All lessons are important and may not be classified otherwise. Says I.
After silent appreciation from a very senior Professor for product knowledge, I tried to use knowledge elsewhere also. It was relatively easy at that time because the customers mostly gave fair time and opportunity to salespersons. I discovered happily that good product knowledge had universal appeal. I also found that many of my colleagues did not carry enough knowledge about their products. I saw numerous instances where the customer really wanted to know more about some new product and kept asking but the poor sales guy did not know and expressed his ignorance or tried to tell that he would get the information and bring later. I saw the customer frustration because he could not get the desired information and he knew this guy would not come back with promised information. Salespersons were (are) notorious for not keeping promises of this kind. After showcasing good product knowledge, I became recognized with the customers. I stood out and got preferential treatment and great business. This was the first lesson of my professional life. I have held on to it all my life and loved it. As I met more colleagues from various companies, I realized I did not have typical salesperson profile. They were smarter and stronger in selling orientation. Product knowledge came to my rescue and helped me to survive, thrive and grow.
I was a voracious reader from childhood. One of my teacher said to all of us ‘Read. Read. Read anything. Good or bad. Read to develop the habit to read’. I had that. I would read whatever I could lay my hands on. We could not buy too many books, but we had a library near our house which was run by some welfare committee and was free. I brought books from there. There used to be some paid libraries also in residential localities. They used to call them ‘Anna Library’. Anna was the coin which was 1/16 of a rupee and was not cheap. So, whenever I could, I would rent books. Later, I had memberships of British Council, USIS and Punjab Public Library. I spent few years in Bahawalpur and they had Central Library which had huge collection. The staff was nice and took care of me as I became regular. I had a wonderful reading time there. I read many works of literature ahead of time, and I could not fully grasp them. Apart from other things, the reading helped me to understand and appreciate the value of expression. It is a Most Gracious Gift from Allah, Him Being the Greatest Communicator. I imbibed expression from books unconsciously. Later, I understood that good knowledge is not good use if not expressed well. One thing led to the other and I concentrated on my communication. It became a life-long love and quest. The more I learn, the more I know I have not learned enough. Communication was the second lesson of my professional life and I was lucky to learn it early.
Mayo hospital was an elite territory and had the best doctors. Pharma companies always posted their best salespeople in Mayo. I saw senior colleagues around me from all big companies. I was probably an exception that I started as a novice from there. I was up against some of the best in competition. Knowledge and communication supported me immensely. Organized work was added by chance, not by design. The wards/units have duty rosters. There are fixed days for ward work and OPD work and emergency work and so on. To enable myself to work properly, I had to know when and where to find the doctors. So, I collected the rosters and designed a plan of work on it. Because the roster was fixed, so my visit plan also got fixed. After a while, someone pointed out that ‘I know you come to visit every Tuesday. I was waiting for you to get this or that information’. It hit me that predictability had tangible value. I consciously tried to bring more predictability in my work and it worked very well for me. I even visited private chambers on almost fixed days, not dates. This was the third early learning which supported me to perform well.
This was also my first introduction to ‘Strengths’ but I understood nothing at that time. In 1999, Marcus Buckingham and Gallup published the first book of series “First, Break All The Rules”. It was soon followed by “Now, Discover Your Strengths”. ‘Strengths 2.0” is also out already. Personally, I am a huge believer of this theme and shall keep returning to it.
After only 8 months of working, the company decided that I had high potential for growth and decided to put me in job rotation. I was transferred to Rawalpindi……..