Digital Marketing as competitive advantage


It is not an everyday opportunity to interact one-one with a senior executive of one of the biggest IT players in the world. When one such opportunity came, I was all excited and there I was – waiting anxiously to interact with Mr. Apurva Chamaria, Global Head – Brand & Digital, HCL Technologies. I was lucky enough to nab him for about an hour to pick his brain on evolution of IT in Sales, latest in branding and digital marketing, geographic differences etc.

I started the interview hoping to dig deeper into Mr.Apurva Chamaria’s perspective on the evolution of sales in the IT industry.  He offered up a lot of wisdom on the paradigm shift that the term “IT Sales” has witnessed over the years.

According to him, it all began as services sales like implementation sales of SAP, Oracle etc., and then came solution selling. Now it’s all about “Challenger Sales”.

Me: Challenger Sales Model? Could you please elaborate more?

Mr. Apurva: Suppose you are calling a CIO/CFO of a company for a sales pitch, you should have already known his biography, read his recent articles in media, should know what he is tweeting and most importantly know enough about his company’s competitors. By now, you must have been able to arrive at his problem statement. Now when you get him on the phone, all you have to say is, “I just notice from one of your interviews the challenge faced by you and this is what is happening in your industry and these are the areas where you could do better” and so on.

There could be two outcomes of the Challenger Sales model – You are right and the CFO/CIO will be impressed and will make the deal or you are partially right and still the CIO is impressed with the homework you have done and will mostly give you insights about the actual issue he is facing. Either way your job is done.

So, it is important to note the power of Social Selling. Know enough about the person’s social background so that you connect with him/her at a personal level. Try to find out the person’s aspiration and his role in the power play happening in the organization.

One important aspect of challenger sales model is excellent communication skills especially email – starting with interesting subject line, so that the mail is noticed and not deleted.

Me: How much do you think can Social Relationships end up in deals?

Mr. Apurva: After product quality and pricing, this relationship is all that it takes to differentiate your company.  It could be as simple as sending a thank you card for a closed group community of CIOs on LinkedIn. But it is imperative to do that. Often, contract depends on relationship orientation that it gets into a deal.

Me: How to create brand awareness in new market?

Mr. Apurva: Before you do anything, have a clear understating of the market, your potential customers and a definite understanding of your differentiating factors. Then you could go ahead with e-mailers, road and trade shows, cold calling, industry challenge, all of which will help in generating leads, which I would say is the foremost requisite in creating awareness about your product.

Me: What would you say are the most important skills needed to succeed in an organization?

Mr. Apurva: First would be behavioral Skills like managing a team, change Management, negotiation Skills, etc. Second is functional skills like Sales management, brand management, understanding P&L statement etc. and third will be Domain skills like knowledge about retail, telecom, healthcare etc.

One should start with focusing on functional skills, which the organizations expects a person to have; after a couple of years domain skills becomes important and finally when you have a lot of experience in functional and domain segments, then behavioral skills determine how high one can go in the organization.

Me: What is the role of a Business Development Manager and a sales person?

Mr. Apurva: Business Development is the overarching umbrella – It includes sales, marketing, alliances, partnerships, Mergers &Acquisitions, any such activity that allows you to develop a business. Sales person is slanted towards towards numbers like booking target, revenue target etc. One should always do sales before getting into marketing.

Me: What specific skill set should a sales person have?

Mr. Apurva: Sales is a very challenging job and the person who is doing sales should be self-driven, type A alpha person and internally optimist. Most importantly he should keep pursuing his clients and should never give up on a deal. This is a job where you have to handle enormous amounts of rejection and still thrive on target on a day-to-day basis. In short, sales is not for faint hearted.

Me: How does geographic differences impact business?

Mr. Apurva: Selling in East is much more relationship driven than in west. For instance, a sales cycle in Japan is 1 to 2 years whereas an American is very data driven and rational and therefore the sales cycle are small. APAC projects are smaller in terms of revenue and there is limited or no off-shoring in APAC mainly because of language barriers. European Billing is the most expensive mostly due to exchange rates.

Me: What will be your advice to B-School grads like us, how different is corporate reality from B-School?

Mr. Apurva: Most of the times, case studies taught in B-schools ignore vital things like people nuances, change management complexity, etc. In real world these complexities increase manifolds. Organizational politics and competitor moves are very dynamic in real time. You have to be prepared for that.

Vikrant Singh

PGPM class of 2014

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