure with altitude. One of the students said, “There are different ways you can calculate the height of the building which include:
1.    Tie a long rope to the pressure gauge; drop it from the terrace, the length of the rope corresponds to the height of the building.
2.    Take the same contraption, use it as a pendulum, calculate the time required for one oscillation. Based on the time you may arrive at the length.
3.    Traverse the height of the building by using the gauge like a foot-ruler. The length of the gauge multiplied by the times used will show the height of the building.
4.    Offer a cup of tea or coffee to the admin manager and get the building details.
The professor asked the student,” Don’t you know the right answer?” The student said,” I know the answer but it is quite boring and routine.” 
The professor was Ernest Rutherford, considered as the father of nuclear physics, recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 and the student was Niels Bohr, a Danish Physicist known for atomic structure and quantum theory and Nobel Physics recipient in 1922.
 Enrico Fermi, the Italian-American Physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics had a novel way of problem solving. He was heading a team of scientists working on the project of the Atom Bomb. The first bomb was detonated in July 1945 in the New Mexico desert. The shock waves reached the base camp forty seconds later, where the scientists stood in stunned contemplation. Just a few minutes before the blast, Fermi took a page from a notebook and shred it into pieces. The moment the shock was felt, Fermi released the pieces over his head. The pieces landed at a distance of 2 metres behind him. Within a minute, Fermi estimated the strength of the bomb to be 10,000 tonnes of TNT. The sophisticated machines which analyzed the voluminous data of pressure, temperature and wave velocity took weeks to come at a similar conclusion.
While teaching his students, he asked them, “What is the approximate circumference of earth?” The students expressed their apprehension that without referring to an atlas or an encyclopedia the answer would be difficult. (There was no google search then!) Fermi then said, “the distance between New York and Los Angeles is 3000 miles (4800 kms) and the time difference between them is three hours. As the earth takes 24 hours to rotate around itself; which is 8 times the above distance, the approximate circumference is 4800 x 8 which is 38,400 Kms.” The actual circumference of earth is 40,075.5 kms and the variation is 4%. ( ref: Contextual Selling, A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st Century, Rajan Parulekar p101)
Google search has its own relevance and validity but should it replace human thinking, creativity and ingenuity?Let us see what happens when we depend excessively on GPS devices  for navigating through streets without applying our brains? According to the researchers at University College, London, (UCL) using GPS navigation to reach to your destination, may ‘switch-off’ parts of the brain that would otherwise be used to simulate different routes.   The study involved 24 volunteers navigating a simulation in central London while undergoing brain scans. Hugo Spiers, one of the researchers from UCL says, “Our results fit with models in which the hippocampus simulates the journey on future possible paths while the pre-frontal cortex helps us to plan which ones will get us quickly to our destination. When we have technology telling us which way to go; however, these parts of the brain simply do not respond to the street network. In that sense our brain has switched off its interest in the street around us.” Remember the adage, use it or lose it!
It is said that India produces the 2nd largest pool of science graduates and engineers in the world. ( I have not done Google search on that!) In spite of that different surveys reveal that 75% of the graduates are unemployable.
My Guru, (Late) Dr. Gopal Valecha was an eminent Industrial Psychologist. After receiving his Ph.D. from Iowa State University his guide asked, “Gopal, what do you think you have accomplished now?” Gopal said, “I think I can prefix Dr. with my name.” His guide replied, “ more than that, you will know how to read a book.” On similar lines, can our universities create a thought process in their students, “now that you have graduated from our university, can we expect that you will know how to think, rather than looking out for readymade answers elsewhere?”

Rajan Parulekar| Paradigm Trainers Private Limited, Bangalore| 98450 

How Culture affects your Context and Behaviour

A number of readers ask me the significance of the word  Context  in my book  Contextual Selling . Generally speaking American, European c...