Monday, March 1, 2010

Selling blues

Disclaimer: I shall not take the name of the product/service which my office deals with

I had always thought, as long as there are people to buy, salesmen have their jobs. But in real, it’s the opposite. As long as there are salesmen, people will always buy no matter how bad the product/service is! On my first day at office, some 5 months ago, I learnt my first rule of selling-don’t sell the product, sell your personality. People will buy your product automatically. And I have ended up selling my soul.

Last 5 months as a sales person, I had the most frustrating and exciting life. In short, am excited when I sell and frustrated when I don’t. I still remember the ‘water’ incident which changed my perception. I and my colleague went to meet a prospective customer at his residence. The moment I gave my introduction at the door step, his face expressions changed. He had that-‘who allowed you inside the apartment’ look which we usually get and bluntly said-he was not interested at all.

As he was about to close the door, I gave him my best smile and said-“Not a problem sir. It’s very hot outside. Can I at least have a glass of water?”

He nodded and turned back to his wife. Seeing that she was on phone, he himself went in to get the water and seconds later, we did what we are good at. We started conversing with his wife who had just put down the phone. The conversation ranged from her beautiful saree to the artistic painting behind the wall, from her cute kid to her impeccable English despite being a housewife. Exactly 10 minutes later, she was filling up our forms while her husband was watching us across the room with his hands folded and the water untouched.

A big smile on face, over enthusiastic for anything and that’s a readymade salesman for you. Tell him, you are not interested; he will give you a smile. Tell him you already have it, he will still smile. Tell him you are busy, he will smile wider. And tell him to come back later, and he won’t leave until you give him your number and exact date/time to come back again. I am sure every one of us has met a salesman at least once in our life. What did you tell him? That you are not interested? Did he tell you with a big infectious smile-“Not a problem! Have a nice day”? Did he? Well ‘have a nice day’ for a salesman means ‘go to hell’ and that’s attitude!

The best and the foolproof method to find out if a salesman is lying-check if he is talking or not; it’s true we live in the world of lies. A young guy in one of our associate offices raised his hand in the meeting and asked-

‘Sir, we have been getting lot of calls from the customers, shouting at us about the quality of the product. What are we doing about it?’

The boss gave him the usual big smile and said-‘Don’t give them your number.’

‘But sir, if the product is bad, why are we selling them?’

‘My boy, we are selling them only because the product is bad. If it’s good, they don’t need you.’

And that’s true.

Being a salesman requires lot of attitude and positivity. Being on the field for 6 hours and constantly listening to people saying ‘Not interested’ can screw up anyone’s attitude in a day or two. Well, along with positive attitude, he got to be shameless too. I remember last month, when I walked into State Bank of India, Begumpet branch and started talking to an old woman in her cubicle. Just seconds into the conversation, she started shouting at me, how I disturbed her during working hours, how I didn’t have the minimum courtesy to understand that bank isn’t the right place to sell, how she hates people wasting her time and finally told me to get out & never disturb her again. The whole bank was watching her shouting at me. I simply said ‘good day’ to her and walked into the branch manager’s cabin. Ten mins later, I sold and I came out. You can say I am shameless; I would prefer to call it positive attitude! (What I say about it doesn’t make any difference as long as I make money)

I really don’t know if marriages are made in heaven but I definitely know that friendships blossom on field. I have made some great and real friends at office only because of the field and the fun we had with customers. Some of the experiences are memorable-

It was a hot afternoon at Chennai, when we walked into Punjab national bank. After meeting few employees, I and Rakesh walked into chief Manager’s Cabin.

‘Hello sir. This is Aditya from Hyderabad’-extending my hand for a handshake.

‘I know’-with his palm facing me and went back to doing his work.

‘Well I came to meet you sir.’

‘I know’

‘err, I came here to give you an invitation actually from..’

‘ I know’ with his palm facing us yet again.

I looked at Rakesh for help and he looked like a guy ready to burst into laughter anytime.

‘You know sir?’

‘I Know… thank you’ and went about his work.

I simply muttered ‘Not a problem! Have a nice day’ under my breath and walked out. Once on the road, we laughed for 5 minutes. We don’t know why we laughed and for what. But we did. After a while, we controlled ourselves and walked towards the central bank nearby. I already had the appointment to meet the AGM and after waiting for a while, we walked in. We talked for few minutes, when the AGM got a phone call and he spoke in tamil for 25 minutes! Rakesh was listening to him like a kid who watches cartoons- I mean open mouthed. After 25 hilarious minutes, he put down the phone and I said-

‘Sir, we came from Hyderabad. We are leaving tomorrow to our place.’-trying to put a sense of urgency to make him agree.

‘Can you come next week?’

‘ No sir, we are leaving tomorrow. It will just take 2 minutes to fill the form and write out a cheque’ I said with a smile.

‘ When are you coming back?’ He asked

And Rakesh lost it. He stared laughing uncontrollably. I looked at the AGM and my friend and the mere situation made me laugh. It was like an infection which spreads, a happiness which can’t be avoided and a joy which has to be accepted. I and Rakesh were sitting in an Assistant General Manager’s Cabin and laughing our asses off. We were wiping our eyes and muttering ‘sorry’s and laughing more. We had no control over ourselves. I finally realized its was going out of hand, just stood up and said

‘I am really sorry sir. I will definitely meet you when I come next time to Chennai’ and walked out to the road.

Rakesh burst into fresh laughter at my last sentence and we were both hugging each other & laughing our asses off on the busy road of Mount Road.

In a different situation,

I and my colleague went to meet a person at his office.

Shaking hands with him, I said-‘Hello sir. Hope you remember me? I met you 2 weeks back. You asked me to come in Feb 1st week’ with a huge smile.

‘Oh yes. Oh yes. I remember. But I am very busy right now. Can you come back later?’

‘Sure sir. Anytime…’ and that person was already walking away from us. I called out to him and asked-

‘So when can I come back sir?’

‘Yeah yeah. Come anytime when I am free’.

‘Sure sir. When would you be free sir?’

‘After March probably’ and he left me scratching my head.

And some awkward situations like,

I and my colleague went to meet a customer whom we had met one week ago at her residence. When I rang the bell, a very cute and pretty kid came out. She informed me that her mom is not at home and she might come back in the evening or so.

‘Oh that’s ok. Just tell her that Aditya had come. By the way, which class are you studying?’

‘I have finished my graduation’- she replied with all her facial muscles contracting.

I shall dedicate this post to all my friends at office- Rakesh, Darryl, Venkat, G.K, Rajesh, Ali, Arif, Saroj, Faheema, Kamlesh, Pawan, B.K, Ajay, Bhaskar, Satwick, Satya, Arun, Vamsi, Gowri Sankar, Manasa, Anshu, Vikrant, Ameena, Swathi, Ashok and last but not the least, to my most excited boss, Arvind sir.

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