There is a significant apathy noted amongst the Management students towards selling whereas selling stands to be the most abundantly available job opportunity in the market as it is unarguably the entry point for the students willing to make their career in Marketing and Sales Management (alternatively used with the term business management) through the pathway of Middle-level Sales Management or through the route of Product or Brand Management where either of this pathway leads to the highest portfolio of a corporate may it be the President, CEO or even the CMD of the company. Hence effective selling at this entry-level becomes critical for the incumbent to drive performance and rise up in the line management of the sales organization rapidly whereas probably majority of the students would like to skip this inevitable phase and would like to see themselves directly at a higher managerial position enjoying the luxurious benefits of the corporate.
Let us trace certain reasons for such apathy towards selling:-
Perceived Demeaning of self-respect:
The student often thinks that selling will involve him/her to be at the mercy of an individual who has the discretion of accepting or refusing his products, services, or ideas. Needless to mention the humiliation of being rejected and its perceived weakening of self-respect drives such apathy.
The majority of jobs in sales are field-intensive and involves extensive traveling in the markets defined geographically or demographically. This demands physical hard work and exertion which most of the students both female as well as male dislike delivering.
Lack of high initial compensation:
Other than the blue-chip companies the sales jobs are not high paid especially when it comes to the fixed component of the compensation. Many companies especially the middle and the small-sized ones keep the fixed component of the sales compensation relatively low initially due to their serious doubt on the effort level the incumbent is likely to put up for selling and mainly encourages the incumbent to drive his compensation by earning performance-linked incentives.
In a country like India where men are likely to get social recognition in professions like government jobs (supervisory or even entry-level), Banking (especially Government banks), Medical Specialists, Engineers, and off late IT professionals. It is unfortunate that unlike developed countries Sales profession and Entrepreneurship are neither socially recognized nor encouraged.
However, while portraying the positive sides of the above the reasons we may put forward the same as counter views:
We need to understand from a humanitarian point of view that self-respect of an individual never gets challenged once one is courteous and polite towards others. Dignified individuals who even refuse in response to a warm, polite and courteous approach usually do it with a lot of decency that never challenges the dignity of the other individual. Otherwise, any crude behavior or behavior aimed at humiliating the other person actually elicits a social sympathy for the person at the receiving end. It may be vouched that such behavioral qualities of a salesperson make him socially very popular.
Traveling involved in a sales job should be ideally viewed as an opportunity to familiarize with places and people. Physical exertion to a certain limit is never harmful to a physically fit individual and moreover better than a sedentary work life where the individuals are likely to develop syndromes due to lack of physical activity
Despite the fact the fixed component of the initial compensation is low with many companies, individuals should be keener on attempting to earn through incentives. This in a way will make them performance-oriented. In such a process the individual will develop analytical, sales-related technical, knowledge management, operations management, and human skills.
However, coming to the last point it is admitted nothing much can be done about it except the fact that the individual needs to quickly establish himself through his performance which will result in:-
1)Increased cash flow through which he may lead a socially recognizable lifestyle
2)He may quickly avail career advancement in his sector either in the same or if required in some other organizations as the opportunity may be available. This is likely to increase his chances of social acceptance
However, from the above discussion, it is surely revealed that the critical area of selling stands to be high performance hence the cornerstones of success in selling needs to be identified and analyzed by the students of Sales Management. Being a faculty and a once practicing sales manager I would like to recommend certain drivers of success in sales.
Proper Product -Customer selection:-
The sales personnel has to understand the fact that all his products may not be required by one customer or any of his product may not be required by all customers. Hence customer profiling of his assigned geographical and demographical boundaries becomes important in terms of a) types of product from his portfolio that they may be preferring and b)their quantity of consumption at a time. Hence a sales personnel from a chemical manufacturer may find various customers who may be using its brand A (let’s say an industrial reagent) and not brand B (let’s say a machine lubricant) or the reverse or maybe both with different quanta of consumption. The sales personnel have to intelligently plan his customer visits on a priority which should be based on the value of consumption potential of his various customers for his products. Again it may not be an intelligent idea of attempting to sell all his products to the same customer at a time which may land up in customers getting confused and purchasing nothing. Products to be sold to a particular customer should chose on a priority based on the highest consumption value. This may demand the salesperson focusing on one product and deploying the material as well as intellectual inputs behind selling that product. He may attempt a cross-selling after the customer purchases the first product.
A clear message from the sales personnel with proper expression is highly instrumental for a successful sales call. The communication includes verbal communication as well as non-verbal communication. A well-groomed sales personnel will always elicit an apparent attraction in front of his prospective clients. In a country like India with diverse languages and culture, knowledge of the provincial/local language is always an additional advantage and more importantly integrating language with proper expression and body language is likely to beget a successful conversion. A rural marketing executive is likely to be more successful in case he is able to make his presentation on his agricultural equipment to the farmers in rural Bihar in a Bhojpuri, Maithili or Magadhi dialect while a sales executive from a publisher can make a positive impact on a lecturer of English literature in case he can detail his publication in grammatically correct English language.
Formulation and Implementation of Relevant Strategy
The sales personnel always need to strategize for the conversion of his clients. Formulation of such strategies has to be done keeping in mind the customer’s preference, tastes, and personality. Adjustments of planning regarding meeting time of the customer, communication, and activity in the premises of the customer or the organization are known as “Adaptive Selling” and aimed at the predictable conversion of the customer. A pharmaceutical sales personnel thus may include a proposal in his communication to a doctor of incentivizing him by sponsoring his subscription for a Medical Journal while obtaining the commitment from the doctor to prescribe his product. He may avoid giving such proposal while meeting the doctor in the Hospital OPD and would prefer to speak on the same at his chamber.
The sales personnel should be a master of his products he is selling and should be convinced enough regarding its superiority otherwise he/she finds it difficult to persuade the customers and may even fail to handle objections of the customer on the product. Sales personnel from a water purifier company should be able to explain the mechanism of the anti-microbial action of its machine to the customers.
Ensuring availability and Post-sales service
It has been observed the sales personnel often after successful conversion loses the customer due to a perception of winning the customer forever and not caring for rendering the delivery or post-sales services to the customer. A sales personnel having sold an insurance policy after collection of the payment of the first premium from the customer along with documents needs to ensure the activities like verification and issuing of policy document of the customer in coordination with the back-office staffs or otherwise may receive the fire from the customer who by the time may suffer from frustration and a feeling of being ignored.
It is evident from the points discussed above selling jobs is tough and it is “not everybody’s cup of tea”. It may be sometimes opted by mistake or default by individuals who either fail to excel in other fields. A sales career is strictly meant for those who are likely to enjoy extensive traveling, likes expressing themselves, loves meeting & interacting with people, nurtures self-development in the areas of technical competence and soft skills, learning newer concepts, managing knowledge, and enjoy the challenge of influencing people. Needless to mention that an astute sales personnel is required to be a specialist whose caliber is no less than an engineer, physician, or administrator. However, it is recommended that even if a person with certain apprehensions would like to try out sales profession or even if totally by default can always do that but should get a feeling of enjoyment subsequently to his commencement of activities. Otherwise, he should quit and start a re-exploration exercise. One needs to be sure that none in this world may be more successful than those who get paid for doing the things they enjoy.
About the Author:
Dr. Riddhiman Mukhopadhyay is the Head of the Department of Marketing Department at Pune Institute of Business Management. He has 22 years of experience in both Academic and in corporate arena. Dr. Mukhopadhyay is a life member of ‘Forum for Emotional Intelligence Learning’. He is also the recipient of ‘Best Trainee’ award from IPCA Laboratory in the year 1997.