“We’re dealing with wafer-thin margins here in India. Sure, we’re seeing top-line growth, but costs are increasing exponentially” an industrial firm’s India GM said to me during a recent trip to Mumbai.
It’s something I heard time and time again as I spoke with executives across a variety of industries. Most companies in India face a similar challenge. Rising costs continue to offset the gains from relatively strong revenue growth. In response, multinationals are attempting to enhance their top line even further.
One of the key ways successful companies are improving revenue growth is by enhancing the effectiveness of their sales teams in India. But this is not an easy feat either.
There are three main challenges that make increasing the effectiveness of sales teams extremely difficult in India:
- Time spent on non-sales activities: Sales teams across APAC spend a significant amount of time on non-revenue generating activities (e.g., administrative tasks, finance, logistics, etc.) instead of on customer interactions. This is a particularly acute challenge in India, where salespeople often take on multiple roles to serve customers due to market complexities. For example, one of the most common complaints in the Indian market is that sales teams spend time following up with customers on delayed payments, time that would be better utilized increasing new sales.
- Lack of sophisticated sales skills: Because technical and product knowledge are now baseline in India, sales teams need to develop soft skills, like dealing with numerous stakeholders and effective negotiation skills, to capture the market. Negotiation skills are particularly critical in India to move sales conversations from price to value. “Sales teams in India generally lack the level of sophistication required to engage in high-value negotiations” is a comment we hear frequently from executives in the market.
- Younger sales teams: India has one of the world’s largest and youngest populations—more than one-third of the workforce will be aged 30 or younger in 2020. The increased freedom and entrepreneurial spirit of this younger sales force will conflict with companies’ previously established sales structures and processes. Additionally, the workforce in most developed markets is aging, so MNCs need to be cognizant of the divergence in population trends to adapt global HR and sales practices to a younger Indian workforce.
To help our clients overcome these challenges, we spent a substantial amount of time speaking with senior executives of local and multinational companies in India. As part of the analysis, we developed a strategic framework that will help companies overcome these challenges and improve the effectiveness of their sales people in India. Executives should use the framework in the report, along with the 12 tried-and-tested tactics, to enhance the performance of their sales teams in India and accelerate profitable growth in the market.