Earlier this week, we had published the interview of Birender Ahluwalia on his thoughts on employee training and leadership. This is a continuation of that series. Over here, he talks about the role of leaders and what elements need to be incorporated in sales training.
How do you, as a leader, communicate the “core values” to your employees? Especially the new hires?
Birendra: That’s a very interesting question again. There are three steps to it again.
One is what is your strategic intent of your values.
So, therefore what is your purpose? And what are the values for each employee who joins the organization. So, each role has a different value and different set of contributions to the organization. So, therefore what is the strategic intent of the job you need to be very clear on that.
Second step is how do you link the personal aspiration of the new joiner with the aspiration of the organization.
So, therefore how do you leverage both the value systems? To say to it, you know when you live your values, you are living the organization’s values. So what are your clearly defined organization’s values, what are your clearly defined personal individual values and the third, who is really the best demonstrator of the values. When a new joiner comes, who is the first influencer? The first influencers are generally the colleagues of the employee.
So once the person joins, how the peers are living the values is going to be a reflection of the values that this person will pick up.
So, let us say the person joins on day 1. And he is ignored by all his peers and colleagues. You may state that you want to be a customer friendly organization. But if this person is feeling lonely and nobody is coming to this person, he is going to say, “You know what, you talk about being customer friendly but nobody is being friendly to me.” Or on the other end, you may have great level of accountability. If people around them show a great level of accountability and if the person sees his colleagues and peers, the values become what I call, contagious.
Values are always contagious. You catch your values from your peers.
So, yes, always remember that values are contagious. Second thing is once you have colleagues over a period of days and weeks, you start developing your own role models in the organization. People will start seeing what I call sunflowers, they are the brightest flowers in the bouquet.
Who is the guy that everyone gravitates to? Who is the formal or informal leader everybody listens to? And what are the values illustrated by that leader?
For example, if that leader uses abusive language and everybody loves that leader, automatically the person absorbs the value that using abusive language is acceptable. So the value statement of the organization would never say we love to use abusive language. But if this leader sees that, “Look! My role models all use abusive language. Obviously there’s something good going on there, I need to use abusive language in this organization.” Or on the other hand, if the role models use the attitude of being a benevolent mentor, you don’t even have to write it in your values and visions statements. You will automatically start living the values of a mentor because you are being menteed.
So your colleagues is one, your role models is the second one the third and the most important one is your immediate manager who is the biggest embodiment of all your values.
Because whatever happens, if your leader is different, the entire organization is under stress, the entire organization is undergoing negativity. But if your leader has hope and optimism, you will be hopeful and optimistic. So, that’s why when I walk into a call center, I can feel the energies of negativity. At the same time I can feel the pockets of positivity.
Yes! So you will have 500 companies on a floor but if you see pockets, you’ll see 20 people sulking in a corner and 20 people completely bubbly and contagious with positivity.
So therefore to answer your question, there are three aspects, to identify the strategic intent and values of each role, aligning it with personal aspiration and allowing the leader to live her own values every day and as the best embodiment of values comes from the colleagues, come from your role model and come from your own leader.
So leading to our next question, this is a very particular question that I wanted to ask you which is how did you train your sales people for negotiation? They face different scenarios and have to deal with a variety of people every single day. So what is your training strategy for them?
Birendra: Actually, I would like to take a step back here from negotiation. Because negotiation is the last stage of a sales process. That is one aspect. The second is that we deal with it every hour of our life.
So, a sales person first negotiates with customers, then comes back and negotiates with his boss, then comes back negotiates with the operations or approval department. The sales person is always negotiating and is always in a stage of negotiation. Many people think that negotiations are with the customer, negotiations have to do with price. Every single hour he is negotiating.
So, there is an organization called CEB which is the executive board. They have come up with a very interesting model called the Challenge of Salesperson model. I am a big proponent of the challenger model. Basically what the model states is that in most complex B2B selling environment, 57 percent of purchase decision process is taking place even before the RFPL is being released. And that’s what the global research indicates. And interestingly in all major sales, there are atleast 5 stakeholders involved. Now if you look at this podcast you are involved, I am involved, Ankush is involved, Bhaswati is involved. So just a podcast that has absolutely no financial implication to anybody has 4 people involved. All four were enablers in getting this podcast available to your listeners. So imagine in a complex sales process what they say is that there are on an average 5.4 stakeholders involved in every step of the way. And the challenger process has a very interesting process of what they call the ‘Three T Process’. As the challenger sales person undertakes the role of a teacher, he teaches, or she tailor makes her proposition to customers or she takes control of the decision. So, for example when she is negotiating with somebody which is the final stage like I said, she first takes on the role of being a great teacher, which is she will bring a very unique perspective in the client’s organization by using skills of active listening and active presenting, she will offer a different perspective – which is the first T.
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The second she can identify what are the real economic drivers that the organization is looking for, and she can identify the economic drivers and makes the value proposition based on the driver that she and the organization is looking for. Yes, so teaches and tailors. Now that she has taken the role of a teacher and tailor, or someone who can tailor the entire conversation, she has taken control of the decision. And at that stage she is even comfortable putting what I call positive pressure on the customer and would be very comfortable discussing the premium. And what I always noticed is this that if a sales person has a belief in the premium that she delivers, she is comfortable discussing the premium. What I have always seen great sales person sell more premium than people who are not so great. Because they are comfortable with the concept that, “Look, I know I am bringing a unique perspective and I can teach you by that perspective. I have identified the correct economic drivers. Therefore, I am very comfortable discussing money, very comfortable discussing premium. And therefore, perhaps, I can even put pressure.”
Now when you enter the negotiating phase with this belief system your body language changes, when you walk into a room, your presence changes. People are more willing to listen to you. Because your customers are now saying, “Hey, she has my interests in her heart.” And that will change the entire tonality of the negotiation. So the process of negotiation has to start long before the sales call has been made. I would urge everyone to look at the challenger model and read this book The challenger Sales person. You should read that book, it’s a fantastic book.