Question : I joined this company as a salesperson . This is my first job.  I did my MSc in Chemistry; I wanted to teach  in college. I could not get that position without  PhD. I could not continue in the university as I need money to support my family. That is the  main reason that  when I got this sales job,  I took it. Our company is trading outlet dealing with various  bulk and speciality chemicals. The salary is good compared to what I would get as an entry level teacher in a college. Yet, I am not sure if I am in the right job  nor  am  I the right person to do the selling.  This confusion inside me, makes me nervous and I make silly mistakes in sending offers and finalising the orders. I do not get courage to call old or new customers. What do I do now -  I cannot afford to quit.

Ans : As far as I could see,  you are doing a job which is relevant to your educational background. May be a particular function,  may not be of  your  liking, as of now.  Fair enough.

There is a via media option for you. Look around for a lab-chemist job in your own organisation ( if there is a quality lab etc) or outside your organisation. But you have to be  aware that the pay scale for an entry level chemist is much lower than that of  an entry level sales person.   You  say you cannot afford to quit and wait for another job. So perforce you have to continue. There is an old adage, if you do not get what you like, like what you got. That is practical.

Let us see what we can do together to make this sales job interesting to  you and make you more confident in selling.

First of all,  sales is a skill. like writing, swimming, dancing, riding a bicycle etc - everyone can learn that.

Secondly, if you look  what sales function ultimately is ........ it is getting other person to say "yes"!!!  I repeat,  the sales job is to get the listener  to say "yes" to your proposal.

On the face of it,  this function can put people in nervous spot.  But it is so natural talent that  we all have and we practice in all our social life every day. The fact that,  despite your family's financial position, you made it to MSc, is because you convinced your family members of your   educational  proposal and got them to say "Yes".  There you are - you are a salesperson already!!!

We  are all sales persons in our life. Some are very good and some are not so good, like any other skill set that human beings possess.   Of course, with training, like any other skill set, salesmanship  can also be developed.

The first step is to set  goal.   As a beginner, your superiors would have  given  you a target to be achieved  in a day or a week or  a month. This is your target; now your goal should be to exceed that target, consistently. Now, how to achieve your goal?  That is  a million dollar question.

The product or the service sold based on various parameters; the salesmanship is one of them, but a vital one!  A good sales person, other things being equal,  closes the sales efficiently –  with least amount of time and energy.  There are certain factors that enable the salesperson to conclude a sales successfully.  They  are:

Enthusiasm : The salesperson  should brim with enthusiasm to sell the product. The bubbling  enthusiasm brings out the charisma.  One thing that makes  the difference   between two salespersons  is  their level of enthusiasm.  Higher the enthusiasm,   greater the sales performance.

Motivation :  The salesperson  should be highly motivated to bring about  result .  Motivation dependents  to a  degree  on the organisational  environment  - the eco system of the organisation, the management policy, the cordial relationship  with the colleagues and so forth.  It is also internal of the salesperson ;  the  salesman should feel the urge to perform ; the urge to excel  himself day after day; the  urge to scale new heights .  The highly motivated sales person, is generally  an highly successful salesperson,  as well.

Team Spirit : Salesperson, who feels and displays as team player, generally gets very good cooperation from the other colleagues.  Good and open communication,  giving due credit, seeking and giving  support  at the time of need, etc.  fosters the team spirit.   Sales person with good  support from other colleagues, generally be able to serve the customers better.  Better service brings in bigger orders.

Learning : The training provided by the organisation, the reading material available, the time given to salesperson to learn at his pace, etc.  contributes  to the level of knowledge that the salesperson acquires. Nevertheless,  the knowledge of  the job responsibilities, the product, the  market environment, the company's policy, the competition activities, the customers' need, etc  gives the salesperson  confidence to face the customers and close the sales successfully.  A knowledgeable salesperson with drive to achieve,  gets more clients to fill his order book.

Communication : Both written and oral communication should be clear and meet the level of  the customers.  Generally, social and educational  background have a lot of impact on one's  ability to communicate.  But the good communication training is the  leveller. The salesperson, however good he thinks he is in this faculty, is advised  to go for constant upgrading.  A good communication, many a time decides, the sales booked  and  the sales lost.

Good Organisation :  Salesperson should get into the habit of noting down the important points during the sales calls. Using the tools available, like organisers, spreadsheets, calendar etc. should  follow up properly. These tools also help " Commitment and Punctuality". A well organised salesperson, saves not only his time but also the customers' time. The customers pay back the well organised salesperson with orders.

Courtesy : Like in any social situation, the courtesy ensures the bond between the customer and the salesperson . Salesperson should be genuinely interested in customers;  only then courtesy will be genuine or it will be phoney. Courtesy in attending the call; returning the call;  the tone; the body  language;  the presentation – all counts.  Courtesy,   does not cost much but  brings disproportionate success in salesperson's  career.

Memory: A small effort to remember the names;  some personal details – like birthday etc, can go a long way to keep the customers away from the competition. Ultimately this personal touch will compensate, many small shortcomings in the sales process. The strong bond, by and large, brings bountiful sales.

Commitment : Delivery schedule commitment, after sales- service commitment, price commitment are important;  but many a time, it is beyond the limits of an individual salesperson. It depends more on organisational policy and the issues faced by the organisation. The safest bet is, always commit after taking all the relevant department into account and always keep a buffer, for the unforeseen happenings.  A salesperson who meets  his  commitments  to the customers most of the time stands tall  in the clutter and remembered always when writing the orders.

Punctuality:  This is also a commitment  but at the individual level. Showing-up on the committed time; communicating  of possible delay,  appropriately  and  in time, are viewed by many professionals  as a mark of respect . Customers willing  to write the cheques, who shows respect to them. Remember, the salesperson gets his salary because the customer favours him with an order.

These  lessons followed assiduously, make a willing person to be a super salesperson.

Contact :



Rajagopal, an MBA from Rotterdam School of Management

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