What we think | Sales & Business Leader Perspectives

Acing sales skills for effective Customer Solutioning

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Prasad Panapakkam

Senior Manager, Business Development, Sales

Featuring: Prasad Panapakkam, Senior Manager, Business Development, Sales

Interviewed by Sripriyaa Venkataraman & Curated by Chandrani Datta

Sripriyaa: You’ve been successful in consultative selling, focusing on understanding customer needs and facilitating talent and sales transformations. Customers often praise your ability to accurately assess their requirements and effectively gather information to provide solutions. Could you share how you developed this skill and how it manifests in your interactions with customers?

Prasad: My journey in active listening and note-taking began early in my career during a memorable meeting at Wipro in the early 2000s. One of my business unit heads emphasized the importance of taking detailed notes, which has since become a fundamental aspect of my professional approach. Despite the availability of modern gadgets, I prefer the clarity and focus that comes from using a simple notebook and pencil. This practice not only helps in actively listening but also ensures that I take actionable steps based on these notes.

Throughout my consulting career, the habit of extensive note-taking served me well, especially given the fast pace and the volume of information we needed to process. A leader from my early days, who came from an operations background and had no prior sales experience, reinforced the importance of listening over speaking. He taught us that in sales, effective communication is as much about absorbing information as it is about conveying it.

This lesson has been invaluable, guiding how I interact with customers and even influencing my personal habits, like making shopping lists for even routine visits to the provision store. It underscores a critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of sales: the ability to listen deeply to truly understand customer needs before responding.

Sripriyaa: What are other practices that you have imbibed especially when it comes to customer solutioning?

Prasad: In sales, certain foundational principles guide my approach to solutioning. The first principle is preparation. Before any meeting, I use available resources like Google to conduct extensive research. This practice was valuable even before the widespread availability of the internet, where we relied on printed materials and documents to prepare.

The second principle in solution selling is to avoid proposing a solution immediately. Instead, it’s crucial to actively listen and assess if there genuinely is a problem that needs solving from the customer’s perspective.

The third principle is to avoid force-fitting a solution. We often have a portfolio of offerings, but not every product or service will meet the customer’s needs. If our solutions do not address their specific problem, it’s important to be honest and acknowledge this. This approach builds trust, as customers value salespeople who understand their problems deeply and show empathy, rather than just trying to make a sale.

These principles of understanding the customer’s needs, empathizing with their situation, and responding appropriately are crucial, regardless of whether you’re selling a simple product or offering high-level consulting services. It’s about putting oneself in the customer’s shoes first and foremost.

3 Principles of Customer Solutioning

1. Preparation and Thorough Research
2.Avoid Proposing a Solution before listening.
3.Avoid force-fitting a solution.

    Key Learnings:

    -In sales, effective communication is as much about absorbing information as it is about conveying it.

    – If our solutions do not address their specific problem, it’s important to be honest and acknowledge this. This approach builds trust, as customers value salespeople who understand their problems deeply and show empathy, rather than just trying to make a sale.

    To know more about developing your own set of sales skills, contact us.

    tripura-multinational-team-prasad
    Practitioner:

    Prasad Panapakkam

    Senior Manager, Business Development, Sales
    Prasad Panapakkam is a Senior Manager with extensive experience in management consulting and is now in the coaching space. With over two decades of experience in sales and client engagement, ‘Professor Prasad’ as his colleagues call him, has served clients in various industries in areas like Business performance improvement, IT strategy and Functional excellence.
    Chandrani-datta-Content-Manager-Tripura-Multinational-Singapore-our-team 2
    Curator:
    Chandrani Datta works as a Manager-Content Research and Development with almost a decade’s experience in writing and editing of content. A former journalist turned content manager, Chandrani has written and edited for different brands cutting across industries. The hunger for learning, meaningful work and novel experiences keeps her on her toes. An avid traveller, Chandrani’s interests lie in photography, reading and watching movies.

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