Friday, February 10, 2006

Barking Down the Phone

We all do it. When the telecom company calls us to remind us about the bill payment when the due date is still ten days away,

"Hey listen, I have been your customer for four years, and I have never missed a payment. You don't have to remind me."

Or in this situation,

"Yes, I need a credit card. My designation is- Convicted Serial Killer and Jailbird."

But if you have been a Sales Manager handling field sales like I once was, you have probably turned it into a fine art. I am sure the armed forces and the ubiquitous police job involve a lot of barking too, but my consideration set here is strictly white collar. Maybe the shop floor manager is a close competitor but nothing matches the breadth of barking requirements of a sales manager's job. You need to bark at subordinates, partners and also customers (you see, we don't just sell, sometimes, we also collect). Occasionally, we also need to bite.

It was the most unsuitable choice of profession for me after B School. Thanks mainly to the seventeen years of a Tamil Iyer upbringing which turns us into the most docile and the 'nicest guys' (read wimp) on the planet. A couple of months of ragging (I remember at least three sound slaps) in Pilani (though not anymore, ragging is now a very bad word there nowadays) helped. I also remember a very sound admonishment (a lot of F... words were used) in my MBA internship from my guide who happened to be an RM of a reputed FMCG (still in touch with him).

But nothing had prepared me for it as almost everyone in my first company seeked out my company-in my training period as a Management Trainee-to 'take my happiness'. Over time and a lot of heartburns later ("What did I do wrong??"), I developed a thicker skin and learnt to dish it out as well by the time I took independent charge of my territory.

Looking back, joining sales was the best mistake of my life.

In contrast my current job in IT is like a vacation. People are civil to the point of being almost boring and the only hope of a confrontation is when many of us in the overcrowded company gym here look to pounce on the 7.5 kg dumbbells which are in short supply. I almost miss the autowallahs of Chennai.

So when even after four days of the payment, I couldn't access the internet, I called up the
Iqara broadband salesman. I had taken his mobile number (the first rule).

Time was 9 PM. (Second rule- more inconvenient the time, the better)

"Mr. Suresh, this is Anand Bharadwaj from Rajeev Nagar." (Notice the "Mr.?” always sets the nice tone)

"Yes Sir, I think the cabling has been completed". Good attempt. Trying to lead the conversation. (The whole conversation actually happened in a mix of Hindi and bad English, from both sides)

"Who gives a shit about cabling? Its four days and am still not able to browse." (Tone and stress are of prime importance here)

"Yes sir, I will check with the engineer and inform you tomorrow and...". Aha, the first mistake,

"Inform??" Getting rhetorical now. "I don’t want any information. When I come home tomorrow, I should be able to browse." I then labored about him being very quick to collect the money but not delivering on his promise and warned him about postponing it past the coming weekend and ended with,

"The cheque has cleared right?" Demanded an answer. A low blow. Needed to get under the thick skin.

"Yes, sir. Of course, sir.."

“Then what’s the problem?” Let him know that I didn't want to call him again tomorrow night and banged the phone down. I hope he was having his dinner.

A little rusty, but not bad at all.

P.S. We sales managers are not all bad. Drinking with the boys, sharing stupid jokes, being a close friend and confidante, also goes with the territory, but that’s a subject for another post.


MellowDrama said...

neat, just came across your blog - you ramble on pretty much the way I do...tho am trying to be more focused - new yr res and all

Hiren said...

Half the salesmen in India do not know the product they sell or how to treat the customer. They think that all the customer needs is smile and sweettalk. I trained under an Emgineer-MBA from IIFT and so I know what I am talking about. Export marketing teaches a lot of things.

You mentioned sales manager's job as a mistake. You may want to have a look at one of my blogs, "Make your passion your profession"