Salestalk with Aditi Aggarwal
Director - Education,
Australian Trade and Investment Commission, South Asia
With a Masters in Marketing from Manchester Business School, UK, Aditi has been a Salestor working across countries and industries for a decade and a half. She started her career with Manchester United and British clothing giant Primark, happened to be among the first recruits hired to conceptualise India’s first F1 Racing Track, working with American Express (AMEX) as Centurion Card Ambassador for almost 6 years and now working with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) for strengthening association between India and Australia in the Education sector, Aditi has had an impressive journey as a Salestor.
For my next piece, I thought of connecting with her to map her journey and get some key takeaways as a fellow Salestor.
Hi Aditi! Thanks for agreeing to be my first guest Salestor for the blog. The beginning of your career really stands out. You did Masters in Marketing from UK and have worked in both the countries, India and the UK. Why did you choose Sales over Marketing?
I had a flair for promoting something I had confidence in. It was easy to get a sales job in the beginning and marketing seemed more like a desk job to me.
Can you briefly share some similarities and differences in selling in the two countries?
UK is very professional and systematic. Cultural differences in the sales process affect and create differences. India is more relationship oriented. You mostly make a network first and then sell in it.
You then joined the Jaypee Group to build India’s first F1 Racing Circuit and were among the first recruits for the job. For Buddh Int’l Circuit, how easy was striking the first deal, or getting the first client on board as a Salestor?
Very difficult as it was something new for the country. To make a sale, I had to make so many calls, hear a hundred no's before one yes. But perseverance helped. I kept at it and got my first client.
You have switched many industries in your career as a Salestor, which many people find difficult. Which key traits helped you adjust to the different demands of Sales in different industries?
Getting trained for the industry, understanding the role and passion to sell anything.
You have worked in both B2C and B2B industries. What similarities and differences exist in sales in the two domains? What are the key pointers to keep in mind when transitioning between B2B and B2C industries?
B2B is harder, has a longer sales cycle and is more relationship oriented than hard core sales.
B2C, I found easier. It requires less planning and decision makers are fewer.
Two years back, you joined Australian Government (Austrade). The profile here is different from sales as it involves more of government liaison. What was the transition like from a B2C Salestor to a Government official?
Very tough. I had to do lot of unlearning and learning at the same time. Work is very different, is more protocol driven and the environment is very different from corporates too. Promotion and selling of a country happens very differently than that of a product or a service.
What was that one deal or one client that really gave you sleepless nights for onboarding or closure? How long did it take and what was a key trait that helped you sail through the process? Can you share the key takeaways from the experience?
It was for three Owners/Directors/Chairman of Muthoot Group when I was a Centurion Ambassador with AMEX and they made me really work hard for that deal because initially they were not convinced what Centurion could really add to their profile. There were a few challenges like connecting with the decision maker, which happened through their team so there was a time lag in reaching out to them. Then they were from a traditional background and Centurion is a luxury product, not very easy to understand and not a product which shows a money benefit at the first glance. It does come with monetary features but you got to compliment it with other features which are value for the buck. So you try to understand it and sometimes it is hard to put a price to those features. That deal was very hard but perseverance and developing a relationship with the juniors helped me get those clients on board. I remember I was in Australia with my husband on a holiday, but I was in touch with them all the time. I remember it was the New Year’s eve when they wanted to get on a call to finalise it and I was up for it because it was important to me. So I did it.
Perseverance, great follow up and making sure I knew each and every detail of the account helped me.
There was an incident wherein one of the directors had a sour experience so I ensured it did not repeat and the Relationship Manager kept me updated with entire detail on a regular basis. That is when I pitched again and kept my graceful follow up without intruding.
Honestly speaking, did you prepare for every client meeting? Did you ever warm up before an important client meeting?
So preparation is very important, even if being a great Salestor comes naturally to you.
You really got to believe in the product and your product knowledge has to be thorough as the confidence to sell comes from it and nothing else.
Some people say that they don’t prepare for a client meeting. Of course you prepare! If you don’t, you’re a fool. You can’t be sitting across the table without it. I converted about 1200 centurion clients across the country. I could not have sat across the table with the Ambani’s or Birla’s of the industries pretending I know it all without actually knowing about my product and their business. It is like spoiling a chance. Even if it is not necessarily for your product, but knowledge about the person, their business, what are they up to, their lives is important. It tells the person that you are worth their time. Closure comes in the end, but all that goes before is your preparation. So, I did thorough preparation before every client meeting and sometimes I also rehearsed. All my pitches were very different.
Any tips or key traits of business you may like to share with our fellow Salestors, who are anxious or grappling with present tough times of a pandemic?
Try to find a niche for yourself, like industry, sector, product which excites you and you are inquisitive to know about. Which will drive you out of bed every day. I was always curious to know what does a billionaire do in the morning and what could my company give him that would interest him. It kept me going, enquiring more.
Pandemic is a very interesting time. While industries have suffered, but there are sectors like software, SaaS, social media who have come up with interesting opportunities for Salestors. Explore those, be in the direction of the wind.
There are upcoming sectors which have evolved in the past 8-9 months. Keep an eye on them.
You have worked with some market leaders of their respective industries while your better-half is a budding entrepreneur. What are your thoughts over working with established brands vs. start-ups?
Me and my husband are a duo and our careers are planned. The maths behind it is that one person is exploring and the other person has a fixed income, which in such a volatile environment comes from a settled job. I explored a lot of sectors, but I made sure that not even a day was wasted because my husband was exploring entrepreneurship. It is a very high road to take and very tough as initially you are not sure when the money would start flowing in. for the initial years, he didn’t take a single buck home. Even if he got any salary, he reinvested it in the company, people or better software products.
The two environments are extremely different. A start-up gives you the kick, lets you explore since the processes are not defined and offers excitement of the room full of opportunities and possibilities. In a large company, processes and protocols are set. Established brands are driven by strategies and prior successes. The room for trying out something completely new is less when you are playing with a big load of money and brand value. It is a lot of responsibility. You decide what you want based on the opportunity in front of you.
You did your Masters from an internationally accredited university and are now working closely with the Australian government in the education sector. Any advice to the budding students who are in the process of charting out their career paths?
Education is a key pillar, but choosing your own domain, investing your time in one certain direction determines how well can you blend in. World is full of opportunities and they are closer in the virtual world. Try to be flexible in widening your horizon and then see how can you make a difference. Start working in that direction then, even though it may take time. Whatever helps you get up every morning and stay excited.
And then there are myths like I love my job and everything about it. I don’t think something like that happens every day. Ultimately, it should inspire you and keep you going.
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