Play this game with me: I have R1 000 that is owed to both of us. We’re going to split it and I will decide how. You can decide whether to accept my offer. If you do, we split the money as I suggested. If you decline, no one keeps any of it. My first offer is for me to keep R600 and give you R400. If you’re like most people – according to neuroscientist Dr Matthew Lieberman – you might hesitate slightly but you will take the R400. It seems mostly fair.
Now, instead of the deal I presented above, I propose to keep R800 and give you R200. According to Lieberman, the vast majority of people will opt out of the deal and no one will get any money.
An instinct for fairness
Our brains are wired for fairness and we would rather no-one benefit if both people can’t benefit somewhat fairly. The instinct for fairness is so strong that many people will pay money and go out of their way to seek vengeance if they feel the scales are tipped out of their favour.
The business lessons we learn from brain science about fairness and the applications to your livelihood are many, but these are the most important:
1. If you expect fairness, you will get it.
Examine one of the world’s best statesmen, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, and you’ll see why he accomplished what some dubbed a miracle. He negotiated peacefully with Israel during one of the most turbulent times in the Middle East. He did it by announcing in press conferences, when asked about how he thought negotiations would go, that he fully expected for them to be fair for both sides because he had come to expect nothing less.
In essence, he got the other side to play nicely.
Most people come to the negotiation table presuming a specific role they’ll play. They might believe they’re in the driver’s seat, for instance. If you unfairly assume that you are the driver because you didn’t do your homework, there is going to be a lot of arguing over who gets the steering wheel instead of focusing on the deal. Be proactive, investigate the role of the other person and play into it.
3. Give in and give up.
Go into a meeting knowing your idea will rarely be adopted in its entirety. People will go to the mat over little matters just to make sure you give up something and give in to one of theirs. Prior to the meeting, examine the aspects of the proposal you can live without.
4. If it’s unfair, it’s unsafe.
The brain is scanning all day long to maximise reward and minimise danger. When something doesn’t feel fair, it feels dangerous. The other party will scan for other areas in the proposal to minimise danger and you get negative and narrow thinking in the room. One of your tasks in a negotiation is to assure safety and create it if it’s not there.
There are exceptions to the fairness rule. Some people are numb to its effects no matter how fairly you play. They are the exceptions and you may need to play hardball with them, but it’s doubtful that you’ll feel good about it afterwards. Practise playing by the fairness rules and most of the time you will win – and so will they. Fair enough?
Want To Become A Supplier To A Big Company? Consider This First
A giant customer can be highly profitable or cost you your business. Have you considered all the angles?
“How do I get into the big corporates or Government?” Business owners visualise huge sales and profits by becoming a supplier to a giant, and that is often the case. For a big organisation with billions to spend, a trivial expenditure to them may be a large fortune to you. Do not let the number of zeros dazzle you, riches are not guaranteed; many entrepreneurs have suffered losses or businesses collapse from such dealings.
You must understand the motivations of managers of large organisations, and the risks they face. They are KPI-driven and risk serious damage to their careers if something goes badly wrong. Compared to these issues, your profitability, work hours and ego are minor considerations. You may believe that you only have to perform in terms of your agreement, but in reality, you need to make your contacts look good. Aim for a zero fail rate; deliveries that are late, faulty or incorrect may cause a disproportionate explosion because that means your contact has let someone down. If you are smart, you can help your contacts get a reputation for superior internal service.
Understand the risks that big customers pose to your business
There are risks in any unequal buyer/seller relationship. The biggest risk is if the giant stops buying. Large customers can be extremely demanding; they see you as an extension of their business and can be intolerant of your need to service other customers. Many small suppliers will be familiar with a peremptory summons to an immediate meeting and occasional rudeness. A supply contract inevitably favours the big guy, and this means pricing and other terms of trade are vital. You must protect your ability to make a reasonable margin even if circumstances like inflation, exchange rates or sector wage agreements change.
Large organisations care about meeting their budgets, not about your profitability, and many suppliers have failed because they were bound to supply goods at an unsustainable price. Managers move around, and if your champion is promoted, the replacement manager may prefer their favourite suppliers, so out you go. Broaden your range of contacts in the organisation to avoid this risk. Large organisations are huge bureaucracies; decisions may take time and payments may be delayed, especially if your paperwork is not perfect.
There are opportunities — but evaluate them carefully
The major opportunity is significant growth. They will buy if you supply a product or service that suits their needs and budget at service levels that make the managers look good. It is entirely possible to make your company almost indispensable by solving problems and offering them innovative new ways of exceeding their KPIs at reduced cost. There are opportunities to supply other parts of the giant, as well as their supply chains. Be careful with growth. Your primary contact will be used to your full attention and if he or she senses that this is no longer happening because you have grown, they can seek alternative suppliers. Never let growth reduce your customer service level.
A very large and prestigious customer gives your company credibility, allows you to attract the brightest staff, makes selling to other giants easier and gives you funds to develop new markets and new products.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the big money? Yes, if you can manage the risks, chief of which is becoming too dependent on one customer. However, dealing with the big gorillas is not the same as having a more balanced supplier/buyer relationship. It works if you use your ability to be nimble and flexible to solve their problems. It helps if you are innovative and can use your creativity to respond rapidly in ways that big corporations cannot. It works if you can give very personal service, even if that means you, the owner, are the primary interface. By doing these things you can become an indispensable cog in a huge machine.
You need a champion in your client’s organisation, but ensure you have other contacts too. What happens if they leave or are promoted? Is your contract safe?
Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things.
As someone responsible for sales in a growing business, you would love to be able to predict your sales accurately, month after month – but this can be a difficult process. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. With some initial effort and careful monitoring, you can predict whether the team will have positive sales results in the future, and where you can see trouble looming, you can take advance action to avoid problems.
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things:
1. Developing a sales process
As ‘boring” as it might sound for many entrepreneurs, it is extremely useful to understand the benefits of working to a process in business. This applies to any part of the business, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is very applicable to sales.
Think about it this way:
- If you do the same task a different way every time, you can expect a different outcome every time. It becomes difficult to predict whether the outcome will be good or bad.
- But if you do the same task the same way every time, the outcome becomes very predictable, and you’ve laid a platform for systematic improvement. By making one small tweak to how you do the task, you can see if you get a better, or a worse, outcome. You can then keep all the tweaks that improve your outcome and drop the tweaks that make it worse.
2. Developing sales systems
A superior quality sales management capability necessitates that you have a Sales System on a best of breed technology platform, to help manage the sales function in the business.
A good sales system helps you capture your sales process. Good sales management practices drive home the discipline needed to implement the sales process, and in turn, predict sales results.
Take the first step in your journey towards accurately predicting sales by developing a sound sales process.
Next in this series: HOW TO DEVELOP A SALES PROCESS THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM
Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption
You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?
PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.
It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.
Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology
In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
- Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
- Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.
Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.
In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.
This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.
Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.
So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.
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