CJNg _ 2.jpgHappy New 2009!


    My name is c.j., your trusted Sales Advisor, and here's the January 2009 issue of Psyche-Selling TM eNewsletter. 


    Perhaps this is one of the gloomiest New Year for a long time, and this economic "winter" sure feels like the economic version of "The Day After Tomorrow


    Anyhow, rather than to drown our sorrows about the economy, it's much better to take action and do something about it.  It's not the state of the economy that matters, but how you respond to the economy that matters most.  As the saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going!"


         Hence, this month's (partly morbid) topics:

  1. Armageddon 2009: How to Remain Standing When Others Have Fallen; and

  2. How can You Drastically Improve Cross-Regional Cooperation between Your Sales Teams?

    This issue's main article is on  "Armageddon 2009: How to Remain Standing When Others Have Fallen", and it's purpose is to share some ideas on how you can ride out the storm.


    In brief:

  • During this economic "winter", what are your most vulnerable areas, and how you should protect yourself;

  • This may be the best time to spend more time with your customers, not to generate sales, but to gain more insights about them

  • Eventually, this "winter" will pass too, and when "spring" comes, how can you be better positioned than your competitors to capture the market

    To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (http://www.psycheselling.com/page4.html).


Armageddon 2009: How to Remain Standing when Others have Fallen


by c.j. Ng


     This could be the worst of times, or it could well be the best of times.  Whatever they are, we are definitely living in interesting, if not tumultuous times.  China, the fasted growing large economy for the past 20 years now face possible recession, with growth rates decreasing from Q3 2008 right till a possible Q2 2009.  Factories are closing and many people are being laid off.  Those being laid off include shop floor workers as well as senior management.


     Elsewhere in the world, the situation isn't any better at all.  In some developed countries, growth rates for 2008 are expected to be half of 2007, and 2009 half of 2008.  In some cases, some countries face the possibility of negative growth.


     From the perspective of businesses, many companies face the compounded woes of:

  • Major reduction in orders and selling prices from key accounts for as much as 75%;

  • Major adverse impact on cash flow with banks unwilling to lend, creditors chasing for early payments and debtors extending payment terms;

  • Major decline in staff morale as those who are not being laid off still hasn't seen the light to guide them out of this darkness

     Some call it the financial crisis, others name it an economic downturn, and some others call it Great Depression 2.0.  However, Ma Yun, CEO of Alibaba.com term this period as the economic "winter", and went on to add that the purpose of summer is to prepare for winter.   


     For those of us who are not well-prepared in "summer", the silver lining amidst the dark clouds is that the purpose of winter is also to prepare for spring and summer.  Hence, if you survive this economic downturn, you are very much likely to emerge stronger.  Furthermore, as some of your competitors may be eliminated before the "winter" is over, and that will be the time to pick up their  customers and talented staff too.

Surviving the Winter

If you want to make it till spring and summer, you will have to survive winter first.  To do that, you have to be aware of your key vulnerable areas, and stay away from harm.


    In an economic "winter", here are some common areas that will affect businesses most:

  • Cash flow, i.e. do you have enough cash to pay your bills, especially when sales revenue is decreasing, and it takes a longer time to collect payment;

  • Sales revenue, i.e. how badly will your sales revenue be affected and what are the chances of cancelled or postponed orders;

  • Key accounts, i.e. what will be some of the changes in your key accounts' buying behaviour that you need to be aware of;

  • Suppliers, i.e. will your suppliers be put out of business, or will they be demanding faster payments from you;

  • Morale, i.e. can your staff see the brightness at the end of this "winter" and are willing to work hard towards it, or are they simply demoralised and waiting for their retrenchment benefits

    Without any doubt, the biggest challenge is that of cash flow, and that is the main reason why we are seeing so many orders being cancelled or postponed.  Our customers need to protect their cash flow too, and hence, they are cancelling their purchases or postponing till a time when their cash flow is expected to improve.


     Even when you do get the orders, customers may take a longer time than usual to pay you.  Hopefully, none of them go out of business BEFORE they pay you!


     Protecting the cash flow in this case has become the top priority for most businesses.  However, the question is, what are the costs that you'd have to cut, and what are those that you'd have to commit.  More importantly, how can you can spend less AND get better results.


     For most sales organisations, the biggest challenge will be to balance between the lengthening of payment cycles, the reduction of sales orders and the upkeep of necessary expenses (esp. sales commissions).  Here are some tips on how to make that balance:

  • Let the customer choose between steep discounts and pay by cash, or no discounts and pay by credit;

  • Rather lose a customer than to extend credit to dubious ones;

  • Pay sales commissions based on gross margins, AND only when your customers have paid in full, etc.

Firing Up in Winter

     Does it mean that, in this economic "winter", it will be futile to conduct any sales activity?


    Fortunately not.  All you need to know is that the sales process will take a different twist during this "winter".  You will find that:

  • It will take a lot longer for new customers to make buying decisions than compared to those good times; and

  • Your current customers will be a lot more demanding on the sales person in tough times

    Even when you are faced with a much longer sales cycle, that does not mean you should stop prospecting for new customers.  Many high-performing sales people are demoralised by the fact that it may take twice as much effort to get half as much results.


     As for your current customers, they are much more likely to demand more value for every dollar they pay you.  Servicing and retaining your current customers will be tougher.  Some account managers may also be demoralised by the increased difficulty to manage their accounts.  


     Here are some ideas on how you can tackle the situation:

  • Let your staff see the brightness of the future, and that to survive this "winter", they will have to work twice as hard;

  • Those sales people that are still unwilling to commit to the extra work may have to be let go, or else they may adversely affect the others;

  • In an economic "winter", customers are looking for solutions to help them save money more than ever, and perhaps you can position your products and services as such;

  • When customers are simply not willing to spend any money, take the time to gain insights about those customers

     In a research on what customers expect of sales people conducted with 80,000 customers conducted over 14 years by HR Chally, one of the key demands of customers is "You must understand our business".  And there's no better time to gain this customer insight when your customers have more time to talk to you now.  Instead of using the old sales pitch, go and make sincere conversations with your customers and understand their world better.


     In the book "The Game Changer", the key to P&G's success is to find out how their end-customers use their products.  They even send their staff to live with some of their end-customers so as to uncover hidden needs that these customers don't even know existed. 


     While you may not have the resources and budget at the magnitude of P&G's, there are many things to find out about your customers as to how they can save operational costs.  You can:

  • Send sales people and engineers to pop by your customers' offices or plants and see how they use your products and solutions;

  • Brainstorm with customers if there are more ways to deliver better results, even when you don't have the products or solution yet; 

  • Find out from as many levels and as many contacts in the customers' organisation what is the one thing you can do to help them ride out this cold "winter".

     Even in good times, most customers will feel "pain" if they spend unnecessary money.  If an economic "winter", spending money is painful, period.  However, if you can convince them that it will be more painful if they don't do business with you, than it is to spend the money, they may just buy from you.  What you need to do is to find their pain areas, and suggest appropriate solutions.


    Of course, all these are easier said than done.  It will be easier if you have already built a significant level of trust with multiple levels and contact people in the organisations.  If you haven't done so already, start building those trust now.  After all, expect your customers to restructure, and some old relationships may be expiring real soon.


     This "winter" may be real cold, and may even be as long as 3 years by some estimates.  However, if you are willing to put in the right effort, you can still survive or even thrive in such situations.


Preparing for Summer


     Even while we are in the thick of extreme economic "winter", it too will pass.  If you have been prudent in your spending, and have been doing enough homework during this time, you may be multiplying your rewards when "spring" or "summer" arrives.


     Besides gaining more customer insight, here are several other things you can do to prepare for "summer":

  • Conduct targeted marketing and promotions;

  • Hire hard-to-find talents, especially when they have left your competitors;

  • Reward the top performers more, and keep them committed to your future;

  • Train your staff so that they gain better customer insights.

     Now you may ask, "Aren't we supposed to save costs to protect our cash flow?"


     Yes, of course we need to save costs.  At the same time, if you need spend enough to get yourself in better positions, spend wisely.  Here are some tips on how to make sure what you spend will bring you the desired results you want:

  • Track your marketing efforts, either by the number of qualified leads generated, or by surveys to examine if your targeted customers view you in a more positive light;

  • Conduct in-depth assessments, references and structured interviews to make sure whomever you hire will be a good fit in that position in your organisation;

  • Set up Key Performance Indicators that mirrors increase in productivity or profitability, and if need be, reduce the rewards for average performers to pay for the increased rewards of top performers;

  • Monitor the behavioural changes of all trainees immediately after the training until all trainers are subconsciously proficient in the new skills they learnt

     Eventually, what you really want to be is to stand tall, and get stronger, even when others (your competitors, i.e.) have fallen.  Indeed, this "winter" is going to be a watershed period for better or for worse, for businesses as well as for nations.  I trust that by the time this "winter" is finally over, you and I will be singing, "I'm still standing, yeah yeah yeah!"


     For more ideas on how you can remain standing while others have fallen, please e-mail info@directions-consulting.com or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

Power Breakfast Hour: 24 February 2009

How to Build and Motivate Winning Regional Sales Teams during  Tough Economic Times


     Join International Sales Leadership and Performance Coach c.j. Ng in this special two-hour breakfast meeting in Singapore where he will be sharing with you the following insights:

  • How to keep your regional sales teams motivated and pumped-up even when they have to work twice as hard for half the usual results;
  • How to get your sales people adapted to new and better sales strategies to survive the tough times; and
  • How you can make use of the economic downturn to gain customer insights, and be well-positioned for the upcoming recovery

VENUE: In Singapore, The Executive Centre, Level 14, Prudential Tower, 30 Cecil Street

DATE: Tuesday, 24 February 2009


TIME: from 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

PRICE: S$65 nett (The first registrant who is a current client of The Executive Centre will get a complimentary seat)

     To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations to sales@directions-consulting.com

      Pls. check out our web sites www.directions-consulting.com and www.psycheselling.com/page4.html for more inspiration.

Practical Tips for Sales Managers:
How can You Drastically Improve Cross-Regional Cooperation between Your Sales Teams?

by c.j. Ng

Some time ago, a client of mine was commenting that sales teams from different geographic regions in China hardly ever refer sales leads to one another.

In my experience working with different sales organisations in China, I have observed certain sales teams in different geographic locations actually fought with each other for sales leads across regional boundaries.  That's the level of "teamwork" for you.


While there are extreme cases where teamwork between different sales teams are non-existent, chances are if the sales organisations have got clear rules and regulations that everyone abides by, there won't be serious infighting to say the least. 


However, "teamwork" and "selling" don't usually take place in he same sentence, as sales people usually would like to have 100% of the commission to themselves, and NOT share any portion to anyone else.  They are also, by nature, less likely to keep an eye for their colleagues in some far flung regions whom they never have met, and perhaps never will.


Still, if such cross-regional leads are not being pursued by our sales people, they may be picked up by our competitors.  Not a good outcome to have.


So here's a suggestion on how to get your usually self-centred sales people to give cross-regional referrals enthusiastically.


Firstly, run a contest on cross-regional referrals. Give small awards to those who gave the most referrals to their colleagues in other regions.  Never mind if the quality of the referrals are not well-qualified at this stage, as the recipients of these referrals will give their honest feedback to the referrers.  If someone keeps on giving trashy referrals, he's going to get a earful from his colleagues.


The key is to encourage the culture of cross-referrals so that it becomes habitual.


The next step is to give bigger prizes for the most profitable referrals. The motive here is to encourage the giver to provide post-referral support (if there's such a term), and make sure things work out fine.


This is known as a "givers gain" mentality, and more information about giving referrals in such ways can be found @ www.bni.com and www.bni.com.sg I was President for one of the chapters in Singapore many years ago.


While BNI (Business Network International) focuses on sharing referrals between small business owners, there's nothing to stop us from adapting the same concept and use it for regional sales teams.


If you need to find out more about how you instil a "givers gain" mindset in your sales people, you can send your queries to info@psycheselling.com

About PsycheSelling.com


Psyche-Selling TM is a wholly-owned brand of Directions Management Consulting Pte Ltd that specialises in the field of improving sales performance by enhancing the performance of the entire sales team.  Apart from the regular "selling skills training", Psyche-Selling TM conducts pre- and post-training analysis, interviews, monitoring and reviews, working closely with managers and even senior management, to deliver real improvements in sales leadership and performance.


Here's a profile of our valued clients and partners for 2008:


Andy Yeung, VP Sales & Marketing China, the Ascott Group.  Andy rejuvenised the entire Ascott sales force, hitting 94% of sales targets by 31 July 2008.  This is despite the travel controls due to the Beijing Olympics and serious poaching of good sales staff from competitors.  Through Andy's efforts, he was able to stabilise the sales force attrition rate, and went on to post record sales in a soft market.  While 2009 will be a tougher year for the hospitality industry, I believe Andy will grow the Ascott Group's business in China from strength to strength.


Belinda Ma, Special Project Manager, Dell China.   We had the good fortune to work with Belinda through our associates, A.S.K. Learning for a major Dell project in China and the rest of Asia.  Belinda has shown outstanding dedication and commitment to her project, and has given us exceptional support (even in the middle of the night).  While her straightforward style of communication may have ruffled some people, her straight-talking also means she's all business and no-nonsense.  This is despite that she still has to care for her one-year-old son, while giving 120% to her work.


Dirk Lange, Investment & Operations Manager China, Duravit.   Dirk is one of the few senior managers who has the foresight to build a training centre, not just for internal staff, but for Duravit's channel partners.  This is despite that the economy is fast getting into "winter" mode, but Dirk truly sees beyond the short term, and feels that the future of their business rely on well-trained and well-prepared sales people and channel partners.  Dirk went for an extended vacation back home to Germany in September 2009 and left his entire operations to his Chinese team.  Not only did things run smoothly during this period, Dirk actually received minimal work-related e-mail.  Dirk is standing testament that "lao wai" managers in China can lead productive and motivated work teams in China, even in their absence.   


Robin Rajpal, General Manager, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Zhengzhou.   Robin is the General Manager that other General Managers hate.  He is the maverick who will rock the boat but achieve outstanding results nevertheless.  In the lull summer months of 2007 and 2008, rather than trying to drive occupancy rates through massive discounts, Robin drove 2 campaigns: one is to sell moon cakes, and the other is to promote their German Beer Festival at their hotel (only the band was German; the beer was Carlsberg).   The moon cakes alone took in more than RMB 5 million and RMB 7 million in 2007 and 2008 respectively.  That is better than selling 5,000 extra room nights.   


Hence, Psyche-Selling TM would like to be known as the preferred choice of outstanding and remarkable clients, and pride ourselves as such.

Enquiries and suggestions, pls. e-mail info@psycheselling.com or visit www.psycheselling.com