Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yudh ka ek hi niyam... Vijay!

It has been a very long time since I wrote a post on sales. But then, it has been an even longer time since I did sales. I sit in an air-conditioned office and watch adrenaline flow around me, occasionally pooling near my ankles and getting me to design some pitches for braver people to deliver.
I discovered some old files in an old laptop and thought I'd put them up... so that those emotions don't get lost and I can come back to them once in a while.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting some of my thoughts from the time I was a trainee and an ASM...


If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgaum...
It all started with the the Management Trainee stint - a cross-city, cross-state hike across some state of India. And one followed the never-ending routine of Catch Bus at 10-Sleep (or try to) on Bus-Reach Town-Freshen Up at Hotel-Meet distributor-Do Secondary-Destroy Damaged Stocks-Collect Draft-Eat Dosa for Dinner-Catch Bus at 10... ad nauseum!
It was almost out of a George Orwell novel that ALL the towns had one Shanthi International Lodge (where Channel 1 on the TV invariably was FTV!) and one Hotel Krishna (all of whom invariably charged extra for the second bowl of sambhar!). All this made the task of town-distinction all the more difficult...
And the object of this hike was to get sales orders from distributors. 
Simple, no? 
But just to make it interesting, the distributors did not speak any of the languages that you did! I always knew all those prizes at Dumb Charades would be of some use at some point of time! But who would have thought one would have to act out thus... Tamil, Eight Words, “Two Lakhs Demand Draft Consumer Offer On Soap”. 

What Bengal Thinks Today... Bihar has already invoiced!
I spent the first two years of my sales career in the two adjacent states of East and it was quite... umm... well... err... unadjectivable.
What can you say about guys who demanded to buy a truckload of stock at the highly discounted staff sales rate? And then wanted to know if Staff Sales operated on credit!
What can you say about guys who ranked RSMs solely on the basis of their entertainment potential? And their favourite was a RSM who scared CFA staff with rubber snakes at the month-closing!
These two teams cribbed a lot, haggled even better – and finally made the numbers... at least, most of it!
And when I am asked to name the better team, I quote a team member, who put it very aptly, “Boss, Bengal mein team ASM ke liye jaan de sakte hain. Aur Bihar mein team ASM ke liye jaan le sakte hain...
Though I am still trying to figure out which is better! 

And why do you think the chicken crossed the road?
From the points of view of the different departments in a MNC, this age-old question got completely divergent answers. From my (then) position as a lowly ASM, all of them sounded very logical and very unfair. Now with my substantial experience and perspective, I find them to be... very illogical but completely fair.     

Marketing (Bullet points from Presentation at Launch Conference):
·         Estimated market size of chicken crossing: Rs 2300 crores
·         980% increase in advertising spend
·         4% discount on all crossings this month
·         We Aim to be Number 1 in this category by Day after Tomorrow

Sales Training: In order to formalise a process for chicken crossing, which can be followed nationally, we have prepared a 61-slide presentation to be cascaded down to all Pareto chickens. This needs to be rolled down with immediate effect and a member from Category Support/Sales Training will be present at the programme. 

Distributor (To Sales Supervisor): Sir, 3000 peti chicken thel diye they launch ke liye. Ab uske upar cheque bhi laga diye hain… kuchh chicken wapas na cross kiya to kaise chalega? 

Sales Representative (To ASM): Boss, competition chicken pe bhayankar scheme chala raha hain… 200 peti chicken bechne par Bangkok trip pe bhej raje hain! Hamara chicken kaise bikega? Aap bhi kuchh fund nikaliye… phir dekhiye usse teen guna chicken agar thok nahin diya to mera naam bhi…

Metro-ASM (Silent Prayer): Oh God – finally a chicken of the ’05 batch has crossed! Hopefully, NOW they will send me to Marketing!

Upcountry RSM (Silent Anguish): Shit – 17.5 weeks stock of chicken! 

Sales Commercial (Memo to all ASMs): Since the chicken has crossed the road for the third time this year, as per Benckiser policy, we are putting the chicken on draft. In order to reduce debts >60 days, we are reducing the credit days of all the uncrossed chickens to 21. Your cooperation is solicited.

Logistics (Memo to the CFA): We have received an update from the sales teams that chickens are being crossed. Please note that if all the chickens don’t cross by the deadline of 5 p.m. on the fourth Saturday, we will have no option but to reverse all uncrossed chickens. 

HR (Memo to the chicken): In view of the Non-Compete Clause that you had accepted as part of your employment contract, it is our duty to remind you that you may start crossing but you may not reach the other side of the road within 18 months of the date of termination of your employment.

Category Support Team (Memo to IN-HQ-Sales): To monitor the rapid changes in the market place, one needs to keep track of indicators like chickens crossing the road. In the attached format, please fill (on a weekly basis) the beat-wise details of the chicken-crossings and send it to the Regional Office. The ZSM/RM can collate the data CFA-wise and send it to Corporate Office no later than the afternoon hours of every Tuesday.

Global HO: In accordance with the Global Integration Policy, we have decided to align the branding across all markets and call the chicken Air-chick from now on. All marketing & field communications, product graphics and advertising should incorporate this change with immediate effect. 


BTW, the title of the post comes from Shah Rukh Khan's then magnum opus - Asoka. A perceptive colleague once told me that every month-closing in sales is like the Kalinga War. There is bloodshed and gore when it is on. Repentance and mourning once it is over. 

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