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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

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!

Categories: Ideas Tags:

Johnny is a good man!

April 30, 2013 12 comments

It’s Saturday night and we were meeting with friends at Kovalam’s famous Hawa Beach (3rd Beach). The plan was to enjoy a seafood meal at one of the beachfront shacks that line the length of this popular tourist destination.

We walked along the tiled walkway that separates the restaurants from the beach, to check the sights and the available seafood. The walk had made us thirsty and a chilled beverage was the need of the hour. We had made a short-list of the restaurants to choose from after checking the stuff on display. A restaurant that wasn’t crowded got our vote – Well, most shacks had a handful of diners because this is the fag end of the tourist season, with the weather getting hotter each day in Kerala.

The Service Staff who ushered us to our seats had a warm smile and made us feel welcome. All of us noticed it, but it was my wife who captured the essence of the experience while we walked back to the car after 2-3 happy hours of chatting, drinking and gourmandising:

“One doesn’t need a degree in Hotel Management to do a great service job. Till what Class you think that guy has studied – not even High School, I guess. But, just look at the way he remembered to do and say the right things at the right time. Fantastic! He made our visit to the place worth remembering.”

How does one teach Service Staff such things?

I’ve been to so many fine-dining restaurants and received such indifferent service. The staff usually treat visitors with such disdain. They somehow fail to think long – term or  from the customer’s point-of-view. They are busy doing a job.

So, what did Johnny do that made us feel different? No, this isn’t Johnny as in “Johnny-come-lately” or “Some Johnny”; that is his name! Mr.Johnny is special.

He wasn’t wearing a starched uniform or speaking in a clipped accent, but most wait staff at Kovalam know a smattering of English thanks to the interactions with 1000s of foreign tourists. He didn’t have slicked-back hair and his grooming was ordinary. But, all that just didn’t matter. He overwhelmed us with Care!

He suggested the best fish and the preparations that would suit our palate. When the food arrived he placed the food ordered at the right places, having remembered who had ordered what. Even when he was far from our table I noticed him glancing our way to check whether the glasses had beverages in them. He was not only keeping us happy but ensuring that the restaurant got more business. It was smart thinking!

While we ate the food Johnny stopped by to refill the plates and then asked the ladies whether the preparations had come out right – “How does it taste, Madam? Is everything okay?”

Post the meal his question was “Did you enjoy the meal?”

And after we settled the check and rose to leave he asked “Next time you aren’t going anywhere else? Come straight to our place and we will ensure that you have a good time.” Bingo!

It was a clever thing to say, but it also meant that he had heard us discuss the other restaurants on the beach. My wife and I had been telling our friends, who are from out-of-town, that we come here often and the other shacks serve good food too. He wasn’t lurking to gather juicy titbits from our conversation, just that when he visited our table the relevant bits of our exchanges stayed in his head to be used at the opportune moment. It is a useful skill.

Isn’t it plain common sense? I mean …  Customer Service:

–          Receive the customer with a smile

–          Help them make the choices

–          Suggest without sounding opportunistic

–          Be around to help

–          Sense the mood and the need

–          Keep the interaction going without intruding

–          Check whether the customer is happy

–          Be there to help throughout

–          Confirm that everything went well

–          Sign off in style

–          Tell the customer that you look forward to seeing them again

Johnny did all that with such style and he had not been taught any of it. He just picked it up along the way. He might just blink if one were to ask him about CRM, CLM and CSAT.

But he had what is took …. Service Attitude. The books tell you everything you wish to know on the subject but ultimately service is about sensing, feeling and doing.

The bill was not a small one but we were beaming as we walked away!

Johnny proved once again that ….. Good Customer Service makes great Business Sense!

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To contact AKSH People Transformation for Training and Coaching solutions go tohttp://www.akshworld.com or write to us at jayadev.menon@akshworld.com

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