28 Nov 2016 19:48 IST

Facing a flood of Excel sheets

Understanding data before presenting it is most important in a sales and marketing job

As a part of my MBA summer internship I got to work with the sales division of Marico, an Indian consumer goods company. But because of a confidentiality clause, I will only be able to give a 30,000-feet view of my time there.

First project

I was assigned tobuild a sales strategy model and I spent the first three weeks of the internship conceptualising and developing it. The amount of data that was to be analysed was gargantuan. I remember opening the first of the many Excel sheets and waiting almost a minute for it to display the data. The initial few weeks were all about getting acquainted with that data. It is amazing how much IT goes into the process of pulling the data from ground level. And it would be injustice to not leverage it.

By mid-review I had developed the model and presented it to the guide. He was pleased with the preliminary output and chalked out a plan for the next month, which was to travel to the respective regional head offices, explain the model to the regional sales heads, capture their feedbacks, test the same and incorporate it if it makes sense. That’s when all hell broke loose.

Facing challenges

I was just an intern in the field of FMCG and there I was, explaining a model to experts with decades of experience in the field. It was like going to a gun fight with a knife! However, that’s when Marico’s work culture dropped by to say “hi”. With almost a never-ending schedule and so much on their plate, the sales heads gave me quality time to discuss the model. They even made sure I was not intimidated by their position. And my guide was also calibrating the data at every turn of the project. It was an extremely humbling experience.

Finally, the project saw the light of the day. Looking back, there are a few nuggets of wisdom I want to share:

Companies value responsibility

It is common knowledge that sales and marketing firms look for Position of Responsibilities while choosing a candidate. The number of human elements involved in sales and marketing roles is pretty large since every idea or recommendation is going to influence people. And within a span of eight weeks you can never get all the data in place unless you start networking with folks at the workplace. Being an introvert is a serious disadvantage.

Presentation speaks, but data screams

It is very important to have the data in place before the final review. Most interns make the mistake of starting to work on the presentation before having the data in place.