Management Talk: I am a salesman, sir!

I have worn multiple hats throughout my career, but none has been more rewarding than being a salesman. Not that I didn't face rejections, in fact too many to count. I remember being ridiculed for not being fully prepared for a call, or being shown the door (literally!) in less than three minutes as someone realised he was too high up the order to meet me.

08 Feb 2016 | By Suresh Ramakrishnan

During the early days of my career, a well-orchestrated pitch to a local farmer in his own language drew the flak, as he trashed the product (a pesticide) I was trying to sell using a live demonstration.
He picked up a worm, dipped it in concentrated pesticide for a while and brought it out to show me that it was alive and kicking.
Sales is not a distinct category, as we learn to pitch, convince, converse, negotiate and win or lose all through our life in various instances. Whatever role you perform in an organisation, you end up selling something – an idea, a concept, a methodology, a process, a plan, a budget and many more. It is the well-managed links or rather relationships both within and outside that lead to growth of a brand or a company, and of course, revenue.
But there is a charm being in frontline sales. Some lessons you learn are instantaneous and the action/reaction sets your path and pace towards success or the lack of it.
Here are some lessons I learnt.
You actually sell ‘trust’: We presume we have sold a product or service effectively. It is always because someone trusted your pitch.
The trust goes far beyond the utility or excellence of the product or service. The customer consciously or unconsciously considers you an integral part of his growth and over time, expects you to stand by him through his trajectory, and it is reciprocated.
It teaches you to be humble: Degrees or any other accreditation may get you a foothold, not always a sale. It teaches you to think through the objectives of the customer and work towards it. There will be times when other salesmen, whom you may not have considered your ‘equals’, may run away with a sale.
You are a critical conduit for intelligence: The information that you gather and the dots that you connect gives you patterns and stories that can be invaluable in planning and product development. If you learn how to react to the information to enhance your product and pitch, chances are you will never run out of making a sale.
You tend to enjoy conversations: Your daily experience would have given you enough to talk about. Sharing it with customers will make him seek you out if he has a need pertaining to your domain. You may actually end up getting an opportunity to call on a customer and have his attention without trying too hard.
You don’t cry over spilt milk: Easier said than done, but over time, you tend to see light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that there will be hurdles along the way.
We can point out similar briefs about every other function in an organisation, and each one is critical to growth. Call it a bias, but I came up through this path, and I believe I have learnt much wearing a salesman’s hat.
I am proud to say, “I am a salesman, sir!”
Suresh Ramakrishnan is the publisher at Haymarket Media (India).