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Driven by targets

Along with studying the market and meeting revenue targets, a sales manager must also be a team leader, says Pranab Ghosh.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 13:30 IST
Pranab Ghosh

No other profession is as target-driven as that of sales. One good thing about this is that a salesperson knows exactly what he has to achieve. He knows he has made it if he works out the most profitable route to success. It was this challenge that drew Mayank Seth to the profession.

Seth went for MBA after studying mechanical engineering and joined a Hyderabad-based IT firm as a business development executive in 2004. His first salary was Rs 10,000. Today, as a business development manager in CMC Limited, he earns around Rs 50,000 a month.

When it comes to sales, the scope of work is unlimited. “As the economy diversifies more and more into the services sector, the role of a salesman keeps expanding. Everything that needs to be sold to an end-user —whether a physical product or services — requires sales personnel,” says Sudhir Saxena, vice-president and head, sales, NR, CMC Limited.

To do this well, one has to be completely tuned in to the market, “understand the overall market in terms of consumer behaviour, size of the potential customer segment, sales channels and the competitive market dynamics”, says Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer, Dish TV, and former national sales head at Samsung Electronics.

Being a good salesperson, however, is not enough if one aspires to become a good manager. Every salesman does not become a manager.

“Typically, a salesperson would require product knowledge, should have the patience to listen to his customers and consumers,” says Sanjay Sibal, vice-president, sales and marketing, Jenson & Nicholson.

“But as he progresses and becomes a manger, he would need good people skills. He would need to get work done by the team rather than do it himself. And that’s the key,” Sibal adds.

Good sales managers are not exactly abundant in the country right now. “There is definitely a gap between the demand and supply of good sales managers here,” says Kapoor. “The reason could be that our education system [especially that in B-schools] does not train one properly in sales skills. In B-schools, the curriculum includes sales management as an optional subject and that, too, with dated course material.

“Most sales personnel move into that role either because they have the aptitude for it or because they have nothing better to do,” believes Kapoor. “There are very few who are genuinely interested in pursuing a sales career and undergo adequate preparation or training for the same.”

Sales is the business of selling goods or services. Often referred to as personal selling, sales involves communicating with potential customers, informing them about certain products and persuading them to buy. Sales management is essentially about maximising a company’s sales to the recipient organisations. Sales is a direct function.

The actual act of selling a product follows marketing activities like brand building and awareness creation. It is the beginning of the revenue cycle for the company. When a purchase order is made, a sale is generated. It is completed when the goods or services are supplied, billed and payment collected. Selling has been practised for thousands of years. The earliest remains of prehistoric people indicate that they traded in various products. Many of the earliest writings are sales orders and other commercial records, indicating that ancient people had a complex trade network. The industrial revolution of the 1700s and early 1800s underlined the importance of selling. As nations expanded and economies grew, a salesperson’s duties and responsibilities changed. Selling became recognised as a profession that requires special training and skills. With the expansion of new markets, selling has become increasingly international in its scope of activity

7 am: Check and write e-mail
9 am: Reach office
9.30 am: Meet sales staff and work on their schedule for the day
10.30 am: Fieldwork begins
11 am: Customer interaction, presentations and negotiation meetings
2 pm: Quick lunch
2.30 pm: Meetings continue
4.30 pm: Hold internal meetings to work out strategies
5.30 pm: Internal reporting
6 pm: Filling out call documents
7 pm: Write reports of the business done
7.30 pm: Check proposals
8.30 pm: Call it a day

Entry level: Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per annum
Middle level: Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per annum
Senior level: The sky is the limit
In addition to the salaries, performance-linked incentives, both qualitative and quantitative, are given

Command over language, both spoken and written
. Ability to persuade and influence people
. Awareness of general business scenario
. A knack of listening well
. Ability to devise and offer solutions to the customer’s problem areas
. Analytical ability
. Good reasoning power
. Skill with numbers
. Basic computer knowledge and good presentation skills, especially PowerPoint

How do i get there?
Should have a graduate degree in any field. The ideal qualification, however, is a degree/diploma in business studies, like MBA
. Earlier, you could find sales mangers without a management degree. But nowadays, a management degree is a must for making rapid progress in a career in sales and marketing
. There are, however, instances when ordinary graduates with the right aptitude but no formal marketing qualification have become immensely successful in their profession

Institutes & urls
n IIM Lucknow (also has Noida campus)
n All other IIMs
n XLRI, Jamshedpur
n FMS, Delhi
n National Institute of Sales, Delhi
n IISWBM, Kolkata
n IMT, Ghaziabad

Pros & Cons
n Defined career growth path. Career progression largely dependent on one’s
. Opportunity to travel, see places, meet people
. Opportunity to build contacts, both professional and personal
. Good financial rewards, based on one’s performance and targets achieved
. Not a 9-to-5 job
. Ruthless competition
. Since targets must be met, work-life balance is difficult
. Over and above the long hours, one may have to stay away from family for daysareas.

keeping the sales process ethical is the biggest challenge

Sudhir Saxena,Vice-President and Head, Sales, NR, CMC Limited talks about the challenges and opportunities that a sales career offers

What is the difference between sales and marketing management?
Marketing is an enabling process for sales. Marketing deals with such things as advertising, brand promotions, road shows, public relations etc., which do not actually result in a sales transaction. Sales is a process through which a consumer actually buys a product or service.

What are the challenges facing a sales manager today?
Maintaining the quality of the profession is the most important challenge. As the number of organisations increases and competition gets tougher, maintaining an ethical and healthy sales process has indeed become a challenge.

With growing competition and not enough good sales managers around, the targets for individuals are getting tougher by the day. To handle this pressure and maintain a good work-life balance is also a challenge.

What is the future of this profession in the country?
The future of this profession is bright. Especially because India is a large market and more and more organisations from abroad, including MNCs, are eyeing the Indian market and have set up shop here.

The success of the Indian IT and services industry has actually given a lot of thrust to the sales career. As long as the economy grows, this profession will continue to grow as well.

Which industry segments offer the most rewarding career to a salesperson?
Practically all industry and all verticals (stages of dealing with a client) require sales people.

Some of the ones where opportunities are huge and rewards are better, are the following: Retail, IT, hospitality and travel, healthcare and insurance, especially in the semi-urban areas.

Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh