Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sales Sutra Part I - Lessons Learnt From Sales Management in Corporate India

Most of the stuff that you learn in an MBA school becomes pretty irrelevant by the end of the 1st or 2nd year of your job. But the one thing that you realize is completely irrelevant from day 1 is the stuff you learnt in “Sales Management”.

The thing about Sales Management taught in B-schools is that it has no resemblance to what you are supposed to do when you join a sales job in India. In fact when talking about Sales Management, most Indian students have the image of a door-to-door salesman, hawking stuff to disinterested housewives and hoping that the dreaded gust of wind that blows from a slamming door does not ruffle their hair today….

When I joined my first job and was told that the first module in our Management Trainee program is a Sales Stint, my first thought was “God, I hope I am not assigned a city where I know someone”. It would be horrible to have a known Aunty/Uncle first laugh at me and then slam the door on my face.

That problem never happened, I was assigned Arah in Bhojpur District in Bihar. The relief of knowing it’s not a known city was soon replaced by the bone chilling fear of the unknown. I had no clue where Arah was. I had never heard of Bhojpur. And I had heard lots about Bihar, none of which was good. This was 1998, when Bihar was more whining than shining.

Nonetheless, I was excited because Sales was something that just seemed exciting. Especially when it was emphasized that “it’s where the rubber hits the road, the real stuff… the money in the bank. Everything else is just designed to support sales”.

Soon I learnt the hard way that we had not learnt anything in sales in B-school. All that tripe that books wrote about “Negotiation Skills” and “Plan-o-grams” and “Meeting Key Account Managers” were meant for countries and people who had no clue what a Bhatti General Store looks like or how many Bhatti General Stores there are in India and more importantly what drives Mr Bhatti in his General Store!

Now, after having spent enough time in sales and in marketing, I think its time that I fling some pearls of exquisite wisdom at the new recruits. The one who catches them all will undoubtedly string together a shining necklace of knowledge of sales that he/she can flash around with unbridled pride at his peers and indeed to his Organization.

Probably the best way to share some Corporate Lessons in Sales is to start with that story of how I was standing in swirling muck with my sales folder in hand at 7 in the morning in Bihar, pants folded till my thighs, shoes hanging around the neck, staring blankly at a narrow filthy river, trying to figure out where the bamboo bridge that was there last week went....on the 23rd day after I joined a very reputed organization.

No wait… I think its best to start with the basics first…… Yes, the A-B-C of sales, as told to me by the man who knew Sales better than most people – Babu da.

I will talk about them tomorrow. Keep watching this space. The A-B-C of Sales will be revealed tomorrow. And believe me they will give you a fresh perspective.

1 comment:

diya said...

I am sure there will be hordes waiting to "catch those pearls", just open the floodgates!