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Must Read
Ravi's Corner


The all-new secrets of selling professional services are not so new after all

You can get behind the wheel of a car you want to buy for a test drive. You can’t do that with a loan that your bank is offering. Nor can you return the accounting advice which proved unsatisfactory. Products fulfill needs while services start relationships that evolve continuously. Tangiblizing value isn’t easy in a service

Secrets of selling professional services

A Harvard Business Review article by Warren J. Wittreich on How to Buy/Sell Professional Services set out three deceptively simple yet powerful rules:

  1. Identify and minimize uncertainty – Does your service enable certainty in the Customer’s business performance in an area where there was uncertainty before? For the Customer, increased certainty translates into greater confidence and peace of mind.
    3 sources of uncertainty
    Wittreich presents the story of a company mulling a merger proposal from another player in the market, which calls an investment banker to help. The company wants (a) Is the merger idea worth pursuing? (b) If yes, guidance in the actual merger process. The uncertainties are around:
    (i) Choice of service provider – Who are the best service providers (M&A specialists, in our story) and are they equipped to do what you want?
    (ii ) Justification of cost – Is the amount that you are spending justified. In the investment banker story, the Customer initially felt that the fee proposed by the bank was unjustified
    (iii) Definition of the problem itself – Why is the Customer seeking help? In the merger story the bank listened attentively to the Customer and pointed out how both during merger and post-merger, a lot could happen that can best be managed with expert support. The fee became acceptable to the Customer
  2. Understand and confront Customer’s problem - Often the problem is not what the Customer feels it is. It may be a different problem altogether. Even better, it may not be there at all except in the Customer’s mind. It takes a good service professional to identify these situations.
  1. Offer the right solution - ‘Intrinsic’ as opposed to ‘Extrinsic’ value As Wittreich points out, solutions offered by service providers are of 2 types:
    (i) Extrinsic – The service provider has minimum understanding of problem, but cites its own problem-solving capabilities to deliver results
    ● “This is the way this kind of problems are usually solved” (Persuasion by method)
    ● “We have professionals with this expertise and experience and they will solve your problem” (Persuasion by personnel)
    ● “This problem has been solved for others in this way, so it will work for you (Persuasion by success story)
    (ii) Intrinsic – Solution is proposed after a thorough understanding of the Customer problem in all its dimensions
  2. Deploy the right sales professional - A ‘professional who has sales skills’ as against a ‘salesperson who is also a professional’. A salesperson who is also a professional is nothing better than an exalted middleman. In contrast a professional with the self-image of a domain expert who enjoys selling will make an ideal service provider. This is because he can not only sell but render the promised service

The next time the Customers think of ‘rain’ or ‘problem’, they should see you as the ‘umbrella’ service solution provider. And applying these 3 rules could be the secret to getting there.

Sounds impressive? Newly minted in the idea factory? But here comes the surprise. These nuggets of wisdom are no less than 2 decades old and were carried by the March 1996 issue of HBR. You can read the HBR article How to Buy/Sell Professional Services here


What drives the star performers in Banking Financial Services & Insurance (BFSI)

What does it take to become a star salesperson in the challenging world of banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI)? Mercuri’s Sales Excellence Survey 2017 raised this question with BFSI clients across the world, who are among the world’s top 50 as well as boutique firms, independents and niche players. They range from global accounting firms and global banks, through insurers and asset managers to wealth managers and employee benefits consultants.

It was found that the increasing digitization of banking and financial services, has necessitated shifts in internal and external strategies of BFSI companies in all areas including sales. For instance, Europe has witnessed a preferential movement towards ‘direct and self-service banking’.

As Customer and employee touchpoints go increasingly digital, it has become important to adopt social media as a preferred tool for Customer communication and also use a blended approach to learning sales competencies.

Since product or service differentiation in this industry means packaging different processes in varying configurations, to suit specific needs of Customers, it becomes imperative to develop process specific training modules and instruments.

Set against this context, the Survey found that the sales of high performers in this domain have benefited from:

  1. Use of a blended approach in developing competence of their sales force
  2. Defining training modules, checklists and instruments for each step of the sales process
  3. Leveraging social media in communicating with prospects and Customers

The knowledge intensity of BFSI sector makes continuous training and upskilling investments on all Customer facing staff the key differentiator for success. A later section of this issue, looks at how successful BFSI players leverage social channels to turbo charge their sales.

You can access the Mercuri International Sales Survey 2017 here

Must Read

Extreme Money

The ascent from barter to money, as a medium to exchange goods and services, is regarded as the societal equivalent of the discovery of fire. Modern societies are inconceivable without money. All nations, big or small, rich or poor, use some form of currency to run their economies. But after centuries of use, money is still among the least understood things

Money gave rise to banks and spawned financial products. Savings, loans, stocks, bonds, insurance and their countless variants have created giant businesses engaged in buying and selling money-based products or facilitating such trades

Extreme Money by Satyajit Das, a globally respected expert in finance, takes a close, hard and sometimes irreverent and cynical look at this mysterious animal. The book went on to become a best seller because it was “part history, part book financial quotations, part cautionary tale, part textbook” as reviewer Andrew Hill of Financial Times described it. It helped the book make it to the longlist for the 2011 FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award.

Written in short sections and laced with memorable quotes and one-liners, the book is an engaging read for anyone involved in financial services. And for the rest of us, it provides an excellent overview of the invisible wheels that move the money machine.

The ‘text book’ parts are illustrated with charts and flow diagrams to demystify arcane finance concepts. It is fun to read and arms you with quotes that can add a sparkle to your conversations.. in a sales context, and otherwise.

Ravi's Corner

MONEY is an awful master

  • Relationships matter less now
  • My pet is a nuisance
  • Dust on my books
  • Music  no longer my refuge
  • A brilliant sunrise
  • A cornflower blue sky with lazy clouds
  • Glorious gulmohar flowers,  a rich tapestry of red and yellow
  • A wholesome meal cooked by my mother
  • My child’s questions and antics
  • The softness of his cheek and his tiny fingers around mine
  • Harmless gossip with neighbours
  • The ordinary events of everyday life
  • I am oblivious to all of these
  • I am busy making money, you see
  • So is my wife and well, so is everybody
  • Money can’t buy love or happiness
  • But it doesn’t hurt it, does it?


  1. “If banks cannot be truly Customer intimate, they are doomed to be just dumb commodities, acting behind the scenes, like utilities” – J P Nicols
  2. “We’re witnessing the creative destruction of financial services, rearranging itself around the Customer. Who does this in the most relevant, exciting way using data and digital, wins!” – Arvind Sankaran
  3. "Adventure is the life of commerce, but caution is the life of banking." -- Walter Bagehot
  4. "The only good loan is one that gets paid back." -- Robert Wilmers
  5. “In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later” – Harold S Geneen
  6. Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give. --William A. Ward
  7. Mankind mistook money, a lubricant of society and the economy, for an end in itself. It created a cult and worshipped the wrong deity, building ever more elaborate edifices and liturgies dedicated to its worship. It was a one-way street. It is now too late to turn back – Satyajit Das – in his book Extreme Money


5 Tips for Selling Banking products in social channels

Social selling in banks? Is that even thinkable? A blog by Jeffry Pilcher, CEO/President & Publisher of The Financial Brand suggests 5 ways in which financial products can be sold over social media without lowering their ‘aura’ in Customer minds:

10 things successful hotel Sales and Marketing Directors do every day

  1. Get the buy-in of salespeople first
  2. Track leads generated by posts/shared content
  3. Campaign with the right tools, coordinating sales and marketing activities
  4. Train Customer facing staff in use of social media platforms and any third-party tools
  5. Have social media compliance in place to mitigate potential risks

Selling on social does not have to feel all slimy. Just make sure you coordinate your strategy and execute with buy-in throughout your organization – from management to front line employees” sums up Pilcher in 5 Tips for Selling Banking products in social channels

5 Tips for Selling Banking products in social channels

Sales is about closures. Numbers? That’s for the bean counters. Does this sound familiar? The fear of numbers is quite common. Salespeople are no exception. But having a firm grasp of numbers could be your biggest advantage in sales.One of the best ways of learning such arcane stuff as financial statements is board-based business simulation.

No way like the play way. That applies to all, from toddlers to top executives

Celemi Apples & Oranges  is a board-based simulation which does just that. It brings Business Acumen to life through a simple, profound model of a company – A&O Inc.

The game goes like this – you and other participants in the game are the new management team of A & O Inc. The established company is facing some tough challenges. The company is losing market share and there are increasing demands from suppliers and Customers. A & O Inc. needs a new, disciplined financial strategy. You have to make that change happen in teams

As the game goes into multiple rounds and excitement builds around the tables, you find yourself learning how to monitor cash flow, make resource utilization improvements, and measure results on the balance sheet and income statement. When the game mats are away and adrenalin flows normally again, you will discover you now know how to:

  • Read and interpret financial statements.
  • Identify critical elements affecting profitability.
  • Analyze financial ratios and key performance indicators and make priorities accordingly.
  • Choose a strategy, implement it and measure the outcomes.
  • Explore the cause-and-effect relationship that govern a company’s financial statements.

You will have developed an intrinsic sense of Financial Management that will enrich your future thought process on the job


Mercuri Mail is a thoughtful compilation of meaningful articles drawn from Mercuri India archives, and from timeless management literature. Edited by Jaishankar Balasubramaniam & Sridhar Srinivasan of Mercuri Goldmann (India) Pvt. Ltd. This publication is for private circulation only.

www.mercuriindia.com; | mary@mercuri-india.com

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