‘Business works only when you are close to the customer. Features don’t sell. At the end of the day the customer is going to ask “What’s in it for me?”
Neeraj Walia, the CEO for Montblanc, is not someone hardwired to preset structures and plans. He believes in understanding the essence of business. He states that applications are experiments depending on the situation.
Walia was leading the Sales and Marketing team of McCain Foods, the Canadian frozen potato specialty firm when he fine-tuned his unconventional approach to business as he helped expand sales operations countrywide. He knew that India is a unique market and various channels would have to be used, if McCain wanted to capture the retail market.
He used several indigenous and innovative methods of product marketing – from endorsing french fries at his relatives’ kitty parties to approaching bakeries and multiplexes equipped with cold storage facilities; Walia has done it all to ensure that the company whose french fries have made McDonald’s famous world over also found a place in the heart of the Indian family.
Walia shared his inspiring story with the Executive MBA cohorts of the Institute of Product Leadership at the CMRIT campus on 2nd February 2019. Here are some of the key takeaways from his session –
Believe in your own product – First and foremost, before you sell to anyone else, you need to fall in love with your own product and really believe that it’s a great one. That starts with first using it and getting completely familiar with it.
Discover new markets – Apart from the obvious, there are hidden markets which you can tap into and scale your business to no end. When it came to McCain Foods, we had vendors everywhere, from bakeries, multiplexes and retail outlets to small chicken and mutton shops. What was the common denominator? Cold storage capabilities for storing our product.
Benefit Statement – It’s not about features, it’s about the benefit that the customer is getting. You have to constantly be at the point of consumption and sales to know why your customer is buying your product and what pain point you are helping solve. That way you can retain your market and capture a larger slice, as you always know exactly what you are doing for your customers.
Don’t touch the price – When it comes to the rules of the market always remember that the price is sacred. Margins are the last thing you should ever compromise. Give out free samples in the beginning if necessary but never touch the price.
Be passionate – A salesman has to be passionate and persistent. The early steps in the retail sector for McCain Foods in India started out small and were not in supermarkets. They were generally sold at a relative’s kitty party or at PTA meetings in a school. Get as close to the customer as possible.