Challenges, Opportunities and Paradigm Shift in Sales

Sales patterns in the Nepali market are evolving as companies prioritize digitization and technology, transitioning fromstrategies for improved revenue and customer engagement.

the HRM
Over the past four years, Dabur Nepal has undergone a significant transformation by establishing its own sales database. The consumer goods company has recognized the crucial role of data in business and has diligently tracked and analyzed sales data to gain insights into consumer behavior. This strategic investment in data has led to improved sales performance and overall business growth of Dabur Nepal.

The company has focused on building robust software systems and adopting efficient data management practices, enabling them to make informed decisions and drive innovation. By leveraging its sales database, Dabur has gained deep insights into consumer preferences and market trends, allowing the company to tailor strategies and offerings accordingly. This investment has also streamlined operations and enhanced efficiency across various functions, empowering the company to make agile, data-driven decisions.

Chandragiri Hills Ltd., which operates a cable car service and a resort at a hill situated in the southwestern part of the Kathmandu valley, has recently intensified its promotion as a tourist destination through digital platforms, particularly social media. To boost sales and attract more customers, Chandragiri Hills has been leveraging IME Pay, a digital wallet, by launching various attractive offers. This strategic focus on digital marketing and innovative payment solutions has yielded positive results, with increased sales and a growing influx of visitors to Chandragiri Hills. By capitalizing on the power of social media and embracing digital transactions, the company has successfully attracted more customers and strengthened its position as a popular tourist spot.

These examples of Dabur Nepal and Chandragiri Hills show how sales have changed in Nepal and how companies are adapting to new technologies for enhancing outputs. From door-to-door sales to digital transformation, the sales pattern has evolved, and companies have adopted and embraced the changing patterns.

In today’s competitive business landscape, the sales department in an organization plays a vital role in driving revenue, forging customer relationships, and ensuring business growth. Over time, the sales function has undergone significant transformations, adapting to evolving customer needs, technological advancements, and market dynamics.

Data is the key
In the realm of sales, data is undoubtedly the key that unlocks the door to success. It serves as the guiding light, providing invaluable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends. With data at their fingertips, sales teams gain a comprehensive understanding of their target audience, enabling them to tailor their strategies and offerings to meet specific needs.

“Data-driven sales approaches empower businesses to identify patterns and trends, forecast future market demands, and make informed decisions. By analyzing customer demographics, purchase history, and engagement metrics, sales teams can develop a deeper understanding of their audience’s preferences and buying behaviors,” said Upendra Pradhan, Additional General Manager, Sales & Director at Dabur Nepal.

This knowledge, according to him, allows the sales team to personalize interactions, offer relevant recommendations, and create seamless customer experiences. “Data enables businesses to optimize the sales processes and maximize efficiency. Through analytics, sales teams can identify bottlenecks, uncover sales funnel drop-offs, and fine-tune their approaches for better conversion rates. Companies can also evaluate the performance of individual team members, identify top performers, and provide targeted training and support where needed.”

According to Ramesh Sapkota, Executive Vice President at Dish Media Network Ltd., 20 years ago, companies relied on analyzing data through Excel sheets. “Some focused companies analyzed daily sales data, while others examined it on a monthly or yearly basis to devise their strategies,” he said, adding, “However, in today’s business landscape, companies must place a greater emphasis on data analysis to formulate effective strategies. They need to track and analyze data more frequently and adapt their approaches accordingly.”

According to Gandhi Chhetry, General Manager of Sales at Jawalakhel Group of Industries, after the pandemic, companies have shifted their focus to becoming more data-centric. “They now integrate consumer behavior data, taste preferences, and other relevant information into their systems. However, this increased emphasis on data collection can sometimes lead to frustration among people. The process of data collection itself can be irritating at times. Also, as companies prioritize data-centric approaches, certain physical aspects of their work may be overlooked, posing a challenge.”

Experience-driven sales
In the modern landscape of sales, customers increasingly prioritize experience-driven interactions. They seek more than just a product or service; they crave personalized, memorable experiences that exceed their expectations. Sales processes have become more challenging than ever before, as customers have access to vast amounts of information and can easily compare options, say sales professionals.

“The companies no longer solely focus on price and features of products and services but also consider the overall experience offered by a brand. Customers want the best, and they actively seek out businesses that prioritize their needs and deliver exceptional experiences. Sales professionals say customers value personalized recommendations, efficient and transparent communication, and seamless interactions across multiple steps.

Rupesh Sharma Bhatta, Vice President, at V.G. Impex Pvt. Ltd., observes that the current sales landscape is characterized by more demanding consumers. “With increased competition, companies must prioritize consumer satisfaction, especially in high-value product categories like cars. And we are engaged in high-value products, we have to, and we do, facilitate the entire consumer journey, understand their requirements, and recommend products based on their specific needs,” he said. “Providing comprehensive and detailed information to consumers is essential. Creating a memorable buying experience is particularly important in the automotive industry.”

According to him, the sales teams understand and anticipate customer expectations, engage them with tailored solutions, and provide a level of service that stands out from the competition. “In this experience-driven sales environment, the power of comparison is paramount. Customers have the ability to research, read reviews, and compare products or services from various sources. They rely on the experiences shared by others to inform their decisions.”

Positive experiences and word-of-mouth recommendations have a significant impact on customers’ purchasing choices, according to officials. So to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, sales teams must invest in creating memorable experiences at every stage of the customer journey. “By understanding and meeting customers’ needs, providing exceptional service, and differentiating themselves through superior experiences, businesses can build loyal customer relationships, drive customer advocacy, and thrive in the age of the experience-driven sale,” adds Bhatta.

Changing buying patterns
The buying patterns of customers have undergone a significant shift, requiring companies’ sales teams to adapt their approach accordingly. Customers are now more informed, empowered, and discerning than ever before. To tackle this change, sales teams need to prioritize building trust and adding value at every touchpoint.

They should focus on understanding customers’ unique needs, providing personalized solutions, and delivering exceptional experiences. The sales teams must leverage technology and data to gain insights, anticipate customer preferences, and streamline the sales process. By adopting a customer-centric mindset and employing proactive strategies, sales teams can successfully navigate evolving buying patterns and forge lasting relationships with their customers.

For example, there are as many as 50 beverage brands that bottle juice. When there is more competition, consumers get a choice and they do not stick to one product when there is no innovation or value to their spending.

“Previously, brands could maintain a strong presence in the market and in consumers’ minds for extended periods. However, in the current scenario, brands need to continually innovate their sales and marketing strategies to remain memorable to consumers,” said Sapkota. “The market is now more competitive, with consumers having a wide array of products to choose from. Therefore, both pre-sales and after-sales services are still crucial for companies to differentiate themselves.”

According to Sachin Aryal, General Manager at MG Motors, conventional thought will no longer work because consumers have become much smarter. “The proliferation of social media platforms has provided them (consumers) to know about the products and services much better than in the past. Hence, sales personnel who visit the market and interact with the consumers should know their products as well as their competitor’s products. They must be updated with new technologies and trends. They (sales personnel) should also inculcate a self-learning culture. In today’s time, if you’re not updated, then you’re outdated.”

Unrealistic sales targets
In some instances, companies have been setting unrealistic sales targets for their teams, despite being aware that these targets may not be achievable. Some sales professionals who talked to the HRM said companies have been setting unrealistic targets, and the trend has been going on for a long. According to them, organizations know the targets would not be met, but the intention is to push the sales team to their limits, hoping that they will work harder to meet the next set of targets.

An official of a commercial bank said that the bank sets substantial targets for loans and deposits on a quarterly basis. “In numerous cases, the branch managers struggle to meet these targets. To compensate for the shortfall, some branch managers resort to unconventional methods, such as contacting their family members and friends and urging them to deposit funds into the bank. This practice of reaching out to personal connections for deposits is unhealthy. Even the bank knows this, but they are always concerned about the target,” the official said.

According to Chhetry, organizations often set targets based on market size and the prevailing market conditions. The aim is to maintain or increase market share. “Companies do not give unrealistic targets to the sales team sans proper market study.”

According to Jassu Shrestha, Chairman of Kalash Soap Industries, there is a need for companies to prioritize understanding and embracing their values and norms, along with ensuring that their sales forces possess adequate product knowledge. “It is crucial for companies to provide regular training to their sales teams. However, the current scenario is that companies primarily focus on targets and only seek clarification when these targets are not met. They fail to analyze the reasons behind the incomplete targets despite the efforts of the sales team,” he said, adding that to achieve better results, companies should take a closer look at the mistakes made and identify necessary changes.

Social media revolution
Social media has revolutionized the world of sales, transforming the way businesses connect with consumers and market their products or services. It has provided a platform for companies to reach a global audience, engage directly with customers, and build meaningful relationships. Social media platforms offer unique opportunities for businesses to showcase their offerings, share compelling content, and create a brand personality that resonates with their target audience.

According to sales professionals, sales teams can leverage social media to gather insights, conduct market research, and identify potential leads and can also utilize social media advertising, influencer partnerships, and user-generated content to amplify their reach and drive sales. With its unparalleled reach and ability to foster authentic connections, social media has become an indispensable tool in the sales arsenal, enabling businesses to thrive in the digital age, they say.

Sanjeev Thapa of Chandragiri Hills says that in terms of sales, Chandragiri Hills has introduced multiple platforms for ticket purchases. “While IME Pay was initially used, tickets are now available through other platforms as well, providing convenience to consumers. Digitization has become essential as consumers prefer the ease and convenience of buying tickets online. To promote these offers and increase awareness, Chandragiri Hills has been actively boosting posts on social media platforms, ensuring that consumers receive ample information about the available discounts and incentives,” he said, explaining the benefits of social media in sales.

“The priest of Chandragiri Hills has good followers on social media. And when he posts about snowfall in Chandragiri Hills, the videos go viral. This is the power of social media.”

According to Shrestha, the effectiveness of social media varies depending on the product. “Cars and high-value products tend to benefit more from social media advertising, whereas me-too brands might have less impact even after utilizing social media platforms. Consumers often skip ads due to a lack of novelty and freshness from companies. In the automotive industry, for instance, consumers are enticed by new features and attractive offers, leading to increased sales.” he said.

The Challenges
Sales professionals face several challenges in the current business landscape. First, the ongoing economic downturn in the country is posing a big hindrance to the growth of companies. With limited access to capital and financial resources, businesses struggle to secure the necessary funds to support their operations, invest in marketing initiatives, and meet customer demands.

“The slowdown is the major challenge faced by companies at present. Due to the high value of cars, sales tend to be slower, and the demand is relatively low. The auto industry is experiencing difficulties, compounded by restrictions on loans, which further hampers sales,” said Bhatta.

Second, in markets like Nepal, there is a limitation in terms of size and scope for expansion. Being a small market, companies face constraints in reaching a larger customer base. The limited population and market saturation can make it challenging to find new customers and sustain consistent growth. As a result, businesses may find themselves operating within a narrow target market, making it difficult to achieve significant sales growth.

According to Shrestha, the workforce also poses a crucial challenge in sales. “The exodus of skilled and young people from the market is creating a substantial void in terms of the availability of human resources. We are struggling to find qualified and experienced sales professionals who can effectively engage with customers and drive sales. The scarcity of a competent labor force can hamper sales efforts and limit a company’s ability to meet customer demands and achieve its sales targets,” he said, adding, “Also, the cost of above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) advertising is much higher, particularly for smaller companies.”

Sachin Aryal of MG Motors says, “Given the economic recession that the country is currently grappling with, it is definitely not an easy time for sales personnel. Given the crisis, the financial discipline in the market has deteriorated, keeping it harder for salespeople to be on track and meet the target. Since there is still no specific law on recovery in Nepal, it is difficult for the sales team to work.”

According to Pradhan, for multinational companies like Dabur, one of the challenges in Nepal is the rising inflation rate which leads to an increase in the prices of packaging materials on an annual basis. “Despite the cost increases, beverage companies like Dabur have to maintain stable prices for products. To cope with this challenge, efforts are being made to improve efficiency and absorb the additional costs. The Nepali market has intense competition, with around 30-40 companies operating in the country in the same space. The small market size and the lack of economy of scale pose challenges for companies,” he said.

One major challenge, according to Chhetry, faced by sales teams currently is the ongoing economic crisis. “Also, payment issues have emerged as a problem, with delays in receiving payments from the market becoming a significant challenge. Despite these challenges, the rise of social media has provided companies with an opportunity to reach a wider audience and gain a significant market presence.”

Sapkota thinks that despite investment by companies in digitization, the revenue generation and return from it is low. He explains, “In the digitized era, there are specific challenges for sales, particularly in Nepal. One major obstacle is the payment gateway. While companies are focusing on digitization, there is a lack of trust in the payment system. Customers may encounter issues such as non-functional QR codes or instances of double payments when attempting to make digital payments in stores. These incidents undermine trust and hinder the adoption of digital payment methods,” he said. He points out logistics as another challenge for businesses. According to him, even when products are ordered online, there are often delays in delivery due to inefficient logistics systems. “Moreover, if a company delivers the wrong product, it not only disrupts the overall ecosystem but also erodes trust among customers,” he said.

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