Friday, December 25, 2009

Ten Commandments

As a misguided tribute to Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, I thought of writing down the 10 Commandments of Sales - as dictated to me by various Gods of the profession with whom I have had the privilege of interacting. As a mediocre salesman (at the best of times), I idolised these dynamic men (who gave me the advice), though I will not identify them for their safety and mine.

Everything is possible. Every-fucking-thing.
Violations of the laws of the land are commonplace. With a little bit of imagination, you can even violate the laws of physics.
This includes simple things like getting post-dated DDs made on bank holidays. It also means you can actually invoice stock lying in State 1 to distributors in State 2. It means doing your entire sales target on the last day of the month. And taking it back on the first day of the next!

A salesman's job never ends.
If it ends, it means he is either dead. Or in Marketing. And both mean the same thing.

A salesman's job has only one kind of punctuation - the month-end.
If God broke the year up in 12 discrete intervals, he meant us to follow them religiously. If a sale has to happen on the 31st, it cannot (repeat - CAN NOT) happen on the 1st. The bloody soap has to go out today. How the hell are people in Gorakhpur going to have a bath tomorrow if the soap does not reach them today? Do it NOW. Remember, difficult things are to be done immediately. Only the impossible ones will take till the end of the month!
What - your girlfriend's birthday is on the 30th Sept? Leave? That's quarter end, boss. Can you change it? Arre - who's asking you to change your girlfriend? Birthday badal sakta hain kya? Our Patna distributor knows the DCP. Usse bol ke kuch karwata hoon...

A salesman doesn't have time for good taste.
International travel = Bangkok. Alcoholic drinks = Old Monk. Movies = Govinda. If they had time to appreciate the bouquet of Sauvignon Blanc (or had the access), they would have been in the fashion industry, no?
A salesman does not have companions to explain Impressionism. Nor the time to get slowly drunk. Nor the patience to appreciate Adoor Gopalakrishnan. He only has a weekend to go to Bangkok, collect the Best ASM trophy, zip through Patpong and back. He has 2 hours after the monthly meeting to get his Vijaywada Sales Officer drunk because the fellow has a train to catch. As for Govinda... achha, is Adoor Gopalakrishnan the Kerala Distributor Association President?
As you notice, the attention span is not conducive to things on slow burn.

Check. Double-check. Triple-check.
Remember, everyone is out to cheat you. Everyone. Wonder why your mom gave you a sweater? Because its winter? Naah - you sentimental sisy! She probably wants those gift hampers left over from the sales meet.
Every invoice, every market report, every display request - check.
While on the subject, did you notice that there is a 's' missing in 'sissy'? Yes? Welcome to sales.

You have to save the company from those guys at the HO. And that includes the CEO.
As the ambassador of the company in the battlefield (which the HO sissies - S not missing this time - call 'frontline'), you know what's best. Those ivory tower fools don't know their knees from a carton of soap and they will tell you how to launch a brand?
Don't listen to them. Pretend to. But don't.

You have to die before you say 'I don't know'.
Which brings me to a personal story when I was on a market visit (which was going well, if I may say so) with my Head of Sales, he pointed to an under-construction building on the beat and asked at what prices flats were being sold there.
I did not stay in that city. I was new to the region. I had no effing clue. But I realised that I could not say, "I don't know". I was not expected to know it. The Head of Sales asked it casually and had no intention to test my knowledge of the real estate market. It was inconsequential. But, still...
Why? You think I don't know? No, sir.
It is because a sales manager is expected to be in control of his territory. And control does not mean meeting sales targets. It means that a pigeon shouldn't be shitting anywhere in his territory without him knowing and selling some detergent to wash the shirt. He is expected to know rents of flats all over so that he can properly estimate how much stock can be sold to shops there. Okay?

There is only black and white. Nothing in between.
Targets are either achieved or not. You are either a salesman or a wimp. Saying, "I could have..." is the same as saying "I am a f***ing idiot who does not know his navel from his dick". No other profession is so ruthless that it refuses to acknowledge a month's blood, sweat and tears when the targets are not met.
Of course, in between the black and white are wonderful philosophers as bosses who can not only make you take tough targets, help you achieve them and manage to assess you fairly when you haven't.
But why have tough targets in the first place? What do you get chasing one?
Listen, Mr Art Teacher - as they say, "Girte hain shehsawar hi maidan-e-jung mein / Woh tifl kya khak girega jo ghutnon ke bal chalte hain?".

If you accept your target without protest, you are a wimp. If you don't accept your target after the customary protests, you are a bigger wimp.
You see, real men do. They make soft moaning noises, but they do. And targets are meant to be tried for, not always achieved. But that doesn't mean that tough targets won't be taken.
When given a tough target, a bad salesman says, "Won't happen." And a good salesman says, "What's the scheme?"

Yeh toh sirf nau Commandments hue? 10 ka target tha.
Arre - ladkon ne bahut fight mara hain, boss. Aap ko toh maloom hi hain, aajkal it is virtually impossible to sell Commandments. Kuch scheme mil jaye toh try marta hoon? Commandments ke primary pe 6% discount dijiye. Should be able to push one more...

And the last commandment is -
You will retain your sense of humour - preferably absurd - at all times.
From one angle, you are the Master of the Universe with a band of merry men, living and dying for you. On the other, you are a speck of dust sitting in some obscure town in Chhattisgarh without a clue when you will see an English-speaking woman next.
Because you never know when you have to say - "Risk toh Spiderman ko bhi lena padta hain. Main toh sirf ek salesman hoon."


wsw said...

so so true...

Lazyani said...

Brilliant sir-- says one career salesman to another:)

Govind said...

Great post. With love from a 'dead' salesman. :)

Sandy said...

Hats off to u man!!! Great post!!

BRAT said...

awesome.. u rock!!

vijay said...

must read for every sales guy... amazing.

Abhi! said...

brilliant! Absolutely Awesome!

Abhishek said...

Don't know much about sales or salesmen but very nice post!

Anonymous said...

I had to pause on Commandment 2, open gmail and fire off that line about "dead salemen" to fellow FMCG folk.
It was that good! :)

From yet another dead saleman,
kudos to you. Excellent post.


Suchismita said...

its really true....sales means sales, boss, age pichhe kuch nahi..

blithering idiot said...

A good read, very enjoyable!

Abhiroop said...

Had to read it in one go. Even if that meant driving with one hand on the wheel. Unputdownable.