Confused on what specialisation to take in your MBA? Don’t know what kind of work is undertaken by MBAs in FMCG sales? Worried that a sales role will need you to be an extrovert? Or will need you to go from one door to another?
Mehul Popat, in this article, talks about how to build a career in sales and also helps to dismantle some of the myths associated with a sales role in FMCG. He is currently HoReCa In-charge of Amul, Kolkata and pursued his MBA from IIM Udaipur (Batch: 2015-17).
What was your Summer Internship experience like?
I did my Summer Internship at Snapdeal. I was fortunate to be a part of their Special Projects Team during my internship. My project was about the hyper-local delivery model named SD-Instant. My deliverable was to design a Cluster model for their hyper-local service-SD Instant so as to make delivery possible within 4 hours. The project also included Market Research to fill the gap in assortment available within each cluster.
The project was more about identifying innovative supply chain strategy and doing market research to gauge customer demands for such a platform. I was never interested in operations/supply chain but this project helped me to learn how supply chain plays an important part in E-commerce.
What skills would you like to suggest MBA students aspiring to be future marketers?
To be great marketers, one needs to be great observers. Understanding the customer needs should be your top priority. The customer can be anyone – The Company you are working for, the colleagues you are working with, the client you are servicing, the retailers, the distributors, the salesmen or any other stakeholders. Understanding them and fulfilling their needs at each level will ensure your way to success.
B-school students can develop analytical skills by solving case-studies. Case studies provide a real-life problem which the MNCs have faced in the past and hence, they provide a great opportunity for the students to learn from them and implement their learning once they join corporates. I would encourage students to participate in them as they provide you with great exposure (and also prizes, if you win).
Can you please describe your career trajectory?
My career trajectory in terms of learning has been exponential. In GCMMF (Amul), I started with a brief stint as Territory In-charge for Retail channel in May 2017 and continued it for 9 months. After that, I was fortunate to launch a new channel – HoReCa (Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers) in Kolkata on Jan’18 and within a year of handling the Kolkata region, I was given the responsibility to add business in HoReCa channel for the entire West Bengal and Orissa territories. Today, looking back, I can connect the dots and draw my ever-growing learning curve in this journey of 3 years.
Any myths about a career in sales that you would like to dismantle?
For a layman, sales refer to – a person calling you for loan, insurance or even selling credit cards. Yes, they are doing sales. But that is not what a B-School graduate would do. Sales is more of understanding customer needs and fulfilling them. It requires analytical, collaborative and team handling skills. As a salesperson, you will have to find innovative ways to grab market share from competitors, develop Go-to-market strategy for new products and also execute below-the-line marketing activities to gain visibility in the market. Sales role will help you become more customer oriented, develop empathy and drive numbers in a challenging environment. Thus, sales role builds a strong foundation for your journey in corporate life. For those looking for career in marketing, the role in sales will be a stepping stone for your success in future.
What are the challenges that you face on the job?
Biggest challenge you face while in a sales job is the word “NO”. You customers say NO for your products. Your team says NO for the targets you set for them. You say NO to yourself before setting yourself a target to achieve. But in the end –All convert to YES, YES and YES. The road taken from a NO to a YES consists of all the challenges. Handling a team which might have mix of new joinees or even older employees (in age and experience) is no easy task. Negotiating with customers, listening to them patiently and in the end, coming out with a win-win situation for the organization and the customer is now like a daily chore for me in the job. In sales, every day is a new day with new challenges. A job in sales makes you an Ironman (like Robert Downey jr.) – hard enough from outside for the role and soft enough from inside to manage the people surrounding you.
How important is People Orientation important for the role?
People orientation is of the utmost importance when it comes to sales. A person who is an introvert before joining sales will get transformed into an extrovert in this role. While, for those who are already extrovert and outgoing, this role will broaden your perspective and enhance your listening skills. There are two classes of people with whom you need to interact while in this role or any role for that matter- 1) People within your organization, 2) External people/ customers of your organization.
From the first class of people, you understand how to manage your team, guide them for any new initiative and how you can bring out the best in each of them. While, in the later, you understand the customer needs, learn to persuade/convince and build long-lasting relationships which is essential for the role and business.
What is your biggest takeaway from work / B-School w.r.t S&M?
My major takeaways from my career in sales and marketing:
1) Communicate to Convince – Negotiation is a way of life
2) Convert a NO to YES! – Dealing rejections with perseverance
3) Patience – Enhanced my Listening skills (God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason)
4) Working out of comfort zone - I have cracked deals with NGOs during covid-19 to get sales
5) Under promise & over-deliver! - TARGETS
Advice to BSchool Students for their Summer Internship
The two months of internship helped me bridge the gap between the MBA curriculum and industry practices. One tip I have for all summer interns - Never give up and have patience. Success will come eventually! It is the right time to learn new things, understand new concepts and implement them in your internship project.
About the Author, Mehul Popat - HoReCa In-charge, Amul, Kolkata
Mehul is an alumnus of NIT Durgapur (BTech 2009-13) and IIM Udaipur(PGDM 2015-17). He has over 5 years of work experience. He has worked with engineering and construction major – Larsen & Toubro post his BTech, where he has performed various roles. He started his career in operations team of Metallurgical and Material handling division of L&T, worked as project coordinator for Tata Steel project and also served as Executive Assistant to Vice President and BU Head where he was regularly interacting with the top management and was involved in major strategic initiatives during his tenure. After a stint of 2 years with L&T, Mehul moved on to pursue his PGDM from IIM Udaipur. He is currently working with Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited (Amul) for over 3 years in sales and marketing domain. He is currently heading the institutional sales for eastern zone based out of Kolkata, West Bengal. He is also a big foodie, an avid traveller and a passionate toastmaster.