Scenario : Delhi shuts down due to COVID-19
“The salesmen are not willing to venture out due to the panic.”
“Madam, the police are cracking down on those who are violating the lockdown.”
Lockdown. FYI, this lockdown is not due to some curfew resulting from Sec 144. I mean, Section 144 had been imposed last month. Due to the riots that ripped apart the secular fabric of the famed capital of my country.
But we persevered. We managed to sell. By we, I mean, my team. My team of 100+ salesmen and fourteen channel partners and seven territory sales managers.
But this was different. Remarkedly different.
“Can Telescion take responsibility for the safety and protection of its salesmen?”
Of course, I had no answer to that when a salesman asked me this question out of the blue. I was willing to risk my life with them, yes. But I could not guarantee that the virus would not attack them. Or me, for that matter.
There is a fine balance between business and safety. But I don’t know if I know that balance yet. I am supposed to be leading this team of 110+ people who rely on my judgment. But how sound is my judgment? Should I ask the team to pack up and sit home? Or ask them to stand tall in these tough times and provide the service that my company boasts so much about? (at the risk of sounding preachy)
And then there are the customers. Raging fuming customers breathing fire. Because their lives have been upended. Because their networks are down. Because they can’t go out and must stay in. And to stay in, they need the sophisticated arrangement of entertainment that humankind has striven to create over the past decade.
“I want the 499 plan.”
“Excuse me?” I said for the umpteenth time to the nth customer who had suddenly learnt to climb the elaborate escalation matrix we had so thoughtfully put together and reached right up from the salesman to channel partner to the TSM to the ZSM a la me.
“Actually, there is no 499 plan. We only have plans starting from 799.” I rambled on, feeling like a frustrated salesgirl which I probably was. Just a few rungs up the corporate ladder.
“Your team assured me that there is one. You cannot get away with making false commitments.
DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO I AM?!
I can tweet about your service and ruin you! I can file a case against you! I will post on facebook! I will take this case to the CEO…”
The good thing about the call was that it came during a meeting. My manager was holding a video conference – it was my first work from home experience as a sales team member. Which was turning out to be a complete disaster, by the way.
Her voice emanated from the laptop microphone and enmeshed with the mad ranting of the customer determined to take away my job. Somehow, that mixture ensured that I didn’t understand much of anything and could manage to keep my temper in check.
But then there were my TSMs expecting me to provide some way forward and take a decision. Decision. Duh. When had I ever taken a sane decision in my life?
I ordered whichever liquor my finger pointed to. Smoked up with strangers. Decided courses based on how often I would get to travel. Chose jobs based on how pretty the office buildings looked…
Yeah, my decision making skills were pretty effing amazing.
“What should we do, ma’am? Our teams want to know the way forward. We are connecting you on the call.”
And this is when I wished I knew what to say. This is what happens when people who have always been followers are suddenly crowned as leaders.
“Sure,” I grimaced, wondering how I would stammer my response and lose dignity in front of my reportees.
“They are all connected, ma’am,” my TSMs replied. They had taken everyone on a video call and were looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to say something intelligible and wise. I thought of how much I was about to disappoint them and decided to wing it.
“Umm, okay shoot your questions.”
“Madam, all entries are banned due to coronavirus. Shops have been locked down, section 144 has been imposed. How are we supposed to work in such dangerous conditions? Our families are not letting us come.”
“So,” I began uncertainly. “I know it’s too much to ask this of you. Therefore, I wouldn’t. I will not ask you to come on the field and sell.”
No. No. Do not give them free rein.
“All the same, I want to remind you that some people have to keep certain services up and running. For instance, the ones who take the garbage…”
Bad example. Couldn’t have thought of a more sophisticated one, could you?
“And those who ferry us from place to place. The transport guys, the chemists. The doctors.”
Aah yes, that noble profession. Good save.
“And then there are those who connect all of us. Communication is something we cannot do without.”
Really? Doctors = telecommers? What bullshit.
“I mean, it’s not as essential but somewhat, yes. Life has to go on and to keep it moving, you need to maintain the services. So, I will not ask you for sales numbers or targets. All I ask you is to help keep the service up and running. If someone requires a connection, I would expect you as a responsible salesperson to go and provide it. With all protection, of course.”
Sigh. I don’t think that was very convincing but that’s the best I could do. For the time being.
As soon as I closed the call window, my phone began to ring.
“When will my connection be installed?”
Aarrrghh!!! Another dumb customer! I have to find the idiot who gave them my contact.
This is when I need the ground teams working. Enough with the good boss behavior already.
Meanwhile, in another world…
“The rigor hasn’t dropped even in these times. The south zone has scored the highest ever numbers and is all set to make a record!”
Yeah, that was my boss, reminding us that after all is said and done, I have to ensure we get enough business rolling in day after day.
So much for working from home. I would choose a field visit any day. At least one gets to roam and have interesting food.