In conversation with Pawan Jagnik, Area Sales Manager, Cargill
After completing my Engineering in Electronics & Telecommunication from Pune University, I worked for a year in the R&D Department for a company in Pune. Post that, I decided to write the CAT and managed to get into IIM-K where I chose Marketing and Finance as my courses giving equal weightage to both.
During my Final placements, I landed up in Cargill India, an Edible Oil giant, as a Management Trainee. Currently I am working as an Area Sales Manager (ASM) for their General Trade (Consumer Pack) division and am based out of Pune.
Consumer Pack means pouches and jars whereas Commercial packs are tins and I handle a part of the Pune territory where we enjoy a market share of approx. 60% in the edible oil space. I am quite fortunate to get a market which is so important and yet so diverse as it consists of both urban and the rural part – in fact it’s one of the most significant regions for us because of the sheer size of business and the market share we have in it.
What is the single most important skill that you think is required to do well as a Sales professional?
I think it boils down to people management & relationship building skills especially because you have to manage such a diverse set of people in sales.You have a Distributor who has been working for the company even before you were born along with Sales executives(SE) and Salesmen who have mastered the art of selling. Then there are cross functional teams such as marketing, supply chain etc, and of course, the shopkeepers and retailers (the most complex set of species on this earth)!
Last but not the least, you have your Boss and needless to say, this guy is very important as he is the one who decides your appraisal and sales targets.
What had driven you to choose a career in Sales and what motivates you every day to go to work? Is it the numbers?
Frankly, I didn’t choose to be in Sales – it just happened to me as I had done my Summer Internship in an FMCG firm. But after working in sales for about two years, I have realized I am meant for sales as it comes naturally to me. I think at a B-school, one should explore various things and finally go for what he/she actually likes.
In sales, what motivates me is that except for monthly meetings and month end (only a sales guy can understand how exciting month end and monthly meetings are), every day is a new journey. Almost every day you will meet a new set of people and everyone will have a different story to tell.
The Sales world is always full of stories – be it from a 3rd generation distributor or a 25 year experienced salesman who has launched a brand which today is bread and butter for your organization or a person who started as a salesman and has now become a top level manager. According to me, a Sales role is driven by people and numbers are just an outcome of it!
Can you tell us about any critical project that you’ve handled and what were your takeaways?
Recently our company entered into the packaged Atta space competing with the likes of Aashirwad, Shaktibhog etc. Branded Packaged Atta is a category where there are a lot of regional players along with some 2 or 3 big national players.
After a solid launch in my territory, we were struggling big time to keep the momentum going. We were trying to figure out ways in which we can keep the team motivated. Next day I called up meeting of my SE’s and salesmen to find out how I can motivate them to sell Atta which has not yet become a brand compared to oil which has such high brand equity.
Let me tell you Packaged Atta is a category where the shelf life is only 3 months and it takes a lot of space in the shop and hence there is a huge amount of resistance that shopkeeper shows in keeping a new brand. Our salesmen were so much used to selling what is getting sold, so we had to remind them how they have made our oil brand successful.
We made a good product story which they can sell it to the retailers, ran a lot of initiatives for salesmen, key accounts, distributors, SE’s which helped us in transferring the ownership of the brand to all the relevant stakeholders. All this led to gaining a significant market share in packaged Atta segment in my territory and becoming one of the most significant territories for our Atta product in the entire country.
Some of the key takeaways are that in order to make any product successful, you will have to work with the entire value chain and make them own the brand.You will have to align not only the field sales force but also the back-end to make any product successful.
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning in your career so far?
My most significant achievement till date is helping one of my Sales Executive realize his potential and improve his performance. When I had taken over as the ASM of my territory, I was told that this particular SE is not performing and needs to be replaced. But once I started working with him I tried to work on his weakness and managed to motivate him to give his best. This same person was then rewarded as one of the most improved SE for our region.
I think as a manager, your primary objective should be to stand by your team, motivate them and bring the best out of them. That’s why I always believe, take care of your people and numbers will automatically take care of themselves!