Summer Internship with RJ Corp- Pepsi Division – Swarnim Saxena from NMIMS Hyderabad

Swarnim Saxena interned with RJ Corp- Pepsi Division and shares a very interesting sales experience. Swarnim is an MBA student at NMIMS Hyderabad. Read on to discover behind-the-scene story of sales of Pepsi beverages vs. that of its rival Coca-cola in the region of Delhi.

As a sales intern at RJ Corp- Pepsi Division, I was involved in selling Pepsi and other beverages from PepsiCo to small retailers across the East Delhi region. The work hours were tiring, stretching 10-12 hours each day. I would go on a sales route and pitch the product to retailers. As Pepsi had just launched three new flavours of Slice and 7Up Nimbooz Masala Soda, the sales team had their hands full persuading the retailers to stock the new products.

My story though is of the time while I was not on the company’s payroll. At this point, almost 2 weeks into the internship, I was not allowed to pitch to retailers who were not our regular customers. They were handled by the senior staff members. I had an off on a Sunday and thought of wandering around the market. I went to the nearby V3S Mall in Laxmi Nagar to hangout by myself. Little did I know that this little alone session would turn out to become a bunch of my most memorable sales experiences while my time at the firm.

In the beverage market, Pepsi and Coke are the two biggest players. As a new sales medium, the past couple of years they have innovated the concept of roadside trolleys in order to sell their merchandise. These trolleys are fully pepsi owned or fully coca-cola owned i.e. they do not stock products of the rival company. Breaking the monopoly of one company in the trolley business is quite difficult and the sales teams break a lot of sweat over the same.

Adjacent to V3S Mall there are a number of trolleys, both of Pepsi and Coke which sell their respective products. A thought suddenly struck me, why not interact with the trolley sellers of Coca-Cola and figure out a little of their business? One problem though, how do I get them to talk to me? The answer was fairly easy, people generally love to talk, you only need to find the right topics to begin with and you need to seem interesting to them. Acting on the same thought process, I approached a trolley vendor and asked him for a Coke (quite inappropriate for a Pepsi salesman, I know but I had to get him to talk). Striking up a conversation, I asked him how is business was going, what were his thoughts on the recent elections etc. and then I asked him about Coca-Cola, their sales and delivery patterns, the schemes made available to the retailers and his general satisfaction with the company.

The man was a treasure of information, I got to know a multitude of things. He was unhappy with the service being provided by Coca Cola, his orders were not getting fulfilled, their best-selling 200 ml bottles had been unavailable for more than a week and that seemed to be the trend for the near future. His trolley was in a dilapidated condition and Coke did not have any spare trolleys to exchange his with. At this point, another Coca Cola trolley vendor came and started talking to me about the same issues which he too had been facing. At this point, I cautiously asked them if they had ever done business with Pepsi to which their reply was negative to the point of being ignorant. Neither they had done business with them nor did they have any idea as to how to go about it. They had never thought of Pepsi as an alternative solution to their problems. This is where I pitched in as being a representative of Pepsi and told them about the company as to how we can help them get a brand new trolley with the same amount of money they had put up as security deposit with Coke, the always availability of Pepsi’s best-selling SKUs and the efficiency of Pepsi’s service (by the stroke of luck, just then a truck of Pepsi passed behind me further enhancing my point).

Listening to all my points, the trolley vendors became extremely interested. Here was a guy who was actually listening to their problems and providing effective solution and that too in their language (As you would’ve guessed the conversation was not in English but in crass hindi- yes, being from UP helps sometimes). Over a period of the next 30 minutes, talking over tea and some snacks, I explained to them all the schemes Pepsi was offering, the various display incentives that were up for grabs and of course, the great service that Pepsi offered. By the time, I was done not only were they smiling and really happy with the prospect they were willing to sign the contract right there and then. I took their names and number, gave them mine and told I’ll get in touch with them tomorrow. Next day, the company salesman visited the two vendors, got the contract signed and gave them both a box of sweets which I had sent over. Needless to say, within one week they were delivered with new trolleys, new stock of Pepsi and the promise of a better future. Not only had I closed a deal, I had managed to convert two coca-cola monopoly accounts into Pepsi accounts and that too, in one single day.

The very same evening, after my tryst with the trolley vendors I ventured into V3S Mall looking for something to eat. As I happened to pass by an obviously new café dishing out promotional schemes, I chanced to take a peek in. Finding it good enough, I decided to eat something. After I had placed an order for a burger, I glanced through the beverages section. Shocked to see only Coca-Cola products, I grabbed it as a chance to pitch Pepsi again. After having my fill, I went to the manager and had a conversation with him. Coming to know that they did not have a tie-up with Coke but were buying the product from supermarket and selling it here, I saw a golden chance to engage a new customer to my list. A polished conversation in polite English followed about the various services Pepsi offered and how we could help them in their business. At the end, the manager gave me his card and told that he is interested in pursuing a business relationship with us. I said I’ll drop him a mail containing the necessary information and get the territory manager in touch with him. The next day, I came to know that talks for a national tie-up have begun between Pepsi and the café chain.

Looking at my performance, effectively next day onwards I was allowed to interact with as many Coca-Cola accounts as I wanted and try to convert them. Over the course of the next 4 weeks, I managed to convert 10 more accounts and make in-roads in various other retailers. A couple of important things I learnt that day. The first, a salesperson is never off duty. You see an opportunity you grab it, no matter what time of the day is it. The second, from speaking in high class English to crass Hindi, people will only listen to you if you have something that they want to listen. If you got to sell, sell in the language of the person. The third and the most important, ABC- Always Be Closing! You don’t give up on a customer no matter how he treats you, you have to close the deal. If you have to succeed, you have to close. After all, as Alec Baldwin’s character says in Glengarry Glen Ross- “Coffee is for Closers only!”

If Swarnim‘s experience motivates you, you can view the latest internship in Delhi.

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