Startup Salesman! Are you the Biz Guy Looking to Work for a Startup?

I was marked in a mail today morning from one of my Business Developments guys who was told by the Sales Manager to collect the pending dues from clients. By the way, my Company is an Education startup called InOPEN Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Hello Sales Manager,

With all due respect to you & your experience I don’t agree with your point, Sir. Why is a Sales Person asked to do everything? Pre-activity for sale, generate lead, follow-up with lead & convert them into prospective, then prospective to account. After doing this whole chain we have to coordinate for the delivery of books & CDs. We have coordinated for Teacher Training & I am sure, shortly, we will have to coordinate for hand-hold visits as well. Even after doing this we have to go to school & ask for the payment as it's our primary responsibility. Is there any thing else missing which we are supposed to do? 

- A Frustrated Business Development Guy

I should have been alarmed or gotten angry at the sender because I felt that it was perfectly legitimate for the Sales Guy to also follow up with the client. Instead, I was amused. The email triggered some interest in me to understand such situations in general. I do spend a lot of my time analyzing similar problems as I deal with such conflicting/demanding situations every day. My internal fights are mostly between the entrepreneur and individual inside me. I dived deep in this situation and started thinking about how I can make this guy understand the true nature of things. I struck upon a very long explanation and here I am sharing it with you guys. Bear with me for this long post.

I will explain this scenario with an analogy of an ‘ideal’ marriage. I feel client relationships are marriages (as in commitment) we have with our clients. We all aim to have ideal marriages, but do we succeed?

Ideal marriage according to me is an ideal match between 2 people, an ideal life long relation between both the families as well as the couple. Disharmony ‘anywhere’ in the equation is generally not considered to be ideal.

How does a typical marriage take place? In my opinion, marriage has two important phases, pre and post, which I will categorize under Karma and Dharma. Karma here refers to work/actions done and by Dharma I mean ‘Responsibilities and Ethics’ associated with it. Karma in pre marriage and Dharma in post marriage.

Karma can be broadly classified as actions (hard work) undertaken to start a relation. When you start dating someone or start seeing girls in an arranged marriage, it’s mostly you who (i.e groom) is in action. In later stages, you will also ‘have’ to involve and seek support (as well as approval) from your family. Of course there are people in your family whom you look to get some support. Only when a unanimous decision is achieved between you, your family, the bride and her family, the marriage activities commence. Remember, I am talking about an ideal marriage. It broadly includes setting up relationships by regular dating/meetings, commitment, and ‘sealing it’ by taking auspicious circles around the holy fire or by reading the holy scriptures. This, I feel, are just the first steps towards ideal marriage and far from claiming it to be successful. I am sure we all must have seen brilliant individuals fail when they get into a relationship. This happens because it not only requires a lot of commitment but a hell of a lot of understanding. Couples even have to sign a Govt. marriage registration form and get a certificate validating it. So this is a very very typical process. Now begins the Dharma part.

Dharma requires a lot more commitment and adjustments, not only from you but from your eco system as well. You start playing the role of a driver, who facilitates relationship between your ecosystem (family, friends, business relationship) and your wife. We all know the problems if there are strained relation between the wife and the husband’s family. Your wife continuously looks to you for a smoother relationships and endless support and so does your family. You also look to her for a source of support, and share responsibilities.

I feel that you have a very difficult as well as a very rewarding situation. Difficult because you have to continuously create a harmony between your family and your wife (and sometimes her family). If you are able to create a harmony in this situation, (remember good Husbands are known for such qualities) the combined support which you get is very very rewarding. If you think the rewards are ordinary or not worthy of such effort, then think from the perspective that ‘you’ are responsible for the next generations.

I now assimilate this with your queries and series of events that a typical sales guys has to undergo.

Now the sales part :

Pre-sales and business proposals are important and are the first steps to begin your relationship. This is the source. Now assimilate what are the various things you do during the first stage of marriage. We meet prospects, explain about the qualities about the product you are selling, explain the uniqueness in the product and service model. There are rewards expected from this relationship. A lot of times, most of us owing to the nature of sales, go overboard and brag about our qualities.We do it right. The clients get impressed and show interest to start the relation. However, he is a skeptic and asks for due diligence. This is a part of Karma.You are building on good Karma for starting something. Your Brahma characteristics are high at this stage (remember Brahma is known for creating things). I am taught that every individual has characteristics from Gods (Brahma for creation, Vishnu for implementation and Shiv for destroying evil or negative energy).

Conversion of Interest (prospective) into a relationship : At this stage you are also required to act like Vishnu. Remember Brahma is known for creating, but Vishnu is the one who actually implemented his vision. This is the stage where all the hard work done by you to convert a contact (lead) into anaccount will fetch results. This is where you involve your parents (your managers, finance team) to convince them to accept the prospect as well as convince the prospect to accept your family (the schools to believe and see credibility in your team). Do you think anyone apart from you can drive this as you know both the situations best? Of course your friends or your confidants (your manager/Sales Head in a sales case) facilitate as well as expedite the activity, but you remain the driving force. This is the most important phase and hence requires maximum effort. You have an immediate karma of closing the prospect and start the relationship. But you are unaware of the life ahead and hence Sunny’s current situation and his email.

After Sales : At this stage you are also required to act like a Shiv (eliminate negative energy) Here is where the rewards, pains and complications lie. You are caught between the Karma bestowed upon you as well as well as your inherent Dharma. Is taking the round of fires sufficient for marriage? I am sure, no. The client primarily knows you and believes in you. However you are not alone at this stage. You have now involved different teams (account managers, acad team, collection/accounts, operations team). A good business guy or a sales guy takes this opportunity to develop relationships. In our case the teacher with acad team, the school accountant with InOpen’s (my startup) accounts team, the Principal with the Academic Head and so on. You and only you are in position to do this as you know both the parties very well (client as well as your team). Now suppose you don’t do this. Let us anticipate some situations.

What if an Education Officer from the accounts team finds the expectations of a school teacher inappropriate and gives a feedback which might be perceived as unpleasant for the school teacher? The same way a mother in law gives a negative feedback to your wife and your wife is upset about it. What if the school accounts team finds a tax levied by the company to be totally unjustified and stops the services immediately? The same way your wife can find a tradition in your house to be totally absurd and out-rightly rejects the relationship with your family. Who is to be blamed for a failed marriage? The husband or the household? In all cases, loss will be primarily yours. Most problems I assume happens because the husband chooses to remain away from such ‘family’ conversations and eventually lands himself in most distressing conflicts. The same way a sales guy chooses to remain silent or inactive during a client-company conflict.

The smooth coordination between our company and a school are a battle ground between Karma and Dharma. There are problems (unsatisfied schools, pending payments from schools, less acad follow ups and ultimately no renewals) and there are the rewards (a happy school, referrals, timely collections, sales incentives), repeat business and repeat rewards.

I feel a ‘good’ salesman should make a better husband. I don’t want to push my perspective but would like you to think about it. Do you think any one of us i.e Business Development Guys can or should avoid glitches when we close schools?

I feel we all are salesmen. I read somewhere, “Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.”

About the Author:

Rupesh Kumar Shah is the Co-Founder & CEO at InOpen Technologies Pvt. Ltd. InOpen is a technological Company in the Educational Sector recognized and located in IIT Bombay. InOpen is an Educational startup incubated by the Society of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE) at IIT Bombay. The Company has been founded with an aim to provide Effective learning Solutions.

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