26 Jun #SalesTalk with Aslam Karmali, CEO of Eureka Forbes
In the recently concluded 3rd ET Sales Strategy Summit in Mumbai, we had a chance to have a brief chat with Mr. Aslam Karmali, CEO of Consumer Division (Retail), Eureka Forbes Ltd. Prior to joining Eureka Forbes in 2006, Mr. Karmali served as the General Manager of Philips India. He is single-handedly responsible for growing the Retail Distributorship of Eureka Forbes to nearly 40% of total sales (from a meager 10% when he joined).
He spoke at length about the what drives a sales team, and key pointers for maximizing productivity in sales. Here are a few snippets from the discussion.
Yamini Bhat: What would be the biggest levers for driving your team’s sales productivity performance up?
Aslam Karmali: Top of my mind thoughts as a CEO, I think, is about the edge. And to me, every salesperson in my team should have that winning edge. It’s one of the most important things in my life as a sales leader. Every day, great execution. As Ramcharan says in his book on Execution, which also has been a bible for all of us, “the best strategies fail in the marketplace only because of poor execution, and average strategies”. If strategies are executed properly, they make a great success. To me, execution is the key.
YB Sitting miles away from where the field rep is, what are the leading indicators you know that this is actually being executed the way it is intended on the ground?
AK: Thanks to automation, we now have daily, weekly, and monthly dashboards. One of the things to track, even at a CEO level, is productivity per salesperson, but I think today the world has moved far beyond productivity. We are now working in our company to talk about salesforce profitability. That means we actually talk about operating profit at a salesperson level. We are on that journey, but I must confess we are not there yet. Productivity, to me, is an old term now, it’s about tracking profitability per salesperson.
YB: So is it a matter of how much has the salesperson delivered in terms of the value of products over his own costs?
AK: It goes beyond lines per call and productivity per call, instead, it is about profitability. Is he selling the right mix? What are the margins he is generating? Is he knitting the right schemes for the buyers? All of that. It should all be finally resulting in driving profits at the bottom line as far as I am concerned as CEO.
YB: Interesting. And what approach do you take if someone is really stuck on the bottom quartile of performance?
AK: One has to see what are the real levers that are pulling him down. For example, you would have heard about our brand Aquaguard. Service is an issue there. The salesperson could be plagued by service problems. Is quality an issue? Is it the basic capacity of the guy? Is he not having the capacity to execute the strategies? Then we need to work with him from a capacity building perspective. Or, is it an issue of attitude, which to me is a bigger worry than skill. And last but not the least, a salesperson should be able to work in teams. Are there some problems of connecting to his colleagues of team or trade? So these are some of the 4-5 levers a leader should check if salespersons are at the bottom quartile.
YB: And how do you measure the soft stuff like gelling well with the team, being effective in front of the customer, etc?
AK: These are the couple of things which are, of course not dashboard-able, but definitely can be tracked. For example, if he is a middle-level salesperson, what is his attrition rate of his team or retention of his team? How many top quartile leaders has he brought in or maintained in his team? It is more about his individual performance rather ‘s. We have foreign clubs for the top performers. How many of them are there from his team? These are the kinds of parameters we check. I always believed – “Repair the flaw, the ceiling will take care of itself.” In our entire team, we wait for the report and plan our PJB for the month based on the lowest quartile guys. The top quartile salespersons really don’t need us. If you take care of the bottom quartile, the average goes up. It’s essentially managing by exception, and to me, managing exceptions is really the rule beyond a point.