Passion in Sales- What are the boundaries?

For the past many years, there is a daily ritual I have. Watching a movie or a series episode everyday. I devote 1 to 2 hours almost daily towards this and feels quite therapeutic, relaxing and interestingly enough provides me with some good insights. After all, the cinematographic worlds many times are a reflection of our real worlds. There are certain clips which inspire,motivate or even force you to think about applications in real life. I will be sharing some of those in days to come but this particular one from a movie I recently watched was hilarious and thought provoking at the same time. How much passion in Sales is Good? Are there or should there be any boundaries? What do you think?

Is it Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing or something else?

Is it Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing or something else?

When I started my career more than 2 decades ago, one of the job titles I was given was ” Marketing Executive” and what I really did was sell to Mom & Pop stores and not even once did spend any time designing a brand campaign or a promotion, just executed the standard Trade schemes of 10+1 or 12+1 etc. It is not that the organisation wanted to give me a fancy Marketing Title, there just was no difference in understanding between Marketing & Sales, they were synonymous with each other. Even today, in many emerging markets you might see a similar thing although in my second stint in Asia from 2011-2014, have seen much better distinction between the two. As my career progressed and I moved to Europe at the start of the century, I saw much clearer focus at least with respect to the Sales function although we were  not called Sales Managers or Executives, at Procter & Gamble, we were called Customer Business Development( CBD) Managers. The rationale the organisation gave was that we can only be successful if our Customers are successful and our key role was to ensure that we are able to develop the Customer’s business hence ” Customer Business Development” Manager. This was beautiful, made perfect sense, gave the right motivations, encouragement and instilled the right passion. Brand Marketing similarly had the right structure and definition. It was therefore clear that having right distinction of functions/roles based on responsibilities and objectives is critical for right efficiencies and effectiveness.

Being thought process pioneers is what P&G does very well and a good example of that was the introduction of a new function called “Market Strategy & Planning” (MS&P). Although MS&P function had existed in previous avatars as well, but the introduction of this new title had much more focus behind it and MS&P played a “Tactically Strategic” role. They were the go betweens between CBD & Marketing, were focused on Market strategies in relation to Channels & Customers with a slightly more near term view, 1-2 years. So the reason I call it “Tactically Strategic” is due to the fact that unlike more upstream strategic thinking by Brand Marketing & Design teams maybe 3-5 years out MS&Ps were tasked with thinking short term strategic and bringing both brand & commercial plans alive. They worked with the CBD folks,Finance, Demand Management( Some cases supply also),Brand Marketing teams and also Marketing teams focused on a particular Customer e.g. the Tesco or the Asda’s of this world as part of the multi-functional Customer teams. Their key objective was to make portfolio & initiatives including promo plans relevant for Channels & Customers thus ensuring the right return. Yours truly was one such MS&P and was lucky enough to experience that amazing role.

Almost a decade ago now, when I transitioned into the world of Consulting( we  call it Assisted Advisory now as we feel that unless we assist our clients with getting the results through the advice we provide, it is of no real benefit to them and Consulting feels more one sided), I found a maze of views w.r.t this function, similar to a P&G MS&P which organisations were trying to replicate/refine. Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing, Initiative Management, Innovation Management, Commercial Strategy, Trade Shopper, Trade Customer Marketing etc to name a few. In many cases, this specific function did not even exist and the responsibilities were bolted on to either the Sales or Marketing functions. It is not that the way the teams were structured or called or the way responsibilities were defined were not helpful to the particular organisation, in my view the confusion or maybe the potential for better clarity with regards to this function could have helped an organisation with more efficient and effective results.

The need for such a function arose because with increasing complexities and competition in the Retail landscape where Sales and Marketing functions needed to have pure focus on their responsibilities of getting numbers and building brands respectively, a role was required which could connect both Sales & Marketing with a view of winning with Channels & Customers. The responsibilities of this role included making portfolio & initiatives( classification of initiatives is a whole new subject and will share thoughts on that soon) relevant for Channels and Customers and hence the terms Trade Marketing & Customer Marketing came into play. The concepts such as First Moment of Truth, Category Management etc. arose which would help with making Portfolios relevant and effective and as these were built with the Shopper in mind, the concept of Shopper Marketing arose. In the effort to make such a function relevant in an organisation, based on the understanding of the leadership at the point of time, the function gained different names such as Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing, Shopper Marketing etc.

However, coming back to the title of this blog “Is it Trade Marketing, Customer Marketing,Shopper Marketing or something else?”,  what should or could be the key function to execute the intended roles & responsibilities? My view is that it is “Shopper Marketing” enabled through Trade & Customer and needs to be structured and planned accordingly in an organisation, Shopper Marketing needs to be the starting point. Applying the same analogy as”Customer Business Development” unless we are able to help our Customer win with their Shopper, all else is irrelevant. Only if we have the right rationale behind structuring of a particular function can we drive the right behaviours and results in an organisation. It takes even more importance with the changing Channel landscapes currently with new forces such as online taking prominence. Only if the Customer wins with the Shopper that there will be portfolios to market, initiatives to launch and margins to share.

( Ankur Shiv Bhandari is the Global MD of Asbicon group, www.asbicon.com. Asbicon specialises in providing Retail & Distribution effectiveness for Consumer Goods & Services organisations)

Food Consumption Trends in one of the World’s largest Market- CEOs Synopsis

Few weeks ago I was invited to conduct a Masterclass on Shopper Driven Category Management at the India Food Forum ( annually held in Mumbai) but more interestingly to also moderate the panel of circa 10 prominent CEOs from the world of Food & Retail. The focus of the discussion was on the Future potential of the Food business in India. It was indeed an honour and I flew from London for  a quick few days in India.

The power of the panel was astounding with CEOs of the three biggest Retail chains , MDs of leading Out of Home eating franchises, owner/directors from leading food companies etc forming the think tank. I was also honoured to co-moderate this session with my dear friend, Sadashiv Nayak, the CEO of Big Bazaar( Future Group). We structured the discussion using 2 key questions :

  1. What in your view are the key disruptions( if any) in the Food Industry in the last 12 months?
  2. How would you attract/cater to a 20 year old in 4 years time when He or She get their first salary?

It resulted in quite a dynamic discussion with points of view at both end of the spectrum being debated, the crux however resulted in the following synopsis:

  • At Home Consumption:

    • Centre of the plate has hardly changed– The core components of consumption at home such as Dal(Lentils), Roti ( Bread), Chawal ( Rice) etc largely still remain the same. There have been some light experiments with the staples in the plate such as different flavour garnishings  ( schezwani tadka was mentioned) but by and large eating @ home hasn’t changed much. Companies that are providing a variation to existing consumption habits are seeing good success such as Capital foods with “Desi Chinese” concept or more organic/natural focused products such as Patanjali. Evolution not Revolution seems to be the trend here.
    • Cooking as a Celebration has joined Cooking for Subsistence– Although cooking is largely still for subsistence, social media has given rise to celebratory cooking as well. More mealtimes per week are getting converted to occasions where pride in cooking is exhibited and celebrated through pictures and videos on social media. There is a good opportunity for brands to capitalise on the trend.
    • Easier provision of semi-cooked/freshly cooked meals@ Home– There has been a tremendous rise of delivery startups who have provided an ecosystem for delivery of fresh home made food for consumers unable or unwilling to cook themselves. The consumption is still@home , still largely with centre of the plate staples, however, the opportunity for consumer to experiment is larger. This is also giving rise to Modern Retail focusing on providing Ready to cook solutions such as Idli/Dosa batters capitalising on the trend for Easy to cook/Freshly cooked solutions. Important point to note is that although Freshly Cooked & Delivered/Ready to Cook is gaining traction, packaged Ready to Eat still has some way to go before being properly adopted as a mainstream trend.
  • Out of Home Consumption:

    • New Cuisines and experiences are being embraced– This is where the desire for experimenting is larger, adoption of variations & New cuisines is much higher. While you see consumers enjoying Paneer Tikka pizzas , you can also see openness to try new Mexican, Lebanese or other cuisines, this is also evident in the recent emergence of casual diners across the country offering world cuisines. Experimenting with traditional Indian cuisines is also much more open. There is potential to use consumer behaviour of openness to experiment/change in Out of home to also influence changes in At Home consumption.
    • Technology has a key role to play– There is potential for further connection and interaction with the consumer, provision of better experience e.g: delivery and higher focus on health using technology.

Above are some of the key pointers from the discussion which could potentially be instrumental as Food brands in India or those that are planning to come to India could utilise as they develop future plans. You can also view the full discussion at the following link:

 

( Ankur Shiv Bhandari is the Global MD of Asbicon group, (www.asbicon.com) based in Berkshire, United Kingdom. Asbicon specialises in providing Retail & Distribution effectiveness for Consumer Goods & Services organisations)

You can’t do it- That’s Wonderful!

You can’t do it- That’s Wonderful!

You can’t do it- That’s Wonderful!

I came across a nice LinkedIn post from an individual this morning where he listed down an array of demotivators thrown at him when he moved to Canada a year ago such as “You will not find a job in your field”, “You will not be able to have a senior position if you want to settle here”,” You will need to adjust your expectations downwards” etc etc. He then proceeded to proudly share that “He was glad he only listened to himself” as he was now on the Board of Directors of a reputable organisation within that year.

 

I assume most of us have come across such situations in our personal & professional lives where we are faced with similar statements/doubts expressed on capabilities. There can be one of three outcomes in such a situation, 1) Get demotivated/stop attempting, 2) Not affected/carry on as planned, 3) Challenge becomes a huge motivation/multiply the effort. In my personal experience these have actually proved to be huge motivators to try to accomplish what has been stated as “can’t be done”. Granted that subject to limits of science and supernatural not everything will be possible but hope you get my gist:-).

 

It was the year 1993, I had just given my year 10 exams ( sort of equivalent to GCSEs) and had about 4 months of holidays coming up. Although it has been quite common for 14+ year olds taking up jobs in Europe, Americas etc., in the Northern Indian town of Faridabad where I grew up it was almost unheard of ( landscape has changed a bit over the last decade or so but still not common) due to multiple factors such as too young, family reputation, limited belief in capability etc. However, in very simple terms, in my heart I wanted to learn the value of money and expressed a desire to my family that I wanted to work . You guessed the response right…”You can’t do it”. The third outcome as above kicked in and I stepped up efforts to find a way. As luck would have it, found out about a boy known to my family who I learned had starting going to Delhi as he had taken up a job there. Spoke to him and was told that he works for a toy company. Somehow convinced my father to accompany this boy called Happy for one day and see if it was something decent to be involved in.

 

As agreed with Happy, I reached his home the next day at 7:30 AM to go to Delhi with him. Not sure why, but surprise surprise, he had left without me. Now definitely couldn’t just go back home and miss this golden chance and in those days there were no cell phones so couldn’t contact Happy either. I remembered Happy had told me that the company he works for is based in “East of Kailash”area in Delhi and had shared the company name. Armed with these 2 pieces of information, without ever having travelled alone to Delhi and that too on Public transport, I headed for the old Faridabad train station( Google hadn’t graced our lives yet:-)). At the station enquired about the train stop I should get off at in Delhi to reach East of Kailash and learned about Okhla, my destination station for the day. Once I reached East of Kailash ( it was not a couple of blocks, more like a small town), I started enquiring about this Toy company and after about an hour, luck smiled and a phone shop( called STD/ISD booths in India) which this toy company used to route their long distance calls gave me their address.

 

Late morning, I arrived at A3-East of Kailash, which was originally a house but now had offices in the basement & ground floor and someone’s residence on the upper floors. The toy company’s office was in the basement. When I entered the office, my friend Happy was there and was suitably surprised. Anyway, spoke to the boss and found out that this particular office employed people for door to door selling of their Soft toys and board games. They said they would give me a trial for a week and I jumped on the chance. So that day in April 1993, armed with around 20kgs of toys and games on my shoulder, with a desire to learn and motivated further by “You can’t do it”, at a grand age of 15, on the streets of South Delhi was my first day at work!

 

That day defined my life. I ended up working there for the remaining 3 months and that is where my love for Sales was born. There are many other memories of knocking on doors, my first sale etc. which I might share in future posts. Since then, there had to be a component of work along with my studies and I ended up working part-time all through my graduation in Sales roles.

 

Most of the times “You Can’t do it” challenge has worked positively for me as a motivator and also as a catalyst to help push boundaries, get out of comfort zone etc on multiple occasions. It is not surprising that the same must have played a huge role in the lives of many people we have come to respect such as Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson etc. and must be a key ingredient in their success.

 

So next time, someone says to you” You can’t do it”.. just say and feel “That’s Wonderful!” 

 

Ankur Shiv Bhandari

The Birth of a Salesman

The Birth of a Salesman

The Birth of a Salesman

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Hello Everyone,

For those of you who don’t know me, I pride myself on being a salesman at heart. Having started my sales career in the early 90s, have seen interesting changes in sales team’s profiles at different levels and in different geographies across the years. I have been lucky enough to have supported sales and marketing initiatives in more than 50 countries and across different channels from the most organised to the most fragmented such as those supporting BPL( Below poverty line) consumption in the developing world.

In the recent few years there are a few key topics around Sales & Distribution management which I feel very passionate about and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on those with you. One topic which I have seen discussed a lot recently is the relevance of a Sales person in today’s Digital world. I have seen some posts marking the phenomenon as the death of a sales person’s role, lost world of sales etc etc. This amuses me quite a lot as in my view this changing landscape is and should be “The Birth of a Salesman”, birth of a salesman who can be relevant in today’s world, birth of a salesman who can use his amazing skills from previous experiences such as relationship building to bring more life into the management of current channel landscape and birth of a salesman who combines richness of being able to understand customer needs with the agility of being able to fulfill them through the modern digital methods.

I will share more details on that perspective in the next few posts so watch the space. Just wanted to start off the dialogue with all you lovely colleagues, co-professionals, friends and would be friends with an initial thought I felt strongly about.

Have a lovely evening.

Regards,

Ankur Shiv Bhandari