Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Most Important Training Begins

I woke up with a jolt. It was almost 8, I had to bathe and reach the market by 9. I rushed. There was no time for b'fast. I called the DSE (Distribution and Sales Executive). My phone did not have too much balance. He was leaving for the market and I was to meet him there. I remember reaching late.
There I was - no food and no sleep. I just wanted the day to end so I could crawl under the covers and sleep.
The DSE was Bala. Whenever anyone talks about sales, below are the qualities you are expected to have:
- Be gregarious
- Outgoing
- Talkative
- Be able to connect with people

Bala is none of the above. He is tall, dark and completely no nonsense. I never saw him indulge in small talk. He is all business- very professional.
It was a very interesting market. The company had just launched a brand called 'Foot pop'. It was a lollipop in the shape of a 'foot'. It came in 2 flavours- strawberry and caramel. Every box had an assorted mix... also, the box was a very funky one. This what we were supposed to do- after the retailer has purchased the box, tear it open and it would automatically transform into a merchandising option. In a shop, confectionery is placed in a jar. Since 'Footpop' was being sold in a cardboard box instead of jar, the retailer would stock it in another empty jar. To prevent this, the box got transformed into a something which could be placed in the shop. Cadbury would later (2008) launch their chewing gum in a cardboard box instead of jar too.
Anyway, the product seemed perfect- kids love anything quirky and innovative... the foot shaped lollipop seemed like a winner. Except, it wasn't. Parents did not want their kids to eat a 'foot'. They thought this would encourage a bad habit and make kids suck their foot. Yeah, I know... how dumb!!!
But, the product bombed. I spent those 2 weeks selling a lot of 'Footpop'.
The Brand Manager of FP was Bala's ex-boss (previous ASM Chennai) so Bala sold FP like a crazy man. Plus, there was an incentive on it.
This is how he worked- we would enter a shop, he would give a menacing look (his normal facial expression), the retailer would back off, he would just start opening jars, place them on the shelf and ask the PSR to make the bill. The retailer would comply obligingly. Chennai is a credit market. A jar of confectionery costs 100 bucks. The retailer would pay 50 bucks, sometimes even 20 bucks, every week to the guy who came for collection. Bala knew the capacity of every shop and would not bill beyond that. For example, a retailer pays Rs 20 every week to the distributor... he will be happy to buy 5 jars at a time but the distributor would not want to give him 1 jar at a time. This greatly affected sales but thats the market reality.
I spoke to the ASM at night and narrated my ordeal- how I could not find a hotel room etc etc. He admonished me for not calling him. I could have gone to his hotel. Well, I didn't think about it... it did not even strike me. He was from my B-School but I had only spoken a few sentences to him in office... did not know how to call him at 5 am.

I am posting some posts from my old blog when I was in Chennai. 

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