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The Story of the Smart, Young Product Executive Who Learned Selling the Hard Way

Key Takeaway

Sales is not only a “salespersons” job. It is everybody’s job to sell. Right from the CEO to the Product team.



This story is set in the 1990’s. I don’t know why all my stories are set in the 90’s. Not that I am that old.


I was starting off on a brand new role as Product Executive in a multinational pharma company in Mumbai, India. I arrived in office in a shiny new suit carrying a shiny new handbag. I was ushered into a cabin where I met my “Mentor”, a very old man (in my eyes). He must have ben in his mid fifties, but seemed really old to me at that time. He seemed unimpressed with my shiny new suit and my fancy MBA. He asked me if I was familiar with the western part of Mumbai and I said yes. He then went on to assign me my territory and targets and told me to report to the Territory Manager by 12 noon. I thought there was some misunderstanding and proceeded to explain to him that I was “Product Executive". My job was Product development, defining and communicating product goals and strategy and so on….


He was obviously unimpressed by my knowledge of the “Product Managers” role.

He told me in no uncertain terms that it was my job to understand how to sell so that I could use that knowledge to help the medical representatives to sell more effectively.


I didn’t think it was wise to pursue my point and decided to report to the Territory Manager. I spent the next 6 months carrying a heavy bag with bottles of various cough syrup and antacids and offering samples to various chemists, hospitals and General Practitioners and of course trying to achieve my quotas.


Jumping in and out of the local train was no easy task with the heavy samples and yes I was the only lady medical rep amongst a sea of males.


What stayed with me was not the load or the long hours. What made a lasting impression was the pride with which all the medical reps spoke about the company, its products and how it would alleviate the customers pain.


I realised then selling is not merely a profession, it is the willingness and passion to serve. To find fulfilment in improving your customer’s lives. And above all, to take pride in your ability to contribute positively to your customer’s lives.

After 6 months, I was called into a meeting room where the Product Head, my Mentor and the Sales Head were waiting for me. I entered the room with much trepidation and sat down in front of them. I was handed over a letter without a single word. I opened it nervously to discover it was a confirmation letter as Product Executive and I had passed the test with flying colours.


Lessons that stayed with me


Sales is not only a “salespersons” job. It is everybody’s job to sell. Right from the CEO to the Product team.


The only reason for a business to exist is to serve the customer. Without customers, there is no business left to run.


If your purpose as a sales professional is - to make “quota”, you will go from deal to deal and quarter to quarter with the quota and incentives as your final goal.

If your purpose is to impact lives and make a difference, the pride, passion and results will automatically follow.


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