Sales Excellence June 13, 2018

How to approach B2B sales in India

Interview with our local Krauthammer Consultants about how to be successful in India

We spoke with our Indian Consultants Heike Kshetry and Julius Lobo about how B2B sales works in India. What might be different from your home market?   

1. What is typical for B2B selling in India?

Heike: In India a lot depends on your contacts. Getting a meeting is easier when you have an inside contact. Getting access to the top is also easier with “top” level contacts. Grey hair matters! Clients like references and work done in a similar sector.

2. How would you describe the purchasing style?

Julius: Indians are hard bargainers. They simply want to get the best at the cheapest price possible. So it’s a very price sensitive market with a high level of competition.   

Heike: Indians are also very comfortable with their current vendors, switching takes a lot of effort, justification and reasons.

3. Please explain the decision making process!

Heike: It's more like a consortium based buying… Several levels are involved and the management wants to ensure low risk high return, especially if they are dealing with you for the first time. Once the decision is taken, execution is delegated sometimes to the lowest level. 

Julius: Indian organisations have a fairly quick decision making process. This gives them the power of negotiation. Multinationals have a much longer process.

4. How important is relationship building? 

Heike: One has to invest a lot of time and be patient in building a relationship. Of course it's easier when you know a senior person in the organisation or you come with high recommendations. The culture in India requires sensitivity based on the organisation's culture and traditions, festivities and religious days. Indian organisations are also highly political in their culture. So its very important to maintain relationships and to stay away from politics. From a female perspective I am very careful about what level I take a relationship to. I like to keep it professional and within business hours.

Julius: One cannot sell in India without relationships. Without there is little consideration.

5. What are important steps in the selling process?

Julius: Be part of the process at an early stage. Build the relationship not for the sake of business. Rather show your stability.  
Be price sensitive, prove why you command this price and what makes you different

6. What is the biggest mistake you can make?

Julius: Not constantly innovating .. competition is always waiting for an entry.

Heike: Being impatient when you get no replies from the so called eager prospect who has made you work like crazy for his “very urgent need”.

7. Please share some tips!

Heike: Show respect especially to senior levels, they love it. Be flexible and open to negotiations. Indians are hierarchical in nature and society, respect age, hierarchy and position. Avoid first names when speaking to senior people especially in family owned or government companies. Indians bond over “chai” so be open to sip-ping tea/coffee with clients.

Julius: Relationship and trust first. Business will come automatically.

8. What else should you take into consideration?

Heike: Indians tend to find it difficult to say no. They would rather avoid your calls, not reply to your emails etc. hoping that you get the message. So one has to gear up all the senses and be sensible too! Kissing, hugging must be avoided at all costs.

Julius: In India we have a big cultural divide. So there is no one way that you can do business. One has to be sensitive to the needs of the organisation, the individual and be ready to adapt.

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