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Sales Success In Unconventional Industries [With Devesh Ahluwalia]

Sales Success In Unconventional Industries [With Devesh Ahluwalia]
MyOperator / Blog / Sales Success In Unconventional Industries [With Devesh Ahluwalia]

The manufacturing industry has grown manifold in the last 30 years. Even today according to the reports of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the world manufacturing product report stated that Global manufacturing production registered a stable year-over-year output growth of 3.3%. Manufacturing is an unconventional industry that was not so prevalent earlier and yet many talented individuals are now a part of it. Let’s learn from one of them how he became a part of that industry and also succeeded as a salesperson. Here is Sanadh Srivastava from my Operator in conversation with Devesh Ahluwalia Vice President of sales at Duroply Industries, on the “Sales Wala show”- podcast for sales.

The Sales Wala Show

Q: “You have worked in Europe for 7 years in a very unconventional industry and stayed there for quite a while how do you think such an unconventional industry made you do it?” 

Ans: “Yeah this is another very very interesting question but let me tell you in today’s environment it is a very unconventional industry I mean if I look in past I go back about 30 years back manufacturing was a buzzword at that point track. Today you know the new generation comes they talk about you know industries like tech, they talk about finance they talk about BPOs they talk about things like even film industry advertising and all that. But at that point manufacturing was the buzzword, the best of talent used to go in manufacturing also you can say that and there were much more jobs in manufacturing industries compared to other industries. 

I started my career in 1991 and I think 93 was the time when the finance industry started booming when India was opening up under the leadership of PV Narasimha Rao and DR. Manmohan Singh. The economy was opening up so before that people hardly knew anything about the finance industry. They were known at that time as the modern buffets, even we haven’t heard about all these names at that point second, I would say I used to get a lot of feedback I used to do a lot of interviews at the start of my career. I did  training in a company called you must have heard about 

Lipton, they’re very famous for edible oils like dalda. It’s a very household name you know. Then there was a brand called Lipton tea, so I did my training in that organization. It was the FMCG kind of line. 

So I had an inclination toward consumer products and manufacturing because of my training. So that is also one of the reasons. Also, when I did my management most of my classmates went into advertising. So, people used to work for Link Class and other top-end advertising companies- Indian express and Hindustan times. So like most of my batchmates, I also wanted to go there. I also arranged interviews for myself. Then I got feedback from one of my interviewers only that this is not the right line for you. I took that feedback from them that you are an appropriate person for the manufacturing line so look there. So by getting that feedback I  realized that my strengths are doing market research, sales and distribution, and product development. So I thought why not explore that. It is very important for every sales guy to find out what are their strengths. If you work on your strengths then you’ll succeed if you work on your weaknesses then you will not land anywhere.”

Q: “You have worked for long time periods in industries, somewhere for 7 years and at some places for 10. So what is that point when a salesperson should quit and switch their jobs?”

Ans: “Even though I have stayed at several companies for a longer period of time, along with that I have had shorter stints as well. So if I look at my career or if I look at my peer group, I have seen that it is important that you must stabilize in an organization. So I remember this one person who spent 15 years in one organization and was then hired at one of the top MMC in one of the product lines by the organization just because he spent about 15 years of loyalty with one organization and today he is Asia pacific director. 

My father used to say that ‘rolling stone doesn’t gather enough’. So it is important for everybody to understand that you must stay for some time in an organization you should give at least two to three years to understand the relationship between the organization and you and then only you can start growing. Growing within the organization is more important than growing by jumping the organization so don’t be a jumping jack become a very stable person in the organization and then you will have a much better career ahead.

There are a couple of reasons a salesperson should look into before leaving a company-

  • Either the company is on the downturn. 
  • Or there is a lot of restructuring in the organization and that is affecting you. 
  • Most importantly if there is a very pathetic environment (which happens very rarely).
  • Also, when you get a really good career advancement- like you get a very good salary and a very good professional jump as well as a very good organization’s name to back it all up that is also when you can switch. 
  • Or you feel that your passion is different. 

So I have seen a lot of people switching organizations for invalid reasons. You shouldn’t be quitting an organization due to the following reasons- 

  • If the increment of your colleague was more than you. You should be happy about whatever increment you have got, why worry about what someone else has received? For example, if I was expecting my salary to increase by 10% and it did happen then I should be satisfied right? Why should I worry about someone who received a 15% increment? 
  • Some people want to quit just for the sake of it because they feel they have spent too much time in an organization. I mean how does it matter? You are doing well, things are very in line with your situation then why not carry on for a few more years? 
  • Some people quit because they dream about becoming the CEO overnight. They need to realize it is not pragmatic and this is not how it works. Growth comes step-by-step. I also made this very same mistake in 2004, I landed in the wrong company, and then I had to compromise. 
  • Also, you should never change an organization just for a salary jump or just for an organization with a bigger name. 

Q: “Also, I would like to know how one should set the right target for their sales team?”

Ans: “See there is nothing like a right or wrong target. There is nothing also called ‘big’ or ‘small’ targets, I think targets are basically what is required by your current organization. So If the target required by your organization is A then you should give A+1. That should be the target. So important is to understand the company’s requirements and then based on that you should set sales targets and setting targets down the line should happen based on market shares, based on brand shares, based on past performance, and what is the kind of marketing input you can give. You should give SMART targets. Timeline is the most important part of setting the targets and that’s where most of us lag. Also, before you set a target you must get it approved by the entire team and then energize them. Create energy and visualize the celebration of the targets. 

Rapid Fire 

Q: “What is your favorite part of the sales job?” 

Ans: “I think my favorite part of the sales job is meeting people from everywhere. A person from Chennai to a person from the opposite side of it. I meet people from different linguistic parts of the county, across religions, and different cultures. So that is my favorite part. I also love to interact with people in their local language. So when I am in Haryana I try to talk a little bit in Haryanvi. In Punjab it’s Punjabi. Also, Gujarati, the typical Mumbai language, and Hydrabadi as well. I just love it.” 

Q: “What was your first-ever sales order, what was it worth?”

Ans: “Well, 20-25 years back I had my first order and it was somewhere between 25,000 to 30,000. It happened in Agra and for that reason, I love that city. So whenever I travel to Agra it feels like my second home. 

I was posted in Lucknow and I used to struggle to get an order since the company set up a new branch there. So I used to go to Banaras and go to all the other parts of Uttar Pradesh and I never used to get an order. So I was really stressed that how is it done? How is it supposed to happen? So, when I finally went to Agra the brand was very popular there and the people were asking for the product. So by the evening before reaching the hotel I saw that I had tons of orders in my hand. I was on top of the world and I still get reminded of that song ‘Aaj mai upar aasman neeche’ because that is such a great feeling when you get your first sales order.” 

Q: “Since you already told us what you love about sales the most, I want to know what you hate the most about sales?”

Ans: “So it used to happen earlier. When you used to meet people, your friends, and colleagues and used to discuss what are you doing you were judged for being a salesperson. Sales were taken as a derogatory term at that point in time. Now after 25 years of my career I feel sales is the most glamorous line in the world.” 

Q: “Is it recognition or is it an incentive that would drive you crazy?”

Ans: “Personally I think I am a person who likes recognition. I am not incentive-oriented. I remember I started negotiating my salary in the interview, they had a good budget and they were offering me a nice package. 

So this one very senior person in 1995-1996 told me that Devesh, when you grow gradually your salary starts building on its own so don’t worry about it. Whenever you’ll become a vice president or manager no company would ask you to suffer in second class or you should travel by bus. So when you grow your salary will grow too. Salary will come from your luck and hard work. Salary is important but don’t run after it. You should run after recognition, not just in your organization but outside as well. 

Secondly, also get recognition from yourself. Tal to yourself about what you have achieved and what you haven’t. Think from that perspective and automatically things will start falling in place that’s what I feel right now.”  

Q: “Do you prefer working from home or working from the office when it comes to sales?” 

Ans: “I am a typical office person. Work from home is no go for me. So in the first lockdown, we were not sitting idle, we were working from home. Even though nothing was happening because of the complete lockdown, there were no sales no collection, and distribution but still, we started interacting that how we should go about it. So whenever we used to sit down on our laptop for a call we used to sit properly dressed up with good lighting creating an office environment. So, I realized I am an office person.” 

Q: “What is that one thing that you would want to tell beginner Devesh Ahluwalia about sales?”

Ans: “It is a very difficult question to answer. I would probably say Devesh, gear up you have to plan your career and think about what you will do after 20 years which I was not thinking at that period of time. Think about the right industry and started doing other refresher courses as well.” 

Key Takeaways 

From this podcast for sales these are the key learnings to keep in mind.

  • Work on your strengths to find out what is best for you and in which line you belong. You will have to evaluate on your own, what is right and wrong for you, that is the only way to choose your career. 
  • You stay in an organization until you have any valid reason to leave it. If you stay stable you will have a much better career ahead. 
  • AS a salesperson you should be excited to get an order no matter what it’s worth. If you are not excited about an order then you can never become a good salesperson. Even if at the end of the day you do not get any order in hand, you must always be excited when you go to take the orders!  
  • Do not take sales as a small or a pity job. It is one of the best lines you can get into if you are passionate about it. 
  • Do not run behind salary, run after recognition. Your salary will grow when you will grow in your profession. 
  • As a beginner, you should keep learning. Keep doing things side-by-side.

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