09 February 2007

The Art and Culture of Salesmanship

I wonder if salesmanship has anything to do with the genes or the environment we are brought up in. But my belief in this becomes more and more stronger as I travel across India. I would to particularly mention that the best salesmanship that I have encountered was in Calcutta and Bombay. Both places had one thing in common, most of the shops (at least those which I visited were owned by a Marwari). Of course Marwari shops are a legend of sort, consider at almost all the places and the people I have met as the most intelligent sellers.

Its just the way the sales psychology works. I had never thought about it ever. But the trip to Gopinatham(details of that I will be giving you soon) made me think in this direction. There was an old man(He said he was 75). He spoke fluent English. I was initially shocked by his fluency. Not that it was a BPO style English but none the less good enough. He told me that he had learnt English from a variety of places and people. He understood the psychology of all that. I wondered psychology talking as a guide!!!

He was good. He tried his best to flatter everyone in my group in a variety of ways. But then I am a Marwari.

I began to wonder what the relation between salesmanship and psychology. Not late that I realized that its just the way you talk and make the customer feel good. Its generally not just by the words but the body language and the tone. I have somehow never seen any Kannadiga have a tone which makes me feel warm when it comes to buying from a shop. Ditto for Bengalis. The worst shopkeepers that I have met are Muslims(No offense meant but this is what I have experienced).Other cultures, I am not sure. The supermarkets do go on the safe side by not having anyone at all in sight. But once you get into a shop owned by a Marwari he will, before selling you anything will make you feel comfortable in his shop. You will always feel welcome. What’s more interesting is the way he interacts with his employees in the presence of a customer. Whatever be the case with the employee, he will never sound ugly in front of a customer. He might not sell you the cheapest but he will sell in a manner that seems to be more acceptable to you. All that I am telling you is not from some bigshot’s book but my own experience as a customer that is.

It might be something that you have also experienced, you must have been to some shop and you have seen all the wares in there but like none. If its some shop in Bangalore, you are not going to get out without hearing something utterly rubbish. You would never ever go to that shop again. Would you? Now picture this that you go and that person tell you that newer stocks would come in a couple of days. Wouldn’t you visit that shop again sooner or later. In India atleast, none of these are super knowledgeable MBA’s in Sales. But they know the real psychology. This generally comes out of the environment you are in. This is my hypothesis.

To add to that this is something I had heard from my grand father. He told me that there used to be caravans going from Peshawar and Karachi to Calcutta, Delhi etc. The people of Rajasthan had a tough life at that time with little food and endless draughts. They were used to this tough life. Some people used to join these caravans and move all over India. Wherever they went they used to get going with their salesmanship. They knew how to sell and make a relation with the customer. They had no other choice at that time. Either you flourish or perish. No doubt Darwins Laws kept only the better Marwari salesman in business. And when one of them succeeded he made it a point to get his known people in that place. Obviously the successful shop was their training ground. And the ‘MaruNet’, as I call it, expanded. No doubt wherever in India you go, you will always find a Marwari. It was something they had to do if they were to have a better life than the draughts of Rajasthan.

But that was centuries ago. Now things have changed dramatically. But your shopping experience has not. The geniuses at supermarkets came up with a brilliant plan. Let there be no people, so people would simply buy. This was a safe bet. Rather than having an employee spoiling the sales, its better to have none. But I must tell u that a shop with a really warm person in charge sells more than supermarket of similar size. And finally I think I would soon start a super market with the right mix. Is Big Bazaar doing that???

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