Saturday, July 05, 2008

The All-new Models of competition

Earthworm, Snail, Porcupine and Co.

By Harish Bijoor

Competition is a reality. None of us can ignore competition. There is competition in the home, in the school, in college, in office and most certainly in the great Indian market-place as a whole.

If there is life, there is competition. The baby in the house competes for your attention, just as that brand new hair gel on the shelf is seeking out your attention amidst a clutter of competition weighing down the super-market shelf.

How does one really compete? Let me paint four models.

If I am to look around the nations of the world and correlate competitive models in current use, there are four distinct patterns that emerge. Four clusters that have whole sets of nations congregating in models those seem to work for each of them differently and with different levels of efficacy. Needless to say, the peculiarities of each nation in question dictate the distinct choice they have made for themselves. Let’s visit the clusters. And let’s call them all kinds of animal names.

1. The Earthworm Model:

The passive model of competitive reaction. The invitation theory that is best practiced by the earthworm. A rich worm really. It knows the basics best. It is in constant touch with the earth that it seeks nourishment from and nourishes back simultaneously. A fundamentally strong being.

Several problems in this model though. It is passive for one. Non-reactionary. A model in the self-fulfilling prophecy mode. The best example of the fatalistic theory of the East in practice. When faced with danger, all it can do is continue its humble journey in the earth. Competition kills this model with ease. There is no reaction. The fatalistic model of competition at its best!

Is the Indian marketer here? I

2.The Snail model:

The common competitive model in practice by a whole host of nations. This model is reactively proactive. A clear cocoon orientation. When faced with competition and danger, there is a regression into the shell. The withdrawn marketer at play. The philosopher marketer even! The marketer who revels in the safety-static nexus. Waiting for the competition to just go away, so that normal life may resume again!

Is India here?

3. The Porcupine Model:

This model tells the competitor clearly of the array of weapons that are available for retributive action. There is a clear emphasis on the display of the arsenal. It believes in the overt display. A clear d├ętente model of competition. Avoids a lot of speculative action and is ready for the real battle

Many marketers seem here.

4. The Everyone Else Model:

This is the model of the real-time player in competitive markets of the present and certainly the future. This is the real-time marketer. Reactive when necessary. Proactive when necessary. Guerilla in tactics when necessary as well!

This is a constant-change oriented model that believes in watching the scenario carefully and reacting accordingly. Making forays into proactive territory on a speculative basis. Never mind if even only one of those sixteen forays actually click! Life in the fast track of competitive marketing is pretty un-predictable and speculative. Change here is absolutely discontinuous. Making a decision on a point of competitive strategy based on happenings of the past and the present could be disastrous. The future never ever happens the way the past decided.

Change here is so discontinuous that it is aptly illustrated by the example of the baby-arrival process in the house. The first child in this baby-boomers house is born out of a Caesarian section, gone in for by an over-zealous gynecologist. The second baby of the house is therefore predictably to be one out of a similar process. Caesarian section! No! It isn’t. Change is discontinuous. The second baby is a natural birth! The third child is due to happen then. This time round, its Caesarian section as well! Oops!

The fourth child of this baby-happy home is due. Change is indeed discontinuous. There is no predictability here. Guess what! This time round, the baby is actually conceived, carried and delivered by the father of the baby! Oops! Again! Change is indeed that discontinuous!

Shouldn’t India be here?

The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Salesman is Dead!


Death of a Salesman

By Harish Bijoor

Who is a salesperson?

The typical definition points squarely at that one entity that runs out there in the field. That one entity that does the sales prospecting first. That very entity that makes the cold call. That entity that does the sales pitch. And most certainly that one entity that closes the sale and brings in the ‘moolah’ into the kitty of the company he represents or the individual purpose he touts.

The year is 2005. This rather antediluvian definition of a salesperson is changing at a rapid pace. The narrow spotlight that fell on the front-ended salesperson as the sales entity of the organization, focused in his revenue tapping activity, is gradually spreading wider and wider in organization.

The salesperson prospects. And so do a host of back-end operators today. Whole departments that sit behind computer data-bases and whole departments that still pore through directories of people who fit the profile of the company in question are becoming critical sales-lead points for the man in the field to follow. Is this a sales-person as well? But of course!

The salesperson tele-calls. And so do a host of call-center operatives set up to generate the hot leads from a whole fuzzy and amorphous list of prospects. Companies in the market for the aggressive sale boast of deep-seated call centers that work 24X7 to pass the lead on to the man or woman on the front. Is this a sales-person as well? Most certainly yes.

The sales-person plants the seed of an awareness in the minds of consumers. Your range of superior toilet-cleaner needs to be planted as a thought in the minds of prospective consumers. While the sales-person on the field does this physically one on one, advertising of both the mass media and specific kind does it all the while. Is the advertising creative person in his pony-tail, the media-person in his breeches and the peppy client servicing 'types' sales entities as well? Most vehemently yes.

The sales-person is therefore not one. The salesperson is many! Many entities that make for the end purpose of creating the awareness, stoking it on into an interest in the potty-cleaner, causing for a flaming desire for the same and of course clinching it into an action of a sale.

And is that the end of the road? Not at all. The post-sale process is equally important. Is the post sale service person an important entity in the chain of causing the sale and keeping it as such? Yes again. The service person is a sales person as well. Every service person is a salesperson at large, with the very big potential of making that sale happen for a second time and most certainly a very positive entity working to create a positive appeal for the company that has done the selling –in for a repeat purchase at some time in the near or distant future.

The focus of the narrow beam therefore widens. And there’s more.

I enter the realm of your sales office. There sits a guard at the door. Is he a salesperson? Yes, he is. Your office receptionist who is painting her nails as she responds to a call is a salesperson as well. Everyone is.

Why is it then that everyone in the enterprise of a sale does not really think he or she is a salesperson? And why is it that everyone listed out here does not really participate in the enterprise of selling with the vigor and zest that the front-ended salesperson of the organization displays?

These are indeed key issues that worry many a man, woman and child in the realm of selling. Trouble touch-points, if when corrected can actually result in cascaded quantum value for the selling organization.

Look keenly at the organization of sales in your company then. Peek keenly at the nomenclature in vogue. Call everyone in your organization a sales entity then. Bring in the S word with pride into the designation and job profiles of everyone in your organization. Call them all together and celebrate your sales successes. Remember, each of them, starting with the office peon to the guy who mans the kitchen has been equally responsible in creating the cascade of sale.

And don’t stop at that. Incentivise everyone in the organization based on the sale volume or value your organization commands every quarter. The sales-person in the front will of course garner the most of this incentive, but as the distance to the selling process increases, the incentive will decrease. Nevertheless, everyone earns a part of what the enterprise makes on its sale. Money talks and money helps weave purpose here.

The CEO sitting right atop the pyramid of organization needs to be a salesperson as well. She is indeed the ultimate salesperson of organization. Sales must be a part of the designation description of your CEO. It helps vest the S word with the dignity it demands and deserves.

At the end of it all, sales is the one activity that is the purpose of organization. Sales brings in the cash flow. Never mind whether you are a temple-trust, a modern multi-specialty hospital, a school at large or a company that sells dentures or dog biscuits. The purpose of the organization is the sale.

Get your corporate organization centric to the purpose of the sale. Get the S word going with gusto and reap the rewards that will follow.

The author is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.