In this post I will share with you my 5 personal tips, that can help you win a lot more business in India. Especially if you are an IT sales professional like me. And your customer or buyer, is based in India.
One of the most interesting and dynamic countries to do business with is India! It is amazing how fast this country is growing and how motivated and energetic the people are. Many people from India have a fantastic entrepreneurial spirit and great IT education. And some of the world’s best deal-makers and negotiators all come from India! Such strengths also make India a very challenging and tough country to sell to. But it can also be incredibly rewarding and interesting. As long as you are aware, of the differences in business culture.
1. The pure power of patience
Building a relationship with your customers from India can take a lot of time. At the early stages of the sales cycle and RFP, the amount of questions you will receive may be incredibly overwhelming.
Based on my experience, this is a natural process when dealing with Indian customers. Indians have a strong desire to fully understand all components of the services that you are offering. Both technical and commercial.
The reason behind it, is that large Indian IT outsourcing companies are working with many different vendors. And all of them are part of one particular end-customers’ solution. All teams need to collaborate and are under intense pressure to deliver on-time results.
They need to be fully alligned and that’s why they are asking you all these complicated questions.
But if you provide high quality, on-time responses and you are patient, eventually you are much more likely to proceed to the next round.
Most important: you will be seen as a reliable business partner and get consulted more often. As now your Indian customers can rely on you, during the most time critical situations.
2. Getting personal
Like in any other business, it is important that we get to know our customer. Especially when your customers are based somewhere far away and you can’t meet them frequently in person. Therefore, general small talk and showing interest in your Indian customer is very important.
Try for example, to ask what their professional role and their responsibilities are like? What drives them personally and what is most challenging in their job? Or just ask how the weekend was or what it is like to work in their city.
I know and I can hear you thinking… “Theseall sound very obvious and straight forward”! “What is the purpose of emphasizing this?”
But wait…. Keep in mind, that in the end people always buy from people. This works the same way everywhere. Also in India.
So establishing a better and more personal relationship in the beginning, is absolutely crucial. Especially in a very competitive environment, it can even make the difference.
Once you have established a better relationship, it is so much easier to request updates, that are important to you and for your sales forecast. You will improve your deal forecasting and grow a better relationship.
And thanks to all this, it will allow you to ask for more flexibility. And possibly even buy yourself some more time, during those hectic RFP days and deadlines.
3. Managing deadlines and expectations
The competition is super-intense in India. Your Indian customers are under intense pressure to deliver results on time. The sky is the limit and your customer’s financial targets are very demanding.
Time has a different meaning in India, compared to the USA or Western Europe.
Yes, be prepared… you can expect more phone calls during the evenings and in the weekends.
During critical stages of the RFP, make sure that you work closely with your Indian customer. Let them know and feel, that you are part of their team. Your sole goal is to help them win and be successful.
Emphasize and repeat this often…
Indians can set very challenging deadlines. Be realistic, whether it can be achieved or not. It may be better to be honest and request for a postponed deadline.
Then if you can, try submitting the RFP-response, still within the original intended deadline. Incidental unexpected over-achievement works particularly well, when selling to customers from India. I believe it can contribute significantly to your goal, of becoming the reliable and preferred business partner.
You will start doing more business together. And as a result, you will start winning a lot more deals.
4. Time to get tough
I believe that the people from India are the world’s best negotiators and deal-makers. It is something I truly respect, I can see, that it is in their DNA.
Be prepared, that when you are going to make a formal proposal, there will be many extensive negotiation rounds.
Although you must be competitive, don’t immediately offer the lowest possible price for your products or services. Keep plenty of margin for those many negotiation rounds.
Understand and respect, that it is a natural process that should not be disturbed and must happen.
You can expect to encounter new terminology like BAFO and LAFO (Best And Final Offer, Last And Final Offer). Then when you have come to a certain point, where you have offered the best price and negotiations should be completed, be prepared…
You must be prepared, to decline another BAFO-round at least 3 times in a firm language. And refer back to previous submissions and what you have already done for them to support.
And always… always ask for something else in return during these negotiations. It is highly recommended, that you always ask something in return. Never give anything away for free. Even if what you are giving away, is not that valuable to you.
It is a common culture to always ask for something in return and negotiate about absolutely everything. It is actually fun and very exciting!
You will start looking at these negotiations in a different way and enjoy them more. In the end, you will see they can become more beneficial for both parties.
5. Create your own biggest ambassadors!
Once you have been selected as the preferred partner, it is important to overachieve expectations. And to remain consistent and reliable.
During the implementation phase of a new project, you will start working with many new people. For example: New engineers, project- and implementation managers.
All individuals, who you have not yet met before. But all individuals that are the single biggest opportunity out there, to help you land many more additional business in the future from India!
These new people can easily become your greatest ambassadors for future projects.
Help them with their daily tasks and implementations. Meet them when you can. Invite them for lunch. Ask them often, what they need in order to be successful. And to do their job better, so they can hit their targets.
If you have helped them to achieve their deadlines and successful implementations, they will always recommend you. In fact, these project managers will become your greatest internal reference customers.
Imagine how strong your negotiation position will be, when you are down to the final two in a formal Request For Proposal. And then… the procurement manager wants you to lower your price even further. Or threatens to select your competitor instead?
Now you can confront the procurement manager and say:
“Ask your project manager who is under the most intense pressure to deliver on time, who he would prefer working with”?
Chances are your new contacts will be the ones, who will lobby the strongest on your behalf! And support you through thick and thin! They will do the selling and closing on your behalf!
Enable their success and help them achieve their deadlines first. And you will not only enjoy working with customers from India more. But you will also see your business grow and make new friends.
Do you recognize some of these examples or have other suggestions to share? I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and share this with other people.
This is an excerpt from the book “The corporate sales winners guide” by Gerrit Jan de Vries. View the ebook and the paperback version on Amazon.