Mihiran Opatha believes that selling facilitates leadership and career growth

Compiled by Azraa Killru

Q: How would you redefine the term ‘selling’ – and why?
A: Selling is common to all of us. From the time of our birth, we are able to fulfil all our desires without uttering a single word.

In brief, selling is about convincing others; it is an activity you engage in during your day-to-day life – from the moment you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep.

You try to convince others to fall in line with your own desires. This includes asking a simple favour from someone to convincing a person to fall in love with you or even persuading businessperson to sign a million dollar contract.

It is important to understand that selling is not always about conducting a transaction and receiving money. In fact, it’s a much broader and dynamic concept.

Given all this, one could describe selling as ‘an act or attempt to create an attitudinal, perception or physical behavioural change in others.’

Q: So how do you perceive the relationship between leadership and the concept of selling?
A: Leadership is always related to one’s followership – this is about people wanting to follow your way of thinking. So the first and foremost leadership quality or requirement is the ability to convince others about your desired path.

A leader who cannot convince others will be ineffective to a great degree – i.e. no followers, no leader.

Throughout history, we’ve witnessed the power that leaders have had to convince others – from great religious leaders who influenced people to act for worldly and spiritual betterment to those who coerced hundreds of thousands of followers towards holocausts.

Therefore, leadership begins with your ability to convince others – i.e. selling your idea to other people.

Have you ever persuaded a colleague, your spouse, a sibling or anyone else to break the shackles and realise their true potential? If so, you too are a great salesperson and potential leader.

Q: In your view, is the concept of selling underrated? If so, what makes it a significant part of a business and career building?
A: No, the concept of selling will never be underrated. But there\s a good chance that you or your business may undermine its importance by failing to understand the real meaning of selling. If you pursue selling as a mere transactional activity, you’ll never reap the complete benefits of this beautiful art.

First of all, you need to have the ability to ‘sell you to yourself,’ which means building conviction about your true value.

This is where your advancement begins. One must remember that there could be thousands of people who try to lure you into a faulty paradigm of thinking, and make you underestimate your full potential – and thereby deter your growth.

In workplaces, we may have witnessed colleagues with incredible ideas and immeasurable talents to execute them; but despite this, they hardly receive the recognition they deserve. They are stuck in one place for years without any chance for career advancement or wider prospects.

However, imagine a scenario where they’re able to enjoy senior management’s sponsorship and support to implement proposals, which would benefit their careers as well as their companies’ prospects.

In a nutshell, if you fail to convince your superiors of your eligibility for career advancement, chances are that you’ll always be overlooked for promotion and growth.

Q: How has the sales profession in Sri Lanka developed over the last 12 months or so, in your opinion?
A: Working as a resource person for many institutes and corporates, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with thousands of sales professionals across various levels.

While working with them, I have seen them develop a positive attitude
and broaden their thinking horizons – a trend that has continued to expand year by year.

In parallel to this, the perks offered by companies to sales personnel have also multiplied.

Lately, scores of professionals from other disciplines have shown as interest in becoming salespeople, which has its roots in the rising popularity of the sales discipline.

I would also associate it with the efforts of many sales professionals who are contributing to the enrichment of the next generation of salespeople.

Q: Do you believe that local talent is adequately groomed to fulfil the role of sales?
A: Yes, we certainly have world-class talent. What we need is the chance to broaden their thinking horizons, and develop communication and language skills, as well as increasing their exposure.

And most importantly, infusing them with positive attitudes is key.

The interviewee is the Head of Sales of Nippon Paint Lanka