Viacom18's Mahesh Shetty's tips for sales teams & professionals

Shetty’s insights can prove useful to even a seasoned sales professional.

MUMBAI: Most management graduates harbour dreams of getting into a marketing job at one of the FMCG majors once they graduate. But if they have eyes on the corner office they would do well to get into sales, and not just be swayed by its more glamorous cousin, marketing. At least that’s the advice that Viacom18 network ad sales head Mahesh Shetty’s would like to give them. Says he: “Selling is core to any business. I think if you want to become the CEO of an organisation and you have done sales in the past you stand a better chance.”

Shetty should know. He did the grind in sales at Pepsi, followed by marketing and then went back to sales. He then moved on to Radio Mirchi where he headed various sales functions before becoming the organisation’s COO. He was then hired to head a much larger organisation – Viacom18 network’s in the early part of 2019. 

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Shetty – whose key strengths lie in offering brand solutions to clients rather than just selling – says that working in sales for a substantial amount of time has many benefits. “Sales helps develop the right attitude and confidence in an individual,” he points out. “It improves communication skills and allows a person to know all aspects of the business right from selling the product, branding and marketing or dealing with the finance team at multiple levels.”

Some of the key attributes and attitudes, he believes, sales people need to have include: be positive, be constantly hungry, always desire to do more, spot opportunities not just problems, every problem has an opportunity, read, learn,  and meet people.

Elaborates Shetty: “Sales is not an usual eight hour job, it works round the clock. Meeting people and understanding brands is a very important part that helps. Before engaging with customers or clients it is important to equip ourselves with knowledge. It is important to have an intelligent conversation. Then, don't be dismayed if you don’t close a deal.  If there is one brand which has decided to not come on board then there are five other brands out there. It is important to find ways to excite them; this is what keeps me going day in and day out. Close to the year ending, if I am far from my numbers I will still have hope because there are many brands out there who want to grow their business and I have certain solutions which would help them to grow. That is my mantra.”

According to Shetty, there are ways that organisations can hone the skill sets of sales people. 

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Says he: “Large FMCG companies take you all around through sales, marketing, general management but many organisations still continue to keep sales people in the sales department. I think these companies lose the opportunity when they don’t move their best sales people into other departments because they lose the chance to create great leaders. I believe salespeople can do better in marketing as they have a good sense of the entire chain. They know what works with trade or distributors and they are also aware of what consumers want.”

He also advocates that sales people need to get comfortable with data, for it can be a great lead generator as well as a deal maker. Says he: “Data gives you a lot of insights. I feel some of the sales people are not comfortable with data or pulling out the insights from the data. I want salespeople to understand that just don't get drowned in the data but try to remove key insights from the data.”

Shetty admits that broadcasting is different from other direct to consumer businesses as sales people are selling products they create to an advertiser, whereas in other categories, the manufactured items are designed for the end consumer and sold to him or her.

To do better at broadcast sales, executives need to have an open mind. “Accept the changing times. The pace with which digital is growing I believe broadcast sales people should have a good understanding of both television and digital,” he explains. “Television being so strong in the entire media pie, sales folks sometimes think that their job is just to sell FCT. But I think sales people need to broaden their horizons to learn all the things around them so that they can pitch the right solutions to the brand manager.  Because when you are going out and selling solutions, you could include brand integration or certain messaging driven by  social handles which would be more effective.”

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According to him, the pandemic induced social distancing has meant that physical meetings are few and far between.  And the pressure has come on sales to deliver now that economic activity is showing signs of reviving. “Everything has gone digital now,” says he. “The personal touch is something that will come back. Until then,  managers have to work to help his teams achieve what they want to do. At times it starts with opening doors with the client or helping them with the solutions, or closing the deal with the client. We are all under pressure but what's important is to focus our energies on getting a solution, and ourselves back.”

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