What we think | Practitioners Perspectives

How can a crisis make you a better sales leader?

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Practitioner:

Atul Mehta

Senior VP Sales, Razorpay
In our conversation with Atul Mehta, Senior Vice President, Sales at Razorpay, we decided to explore some “evergreen” sales perspectives and sales foundations. Back to basics always helps.
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How have you become a better Sales Leader during Covid times?

At the risk of stating the obvious, I must say the change that we have seen is unimaginable. It has certainly made me a better person and a leader, simply because of the following:

On a Saturday when I was ruminating over my 36 member highly driven sales team, on instinct I reached out to all of them. I called them up and made it clear it was not business, but about them and their families. They were pleasantly surprised and opened up to me and shared so much of their interesting family happenings such as- the entry of a new-born, a wife pursuing higher studies, a parent’s illness and so much more. I did not leave it at that but wrote it all down and asked them about this regularly. This, I was told made my team delighted and cherished. So now, this is a campaign that I have launched for myself called the PPF Put People First.

This mantra of PPF has helped me reframe CTC from ‘Cost To Company’ to ‘Clients, Teams and Company’. For example, if your client seeks a service that may not be profitable for your company then you need to balance it diplomatically without hindering neither the customer nor the company. Leaders are expected to do this balancing act. As the company grows bigger it becomes difficult to maintain the culture of the organization and it is in these little acts that a culture gets cascaded. Covid has shown us some amazing leadership. A business as usual would never have given us this opportunity to keep in mind the welfare of our teams.

What types of business model innovations are most relevant to the Fintech industry?

Research reveals that India and China, account for the highest fintech adoption rate (87%), out of all the emerging markets in the world. Invisible payments are here to stay. Cash, debit and credit cards are being shunned and customers are opting for speedy and swift financial transactions. The pandemic has hastened this process with a boom for digital wallet operators.

Some of the key changes:

• Cheque handling and cash transactions have given way to NEFT and RTG automation

• Companies that did not have website/electronic medium to provide payment information have now upgraded

• Companies that received payment through IVR and swipe cards have resorted to online payment links

The trend is towards end-to-end money solutions, for example we began as payment acceptance company but now we have expanded into disbursements, lending and on demand settlements. These are long lasting and welcome trends sweeping across fintech industries.

How can Sales Leaders develop their direct reports to become better than themselves, so the Sales Leaders can achieve more?

Sales leaders are like salt in the food. You cannot consume the dish without salt nor can you remove the salt from the dish once you have added more of it. Similarly, as a leader, your ability to influence and remain invisible, is what will make your leadership unique and egalitarian.

Are you a leader who people really want to work with? Are you able to answer this honestly to yourself? Sales leaders must be shock absorbers and ensure their team remains focused on the task at hand and not succumb to other occupational hazards. If you think being available 24×7 is being productive then you are mistaken, 26 x 8 is the new normal. It is not the hours that I am referring to but the intensity with which you are able to make a difference.

The smarter your team is, the more bandwidth you will have to focus on the strategic. Making sure your talent strategy is in place to develop and retain the best sales talent in the industry is critical. If the people quotient is not addressed properly you will end up burning the candle at both ends.

Are you a leader who people really want to work with? Are you able to answer this honestly to yourself? Sales leaders must be shock absorbers and ensure their team remains focused on the task at hand and not succumb to other occupational hazards.

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What advice would you give for sellers to differentiate themselves in a crowded market?

The differentiation begins with the fundamental understanding of what you are trying to solve, which would be the core of your differentiation journey. Most often this understanding gets misplaced in the run to the top which is why differentiation gets compromised. And another concept that I keep reiterating is figuring out the Why. Who is your client? What pain areas are you addressing? Are you ready to experiment? These are basic questions that sellers need to ask themselves frequently and make course corrections in a seamless manner.

For example, the introduction of the Aloo Tikki burger was a fabulous adaptation to the McDonalds burger menu for the Indian market. It immediately caught the fancy of the desi crowd; this agile adaptability is what is required for business.

While this is an old and simple example, I believe that it beautifully reiterates the importance of knowing what you serve and to whom you are serving. There is never one solution or a particular formula to stay differentiated. The closer you are able to get to the customer in unique ways, the more the spotlight falls on you and the prospect turns in your direction.

What is one story that you would share about how sales is a worthwhile profession to pursue?

Every profession is noteworthy according to me. But if I were to single out sales – then to me the high that I get after an excruciating sales lifecycle to clinch a deal is unbeatable.

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How do you visualize the future of the sales profession in a virtual world?

You cannot get away with saying anything and everything on a video call. The fact that you are being watched and recorded makes all the difference. So, the sales professional of today must be agenda driven and one must rehearse his/her speech and pitch. Apart from having a well-rehearsed pitch, they must be hands on with the technology as well.

So, tech savvy skills are yet another dimension for the sales community of today and tomorrow. Those who are yet to adopt must adapt quickly, as agility holds the key here. There is a lot to do with mindset change. Unfortunately, Covid does not allow the luxury of time to adjust but promises a whole lot of opportunities to sell in the virtual world. On the one hand the camaraderie and the comfort of having a chit chat over a cup of coffee is missing and it is a sore thumb. But not having to travel are the plusses that any organization will not want to miss as these are cost incurring expenses.

The emerging sales professional is one who is smart on many counts, the key being their knowledge and technology mastery.

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