Written by: Debabratha Banerjee
About the author: 32 years, in Sales, Marketing & International Business│FMCG organisations like Godrej Consumer Products, Marico, United Spirits and John Distilleries│This has equipped him with a rich industry experience in cutting edge Selling & Marketing, along with valuable international exposure, at senior management levels
It was early January of 1985, when I landed in Kolkata on my new assignment with Godrej Soaps Ltd( as Godrej Consumer Products, or GCPL, was known then), as a Sales executive. Winter chill pervaded the air, and signs of New Year revelry were visible everywhere, more so on the famed Park Street.
Fresh out of the business school, I had an enjoyable period of 8 weeks of induction at GSL’s headquarter in Vikhroli, Mumbai, before shifting to the city of joy.
After a week’s familiarisation at the Regional office on Chowringhee Road, I was ready to hit the market, for a taste of some real action, and pick up the dust and grind of the Indian bazaar.
My boss paired me with Dilip, an ace salesman, for a first-hand experience of what all selling entails. I was scheduled to work the South Kolkata market with him for 2 days. We decided to meet the following day at 9 am at the entrance of Lake Market, one of the prominent markets of south Kolkata.
The next day, as the mist was lifting off the ground, I caught up with Dilip at Lake Market. He was cheerful, smartly dressed, carried a neatly organised leather executive bag, brimming with energy and enthusiasm. Nothing could dampen his spirits, not even the winter chill. And, he was at the designated spot much before the scheduled time. My learning camera started rolling, as I picked up the first lesson on the importance of punctuality, discipline, and the confidence emerging from being well prepared.
When we walked into the market complex, the shops had just opened, and many of the owners were concluding the ritual of offering their prayers to the deities, for a productive business day. As we waited outside the shop for the owner’s attention, Dilip’s eyes moved swiftly, measuring all the stocks- the entire range, of our company’s products the shop carried, their appearance, visibility at eye level, and also the activities the competition was busy with. I realized soon that, all this scan was for him to be well equipped to seek, and obtain, good orders from the shopkeeper. I learnt that, this ability to observe, assess, and quickly work out the potential requirement of the buyer, greatly enables the sales person to lower the resistance encountered in selling.
Once the retailer was free, Dilip quickly struck up a conversation on his well-being, and that of his near and dear ones. He addressed the retailers respectfully, by their name, shared a great rapport with each, and recounted with them the progress of their kin, and updates on their journey. This, for me, offered valuable lessons on the importance of a strong relationship building with the clients on the selling journey. Setting this backdrop, as a prelude to the selling process, is not only a great way to build an enduring relationship, but also to strike up a valuable partnership on every contact.
In the course of this conversation, Dilip had effortlessly entered the shop, and started dusting, and organizing, the entire range of our products, from Shaving soaps to Hair Dyes. He quickly pulled out the display materials- posters, streamers, shelf strips, etc. from his executive bag, and placed them at locations offering high customer visibility. While engaged in this activity, Dilip had further refined, and reinforced, his assessment of the true requirement of our company’s products at the retail, till his next visit to this market. As I studied him closely, I learnt my lessons on effective merchandising for high visibility, and impact, and on range selling, covering the entire product mix.
Soon after completing the merchandising, Dilip pulled out the order book from his executive bag, looked straight into the retailer’s eyes, and invited him for the day’s order. Dilip went over each product, each sku, meticulously, suggesting the order quantities the retailer would need till the next visit. All this, with a friendly smile never leaving his face. His suggestions were aggressive, yet not unreasonable, and factored well the demand pattern at the shop, and the retail’s ability to pay up on schedule. Each of the objections of the retailer were responded to pleasantly, respectfully, and logically. With the rapport building done initially, the keen observation of the stock levels, and a good knowledge of the retailer’s demand patterns, the difficult ritual of order taking ended speedily, and smoothly. With this, I had learnt a difficult, yet most important, lesson in selling. Closing a sale productively, enthusiastically, with authenticity, and gratitude for our customers.
We moved from shop to shop to shop, with the lessons forming strong impressions on my fresh learning canvas. When we stopped for lunch at 1:30 pm, we had visited, and received orders, from all the 40 odd outlets at the market complex. This was a big surprise for me, and a pleasant one, as our average time spent per outlet was hardly 6-7 minutes. Herein, I learnt another key lesson on effectively managing the time, a critical component of productive selling.
After lunch Dilip, and I, travelled back to the office. Sitting at my office desk, I reflected on the magic I’d witnessed that morning, and penned down the lessons learnt in effective selling. In summary, these can be clubbed as an acronym, PROMPT –
- Planning and Preparing
- Relationship building
- Observational skills
- Methodical and Meticulousness
- Pushy and Persuasive
- Time management