Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 18 'Sweet Talk'

This one is for ‘Sweet’ people like Mohan G. Gurjale, Jagadish Yamijala, Deena Prasad, Sheen Stanley, Mrs. Sharan, Late P. Leela Krishna Reddy, and many more, whose names are not mentioned for fear of making such a long list that could obscure the main blog itself J

“Logon Ka dil agar haan
Jeet na tumko hain tho
Bus meetha meetha bolo…”

(If you wish to conquer the hearts of the people, just speak sweetly)

…Amit Khanna, Hindi Film ‘Man Pasand’

This, in essence, is the important ingredient for a good sales pitch.

My rambling on ‘sweet talk’ comes with a caveat that what I am going to write further here may short change a few of my colleagues and friends who had been close to me and knew me differently.

But like every coin has three dimensions, I too have multi-faces that I now can safely qualify to be called multi-faceted. J

Personally I have been blessed with a moderate temper (?), and with my fuse being relatively shorter and with no ability to tolerate ‘nonsense’ for long, I could quickly turn acerbic.

However, over the years, I found ‘sweet talking’ helps in negotiations, marketing efforts and results in good non-returnable sales.

It was on Kempe Gowda Road, Bangalore that I was enlightened about the value of ‘Sweet talking.’ When one day I was riding my motorbike and as is wont of many an Indian rider / driver, suddenly veered to the left at a turning nearer to Hudson Circle. Another scooterist following me closely stopped me and said very softly in Kannada, “Devaru eradu kai kottidare, aa mele Gaadiyannu maadidavaru indicators kottidaare. Thaavu yavado ondannu thorasa bahudaayithu’ (God has given you two hands and the vehicle manufacturer has given two indicators. You could have shown one of them) and without waiting for my apologies, he left off. I was ashamed and after that incident, my attitude started changing and certainly my driving habits, I can say.

In my profession, I continuously ‘sweet talk’, but never zipped any person or organisation in buying an inferior product. If my product was inferior to competitors’ I used to explain ‘sweetly’ how my client can still benefit by buying my product, but never conned ‘em.

When you ‘talk’ convincingly and ‘sweetly’, with the client, staying firmly on the ground, the client may not mind going that extra mile with you.

I remember the times (about a quarter century ago) when I was selling cattle and poultry feed in India. Being nearer to my factory in Bangalore, I ventured into Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh-the neighbouring state, along with my colleague D. Ramesh Kumar and approached small and medium sized farmers first and on the outskirts of the town. At that point of time, our brand was not heard upon there and either the large farmers were manufacturing their own feed or buying from Lipton, Komarla, Mysore and Godrej Feeds (all large companies and brands).

The field was mixed - with some farmers going in for Layer farms (for eggs) and some for Broiler farms (for meat). Our feed was good and cheap, but was not considered to stand up to the hi-performance feeds of the established brands there. If the hi-performance feed was ensuring 94% egg production rate ours used to hover between 86-88% or at the maximum, some 90%. Yet relatively, our feed price was also lower. Similarly, the meat yield also lagged by a few days if they used our feed.

So our pitch was asking the farmers whether they wished to wait for profits after investing money borrowed on high interest rates or start raking in profits from the beginning itself by investing lesser amounts of money, as our feed was cheaper and saved on investment and also on interest rates.

Initially one or two small farmers, who found it not very easy to mobilise the adequate capital, came forward to try our feed, especially for broilers with a size of about 500 chicks, to start with. Quickly the results were seen and found to be satisfactory. It was sheer economics ‘sweet talked’ into. Soon these farmers became our ambassadors.

We promised them service. We helped them in procuring chicks – even for tiny farmers – using our contacts. We helped them market their final products. We promised them that we would be there when they needed us. And, we were there. Most importantly, while none of the sales managers of our competitors were regularly interfacing with the farmers, we did. While Ramesh visited them every month, I visited them once every two months, at the least. When we visited them, we used to squat on the floor / ground in the farms, along with the farmers. We listened to them and heard their problems, as one of them.

We ‘talked sweet’, but unlike many politicians, we also walked our talk. We started with nothing in the area but within soon we were ensuring a sale of at least about 200 MTs of feed to that area alone (an average of at least one truck to that place every day) and by the time I resigned the job, for another one, in about two years, we were the second leading feed sellers in the area, of course, after Lipton. Not only small farmers, but even big farmers and dealers started taking in our feed. Even today, if I go to Chittoor, I can walk into their houses or businesses.

But I have met a more than my match in Kuldip Moity. When we were travelling in Pretoria, South Africa, he was haggling with a woman handicraft seller on the pavement and trying to convincing her by saying, ‘Can’t you see that I came all the way to your land and all I am asking is a small memento. I know your costs and so I don’t want to take it free, but offer a small price for it.’ In the bargain, he got it at the price he wanted, almost effortlessly-Good old Kuldip.

On seeing his success, I tried the same in Rosebank, Johannesburg, when the shop keeper, again a lady, said ‘Darling, don’t you see that we are poorer than you Indians and that if I could give it at that price, wouldn’t I have given it free as a token of my love?’ Well, she turned out to be ‘sweeter’ than us. 

When I started working for the development sector, this ability of mixing with the people at the grassroots helped me so much that I could find motivating people relatively easier.

The crowning glory was when, after going through a short presentation, of less than 7 minutes, by me, Her Excellency, the President of Finland had apparently observed that I should have been given more time to be listened to. I could have retired on that, if it was not for my continuous need of money to sustain my family needs.

Now, despite my diabetes, ‘sweet’ talking has become a habitJ. The other day, I was standing in the queue, most unruly, at the Egmore Railway Station, to buy my platform ticket. Being festive days, the railway station was like a battle field. Even hard core saints and sages would have found it difficult to remain calm in and sustain such circumstances. The person at the counter issuing the tickets was an old man nearing his retirement time and when I said ‘Good evening, can I have two tickets please,’ he was all smiles while replying that he has not heard anybody asking for a ticket like that in a long time.

Even when we ask directions to find way with a road side passerby, in a polite tone, we get lot of help. There have been instances that cops helped me find way out of the most difficult traffic snarls, just for being polite.

We are used to criticizing everybody and everything. How about being equally nice, polite and ‘sweet’ when we are talking too, especially to the ‘underdogs’ whose lives, anyway, have been more convoluted than ours.

It can change the world for them and for us.

What do you think? You tell me! 

Till then, 

With continued Prayers for the travellers on the Malaysian Airlines MH 370, missing since about 40 days now L

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India


  1. Well that has been a very interesting 'sweet talk' cum 'good reader'. I enjoyed it thoroughly and your principle that though sweet talk will never sell inferior products posing as good ones will enable you to make dividends in the long run.

    1. Thank you so kindly for your time and your observation. 'Sweet Talk is more like a lubricant and a great facilitator. At least you get people to hear what you want to say! :-)

  2. Hi Hemanth,
    That was good reading on the 'Sweet Talk'. I agree politeness and courtesy goes a long way and you get a kind favor in return.

  3. Thanks so much for endorsing the thoughts, Savithri. Thanks for taking your time off to read this too! :-) (See, trying to use some 'Sweet Talk' here too, though I do know that none is needed) ;-)

  4. Dear Hemanth,
    Having been given the privilege, I am addressing you this way. Though I had book marked Hemantha Kalam long time back, read only today. Very sweetly written. Get a feeling that we are long time friends. Continue to be sweet.

  5. Hemantha garu,

    I do agree that politeness and sweet talk will work wonders. Having said that, let me also say that the opposite is also true. There are some places and some people with whom sweet talk will never work. One needs to show his RAW authority and do some straight talk to get things done. Sweet talk will work in marketing and when we need to get things done by persons who are reasonable. I have been in many situations when all my sweet talk has failed and I had to use some rough language and got my things done. I dont want to list any of them ... better to forget those instances.

    This reminds me of the story where a snake is advised to avoid biting others and ends up getting hit by stones by one and all. It is then clarified to it that the advice is to desist from biting and not from hissing.

    We DO need to hiss in this world. My comment is a supplemental to your article and is not against it. A very thought provoking article.


  6. My dear hemantha Pamarthy,

    Good initiative. Do more.

    Sweet talk laced with jokes ( not sarcastic, and with no intention to hurt) do help in all situations, more with opposite sex including spouse.

    I also find many negotiating strongly and aloud with small traders, vegitable vendors, rickshaw pullers, etc. What one would lose may be a penny or two, but generally they argue as though they are losing their pennis'. Giving little more to them is good.

    With warm regards