In conversation with Prabodh Sharma, Area Sales Manager, Marico
Post my MBA from Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur in 2010, I joined as a Management Trainee with Vodafone where I worked for 3.5 Years in various Sales & Marketing roles.
Telecom, being a mostly push based sales industry, where all products are perfect substitutes and there is absolutely no dearth of competition; you learn sales in the most challenging of environments. An exposure to marketing also ensured that I understood demand generation & product development side as well.
Post Vodafone, I moved to Marico, where I am currently working as an Area Sales Manager for Western UP & Uttaranchal state. My current job has given me immense exposure to aspects like handling a large team, juggling between urban & rural sales and working with lesser visibility options. During my summer internship (which was of 6 months in VGSOM during 2009), I worked with Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages in planning & procurement, and hence have an exposure to supply chain management as well.
What is the single most important skill that you think is required to do well as a Sales professional?
I feel perfect planning leads to perfect execution! Sales management today is extremely complex with multiple dimensions (which translate to multiple KRA’s) & agendas to manage daily. Proper planning & phasing ensures that the front-line team has clear visibility on what they need to deliver.
An equally important skill is people management where you need to ensure that the team is properly motivated & passionate about target delivery right from your direct reportees to the front-line sales team. If your team supports you & you have done your planning accurately, no target is unachievable.
What had driven you to choose a career in Sales and what motivates you everyday to go to work? Is it the numbers?
I feel sales is the only profession where learning never ceases or slows down. It teaches you multiple skills like people management, planning, budgeting, marketing, customer management etc and the learning curve here is steep. The insight into customer & retailer psyche and people management skills which a sales stint provides, proves extremely critical in higher roles up in career ladder. Numbers are also a big inspirational tool as every day you know what you need to deliver and thus none of the days you feel mundane.
Talk about any critical project that you’ve handled and what were your takeaways?
In Vodafone, I handled a project called “Wake up Sid”, where SID stands for Slums in Delhi. I was given 12 Slum areas of Delhi like Chuna Bhatti, Nangal Dairy, Mundaka etc and my task was to ramp up sales & distribution in these areas. These used to be essentially neglected areas for a distributor because of lesser ROI in servicing these areas. We cracked the ROI problem by essentially bringing a rural sales model for these areas where instead of direct distribution we appointed sub distributors.
Sub-distributors used to be based out of these slum areas only and distributor used to service them, instead of retailers directly. We also organized CSR activities, Merchandising and branding activities and lot of innovative schemes as well (like 1 KG Sugar/Wheat etc free with a Rs 500+ recharge or new connection). We saw close to 52% revenue growth in 3 months in these areas and even post 1 year, these areas were growing at 8%+ MoM.
Once again, my key take away from the project was that with proper planning, innovation & execution, nothing is impossible in sales.
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning in your career so far?
My most significant achievement has to be turning around South Kolkata area during my ASM tenure. I joined this area with Rank 9 amongst 9 areas in Kolkata, and left the area at Rank 1.
Again, the key learning was that even if the situation seems daunting and impossible, you need to keep working, motivate your team members and never give up!