I feel very passionate about becoming a better seller and use this skill to grow a business I have. But I also want to succeed in sales at work once I land a position. I want to acquire as much knowledge as possible and develop the traits that I need to become a sales machine. For this reason, I invited a person I admire and is an expert in this area, to have a talk with me about his role in a multinational company. He is Milos Vukosavljevic.
Eliana: Milos, thank you for accepting my invitation and for giving me this interview. Please, tell me more about the company you work for and the position you have there.
Milos: I work at Caterpillar SARL, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Caterpillar is a well-known global company, primarily responsible for manufacturing and selling equipment for construction, mining, rail, energy, and transportation Industry. My official title is Aftermarket Solutions Representative (ASR), mainly responsible for aftermarket parts sales for machines used in the mining industry, specifically in the Middle East and East Africa territories.
Eliana: What does the role entail in terms of day to day activities?
Milos: The primary responsibility of an ASR is to identify major sales opportunities in the specific region, follow up on them, and successfully close the sale. Closing the sale involves visits to customers, who are predominantly mine sites, to understand their needs and concerns, and with the help of local dealers, establish a solution appropriate for their Business. Despite being a sales role, the key to winning Business is not necessarily through sales activity, but project management, change management, building good relationships with customers and ensuring dealers have the right capability to execute on what’s required in the region.
The role also requires constant communication with other experts in the company, ranging from logistics, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, pricing, merchandising, and others, as needed solutions are usually heavily customized.
Eliana: Why is this particular role vital to the overall health and success of the Business?
Milos: Caterpillar is a large, global corporation, with over 100,000 employees. It does not deal directly with the end customers, but rather dealers and distributors, responsible for selling their products. As such, Caterpillar doesn’t have access to information from the field first-hand, which is why the Global Aftermarket Sales Division was formed—to essentially be Caterpillar’s “eyes and ears” in the field. By having an ASR in the field, Caterpillar ensures that the most accurate information makes it back to the corporation, so the most appropriate solutions may be developed. Also, the most important factor in closing the sales successfully is the relationship with the customer, as it shows that, despite being a large corporation, Caterpillar is still interested in directly working with the customer and following up.
Eliana: Is there anything cool or interesting about this role that most people don’t Know?
Milos: The coolest part of the role is getting to travel to truly amazing places. I am currently covering the Middle East and Africa, but also had a chance to cover Europe, as well as visit customers in China, India, Australia, USA, Canada, and South America. Because our clients operate in very remote areas, you get the opportunities to see the “real” country—not just the major cities, that are often tailored to tourists and most of the time look like any other city. You get to experience the true culture, by going to areas that others usually don’t frequent.
Eliana: What does it take to be successful in this role?
Milos: Being in the role can occasionally be very stressful, as a lot of work goes into ensuring a successful close of the sale—which can sometimes take over a year. The mining industry, specifically, is very volatile, meaning that quite often, you must change your strategy and continually adjust the direction. That is why you must be patient, flexible, focused, tough, and able to pull in and lead the right people. Most importantly, you must be passionate about what you do, willing to always learn and not be afraid to fail.
Eliana: The last question I would like to ask you is, what are the hardest and the most rewarding parts of this role?
Milos: The hardest part must be having to understand all the intricacies that go into closing the deal successfully. Closing the sale doesn’t just involve marketing and negotiation, but a good product selection; good technical understanding of the product; ensuring dealers have the right capability to meet customer needs; good knowledge about economic and political factors that may influence your ability to deliver and implement a specific solution; etc. In other words, there are many factors out of your control that can negatively impact your efforts, despite you doing your absolute maximum.
The most rewarding part is customer appreciation of all the hard work being put in to meet their demands. On a more personal note, it’s the satisfaction of completing something often thought to be impossible, given how complex some of the deals might be. It really helps build character, experience, credibility and it gives you great tools to utilize going forward—not just at your work, but also in your daily life.
**I thanked Milos for his time and we said good-bye**
From this interview, I learned that in sales, it is not only necessary to close deals with clients but also know their needs very well. It is essential to research how my product can give solutions to them. It is part of the job of a salesman to follow up on the results of his sales. It is also crucial to be willing to communicate with other teams of the company and work with them for making changes when necessary to products and the way they are promoted. Being a successful salesperson implies to develop strong communication and project management skills, as well as adaptability to new strategies for obtaining goals.