Aug 17, 2013

His name was Velu

Last year I attended a conference in Mumbai where many speakers their thoughts about a variety of marketing topics. I do not remember most of the stuff that was spoken about. I mean, it has been more than 7-8 months. But one thing I do remember. It was a story and it goes something like this...

I was a new Area Sales Manager in Hindustan Lever Limited. My National Sales Head was visiting my market. I was going to take him to a small town, so we were going to spend a lot of time travelling in the car. Expecting questions, I had prepared myself well. I had memorised all my sales numbers and growth rates. I even studied the climate and geography. What are the food crops and cash crops of the area and how was the monsoon this year? I was ready for most questions. I was also nervous.

During the entire trip to the small town, the sales head did not ask me anything. When we reached the distributor point, we met the distributor and his salesmen. There was a delivery boy standing nearby. After the sales men took orders, he was the one who used to drive the auto and deliver the stocks to the retailers.

It was here that my Sales Head asked his first question. "What is the name of the delivery boy?" I was totally stumped. What is he asking? Since I did not know his name, I could not answer.

Later the Sales Head told me. If I would have called the delivery boy by his name and shook his hand and introduced him to the Sales Head, the delivery boy would have felt recognised and proud. No one gives him the respect he deserves because he is poor and just a delivery boy. But it is because of these people, that our business is flourishing. He is an important part of our front line sales team (though he is not our employee but works with our distributor).

Moral of the story: Respect the people at the front-end of our business. If properly motivated, they can make a big difference.

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I do not remember the nitty-gritty of the story. Like what was the name of the sales head or which town did they travel to. But I remember the essential details and the moral. I remember the nervousness of a new sales manager and how he expects to impress his boss. He is ready with this numbers and out of the blue, he is asked the name of a person who he thought was inconsequential.

This in the words of Mr. Prakash Iyer was his first big lesson in sales. This story is also a lesson for us. It is a lesson for presenters. After 7-8 months, no one will remember your bullet points and all the numbers and statistics. But if you share a good story, your audience will never forget it. Your story and your lesson will remain in the minds for a long long time to come.

By the way, the young sales manager did find out the delivery boy's name later on :-)