Three junior salesmen were assigned to assist me in achieving my sales target. Soon, to my dismay, I would learn that all three were relatively freshers with little or no experience. However, the real jolt to my senses came, when I found that most of the customers in the list given to me were "dead customers" who had not bought our products for several years running. The active and profitable customers had been designated out to the other sales managers who had joined sometime before me. Two months of cold calling, tele marketing, direct mailing and innumerable sales presentations later, I was in trouble with no performance to speak of. My sales pitches were reaching deaf ears. My team was depressed with no results for their hard work. It was seemingly impossible to win orders from this set of customers.
Deeply concerned about my future in the job but at the same time excited about taking on the challenge thrown at me, I spent a weekend re-reading the notes of the sales training I had attended years before. One lesson that came to the surface was "know your customer" and that is exactly what we set out to do.
I took my team out for a dinner and said "what we have is a bunch of great products and set of dead customers. There must a reason why they stopped buying. Let's find out". Taking my cue from the famous saying of Booker T. Washington "Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him." I gave each of my team specific tasks to do. For the first time in their job they were excited. One of them worked with the accounting department to find out the historical figures relating to our set of customers. The second went out to meet some of the "dead" customers and the third to meet the "good" customers of GE with a questionnaire to fill. They both came back with some valuable insights into the latest attributes that customers were looking for in engineering equipments. Over the next fortnight I worked with the marketing department to give us a quantitative analysis on the sales of products and spare parts.
I discovered two things in the analysis. These customers were not aware of the new products and technologies that GE offered. And they were buying the spare parts for their old GE products from local spurious manufacturers, which had spoiled the efficiency and emission levels of their engines. They were under pressure to save-energy and meet emission-reduction standards. If we could provide them an easier, feasible and cost-effective solution, we could regain them. Armed with this knowledge, I began to draw my battle plans with an innovative sales approach. Having understood their needs, it was time to show them that we had the solutions.
I organized a GE Customer Meet with group discussions and one-to-one meetings on new products and technologies. Fourteen customers from my "dead" list attended this refreshing seminar and we got orders for new equipment worth over Eight million dollars and contracts for spare parts worth 6 million dollars on the spot, with several more in the pipeline.
This experience of leading a seemingly weak team of freshers to record success in sales, taught me two lessons. On one hand, if a leader can inspire his team, even the weakest team can succeed. On the other, creative thinking and determination to succeed under pressure helped me overcome this challenge.
Essay 3 Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you