Written by: Krishnakumar Ramanathan
About the author: VP & Country Business Head – LDA Siemens Limited India.
This is a choice which young professionals often have to make – should they take on a Sales or Marketing role? Or should they stick to Strategy, Design or Technical functions? This hesitancy exists because Sales and Marketing aren’t the ‘coolest’ roles, nor are they the ones that get most noticed by the management. Additionally, success in these roles is heavily influenced by people who are external to the organisation (customers, channel partners, consultants).It is also seen as messy (unstructured), chaotic (changing focus and priorities) and difficult (numbers-driven).
Yes, it is all that but it is a lot more than all of that. It provides change (prevents monotony and its resultant boredom), excitement (thrill of travel, meeting new people, facing new challenges) and learning (from managing complexity, understanding diverse points of view). I firmly believe that a stint in Sales and Marketing, preferably in the early to middle stages of a career, is a good investment. I mean in both functions, because while Sales is well understood, Marketing is a broader term, encompassing everything from the launch of a product to its phaseout, including sales. Experiencing both these functions give a distinct advantage to professionals, and will benefit them over the long term. Some of these benefits are detailed below:
Gives you external perspective
In other functions, you interact mostly with your own colleagues, and start to believe in and share their world-view. In Sales and Marketing roles, you hear directly from the customers, consultants and other external people. They are better clued in about what’s happening in the market and they are ready to challenge assumptions and change the status quo. This process helps to refine and shape a better and more comprehensive world-view for you
Takes you out of your comfort zone
In corporate life, most roles and functions are insulated from the external environment. Whereas in Sales and Marketing, you are directly engaging with the external world. You are forced to respond to questions or challenges where there are no clear answers (Why is your product so expensive? Why does it take so long to deliver? Why are you unable to offer the same features as your competitor? You have to be prepared for the unexpected all the time, and learn to think on your feet. Sometimes you have to defend the indefensible as well, or take firm measures to resolve a field problem. All such actions draw you out of your comfort zone, and teach you to be composed even when you’re not in your comfort zone
Will help you improve communication skills
Both roles need robust communication skills – and this is not about the English language. It is about communicating in a way that is simple and clear. It is about empathy, it is about positive body language.It is about understanding and perception skills – you need to understand implicit and explicit needs of your customers, and address them in your communication and presentations. You will learn to deliver your communication in such a manner that it creates the right impact for a given situation
You will learn to manage different stakeholders
In Sales and Marketing, you represent your organisation to the external world. But you are heavily dependent on various internal departments to deliver on your tasks. You will learn to engage with them, and and sharpen your power of ‘influence’ as opposed to ‘authority’. You will learn to draw the big picture and then explain to your internal departments hope best they can support the customer. Learning to engage with and managing internal stakeholders is a critical skill for career success
You will learn to sharpen your time-management skills
Unlike in other roles, the demand on your time is driven by external factors, when it comes to Sales & Marketing. You will learn to prioritise what is important, over what is urgent or routine. You will learn to keep the customer’s needs above internal processes to manage your response within the given time. This helps you to sharpen your time-management skills and your prioritisation
You can decide your take-home pay
In most organisations, there is a higher variable pay component for Sales and Marketing. Even with capping,there still an opportunity to earn more by achieving more. This is one of the reasons why, globally, Sales and Marketing still remains an attractive career choice in many organisations
It is important to note that you can learn to network – such an important skill these days –in Sales and Marketing roles. These are the reasons I recommend a stint in Sales and Marketing to all young professionals. They have the potential to transform you and accelerate your career growth.