New Delhi: Every company has a fox, and within this fox lies the key to growth and unimaginable revenues — this is the unique mantra on which Jim Holden founded Holden International, a US-based strategic sales consulting practice that helps companies achieve sales excellence, beat competition and augment revenues.
Enhancing value: Jim Holden (left), founder, Holden International and Ryan C. Kubacki, president, say their focus is to make sure that companies here can compete success at the international level. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
A “selling fox” is a salesperson who is a master of competitive selling, can identify big opportunities, close in on them using soft, trial or hard-selling techniques and beat competition at the game, says Holden. He also understands the basics of selling well and while basic techniques may seem simpler to master, they are actually the most difficult to adhere to, he says. Holden’s firm trains sales staff in companies to foster such foxes and, in turn, reap the benefits of higher revenues and profits.
The company has worked with at least 550 companies, teaching and coaching nearly 350,000 sales professionals on strategies for engaging and deflating the competition in highly competitive business situations.
Headquartered in Chicago, Holden International has operations in Canada, Europe, parts of Asia and has recently entered into a strategic partnership with Dominum Strategy and Process, an Indian sales consulting firm, to help companies here implement the sales processes and methodologies developed by Holden and his team. The partners are already working with six clients, including big ticket firms such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, Satyam Computer Services Ltd, Trend Micro Inc. and Intel Corp.
On a recent visit to India, Holden said the current economic situation has created a stronger demand for the company’s services worldwide but the need is especially felt in the Indian market, where the recent financial optimism is on the decline. “It’s the right time to enter the Indian market because companies in India are focused on traditional thinking and providing better quality customer solutions at a lower cost. That is important, but it will not change the balance of power in the industry”, says Holden. “There is a need for global best practices to be applied here for companies to start thinking out of the box and achieve value they never thought possible.”
Edited excerpts from the interaction with Holden and company president Ryan Kubacki :
If there was a formula to achieve greater sales and higher profits, wouldn’t every company in the world adopt it? Are increasing sales and profits and beating competition actually so easy that they can be achieved by following a mantra?
Holden: Formula is a good word. What we do is we work with businesses to assist market share through the ability to create an asymmetric advantage to beat competition. Suppose you have two companies competing to gain market share — the formula or approach centres on unconventional thinking. In India’s IT sector, for example, TCS Ltd is the market leader followed by the likes of Infosys Technologies Ltd, Wipro Ltd, among others, and this hierarchy has existed for more than five years. We feel it has not changed because companies are holding on to what they are used to and they are okay with it. The thinking has stagnated at the seller level, as well as at the company’s distribution, accounting (divisions) and everyone from the sales team to the senior level management. We work with these divisions and look at who has the maximum influence, rather than authority.
We are a business-to-business solutions company, where we develop certain methodologies for the people on the field and the managers, so as to apply unconventional thinking to get unexpected customer value which the company had never thought possible earlier. All this happens when the methodologies, or you can say formulas, that we develop specific to the field of business are applied, creating competitor vulnerability.
In a company that has been around long enough, processes and the way of thinking tend to become routine and very traditional, so when we come in, we make the company think out of the box. To sum it up, what we’re centring on here is unconventional thinking and how it manifests itself with the methodology we develop.
How is your service implemented?
Kubacki: We begin with research on the company, competition and the overall market and then, based on that, we work with people at various levels in the company and put together a customized approach to help it reach new levels of growth. There are workshops and live applications that go along with the methodology we put into place. Initially, the competitor reacts indifferently as it starts losing business and dismisses the loss as a fluke situation, but very soon, the impact on competition gets very significant because we manage to successfully disable the front-end of the competition, thereby altering the balance of power in favour of our client.
Your company is recognized as the pioneer of ‘power base selling’. What is this concept all about?
Kubacki: We have several methodologies which have been developed specifically for the kind of work that’s done, such as telesales or transaction-oriented companies, and power base selling is one such methodology to assist sales and account teams in engaging and defeating competition upon qualifying the opportunity.
How do we bring about an increase in value? By learning about every bit of the political infrastructure and through distribution of influence, which is the centre of the power base. Here, we believe that in every company there is a fox and there can be more than one too — but this person is not necessarily the top or senior level manager. The person who best suits the image of the fox is the most influential person in his/her respective position. Once identified, the fox has the power, not necessarily the authority, to bring about strategic formulation and unconventional thinking.
Do you customize your methodologies to country-specific needs or is it a one-for-all approach?
Kubacki: Say it’s a large multinational company — we apply these methodologies but it is not a single approach we use. We always customize the work to suit specific countries and try and adapt the methodologies to fit into their environment.
Will the current economic gloom make more and more companies turn to you for guidance to push sales?
Holden: We are dealing with a confused market where there is a lot of uncertainty but we feel there is tremendous opportunity to grow and win market share at this time. Yes, the demand has grown because when times are good and companies are growing, they tend to focus on other aspects but now, when consumers are demanding better value, the common approach used by companies is to reduce margins. But that does not make for a sustainable business — that’s when we come in to change the approach to a defensive one rather than an offensive approach.
What brings you to India? What is your assessment of the market?
Holden: Behavioural analysis is a very prominent part of the way we do our business. So, we were very careful about coming to India because we had to learn how to position ourselves to suit local needs and we are very pleased with the way it has been received so far. We are very excited about this market because there is so much room to be unconventional as companies here are very traditional and our solutions fit in perfectly. Also, the current environment is forcing companies to suddenly cut costs, reduce offerings and, in a way, be prudent. So, there is a lot to work with to change the mindset of people and the strategy of companies. And especially today, when Indian companies are increasingly working with international companies, our focus here is to make sure Indian companies can compete successfully.