MOOC your way to success

February 25, 2016 Leave a comment

MOOCLet me begin by asking two questions?

  1. Have you ever wished to undergo a course and discovered that it’s not available in your city?
  2. Have you ever said to yourself “How I wish I had the time to study!”?

Till the first decade of the 21st century you would have been excused because access to education and skill enhancement courses was difficult and even if you were lucky to live in a city where the course was available the class wasn’t at a convenient time. So, most learners had to put their self-development plans on hold.

In the last century, you had to be physically present in the classroom at a pre-designated time to learn from a teacher and you usually did one course at a time. Then came distance education in the form of correspondence courses and open universities. These offered the first level of freedom to the learner, but they didn’t have widespread acceptability because the best universities weren’t offering the courses and often there wasn’t a teacher or expert to clear the learner’s doubts.

With rapid computerization in the late 80s and growth of the internet in the late 90s we saw courses being offered in the form of video classrooms or multimedia CDs – education and skill enhancement were reaching a wider audience, but the experience wasn’t very satisfactory and costs were prohibitive.

And then in 2006 came a huge jump in online education in the form of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Stanford University one of the best Universities in USA decided to offer its courses to the public in the form of internet based classroom. They offered blended learning solutions that had text-based learning material interlaced with videos and each learning module had assignments to check how much the participant had learned. The submitted assignments were scored mostly by the machine and only the final assignment or test had a teacher scoring it. To keep the learner engaged these courses also had a Facebook-like discussion board where learner discussed the subject with their peers and teachers. You got marks even for submissions made in the discussion board. So the learner was immersed in the course in every possible way – he or she was reading, hearing, seeing, discussing and practicing. The best part being that all this was happening seamlessly – the learner can easily move from text to video to discussion and back. This was made possible with the help of better technology, larger bandwidth for transmission of information and higher storage facility in the cloud (internet).

Speaking at TED, Anant Agarwal (a Computer Science expert at MIT (Boston) and one of the designers of the popular MOOC named edX) said that the first course they offered online had over 1.55 lakh registered learners from 162 countries.

What made MOOCs interesting? Well, these are the leading reasons:

  • For most of the courses there was no prior qualification needed to register
  • Most courses were free of charge and even if there was a fee it wasn’t much (Coursera, another popular provider, charged in the range $60 – 200 (Rs. 4000 to 13,500).
  • Quite often the fee was charged only if the learner needed a certificate at the end of the course.
  • Just about every stream of knowledge was being offered – Science, Math, Economics, History, Computing, Commerce, Business Management, Political Science, Languages and more. (in multiple language options).

Most major universities in the world were offering courses – even the IITs, BITS (Pilani) and ISB (Hyderabad) have courses on the famous MOOC platforms. (Most leading MOOC platforms are joint ventures of multiple partner Universities.)

The magic of MOOC is that the classroom is “your bedroom” and the time at which the course is available is ”when you are free”. You were learning the course of your choice at your pace. Do you have any excuse left? J

Some courses gave credits, which mean that if you were to take a full-time course on the same subject at the University offering the MOOC course you would be exempt from redoing the credits you have already achieved.

The biggest prerequisite for a MOOC learner is  … a free mind!

Categories: Ideas

2013 in review

January 20, 2014 2 comments

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Ideas

Soft and easy does it!

January 1, 2014 4 comments

What better way to start a New Year than by extolling a friend who creates value for his clients and prospects.Sell

PG and I often make joint-visits to clients. While I promote my talent development initiatives he would sell Internet Security and High Speed Bandwidth solutions.

But Sell may seem too strong a word to use for his approach to business – we often associate selling with pushiness and high-decibel pitches.

During a recent visit to a reputed Engineering College our First Point of Contact informed us that there is an immediate need for Internet Security Solutions and that the Systems Administrator was already in conversation with several suppliers. While a regular Sales Executive would have rushed to the man and started a major pitch to win the deal my friend did the opposite. When we reached the System Administrator’s office PG started asking about the IT infrastructure the college had in place and what thy had in place for managing security and for intrusion control. He permitted the man to speak at length about the IT policy, the equipment being used and the people who were currently supplying products; eventually it was revealed that they were indeed looking for Security Solutions.

But, like PG had already surmised the solution being considered by the college was of a lower specification and it wouldn’t make sense for him to push anything from his portfolio. Instead he spoke about ways in which he can help them build on what they have so that the IT infrastructure is more robust and safe. He offered his expertise for free and, I am sure, that made a huge impact on the Systems Administrator. He would definitely call PG for advice and support when they plan the next upgrade of the IT infrastructure.

While at the outset it may have seemed unprofessional to let an opportunity go by it became evident later on that he was laying the foundation for bigger opportunities in the future.

And this was later confirmed by two other friends who done business with PG – they were buying broadband connectivity from him and the approach I mentioned above was seen in action by both. It would have made sense for him to give more bandwidth that was required when these gentlemen asked. They also asked for equipment that would be of a higher specification than their current requirement. PG persuaded both gentlemen to go for a lower spec item because it would do the job just fine and that if they required more bandwidth it could be acquired cheaper on a future date because given current trends the cost of bandwidth would drop further.

Both gentlemen were impressed with my friend’s soft selling style which gave them long-term value. He could have gone for the kill but staunchly refused to do so and thereby built stronger relationships with his clients. They wouldn’t think twice about recommending him to all their friends and business associates.

By selling less, he was selling right; PG was actually opening doors to bigger business opportunities – its smart selling.

Let it not be thought that PG doesn’t Sell, he sure does that but with a softer, more long-term approach. His customers may take time to buy, but when they eventually do so they would keep buying from him for longer periods of time.

Now that is real selling!

Isn’t that a great way to begin the New Year? May you succeed in all your endeavors this year … Wishing all of you the very best in 2014!

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Please visit my new look website – http://akshworld.com/

Fishing in Troubled Waters!

November 12, 2013 4 comments

This article was featured last month in Dhanam magazine, Kerala’s leading business fortnightly.
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Thomas, the owner of Go Cabs, is a worried man – in the last six months his taxi service has been running on rocky roads and that’s not because the Government hasn’t filled the potholes. His problem is that clients who regularly hired vehicles from his fleet aren’t calling now.

Kumar, a resort-owner at Kumarakom, used to take pride in saying he is booked for the entire year but is now faced with the problem of finding ways to fill the room-nights even in the main tourist season.

And these are not isolated events!

Retail industry is complaining of huge drop in footfalls, automobile dealerships are fighting each other to grab the few buyers still left in the market and lack of interest in buying new apartments is forcing cash-strapped real-estate developers to delay projects. Sales teams in many organizations were facing an uncertain future due to steep fall in performance.

Most corporate buyers and individual consumers are buying just the essentials and avoiding non-critical purchases in this inflationary and unpredictable scenario.

So, how does one sell in such difficult times? Is there a game-plan to beat the recessionary trends in the market?

  1. Never lose sight of your best customers

In the booming market companies often ignored customers because there were enough buyers in the market. Service quality was poor. But in a recession suppliers and service providers need to pull up their socks and improve their performance. It’s important to listen to what they are saying, especially your biggest and most loyal customers, and serve them better. Retain your best accounts and you will have a steady revenue base to build upon. Downturns are good times to run loyalty programs that give your customers extra benefits and you additional business – try a Member-get-member program and tap into your goodwill!

  1. Meet more customers

Yes, it’s time for everyone in the organization to leave their chairs and go in search of buyers. Make more visits, see more prospects and make your products more visible. Everyone in the organization should operate in the Selling mode – train non-Sales employees on your product portfolio and tell them to get leads for your Sales Team.

  1. Be seen as an essential

Can you develop themes that make your products/services indispensable? Can your offerings become part of your customer’s list of essentials? Can a holiday Resort reposition itself as a value-for-money incentive item or a destination for a Sales Conference? In difficult times organisations need to motivate their sales team and that fits nicely into the Resort’s business plan.

  1. A Pull Product or Scheme

For eg., restaurants and retailers can run campaigns based on “Item(s)-of-the-day/Week”. Such item(s) can be attractively priced (at cost price or a thin margin) to pull customers in and then they can be convinced to buy additional other products, which are sold at regular margins. White Goods dealers can run “Only-for-Today” schemes that compel buyers to speed up their buying decisions. Tying up with finance companies to offer staggered repayment option can help improve sales.

  1. Find alternate channel

Good quality Salespersons are hard to find and the ones you have often don’t stay long enough or don’t seem interested to make the effort. So it may be smart to find other ways to sell your product. Our Resort owner and Taxi-fleet owner can help each other sell by working out a deal to promote each other’s services. Banks are Sales Channels by insurance products; restaurants sell books, clothes and jewelry. Can you work out a deal with another business to promote your products?

The Internet is now available as a smart, low-cost way to reach more customers. What is your net-strategy? How good is your presence on the Internet?

It’s true that the economic scenario is bleak – but it’s not as if customers have disappeared, they have only become harder to find. You need to widen your net to catch them.

Stick to basics! Economic downturns are good times to recalibrate your business objectives and to test your strengths. Improve your Sales Strategy and sharpen the skills of Sales Team because it’s in such times that you need them to perform at the highest potential.

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Jayadev Menon is a Sales Consultant / Trainer – you can reach him at jayadev.menon@akshworld.com

Spread it just right!

June 12, 2013 12 comments

Butter - Thick or thin

A sandwich is deposited in front of you by the waiter; you take the first bite and pull a face to express disappointment. Thoughts of delicious crisp buttered-toast melting in your mouth are killed by an insensitive cook who had applied a microscopic layer of butter, probably under instructions from his boss. The boss-man was more worried about his expenses that your satisfaction. You obviously kick up a fuss and ask the waiter to add a more generous helping of the dairy treat.

No consider yourself and the other person you meet as two slices of bread and the interaction / conversation that takes place between you as the layer of butter and you will be able to see networking in a new light.

If you are diffident or unwilling to share information the other person feels short-changed and you lose the opportunity to make an impact. The listener won’t consider it worthwhile to have a chat with you and would soon move elsewhere. You will end up not being aware of the other person’s work, or need, if smart questions aren’t asked to evoke a response. And it’s important that you wait for a complete answer before you ask further questions, or butt in to add your thoughts. When you are in a large gathering it is also important to spend some time with each person to give and get information. Flitting from group to group hoping to meet a lot of people would be counter-productive. You end not knowing anyone really well and they would know very little about you too.

Talking non-stop to just one person can be counter-productive – s/he might classify you as a bore and run away the next time you approach; and you might miss the opportunity to meet other interesting people in the gathering.

The message – if you apply too thick a layer of butter it is not going to increase the taste of your sandwich and in the bargain it form a potentially harmful deposit of fat around your waist.

The trick in networking, as in sandwich making, is to get the layer that goes in between just right!

The trick in networking, as in sandwich making, is to get what goes in between just right!

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Did you enjoy this article? You can get updates on all new Posts by subscribing to the blog or on Facebook – just “Like” this:  https://www.facebook.com/Sales.Coach.Blog!!

The author, Jayadev Menon, has his own Business Consulting & Training practice, AKSH People Transformation.  To know more about his Consulting, Training and Coaching solutions visit http://www.akshworld.com or write to jayadev.menon@akshworld.com

Does your network work?

June 10, 2013 10 comments

At a recent networking meeting I joined a conversation between two well-known businessmen – both run profit-making enterprises. One was telling the other about the importance of networking and how it had helped him – the discussion was sparked when a new member, present in that huddle, wondered aloud whether such meetings offered any benefit beyond the opportunity to hobnob, over a drink, with others in their peer group.

So, this businessman, who was formerly a Civil Servant, spoke about a time when his business was just taking root. Revenue was still not steady and orders were hard to come by. They were spending a lot but getting paltry returns – production close to capacity, salaries and bills to pay but business far from rosy.

To add to his misery China manufacturers were dumping cheaper products in the Indian market. Our narrator friend said that the writing was on the wall for his company. If something wasn’t done immediately they would’ve been forced to wind-up.

He decided to make a trip to Delhi to impress upon the Industry Ministry the need to impose a duty on imports in order to save domestic production. But he did not know where to begin because there he knew nobody in that ministry. However, there was a batch-mate of his working as Secretary in another department.

Without making any promises this friend took our businessman along to work, at the Central Secretariat. The idea was to discuss how and where they should start the process.

A few minutes after they settled done in the Civil Service friend’s office a colleague walked in to discuss some routine business matter. Our friend was introduced to the visitor and the reason for his visit was stated. Immediately this gentleman said he knew the Industry Secretary and offered to arrange the introduction. Our friend was in a state of shock, but was grateful too for this incredible stroke of luck that came his way. He had got more than he bargained for just by tagging along with his friend.

The Industry Secretary listened patiently to our businessman and saw merit in the request for anti-dumping duty. But he needed solid proof to put up the case to the Industries Minister. He told the businessman to bring evidence to substantiate his claim.

Our friend ran back to his contact’s office and stated what had happened. Now it was this person’s turn to help. He used the Government network of embassies and gathered the relevant information over the weekend. The meeting with the Industry Secretary had taken place on a Friday and by the following Monday the businessman had a solid Case Study (supported by hard facts) to present to the Secretary for building a case to impose import duty.

The Industry Secretary received the document  with utter astonishment – he was shocked to see such a robust case built up over the weekend. But he soon realized how the information was gathered and gave a big smile. He told our friend to leave the information with him and asked for time to work on it. He gave no assurance, nor did he even offer any word of encouragement or support.

But within two weeks of his returning from Delhi there was a letter delivered at his office with a Government of India seal on it. It was the typical low quality government stationery, he said. But inside was information that turned the fortune of his business. The letter contained a Government Order to impose duty on import of products in his category. He and his business were saved.

Our narrator friend said that it was a chance meeting in his friend’s office in Delhi and his friend’s ability to use Government machinery to gather information at short notice that saved the day for him.

He summed up by saying that such networking meetings are crucial for the success of our business. What do you think? Do you see benefit in networking?

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Did you enjoy this article? You can get updates on all new Posts by subscribing to the blog or on Facebook – just “Like” this:  https://www.facebook.com/Sales.Coach.Blog!!

The author, Jayadev Menon, has his own Business Consulting & Training practice, AKSH People Transformation.  To know more about his Consulting, Training and Coaching solutions visit http://www.akshworld.com or write to jayadev.menon@akshworld.com

A happy announcement!

June 3, 2013 18 comments

All the efforts put in over the last 18 months, to present articles at the Sales Coach blog, had been worthwhile on account the response & support received from my readers.

The first one year saw over 200 articles being published at this blog, however the second year has not been a productive one. There was work of course but then a dozen other excuses were made to stop myself from writing.

And then came this joyous discovery. 

Today, quite by chance, I discovered that the Sales Coach Blog is among the most read blogs in India. I got the information from the this website:

http://indian-blog-list.blogspot.in/

The discovery was made by chance. A friend on facebook had mentioned the success of her blogger friend and following that story I reached this website. Running down the list my eyes were drawn to a familiar name.

Vision blurred and the page turned seemed to turn to jelly. Went vision become steady again I rechecked and found it to be true. Sales Coach blog was very there with some big names. Even in my wildest dream I had not thought about the blog reaching such heights so soon.

I have to thank my readers for their support and participation in this process. You made it happen. Immensely grateful for the encouragement!

It also motivates me to start presenting new material here on a regular basis. The responsibility has grown with this achievement.

This is one happy blogger signing off for the moment … watch this space!

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