Published: 27th October 2017
Former king of the corporate jungle Subroto Bagchi reveals the mantra to "Sell" the best books in the market
Subroto's books are replete with examples of, and narratives on, Champions that he had the good fortune of working for and quite often, simply observing from up close
Subroto Bagchi, the chairman of Odisha Skill Development Authority, wrote a book called Sell. So it was natural that we asked him to sell his book in three sentences or less. "Everyone is a salesman; it pays to be a great one. It doesn’t matter what your vocation is, do learn to sell well," he launches off, giving us a shot of inspiration. And while he is at it, he sneaks in the line, "Buy my book today, read it and do give me your feedback."
Well, selling is truly an art which needs to be learnt. Bagchi himself calls it the "most defining skill I have learnt and practised in his life," in his book. And Sell could be a lesson could do us well. After all, as the 59-year-old tells us, "Today, if you are a professional in a role that requires you to get people to buy into your idea (or your product, or your vision), you have to know how to sell."
More bookworms: One message Bagchi has for gen X is, “Please don’t give up reading because of social media.”
The man is best known for co-founding Mindtree, a multinational IT and outsourcing company, but he is back with the government now (lesser known fact is that he had started out as a lower division clerk in the government office). And we catch up with him to ask about his book and more. Excerpts:
The typical image of a ‘salesman’
I think the popular and faulty impression about selling and the image of a salesperson emanate from two things: the hawker on the street, the local train and the snake oil salesman promising eternal youth. These are not people who are selling, they are hawking. They are not really looking at building an enduring relationship with a buyer who they expect to return and, more importantly, pass on the word of mouth or shall we say, rate you on a website or post a comment on you on the social media. The other reason people build an intrusive definition of sales and the salesman is the telemarketer who mindlessly calls you during an important meeting and tries to push you a credit card.
Gaga over Ghosh: Bagchi enjoys reading the work of Amitav Ghosh. He admires his quality of research, his weave of characters and events and his way with words
What maketh a salesman
In truth, we all value a great salesman who effectively is a trusted advisor, someone who respects us, listens to us, holds up the right information in front us, steers us through its clutter and navigates the process through which we can make an informed choice.
Explaining with examples
We all have our favourites, from the hairdresser who we seek out not just because she gives us the good trim but sells us a great hair care product along the way that makes us feel good about ourselves. We value the relationship of the trusted banker who helps us make better financial choices. The same idea permeates the world of Business to Business selling and high-value transactions as well. Once we contemplate these examples and see more in real life, we begin the understand the difference between a hawker and a hustler and a salesman.
Ask him anything: His second book 'Go Kiss the World' testifies that his life is an open book
You’ve got the magic
Let me share a little secret with you: in every field, there are three elements – it is part art, part science and part witchcraft. It is true of selling as much as the job of a journalist, a surgeon and an administrator. The art and the science are easy to master. It is only by great practice over time and apprenticeship with a Master that we learn about the witchcraft. I use the metaphor to suggest that true mastery has a mystique that eludes textbook learning and the experience of the novitiate.
Not so fast
Witchcraft – here I am obviously referring to the good ones of course, is all making seemingly impossible stuff happen. This is the play of the druids who do not usually give away their trade secrets. There is certain exclusivity to their club. You need to prove yourself before being accepted into their charmed circle. Then, in proximity and in time, you begin to understand their ways, you learn to practice under supervision and one day, you are them.
My book is replete with examples of, and narratives on, Champions that I had the good fortune of working for and quite often, simply observing from up close. If you pay attention, you would also realise, they are there in every field, in every organisation. The trick is in searching them out, in deep listening, in contemplative observation and getting into their confidence. In the process, the truth reveals itself.
Go to phrase: The quote Bagchi uses most often is 'Your purpose determines your power.'
My organisation has the charter of creating employable skills for 6,30,000 school dropouts and tenth class pass who would not pursue higher education. On one hand, opportunities for skilled workers are exploding and yet, we are not able to take skill education, training and access to employment opportunities for our children who come from very poor socio-economic background. Without the right skills, they can become a liability to themselves and the world.
On the job
With the right skills and the market connect, they would become a hugely valuable workforce in the world. My job is to fix the information asymmetry, build the skill infrastructure, destigmatise skills in the society, hold up role models in the skill Universe so that we begin to respect the skilled individual and finally, get the attention of high-quality employers.
Trust the next
Right now, my plate is full. Beyond it, I trust the power of Providence. I believe the future always presents itself if we are mindful of the Present. All my life, I have trusted the power of emergence. There has always been an angel on my shoulder. Every path is lighted. There are sensors that switch on the light as you walk. But the trick is in the act of walking, in taking that one step which is nested in the now.