Perfecting Sales With Perfetti – Diptatej Mishra’s Summer Internship Experience
ALWAYS INNOVATING WHAT CONFECTIONERY CAN DO. That was the tagline below their logo, Perfetti Van Melle’s. An internship with an FMCG major in a sales role is an experience of a lifetime. Things become more interesting and challenging when you’re sent to the market. You get to see how sales, the life force of any firm, happens on the ground. How thousands of salesmen across the country travel into remote areas every day even in the most unforgiving of summers with their order books and pitch the company’s products from shop to shop? How they push a particular product? How do they convince the shopkeeper to buy Perfetti’s products? How do they manage to do all this while ensuring that they do not get a heat stroke?
My stint with Perfetti began, in full sense of the word, in Indore, MP on an April morning. I’d been given the contact numbers of the local sales personnel there. When I contacted them after reaching my hotel, I was appraised of the next day’s program: we were to visit Bagli. Bagli? The name didn’t ring any bells. A quick google search told me that it was a small town with a ten thousand odd population in Dewas district. I was told which bus stand to reach to (Indore has three), we were starting at 7:30 sharp. Next Morning, at the appointed place and hour, I was warmly greeted by two people, whom I still have fond memories of. After the initial introductions, we got into a bus, which took us to our destination. When we alighted at Bagli, it was around 10:00 AM and the temperature 46°C, and for the very first time, I discovered that Google can be wrong too. It wasn’t a town, it was a village. It took me a few moments to realise the penetration of the company’s products. I was awed. Manufactured from Manesar, these little things in shiny wrappers, find their way to a multitude of such hamlets across the country. I was brought back to reality by one of my companions, who asked me to put on my cap. After working the market for a while, we decided to have lunch. I wasn’t carrying anything with me, I hadn’t imagined it’d be necessary to do so. But, they came to my rescue, they were kind enough to share their home-cooked food with me. And, that wasn’t the only time they did so.
The remnant of my stint in Indore was spent in going to a different place every day and learning as much as possible about the market there, from my observations and from the salespeople. To share an anecdote, I asked after we left a shop who didn’t keep any of our products, “Sir…Don’t you think had we pressurised him a bit, he’d have kept something?” and in his wisdom, he replied “Oh! He will. It’s just a matter of time, he’ll come to his senses” noting my bafflement he continued “When he’ll see that all the shops in this lane are stocking our products, he’ll follow suit. That’s why it’s useless to persuade him now. Moreover, in life, we can’t afford to stop because life will not stand still for any of us, it’ll move and rather than running behind to catch up, rather move side by side. Let’s go have something to drink, my throat is parched”. He didn’t teach me about sales, he told me about an important life lesson that we all know, but tend to ignore.
After having gained an understanding of the rural market at Indore, I was sent to Pune to see the urban market as well. After having done Pune, when I reported back to the Zonal HQ at Mumbai, my mentor briefed me “Now that you’ve understood the markets, it’s time to start your project….at Mehsana”. That’s FMCG sales for you, you’ve to be on the move, always on the road, travelling. There’ve been some days where I’ve had my breakfast, lunch and dinner at three different places.My project was to prepare journey plans for the salesforce. To optimise their itinerary to maximise the business impact while taking care of costs as well. It was time for the number crunching to begin and to excel with data, you need excel. My project also necessitated the mapping of towns assigned to a salesperson so that it’d be easy to check if the travel trajectory he followed clashed or crisscrossed with another salesperson. I used Google My Maps for the mapping part. And then began the endless saga of spreadsheets, modifications, finalised versions, mappings and re-mappings, which was necessary to ensure that concerns of all the stakeholders involved are taken care of.
After Mehsana, I was assigned a bigger area: South Gujarat which had complex territory distributions amongst the salesmen there, which got smoothened out by the same process I’d followed before.
Rare is an internship that satiates the wanderlust within. To be able to visit three different states, to interact with different kinds of people, to understand the differences in their style of business, to see and to absorb different cultures and to do all these in a span of two months, drenched in sweat courtesy the Great Indian Summer, is an experience of a lifetime and necessitates no documenting whatsoever. Such experiences remain as fresh in memory as the same day.