Tackling tricky issues!

Tackling tricky issues!

Last week a student apprehensively asked me, “Sir, would a career in sales always mean doing the beat?” For the uninitiated, doing the ‘beat’ means...

Last week a student apprehensively asked me, “Sir, would a career in sales always mean doing the beat?” For the uninitiated, doing the ‘beat’ means going from one house to another to sell products and services. Popularly referred to as door to door selling, it is the worst nightmare come true for any budding sales person.

I was thrown back to my own sales days. I have not done the beat but have experience of doing an extensive door to door campaign for a multinational giant who wanted to introduce chips and other snack items. It was in the mid-eighties and I was surprised to see the excellent reception that I received.

My appearance as an obedient student did help. It is said that salesmen wear shoes with thick leather at the fore leg. The minute the customer’s door opens, the foot is thrust inside and the door can’t be banged shut again. It is a lesson in perseverance that one needs to have to do the beat. Mind you doing the beat is tough and the following tips will be of help.

Dress well: Make it a point to dress well. Dress and the way you address are important. The way we dress and the way we talk create a powerful impression in the mind of the customer.

Manners: It’s very important for a salesman to inculcate good manners. Greet the customer with respect. Once the calling bell is answered step away from the door and respectively greet the person with warmth. Treat women with extra care. Preferably visit the house during early hours. Try to fix up an appointment with the customer at a time that is convenient to them.

Do not attempt to sit unless asked, remain standing and try to conduct your business.

Do not be over smart. Much time will not be given. Do not solicit personal information like contact number, income, religious affiliations, e-mail ID and other information. Demonstrate the product or service and try to be respectful at all times. When dealing with women, be extra cautious. If the segment to which you are catering is predominantly middle class, it is better to have a male and female enumerator work together. Fluency in the local language is mandatory for effective communication.

Identity cards: In the modern world every one is a suspect. It is better to have one’s identity card and an introduction from the college, institution or the company. Getting permission from an apartment complex is getting tougher and tougher. So always fix an appointment with the apartment owners’ association before the process of door to door selling is initiated.

Smart demonstration: Eureka Forbes salesmen are known for their effective demonstration skills. They would ask the homemaker “Do you think that this room is free of dust and germs?” The homemaker would bristle indignantly and say “Of course”. The salesman would then elaborately vacuum the room and dump substantial dust and grime on the neat carpet (unknown to the homemaker the vacuum cleaner already has dirt in its container).

He would then explain in detail about visible and invisible dirt and the difficulties of getting to the invisible dirt from the corners and crevices of the house. Faced with such convincing demonstration the homemaker would move into the next phase of the sales process – ordering of the vacuum cleaner.

Product knowledge: The sales person needs to have extensive product knowledge. The customer does not know anything about the product and once the sales person is able to explain and tell about the benefits will he/she gain the customer’s confidence. There is nothing worse than a salesman struggling with his product. The customer would think, “This salesman’s job depends on his product and he is struggling with it. If this is the fate of a trained salesman, what would my fate be?”

Marketing research: One of the most interesting fields in marketing is research. Which is researching or revisiting things that we think we know or assume that we know. Companies need to look at themselves with a more critical eye to find out things that they fail to see or refuse to see.

Sometimes in administering a questionnaire an interviewer or the researcher might be confronted with quaint situations. It is a situation where the researcher knows that the information provided by the respondent is inherently wrong but can’t refute or say so. Any such action of refuting or contradicting the respondent would mean that the interview would be terminated. So what is the way out? The researcher has to be smart or street smart. Let us check out the situations where these happen.

Some aspects of behaviour would get reported and some would be reported less. Respondents are smart and can figure out things that are socially acceptable. So things like, reading books, reading magazines like Readers’ Digest, Business World, Business India and Business Today would be reported more than actual usage or readership.

Readership of pulp magazines and other socially unacceptable issues would be reported less. In such cases, research with the concerned publishers to get figures of readership and subscription numbers would help. If the subscription numbers are up by 30 per cent for pulp magazines an assumption can be made that readers generally understate pulp magazine readership by 30 per cent. Thus when an analysis is being attempted more readership can be associated for pulp magazines.

Milk consumption would be reported more than actual consumption. For example, a family of four would report usage of around 6-7 litres of milk per day. By any stretch of imagination that is a very high figure. A little bit of homework and a little bit of investigative leg work could lead the researcher to the milk vendor from where the family buys the milk. A comparison of actual vs. reported milk usage can be plotted and the percentage of excess milk consumption being reported can be worked out.

It is difficult to get to the real feelings of people. A question like “have you cheated in the examination” would normally get an indignant “no” as an answer. But a cleverly phrased question like, “Do you think your friend cheats in the examination” would get you the answer your seeking. Thinking that the question is meant for his friend and not himself, the respondent would give out his own opinion as that being the behaviour of the friend. The researcher would simply mark the answer as the opinion of the respondent himself.

If the income is being reported less than the actual income the researcher only needs to look around the house. A big LED TV, wall to wall carpeting and even an address in a posh locality are shouting indications of the respondent’s actual higher income than the claim that is being made out in the questionnaire.

Do not SUG: Sugging in market research means "selling a product under the guise of conducting market research". This behaviour occurs when a product marketer pretends to be a market researcher conducting a survey, when in reality he is trying to sell the product.

Considered unethical, this tactic is prohibited or strongly disapproved by trade groups and most reputed companies.

By:Dr M Anil Ramesh

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