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The year was 1992.
Tariq Umar talked to me about the need for on-the-job coaching of salespersons.
We had three levels of work going on. First was the generation of new marketing ideas and executing these. This activity involved Marketing (MM, PMs), and some Area Managers. New ideas were first tested on a smaller scale. The learning from this exercise helped to refine the execution strategy and tools. Some of these were later launched nation-wide, while others were not scaled up. Second level of work was by Area Managers who were engaged in individual customer selection & development, execution of marketing activities, business management, and of course, team management. People development was always on the agenda but could not be done intensively due to time constraints. The ability to train also varied among the AMs. Third level of work was done by the medical representatives. They were the frontline troopers who worked day in day out to ensure customer coverage, customer service at large, and generating bulk of business.
Three factors stood out in the working of that time. One, every layer had a huge degree of relative ‘Freedom to Work’. Micromanagement and over-control was neither exercised nor appreciated. Two, the overall spirit was ‘COLLABORATIVE’. The infighting usually seen among Marketing and Sales was absent. There were no silos anywhere else either. We worked together congenially and comfortably. Three, the engagement level was high. We, almost always, stretched ourselves but did not feel stressed or burned out. We went around rather happily.
For the above reasons, the turnover was negligible, and the same team worked together for several years. The continuity helped to preserve the wealth of information and knowledge intact. Customer engagement was also at its highest because they were interacting with the same guys over prolonged periods. If a customer moved from one area to another, the information was shared immediately. The AM in the new territory made it a point to visit and ensure continuity of services. I must highlight that the driving force behind building and sustaining this environment was Tariq Umar. I would also like to mention about Dr. Asad Sadick, who was Head of Medical Marketing. Dr. Sadick was an Internal Medicine Consultant. He had worked in Germany for several years before taking up this position and moving to Pakistan. He had a likeable, easy-going persona and was a great team player.
Does making a great team focus on hiring great talent and trying to retain them? Does it depend upon paying higher-than-market compensation only? Does it depend on the work environment primarily? Is it sheer coincidence? I think it is a bit of everything. Team building effort can be started from any side. But it must become multidimensional sooner than later.
Team building in Hoechst at that time focused on working with people and on work, hence the talk about field training.
We were still a small team in 1992. There were three sales teams and the total strength was less than 100. Practically, everyone knew everyone. Having worked for seven years already, I knew the team and they knew me because I had been conducting some parts of training as a visiting trainer. Training was close to my heart anyway and still is.
Field Training Manager was a newly created position. I was the first person to take it up. I was assigned to cover the Center and North; from Multan to Peshawar. The idea was in the making and it was left to me to fill in the details of how it would work. Besides my exposure and acceptance as a good trainer, I had another advantage. I was on good terms with all the AMs. Field training is always likely to come into conflict with the line managers. In this case, it was least likely due to my personal profile.
I took up the position and started working. Positive feedback came in from the start. Before long however, another project was initiated, and I got involved in that as well. Later, that project became an all-consuming affair……