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If you can sell a service, you can sell almost anything else in this world! Summer Internship Experience - by Ketan Bagga

May 5th, 2014. New Delhi.
New day, new hopes, and a new company (a startup);

The First Day
You’re told a day before to decide the venue for your first meeting with your colleague. GIP mall it is. You reach the place well in advance so as not to leave a bad impression on the very first day of your internship. Well, life as they say has some different plans for you. You keep waiting for an hour for your colleague and of course your boss or your manager I should say. Aditya, my colleague; is pursuing his MBA from DOMS, IIT Roorkee. Oh, before that I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Ketan Bagga, an MBA student at IIT Kanpur (Yes IITs do have specialized MBA Programs), having a prior experience of around a year in IT industry, obviously as a software engineer. Coming back to the story, Aditya greets me with a smile and a handshake which is the first pleasing thing of my day. And bangs me with this huge surprise when he says that no one else is going to join us now and we’re going to do this internship with all the coordination and communication on phone calls with the company’s only office located in Mumbai.  

Expectations Vs Reality

My Expectations

The Reality

He must be kidding, was my first and only reaction at that time. But unfortunately not, which I realized when his phone rang (with the idea’s official ringtone) and I was praying inside, “Oh God, aap humein ullu mat banao” (Oh God, don’t fool us around). Anyway, on the other side of the phone, were Mr. Sachin Kinny, The Business Manager, welcoming us both with his warm wishes straight from his heart? No, straight from the Head Office in Mumbai, I should say!  

The Surprise 

The phone call lasted for an hour and by the end of it, the profile of Marketing and Business Development was turned into Core Sales, the office hours were replaced by convenient timings, the office building was replaced by entire Delhi/NCR and last but not the least, the expectations of sitting in an AC were instantly replaced by the rigorous traveling in summers of Delhi. And on the top of that, it was announced that there will be no traveling allowances or any other amenities be provided to such excellent interns (at least one of them was excellent). But that is fair enough from a startup’s perspective I believe now.

Initial Struggle
So the initial few days went in hustle and bustle while we had no clue what exactly we were doing except exploring different restaurants and their cuisines in Delhi. I’d be honest in committing a fact here, that I faced almost 40-50 failures in a row within the first week itself. Some restaurants owners won’t even ask you for a glass of water, while others would candidly say that they are too busy for a salesman like you. At times you’ve to talk to the waiters and convince them for a meeting with manager, and mostly they’ll hand over to you a visiting card of their restaurant (which is good for nothing, I realized later on). Soon I figured out that if you got to sell an idea, or a service concept, then the first thing would be to believe in it yourself. Then present it as if you were the one who is behind it. As if it is the next big thing which is going to transform the industry. And last but not the least; generate a trust with the help of your own credentials alongside your other reputed clients.  

Learning to adapt
The next phase comprised of preparing a database from existing competitors, then calling the restaurant owners randomly, asking them for their mail ids, try scheduling a meeting and fortunately if you get their time, make sure that it’s worth it for both of you. The process of following up your clients, almost every single day till they are convinced or they seriously block your number; is very important from sales perspective. You ought to pitch in at the right time, to the right person. While the negotiation power lies with your client, but the negotiation skills must lie at your side; only then would you be able to crack the appropriate deals.  

Targets in Sales
Last but not the least, let’s talk about targets! Sales without targets would be like sky without the stars; incomplete. Meeting these targets is never an easy task (you usually realize this reality little late), especially for a novice intern in a new domain. Yes, it’ll be frustrating at some time, and might be exciting in the very next moment as per the deals you make or break. All you need with you is domain knowledge, the analysis of competitor strategies, the never say die attitude, with little bit of luck at your side. And all this would work only after you keep your ego aside. People will shut doors on your face, they would cut your calls without listening your name, they won’t show the trust (unless you’re working for a big brand), they would literally be cruel while negotiating commissions (or sharing of profits), they won’t value your time and it doesn’t matter to them where you come from. The only thing which they mean is pure business, and how much money you can bring to them in the shortest period of time.

The Saga Ends
Summing it all up, I’d say that an MBA in Marketing would be incomplete without getting your hands dirty in real time sales. At the end of 2 months as a summer intern, neither do I have a big brand name to boast on; nor do I have a highly reputed niche profile with some financial services which most of the MBA students would dream of but I’d still admit that working for a startup is an exciting task to take up and I enjoyed the work I did during my internship. There is surely a lot of learning involved which can be termed as “self-management” and you get to see a completely different side of the business by not sitting in an air-conditioned office, rather grilling yourself on field. I’m sure my experience would help me in more than one ways in the upcoming years. And after the end of this different kind of internship, I surely feel open towards working in different domains and ready to take up a challenging profile which offers me more freedom than money!  

The Ultimate Lesson:
If you can sell a service, you can sell almost anything else in this world!


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