Date: March 9, 2017
Its half past 2 and I am sitting in one of the small conference rooms in Plaza ground floor for my final round of interview.
I have been in this room for almost an hour now after a very confusing first round of interview. Having opted out Biology in high school and Mechanical Engineering in college, all I have known about computers is to open Google and surf the internet while playing my favourite song in the media player ( with the exception of creating PowerPoint presentations and using Paint ). Luckily the previous organisation that I worked had Zoho CRM for the sales team. My first interviewer for the day had asked me more about Zoho corp and cloud computing and figured out I knew very very little about either of them. My second interviewer does the same but quickly starts to test my sales skills (I applied for sales executive’s role). As I talk, I see him nodding and acknowledging the things that I say for the first time since we met. I have lost hope already when he hands me a question paper to fill and dashes off congratulating me for having passed the first round. He is up and ready to leave the room reaching for the door, I feel happy and pump my fists under the table when he adds “Your next round will be with the regional sales director, he will be here soon! Good luck!!”
This is the point where I give up and say to myself. Here we go, there is another guy out there I need to convince and sell myself of my limited knowledge of computer software and this time it’s the sales director of an organisation that sold software. I expect a very authoritative and concise man whose time is money. I try to remember all the dialects from Henry Fonda’s 12 Angry men which has been my favorite sales movie and see if I could use any of them to impress the director of sales I am about to meet. So many train of thoughts run inside the small room until everything stops as the door opens,
A man in his mid 40s steps in with a warm smile. He dons a denim’s shirt and a Casio G shock watch ( which was unacceptable (back then) inside my head for a sales director). He introduces himself with a firm handshake.
He genuinely explains how busy a day it has been and have me accept apologies for the delay. This was very different an experience to start in the first place. We settle down and talk about everything in the universe for the next 30 minutes. We talk about the weather, books, movies, and food. He tells about his college days and more about his early days as a salesperson. We have a live conversation rather than an exchange of information. In my mind, it’s like “Really?? here is the sales director of India’s fastest growing organization talking about food and sports with me for almost half an hour of his precious day”
Finally, he asks for my resume and signals me to explain what I did in my previous organisation. I start explaining the sales process in Zoho CRM and go on to explain further. He patiently nods and hears out till the end without any interruption. He asks me no more. He smiles and says “You are in!”
I feel happy and I did not wait for him to turn around to pump my fists this time, which I am sure made him rethink his decision for a moment. He goes through my resume and we arrive at the crucial part of the interview- salary negotiation. He refers to my current CTC and asks “ What do you expect Lokesh?”
I had no clue what to expect. Considering the fact that I did not have an education loan or rent to pay or any commitment and knowing that I was already paid more than most people I knew in my life, I just say from my heart of hearts,
“ I do not have many things going on with my life Sir, and really content with whatever I am getting paid right now”
He stops me immediately and says “No!”.
He adjusts his chair and looks at me in the eye. His tone is very deep this time and says “Lokesh, you are a salesperson and there is something that you never do as a salesperson”
( a subtle pause)
“Never undersell yourself”
No matter where you go, don’t undersell anything that you have to offer, ever!.
I nod in agreement and he winks at me with a smile. The interview comes to an end. He asks me to meet the HR team for the final round and walks me out of the room. He suggests to stop on the way and grab some tea (Its already 4 PM) which I do.
As I walk back to meet the HR people still not sure if I got selected. One thing made real sense “Never undersell yourself”. When I went in for the last round that day all I remembered was this piece of wisdom that was passed to me earlier. I did negotiate hard and sold myself more than I ever thought I was worth. I have applied this philosophy to not just sales and price negotiations but to life too.
Never undersell anything you have valid to offer. It’s as true of a sales person as it is of a marketer or a developer.