Sanjay Singh is a Commercial Director who has spent numerous years in the event industry.
Sanjay may skip breakfast but he never misses a sales target – here, he tells us what a day in the life of a Commercial Director entails.
Hi Sanjay, let’s start from the beginning! Tell us about your morning routine.
I love getting my day under way so I’ve always been an early riser, waking up anytime between 5.30am and 6am. I now have two young children, so the time I might have once used for breakfast is now spent negotiating with a 4 and 5 year old, getting them both prepped and ready for school and nursery.
I’m out of the door by 6.45am and take the 20-minute drive through country lanes to the train station, which is a sensational ride during the spring and summer months.
My train journey into London takes an hour and I normally walk to my office at the other end. I love seeing London waking up for business; it’s incredibly energising.
I rarely eat breakfast, and I’m not a big fan of those who come into work and waste the next 20 minutes eating breakfast at their desk because I see that as an unproductive start to the day. So, I grab a cappuccino en route (medium and dry), arrive for work at 8:15am and press the play button.
What does your typical working day look like?
Before I leave work at night, I write my task list for the following day, focusing on my main 2-3 priorities so I know what needs to be done first thing in the morning.
I also review my sales figures each morning, looking at the forecast for the week and month ahead and how we sit vis-a-vis the targets to ensure that my management accounting is accurate.
From that point, I have a set plan of what to do and when.
The average day will involve an open discussion with the sales team to ensure they are focused on the priorities, cross functional meetings to keep developing and enhancing our products, and forward scheduling, updating my director on where we are and steering the team with help and coaching. I have traditionally managed a small number of key accounts, so as a matter of routine, I ensure all communication is regular and clear.
For me it is all about rolling up the sleeves, getting your hands dirty and leading by example.
That’s a brilliant ethos! How did you become a Commercial Director?
I went to University, graduating with a degree in Economics, Politics and German, but I fell into the events industry through the summer job I had whilst I was studying.
When I finished my degree, I gave the events company a call again and that was it – there was no looking back. In fact, this was my first lesson on how important it is to network and invest in your brand.
I’d always been ambitious but never in a hurry to scale the heights in my career until I felt ready. I believed that as long as I gained the experience and delivered the results, the opportunities would come to me.
Over the years, I progressed simply by learning from those around me, and I’ve had the opportunity to work for some incredible companies.
Do you have a standout moment that you’ll always remember about working in your current role?
Yes – launching three trade shows in succession in three continents against everyone’s belief that we couldn’t pull it off.
I started with no database, no clients, no sales team, no producer, no marketer and no sales inventory. Without going into too much detail, the right team was assembled and we smashed the numbers. It was euphoric.
Events have always been about solid teams working together in the right direction, and this was that formula at its best.
What challenges do you face as Commercial Director?
I have always had a very high tolerance for stress – you have to if you want to pursue a career in events and management.
The greatest challenge for me was telling my team that, although we had delivered double-digit growth on an event, no commission would be paid. How did this go down? Not well to begin with, but as I had foreseen this happening much earlier, I was able to manage their expectations.
Sales is about hitting numbers, and I rarely saw anyone returning commission when the targets were light or undercooked, so sometimes the opposite happens.
What advice would you give somebody keen to start a career in sales and events management?
Rule #1: don’t be in a hurry to promote yourself. Learn your trade, gain the experience, take advantage of training and then put this into practice.
Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed but are also invested in the team and business. Events is pure teamwork, just look at Formula 1, as it is a great example of a high performance team working as a cohesive unit.
To succeed in sales management, you need the right combination of soft and hard skills. By demonstrating self-insight, you can identify your skill gaps and then go and seek help and advice, because everyone needs ongoing development and nurturing. It’s your career; you are responsible for it.
Oh, and two more things – work hard and network!
Do you get any exciting work perks?
I recently spent 10 days in Hawaii for work! Can it get any better?!
That’s an incredible work perk! Finally, tell us how you like to wrap up your day.
I like to keep myself in shape both physically and mentally, so the gym and pool are necessities after a long day. I also love going for a post-work drink to mull over the day; it’s important to connect with the people you work with beyond work, after all, we spend more time in the office than at home and often interact more with our colleagues than with our partners.
Come evening, the time I get to sleep depends on what I have to do. I do work late but that is my choice as I find it to be a very productive period, which frees up my time the following day.
It’s about staying ahead of and above the curve.
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