In conversation with Prateek Swarup, Area Sales Manager, Dabur India
Please tell us a little about your professional & academic background. Can you also brief us about your role in your current organization?
I am a computer science engineer from JIIT Noida. Post my engineering, I worked with Infosys for a brief period of time, basically on business intelligence based projects. However, not being just satisfied by being a software developer, I enrolled into TAPMI, Manipal’s PGDM programme in 2009 and completed my post graduation in Marketing & Systems in my two year stint there.
As part of the academic curriculum, I got an opportunity to intern with Wipro Consumer Care & Lighting (WCCLG), which exposed me to the whole sales and marketing concept in all its practical forms. Subsequent to my internship, I was offered a position in WCCLG as a management trainee after graduation, which I accepted.
As an MT with WCCLG, I did the usual rotation of profiles including a salesman stint, a sales officer stint, marketing and sales projects; finally cumulating into an area manager role for Delhi.
I shifted to Dabur India after handling the ASM role in WCCLG for 8 months. Currently I am looking after the sales of both Punjab (rural) and Jammu (rural) & Kashmir (rural & urban) regions for Dabur as an Area Sales Manager. I deal with all verticals of Dabur which include brands like Real, Dabur Amla, Dabur Red Tooth Paste, Dabur Glucose, Dabur Chywanprash, etc.
As a rural area manager, my task in two pronged:
- One is to ensure that we continue to increase our distribution penetration in both states, effectively ensuring that we are present directly in towns with above 5000 population, and
- Ensure that we leverage this coverage to enhance our overall brand presence in all towns and deliver the necessary sales growths, as expected with the emerging rural markets.
What is the single most important skill that you think is required to do well as a Sales professional?
Adaptability – the ability to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing environment around you. It is just not enough that we as sales professionals adapt to the situation at hand, but also adapt quickly. That remains the biggest challenge!
What is the rationale for choosing adaptability? As a sales professional, you deal with a variety of customers – both internal and external. The profile will connect you to people from different backgrounds, be it socially, culturally, economically, intellectually, etc. You need to wear different hats with each one to be able to complete the transaction successfully. Thus, it is very important that you maintain an adaptable mindset.
The market place is very dynamic in nature and everyday there are going to be something new to deal with. If a sales professional is not malleable enough to deal with such changes rapidly, he or she will be under pressure from day one.
What had driven you to choose a career in Sales and what motivates you everyday to go to work? Is it the numbers?
At the beginning of my career, I was an IT guy. It was only after doing my summer internship with WCCLG that I was able to relate to sales as a career option. Every sale is a challenge wherein, each customer has a different viewpoint, understanding and motivation to complete the transaction. As a person engaging in selling, one needs to constantly innovate, understand the pulse of the buyer, and that too, in a very short period of time. It’s like playing chess in my opinion. The opponent here is another human being, who is probably as smart, if not smarter than you. This ensures that if you need to be successful in such a setting, you need to be constantly utilizing your mind and hence always be ready to take up a challenge!
At the end, numbers do quantify the success of how well you fare in this game of intelligence. So, yes, fulfilling number targets does kind of give you a high and the necessary motivation to do more.
Talk about any critical project that you’ve handled and what were your takeaways?
Dabur, in the last one year, has significantly worked on increasing its rural distribution setup (Project Double). Punjab has been one of the key initiative states in this endeavor.
As an ASM leading the Punjab rural team, the task was to cover all possible villages above 5000 population. The end result was that we ended up covering more than the targeted 796 towns for the financial year, in 6 months flat! Not only was this number significantly large, but, while everyone was trying to achieve the coverage plan in a financial year, we consciously planned to complete it in 6 months and reap the benefits of the additional coverage for the next 6 months.
One of the key take-aways from this task was that people need to be pushed out of their comfort zone every now and then, so as to really utilize their true potential. This was true even for me.
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning in your career so far?
I think being awarded the ‘Rising Star’ in sales for 2013 was one of my most significant achievements. I had joined as ASM for Punjab rural and the area was doing very well in terms of business and growth, at the time of my joining. This award is given to a new joinee in sales team across India, for their exemplary performance within the 1st year of joining. To be able to continue to deliver the same if not better performance, for the next one year, in a highly competitive market with high modern trade penetration, was an achievement in itself. I am grateful that Dabur recognized this effort in their own way.
My key learning would be the ability to handle pressure and maintain composure. Many a time during the year, the pressures were high (especially financial year closing) and the need to drive your targets and business becomes overbearing sometimes. I learnt to handle this pressure somewhat better and even understood how to channel this positively down the line to the team, too.