Sunday, 23 December 2018

Difference between Convincing & Con-Vincing

Soumyajeet Mohanty ran Edu Solutions,  an educational consultancy service in Bhubaneswar Odisha. Initially he started Sunrise Coaching Solutionsproviding tuition to engineering students. As the venture did not yield much returns, he ‘moved up the value chain’ by providing  ( fake) admissions to students wishing to get into medical colleges. Most of these students  either had poor scores in NEET ( National Eligibility cum Entrance Test is an entrance examination in India for admission to medical and dental graduate courses) or  who were repeaters. Mohanty and his team of six were able to notch up a revenue of Rs. 8-10 crores  within 2 years.

The admissions were fake, the seals bogus.  Mohanty’s team was able to extract Rs. 10 – 50 lakhs from parents  for each seat  Now what is common between Mohanty’s modus operandi and the management principles?

  1. Focus on Results: The moment he realized he was not getting results through tuition, he quickly changed his business model. Sometimes such people are called as serial entrepreneurs.
  2. Identifying a gap in the market: Meritorious students with a good score are going to make it even otherwise through the NEET admission process. Mohanty identified those greedy parents willing to make their children doctors by hook or crook.
  3. Brand Building Activity: First Impression is the Best Impression is another management principle which Mohanty followed scrupulously by inviting his clients to five star hotels and providing them with powerful presentation including the elevator pitch.
  4. Need Identification: With active listening and deep probing the team was able to understand the financial  strength and the desperation  of the client based on which the service charges were decided.
  5. Order Closing: The clients were taken to the medical colleges and were handed over the admission letters.( with fake letterheads and seals)
All these years I felt that the main purpose of education was  character building and preparing a student to have the right moral values with Knowledge and Skills to face life and earn livelihood in a respectable manner. I do not know whether I am right or wrong.  I am perplexed by the following questions:
a. Who is more intelligent? Mohanty or the clients? Mohanty claims he is a BE Mechanical Engineer. Whether he got the degree through official or unofficial means is beside the point. He was not able to get a job which prompted him to start his business venture. (Some surveys point out that 75% of Engineering Graduates are unemployable) But if he were not to be intelligent how he could  imbibe all the management principles and achieve quick success without even having a formal management education and  work experience!
b. Were the clients less educated or intelligent? I do not think people who are able to shell out Rs. 40-50 lakhs as mere service charges for a medical seat are from an uneducated stratum of the society. The clients included  businessmen, senior bureaucrats,  doctors, army officers etc. So should we give them a benefit of doubt of being educated or intelligent?
c. Who is/are crooked? Mohanty who manipulated the system to earn money illegally and unethically or those ‘educated’ clients who wanted to bypass the system to earn prestige in society?
I would like the readers to answer the questions below:
  1. Who is intelligent and/or crooked?
  2. What is the root cause?
  3. What is the purpose of education?
  4. What can be the creative and normal  solutions to such situations?
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.
Rajan Parulekar||

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Pitfalls in Strategic Planning: What did Honda learn in the US market?

What does it to take succeed in a competitive market? A good product is necessary but not a sufficient condition. You also need to find the right segment where the product needs to be positioned. To achieve this goal, organizations spend considerable time in strategic planning ,  coupled with vision,  mission and  goal statements. Quite often such statements look great ONLY ON WALLS is beside the point!

In 1959 Honda Motorcycle Company from Japan decided to enter the US market with its new brand of motorcycles. The strategic planning and the marketing team did a careful market research and came to the conclusion that premium-end motorbikes are appropriate for the US market. Being a highly developed automobile market, the motorcycles were used as fun vehicles where speed , power and long-distance drive on highways were the critical customer preferences. A new design team was put in place for this project, prototypes tested, developed and the bikes were launched.

Back home, in the post-war Japan, Honda had developed a 50cc motorized bicycle called  Supercub which was similar to Luna or  TVS 5O in India in the 70s. Supercub was primarily used by delivery boys in the congested city areas and also by the general populace. Honda had developed enough expertise for the engines in the 50-100cc range.

Three engineers were sent to Los Angeles to get a foothold for Honda in the US market. The bikes indeed offered a cost advantage in  the premium category.  However the expertise in the 50cc segment  was not transferrable to high-end bikes. There were frequent  problems in terms of oil leaks,   clutch wire breakages etc. Air freighting the warranty parts also added to Honda’s woes.

Kihachiro Kawashima and his two colleagues had brought their 50 CC Supercub to LA for local commute. He was getting frustrated with the on-going problems and started taking his Supercub for off-the-road dirt biking. It was a stress-buster; he started feeling better. A few days later, his American friends followed suit and they too liked the experience. Customers in LA  started enquiring about Supercub. Even Sears company wanted to place orders for Supercub for their delivery/ installation team in the power tool segment. The top management team in Japan flatly refused as it was not as per its business strategy for the US market. Losses were mounting day-by day. After repeated persuasion and arm-twisting from Kawashima and his team, the top management  finally relented.

Now the Supercub was launched as a low end off-the-road dirt bike. Initially there were problems in getting dealers but once the problems were overcome, Supercub became a success. Honda later on followed up with superior design and manufacturing practises to introduce new models to gain a considerable share in the US market.

How far Vision , Mission , Goals and Strategic Planning do help is a moot question as long as they are developed in the hallowed portals of corporate offices? While deciding such strategies, do we take into consideration  the changing market, the consumer choices and the competition strategies? Later on Honda was able to enter the premium segment. Only BMW and Harley Davidson were able to retain their premium positions. Looking at Honda’s increasing market share, Harley Davidson decided to follow suit. It entered this segment by acquiring  technology from an Italian  company  called Aeromecchanic. Even though the product was good, it did not succeed, the reason, the dealers were not interested in foregoing their high-value commission they were earning for the premium bikes. Ultimately Harley Davidson  dropped the project and decided to remain in the premium segment.

Who knows the truth? The front-end salesmen or the corporate planners! The truth is none- instead can they listen to each other and most importantly the target customer?

Expertise in low-end segment does not necessarily guarantee success in the high-end segment. One has to reinvent all the time. So everyday ask yourself what assumptions am I making about myself, my planning, the market and the competition.

Incidentally the Supercub launched by Honda in 1958 had reached a total production of 100 million by 2017 and is the most produced motor vehicle in the history! The advertising campaign, You meet the nicest people on Honda created by an UCLA student after riding the bike in early 60s was a runaway success and had a lasting impact on Honda’s image.  

Rajan Parulekar||

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, 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 Euro

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! For more such insightful articles Contextual Selling - A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st Century by Rajan Parulekar

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!
We are Conducting In House Programs , Public Programs & Webinars on: Value Selling Techniques in Major Sales, Sales Training, Negotiation Skills , Key Account Management, Managing the Outstanding Collections, Tendering Process, Effective Value Selling of Capital Equipments, Effective Salesmanship for Premium Realty, Consulting on Enhancing Sales Team Effectiveness

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. We are conducting  programs on Value Selling Techniques for Major Sales for more details please visit
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.

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

Difference between Convincing & Con-Vincing

Soumyajeet Mohanty ran  Edu Solutions,   an educational consultancy service in Bhubaneswar Odisha. Initially he started  Sunrise Coac...