A very grounded and supportive Project Manager at the Client’s end was once sharing his erstwhile days as a sales person. He said he used to be so up strung to close the sale, that even if he hit the entrance door by mistake, he would just bend and blurt out an instinctive ‘sorry Sir’! Sales people cannot brush the Customer the wrong way, they cannot refuse anything, NO is simply a no-word in their dictionary. All those who have walked the shoes of a sales person live this dreaded moment when they absolutely resent the Customer’s demands but have to give in, to avoid friction, or losing the prospect.
As a telemarketing Sales person in her early years, Naila and her colleagues were expected to make atleast 20 meaningful tele-calls that would help either generate enquiries or close deals. The target was reviewed almost every morning before start of the next day, as used to be a pressure point. It was not as simple as a casual call. The entire fore and back end work about the call and case had to be in the head, the figures and facts worked out already. And after all this preparation, the Purchase manager at the other end simply said, ‘can’t give you the order, your price is double that of the L1’. (L1 meaning the competition with the lowest quote). How on earth could someone sell the same equipment with the very same specifications at half the price??? Clearly such men were in no mood to entertain Naila’s calls for whatever other reasons there may have been. What made it more infuriating was the knowledge that Naila did have the smartest deal, but was also adamant to not offer any personal favours. But NO is always a forbidden word in a Sales person’s dictionary and these Purchasers and decision makers did come up with blatant demands, quite unabashedly.
‘Can you get my son’s mark sheet from the University? He needs to send it to so and so uni in the US’. ‘Can you courier 5 kgs of Bakarwadi (a local savoury bite), it’s the specialty of your city, right?’ ‘Please get me the application form from that Management Institute, my daughter-in-law wanted to pursue a diploma’? ‘Can you negotiate that model of car and purchase it on my behalf? My son will come for the delivery and even get the payment?’ ‘Could you check upon my father-in-law admitted to this hospital and see if there is anything he needs? Fruits, medicines? ‘Is it possible to arrange a taxi for a day to visit Shirdi?’ And it even came to this once, ‘could you arrange to book x numbers of mattresses and coordinate to have them delivered at that wedding hall before 5 pm as the guests would reach by 8 pm?’ Really? With no alternative, Naila and her team often ran these ridiculous errands that they would have probably not, even for their acquaintances! But these were Customers! And NO was a ……yes. That’s right! And then a rapport used to be established. And the L1 price often did not matter, and deals were closed on technical superiority of the product and services!
One of Naila’s friends, Shonali was more naïve, and less restrained when it came to expression. Often irate when put to such work, she used to fume and blurt, ‘we have to beseech and grovel before these men for one small order. A day will arrive when they will come to us crawling with requests of help, and we will be able to tell them off.’ Naila and her friends used to laugh it off, but the resentful feeling was almost communal here.
Many years down the line, Naila grew in station and standing, and her word became a testimony to establish one’s credential. This sentiment of exploitation and indignation had long dissolved in the tresses of time. But ‘Shonali’s curse’ as Naila called it jokingly, manifested itself so very often. True, what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow, and all that, Naila use to think, with a smirk.
Naila never brushed these erstwhile associates; it was something about the belief that she was different from these men. She was not just greater in her carefully nurtured connections over the years, but genuinely grand at heart. Her network often effective to assist, she almost never had to turn a hand in need, away. However, she just hoped that these men realised, in their post-retirement stage, that true power is about being able to lift and offer a chance when you can, than deriving pleasure out of demeaning someone or taking away their opportunity to grow.
She knew she was punishing and forgiving at the same time. It was all about making a difference, even now.