Priming your Industrial (B2B) sales…..

Industrial or B2B presents unique set of challenges.

Vendors may be selling to an intermediary for example an EPC or a contractor who in turn may be executing the project for an end user. While the intermediary may be more concerned with price, speed and availability, end user may focus on quality and performance. Managing diverse decision criterion requires fine balancing of relationships and strategies.

  1. Getting the product as an industry standard or emerge as a default choice is most important part of marketing. This may require informing and influencing not just the end user, but intermediaries like EPC also. Importantly the design folks within the client organization and outside need to be influenced and won over.
  2. B2B environment is highly competitive, in fact in some segments your former employees may be working for your competition with complete tacit information about sales strategy. Often there would be handful of customers with balance of purchasing power tilted towards them.
  3. B2B markets also highly exposed to commoditization. Pricing pressures could be high. Product cycles may be shortened by innovations and substitutes emerge often to displace the markets.
  4. Replacement market is a major growth opportunity. But the decision-making can be short, and unscientific. Replacements are made are 3rd party advice, availability, and price rather than quality or performance.
  5. White labelling or contract manufacturing is yet another sales growth opportunity that brings its own challenges of cannibalization of focus.
  6. B2B sale requires sales process to be customized to the procurement process. Unlike B2C business cold calls by themselves will not get business. According to a Forbes article, more than 50% of B2B sales resources consistently miss their targets. Many orders fail to materialize as the arc of meeting; educating, influencing and closing the order have been missed.


How can one ensure their B2B sale is firing? Right structural alignment, adherence to process to capture the activity at each sales stage, and appropriate incentive systems help a company realize right sales outcomes is what I actually needed to make B2B sales happen.

Get the right rhythm of activities between arc of initial meeting, mapping of key decision makers, product education and influence, defining right commercial terms and closure. End users need to have a solid reason to place an order, may need to follow up documentation and hierarchy before the decision is made.  Customer segmentation, need analysis, profitability and associated risks must be weighed much before you respond to an RFP.  If the end user happens to be government or large organization additional challenges of bank guarantees, penalties and receivables must be evaluated in detail.

With increased adoption of mobility and availability IT tools, companies can use appropriate structural arrangements to minimize the cost of sales and yet improve reach and conversion. Sales structures must include not just direct sales teams, but inside, partner and product teams that complement the direct sales. Create a dynamic sales organization that not only covers the markets, but builds partners and ambassadors for it. A dynamic sales organization must include:

  • Inside sales – Identify people, Google search, secondary data
  • Sales Executive – Feet on street, Coverage, Meet people, Verifying data and collect Information
  • Branch Manager – Administrative Cover, Link with Technical and Project people, Pre-order and post-order point of contact
  • Product Manager – Technical specialist, Influence Design/ Technical team, Identify the cost saving technical options, Match/ Improve technical
  • Regional Manager – Business Leader for the region, Price and Margin manager
  • General Manager – P&L leader, management representative, maximum interest with company and across company, Revenue Leader

With new technologies B2B companies must realize sales resources are not the only one to open door and neither opportunities nor marketing is the exclusive promoter. With many B2B buyers self-educating using tools like social media, vendors need to effectively empower and promote product and application engineering teams to network and influence the ecosystem, right from design companies, EPC contractors, Standard setting bodies and user community. Role of product management that helps in inform and educate, influence the design and procurement teams by its expertise and bring alignment between requirement and solution is often under invested. Product managers are key to requirement gathering but also define the specs of an RFP.  Promote product management –client and design interactions at all levels.

Invest in sales operations. Sales operation has different meaning for every company. In some, sales operation does number collation and crunches data. In some they are responsible for system, programs and process. In some they are responsible for pricing and participate in large complex deals. Fundamentally, the role of sales operations is to capture the data related to sales activities, and help sales team to make decisions based on data rather than subjective assessment. Sales operations more than just being a data sink, helps integration benefits to the organization by linking various activities.

Make available non-sales oriented platforms and information content to inform, educate and advocacy of their expertise and products.  More educational content from a B2B vendor helps in build trust and respect for its expertise. Share original content on social media platforms and optimize for search. Companies that go beyond their product range and address the complete industry are seen as leaders and more such content augments the credibility of the company’s brand.

A major change B2B vendors need to make to their sales strategy is to consciously move away from the decades old sales playbooks they treat as mantras. B2B vendors who just moved their sales process to modern technologies without fundamental changes in the sales engagement find the results are always below expectations. With the new technologies and information intensive markets, B2B vendors may have to rework their sales playbooks but also rethink how they are enabling the sales person to decipher and deepen the customer’s knowledge. While adopting the new technologies ensure the playbooks allow sales resources to adjust their individual strategies and styles to add value to the sales engagement process.

T R Saivinoth

How B2b companies can benefit from Youtube marketing

While many of us associate YouTube with videos of cats or people falling off their skateboards in new and interesting ways, the reality is that YouTube can be an extremely powerful weapon for a B2B marketer. In a recent study, the top three social networks for online B2B marketing are Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. With more than 800 million unique visitors each month, YouTube is now the world’s second biggest search engine. More than 100 million people take social action (likes, shares, comments, etc.) on YouTube every week.

In addition to providing your prospects with information about your product or service, a YouTube channel is also important from a brand equity perspective. HP, for example, has a large part of their channel devoted to their work in health and education. In a press release or blog format the average prospect may not ever bother looking into this kind of material, as it doesn’t have a direct connection to the buying process. But if a prospect is considering purchasing a new printer for their business and is watching a product demonstration video on YouTube, they are more likely to do so. By establishing an emotional connection, HP is able to position its brand in the prospect’s mind as caring and trustworthy.

Youtube is humungous. Each minute about 400 hour worth of video content is uploaded, but only  5% may elicit more than 10K views. 50% of all YouTube views come via a mobile device and the average time spent on YouTube per mobile is about 40 minutes. YouTube has more than 1 billion active users surfing the site. Importantly, for most companies the promotion is free and always available. Even if your content may not reach top 5% of the post, it could serve as an alternate marketing asset to inform, and influence customers.

As a B2B company, you can gain the most from YouTube marketing if you can stick to some fundamentals listed below.

  • Making content stand out: Well we all know the power of viral videos. People will actively share unique content on their social media networks, even if it’s associated with a brand. The key is to include your brand or product in the video in a way that’s not so invasive that it feels like an advertisement. A common technique used to encourage sharing is humour, but it might also be the format that captures the prospect’s attention (e.g. using a unique animation or live action scenario to tell your product’s story). You need to plan out the needs and essence your video is going to fill in your prospect’s mind and heart.
  • Make it easy to find and share: After uploading a video to YouTube, make sure to give your videos searchable titles, well described & brief descriptions and lots of tags. Embed videos on your business website as well as its social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+). If the video resonates with the prospects, they will react to it and might share it on their own social media accounts.
  • Put faces to your brand: Great thing about YouTube is that it allows you to put a face to your brand; this is extremely important in building trust with your prospect. It’s often better to use real people from business or mascots representing your brand or company. Prospects get attached to these adding a layer of transparency which is often extremely difficult to establish using traditional online marketing such as blogs, whitepapers, online forums etc.
  • First few seconds to impress: YouTube is all about small sized (length) video content. Use it to get attention in short span and condense your videos to 2-3 minute on specific areas of interest, e.g. product feature demonstrations or testimonials. According to 8-second rule, research has indicated that if users have to wait longer than 8 seconds without any attention seeking action or interest, they will go elsewhere. Because there is an ocean of information waiting online to get their precious attention. You have only 8 seconds to impress a person & to get him watch your whole content, so make first 8 seconds impactful and rather creative than just showcasing your product or feature. You need to take an innovative route to enter into the mind of the prospect for a sustaining impression. Be creative and sometimes be more natural. Shoot, animate, use info graphics etc. in your video to make it more compelling and informative according to your content.
  • One video many use or a particular use: More specific content is also helpful from the perspective that you can utilize the video or the YouTube link to focus on a particular product/service in your target email marketing campaigns & product description pages in your website. Whereas generic informative and rather flexible branding videos can be used in you landing home page to describe what your brand is all about. This will increase the engagement time prospect surfs information about your brand & will generate an impactful visit to your website.
  • Take time to create your own brand space with a YouTube channel to make it easier for your users to find all of your video content at same place. Include links to your site, campaign information, conference updates etc. Encourage comments and subscriptions from viewers. Listen and react to what’s being said as feedback or comments. Take positive notes and keep on the light glowing around with more inputs and changes. Treat your prospects comments as advices & necessary recommendations giving your marketing a continuous boost for years to come.

Vikash Prasad


“Super boss” owners in successful family businesses

Family ownership is the most prevalent form of ownership structure in many countries. Unlike a corporation, family members and their extended relations may have different rights, expectations and responsibilities in the business. Unlike a professional leader, family owners tread a fine line of balance within relevant control and empowerment to sustain their businesses. In my interactions with some of the family businesses, I had the great fortune of meeting super boss owners who not only bring unique and collaborative approach with clear strategic direction, effective policies and procedures, effective communication lines and appropriate delegation that propel employee morale and productivity. What distinguished them from others?.  Firstly, they had a clear vision of what to focus on in terms of business areas and operational decisions.  They chose an area they are comfortable with and brought in professionals to run the other parts of business. For example, a Coimbatore based agricultural attachment company’s founder kept innovation and product development activities with himself and a professional CEO to run operations and sales. Same is the case with a third generation women super boss, who knew her strength was in marketing and brought in senior professionals to manage a complex manufacturing plant.  Super boss owners saw themselves as disruptors of status quo and were always listening and evaluating multiple areas to extend their business. Unstinted passion and intensive efforts around uncovering the value of their business made them unique. Super boss owners have consciously developed an ability to look at grand picture, and hone on to details whenever required without being struck at it.  Secondly, they are good at developing talent. They invested lot of time and efforts in recruitment. They were not afraid to hire people from other industries.  They spent considerable time and efforts in hiring and managing the individuals.  Super boss owners exhibit strong belief in nurturing talent and they are not afraid of hiring people from different backgrounds and industry experiences.  A second generation super boss had developed a unique way to identify talent.  She would have monthly meetings with senior professionals from industry or other family run business owners to elicit names of smart people. She would use informal methods to meet up and assess the person for in many informal settings to identify the initiative taking ability, creativity, and intelligence.  Super boss only managed the individual not his/her team and set impossibly high standards to push the entrants to limits.  They invested in rituals and process to create personal bonds and loyalty between the new entrant and themselves. Super boss completely trust their protégé whether family member or a professional to run the task. They signal at all events and functions the new leadership and completely let go their involvement. What I found particularly interesting is their ability to encourage their protégé to fail and refurbish and invigorate the business process. Super bosses realized the need for reinventing newer structures and had no qualms about burying their pet ideas that have long lived their utility. What I found unique about the super boss owners is their superb listening abilities. They made efforts to seek out information from all corners without creating an atmosphere of informers, abhor politics at all levels and let go information which were not key to the business. One such super boss had a simple rule, my doors are always open for our company and your family,  but no complaints.  In sum, super bosses followed a simple four box formula: focus – hire best – empower – intensive interactions at all levels.

Dr TR Madan Mohan


Setting your ward to “succeed in family business”

Family run businesses are a significant segment of any nation’s industrial structure. 5% of US GDP is contributed by family businesses and 35% of Fortune 500 is family owned. They generate close to 50% of employment and 59% of all new job creations. In India 95% of business are family run, and 30% of BSE listed companies are family owned. These companies product more than 6000 products, contribute to 45% of manufacturing output and 40% of the total exports of the country.  Just about 20% survive a first generation transfer and over 65% of the succession plans go awry.  Succession has not been smooth affair within large companies like Tata’s and Mahindra’s.   Success of succession depends on the planning and execution.   Insights from successful entry and succession of wards into family business show there are some common principles that can be easily adopted.

While planning, entry at right level and mentoring are important, setting up wards with the right gamification principles ensures success.

  1. Do not burden the successor with constant reminder on results, instead focus on outcomes.
  2. Obsession with results can induce an undue pressure on the successor and induce her/him to focus on short term gains. Remember succession is an opportunity to rewire your business, and let somebody who is going to own and run the business in future unearth suboptimal approaches, bring fresh perspective and drive down the cobwebs.
  3. Limit praise, only for genuine reasons.
  4. Undue praise, which happens every day for no significant output, takes the charm out of appreciation. Overusing praise may make the successor believe less of you and less motivated
  5. Encourage them to take risk and experience failures
  6. Nothing teaches like the dirt on their own hands. Allow successors to fold up their sleeves, trip, fall and raise up to live with the experience.
  7. Allow them to solve the problems in their own way and learn
  8. Encourage them to go to the bottom of events, what happened, why it failed, what could they learn and how they would do it next time. Senior family members must dawn the role of mentor on the sides rather than leader on the dias if succession has to be successful

Growing leaders internally: what works and what does not

One common challenge in organizations of all colours and size is paucity of next line of leadership. While many companies have various types of employee development programs, very few of them help in creating a pool of leaders.  A recent survey of employee engagement spend indicates less than 10% of companies find returns from the employee engagement and development significant. A challenge grapple is how to turn career “managers” from short-haul oriented, self-centred individuals to leaders. Leadership is all about imbibing and living with sense of ownership, intense commitment for outcomes not just results and sense of urgency in reaching the outcomes.

Examples of failed leadership development experiences in many companies indicate three common challenges. Early push of an employee into a leadership position when he/she was not sure about the haul is the first cause of failure.  While the management may have identified the potential of the individual to be leader and pushed him/her to the pedestal the individual may have certain apprehension.  Capability or commitment required for the long haul of company’s growth, or utility of the job itself may inhibit the individual from embracing the new role. If the employee happens to come with an expiry date (an euphemism for an employee who stays in a job to a particular period so as to meet certain pre-requisites for a certification or industry experience), thrusting her/him with the leadership may not work.   Leadership experiments fail if they clear assessments are not carried out. Before even thrusting an individual to a leadership role, identify her/his strengths, values, positive orientation towards the future and overall satisfaction with the job and organization. Second area leadership development programs fail is insufficient exposure to challenges and associated experiences.  By placing the  individuals in cocoon and not allowing them to struggle in the new role limits their learning on the job. Finally, leadership development fails if continuous assessment of current skills and capabilities and gaps are not done.

Growing leaders internally is a process that requires planning, high intensity of follow through, and freedom to emerge from failures. Leadership engine can be sustained by adopting following principles.

  1. Identify and develop them early: Most successful internal leadership programs quickly identify leadership potentials and others very quickly. Look for obvious signs of quality of work, sense of ownership of team, quality of feedbacks to colleagues, penchant to DIM (do it myself), initiative for breaks with team, etc.
  2.  Leadership at all levels: Internal leadership program must not restrict to a certain layer of organization, but rather be pursued as a common program across the organization. Internal leaders can emerge at various levels and the program must be flexible enough to identify and sustain leaderships of various forms. Leadership at some level may be highly task oriented, structured, process oriented, while leadership at another level may be one of managing unstructured, complex and volatile environment.
  3.  Assess their skills and capabilities, and identify right intervention strategies: Identify their life goals, self-esteem, creativity, optimism, happiness, personal strengths and motivation of the individual. Identify their natural leadership styles and design appropriate intervention strategies.
  4.  Support them with mentors: Internal leaders require mentors who could be from the company or outside. They act as sounding boards, motivational support and dogma sinks.
  5.  Rotate: Nothing works like a comprehensive view of the organization for would be leaders. Job rotation or a new geography broadens the work experience.
  6.  Push them to network smarter: Internal leadership program can be successful only if strong network outcomes are defined and orchestrated.  Goad the identified individuals to connect with their peers in professional forums, industry events, seminars and think tanks. Encourage them to express and reach out in the social media, by curating and directing their content appropriately.
  7.  Expose them to experience, and allow them to struggle:  Internal leadership development must have 3 quarter plans that help the individual gain practical experience of leading and managing at the newer plane.  If failures or setback happens, allow the individuals to mull over and gain from the experience. While setting them to win is important, the win must be cherished as self-gained.
  8.  Help them to do self-review: Internal leadership program thrive if platforms and process to self-review without the stigma of failures or low outcomes are encouraged. Create a informal self-review mechanisms where the individual can elicit the feedback, discuss and digest and push the agenda of improvement by themselves.

Five principles of “scaling up a start-up”

Start-ups are darlings of media and investors at the moment.  While many attract huge valuations and grab headlines, many of them bite dust or fade away.  Hoping you have built a start-up, how well it grows depends upon adopting few fundamental scalability principles.

First principle is checking the fundamentals. Validate your product/service is robust, and customer segments are there to encash.  Evaluate whether you have ironed out market fitment, you are relevant to customers segments that are likely to grow and spend. Finally, you have resources in terms of people and infrastructure to support the growth.

Second principle is to formalize process, and the culture you want the organization. Template and automate the surround process.  Detail the culture and align everybody in your current organization to own and drive the initiatives.  Identify and handover the management to entrepreneurs within the organization. Automate or outsource HR and related process. They save a lot of your time and energy.  Create process and systems for an organization 10X times than what you are, not to meet current requirements.

Third principle is to charge marketing. Bring in high voltage less investment drives, right from campus drives, free rides on techcrunch or IEEE or respected incubation platforms. See if you can ride on the ecosystem of OEM’s, educational institutions, HNI’s and angels.  More free vehicles better it is.

Fourth, keep your sales engine simple and stupid. Hire for their attitude than double degree MBA’s.  Bring in a centralized sales operations role that reviews and drives sale to success. Define incentives that are idiot proof.

Finally, but most critical is evaluate well prepared is the organization for your absence. Are there enough people who loose their sleep if delivery are not met or client meetings are missed.

Unlike what mercenary VC’s think, scalability is all about creating a homogenous unit. Scalability is all about creating an entity that breathes and lives a vision, follows common system and process, people and plans.

How effectively are you using your marketing assets…..

A senior marketing director in a recent conversion blurted out that while her marketing budget has increased YoY, the ROI seems to be elusive. What was bothering her was the fact the company spends substantially in curated events managed by respected analysts, and yet Sales find the coverage insufficient. Look familiar. This is a common problems with most companies where marketing focus on few vehicles. Some believe in only the physical networking events and other lean heavily on social media platforms. Here again companies do not follow an “embellish” strategy.  Consider the broad marketing asset a company has its disposal. On the social media front, the assets range from infographics, blogs, extended blogs, videos, case studies, white papers, publications and community platforms. On the physical front, a company could use industry events, workshops, analyst meets, association forums, and breakfast meetings. What works best is when companies know how to mesh mash both physical and online assets and the assets within each category.  One strategy that could be effectively followed is to have a quarter-wise marketing plan aligned to sales expectations. Then follow up a “embellish” strategy where in the messaging starts from basic assets and progresses to high scale assets. The advantage of this is that content development and curation can happen in stages and stronger stories and messaging emerge with each insert. For example, an infographic can be used to reward the reader with rich insights with high level cause-effect. Marketing team adopts a Tufte approach that may be high on information density and distilled functionality, focus on connectedness, and communicate through high imagery. Next level, a blog, which is used to influence, informative or thought provoking, may extend the infographic content using Kafka model. The blog could contain rich arguments and silver line conclusion. Whitepaper an extensive write up of blog may be used as a teaser before all material are tested, or position credibility and promote advocacy. Beauty of the embellish model is the content not only unfolds in a consistent manner, content is richer and all of them form independent hooks to improve visibility. Similar extensive strategy can also be used for physical platforms. Companies realize focus group meetings, followed by industry forum and curated events including analyst shows provide improve coverage and affinity. Moral of the story?. When planning for marketing, consider the complete assets at your disposal and build a embellish strategy that improves reach and richness of marketing communication complementing sales.