The Counsellor: Right person for the right job
Sales people have to ultimately meet and exceed the expectations of the local clients while conforming to the brand expectations of the company
I am a HR Manager of a multinational retail garment company that is a stickler for showcasing best-in-class experience in shopping. The company sells high-end garments to a high-end clientele and therefore there is a lot of demand from the sales staff to meet the grooming and dress protocol. The company lays great emphasis on candidates meeting the self-presentation and grooming criteria as they believe it Is important that their employees represent the brand as close as possible. While the entry into India has been a great success, we are now facing increasing challenges in recruiting sales staff in certain parts of the country due to their cultural differences and habits. Being a HR manager, I know our requirement is huge, and being Indian, I understand and respect the cultural difference prevalent in different parts of India. However, the management refuses to relax the norms and as a result sales are being hampered as we do not have the required number of sales force. I have tried to explain the same to the management, but while they respect individual cultures, they are also very strict with the corporate policy. And unfortunately, the company has not faced a similar situation in the other countries it operates in.
Your question is not complete/not very clear. I am assuming that the sales persons that you employ are for the local high-end customers in the local shopping destinations and therefore, the clients themselves are well rooted in the local culture and traditions. The expectation of hiring well-groomed staff that maintains the protocol of dressing prescribed by the corporation and can represent the brand properly is very reasonable. You need to however appreciate that definition of what is well-groomed and what will work in each region of the world will differ. What will work in USA may not work in Singapore and will be very different from what will be appropriate in South Africa.
India is a very large country with several language groups and several cultural nuances that are unique to each state and region. The way we pronounce differs vastly from state to state and the way we look is also very different. You need to therefore appreciate these differences and determine what will work in each province/state, what will be the expectations of the clients in each state, etc. Please appreciate that the sales persons have to ultimately meet and exceed the expectations of the local clients while conforming to the brand expectations of the products and services of your company. A sales person who could be best suited in north may be unsuitable in south or east mainly because of the unique pronunciation, inability to appreciate the local culture, etc.
I believe to get well-groomed, talented and well-dressed sales persons should not be very difficult in India. These extrinsic factors in any case can easily be acquired/are trainable. I would suggest that as you hire, focus on right attitude and right behaviours, right knowledge, skills and capabilities and ensure these new sales guys are best fit with the local client expectations while conforming to your brand expectations. I will not be surprised if such extrinsic standards and expectations from sales teams in your company differ from country to country.
Vivek is a Senior HR professional with over 35 years of experience, ranging several leadership positions, in India and abroad. He leads his consulting practice since 2003 and presently works as a Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries, and is also an independent Director on the Board of Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. Prior to this, he was based at Singapore for several years where he was Director HR - Operations at Hewlett Packard for the Asia Pacific Region.
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