It’s a cut-throat business fixated on wins and the bottom line. But the man responsible for generating Nokia’s Cloud and Network Services revenue from service providers takes a philosophical approach to the art of sales.
Vishal Singh says it’s more than just closing a deal. It’s about caring, connecting and building relationships, and then, like a doctor, diagnosing the problem and offering a solution.
“Creating the ‘aha’ moment, that’s selling to me. Selling is building that trust. It is a very enriching experience. It is the most human experience you can think of and potentially the oldest skill on the planet,” he said. “People will always buy from people who don’t force things on them. Customers are attracted to those who actually try to solve their problems.”
Singh, 49, realized his future lay in sales early on. He grew up in Kolkata, India, and his father was an electrical engineer. Singh himself earned a degree in mechanical engineering at the National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, where he experienced his own eureka moment.
“It was my second year when I knew I got myself into something completely wrong because I was not good with machines. I was good with man, not machines,” he said.
After graduation, he scored his first sales job with HCL Infosystems before moving on to Lucent Technologies. He later relocated to Singapore where he held a string of senior sales positions at CSG, Microsoft, Oracle and F5 before arriving at Nokia about four years ago.
As head of the CSP Global Business Center for Cloud and Network Services, Singh spearheads the business group’s go-to-market unit that cares for 3.2 billion Euros in annual sales.
But he insists he’s not always preoccupied with performance goals and hard figures, believing that following his sales mantra will naturally lead to success.
“You will win sometimes and lose sometimes, but you learn more from your losses,” he said. “The numbers take care of themselves. They are all an outcome of doing the right things every day. We are in the business of doing business and the most important raw material is people.”
An avid runner who also enjoys cricket, tennis and golf, Singh applies many lessons from sports to his sales approach.
“When you play golf, if you are tempted to see where the ball is going very likely you will not be able to hit a clean shot. So being in the present moment is the most fascinating, in business and in golf,” he explained. “Sales in our business is a true team sport. You need to have leadership, situational awareness, empathy, emotional intelligence. Lone wolves can’t do much on their own and you don’t need a superstar. You need a team of very solid players who play well together.”
While a hobbyist in various sports, Singh considers himself a professional in sales and, like a coach, demands the same commitment from his team members
“If you are not a professional salesperson, go do something else,” he said. “If you are not focused on what you do today you are not going to be happy and you are not helping the organization either, because you are not giving your best.”
It’s all part of his overall philosophy to life: living in the moment.
“Common sense takes care of me and for that to work you need to be in the present moment. I’m not a strategist. I love to do what I do today, and tomorrow will take care of itself,” he said.
The changing nature of sales during the Covid-19 era has made it harder to establish a connection and build trust over virtual meetings. Therefore, he said, a professional salesperson must work more in customer engagement, in creating value in every interaction and in being diligent in follow through.
Singh, who is married and has a 19-year-old daughter in college, loves to read and has an eclectic assortment of interests. But when it comes to his job, there has never been a Plan B.
“If I was not a sales guy, I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “I just love helping our customers identify what they need. There’s a lot of value in that relationship. And my success is not just my own doing. It’s a function of other people doing what they are doing very, very well.”