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Posts Tagged ‘Think SMART’

Sucker punch!

May 14, 2013 15 comments

This graphic is from my favourite tee – the shirt is a well-worn item on its last legs, but I don’t want to cast it out of my wardrobe yet: its status though has been downgraded to sleepwear / exercise-wear.2013-05-13 09.31.28

The reason for it’s survival is staring back at you from the page – it is a classic example of a paraprosdokian.  The twist in the tail is witty but catches people off-guard. It may bring a wry smile to a few faces, but chances are that many of them would be annoyed.

Don’t we often behave this way when we respond to our family, friends and co-workers?

A team-member walks up to the manager and says, “Boss, I closed the XYZ Technologies order. It will cover my quota for the next two months.”

Manager responds, “About time too. You have been messing up my numbers for the last 2 quarters.”

How about this one? A colleague walks up to you and says, “Did you hear the news? I have been promoted as Manager of the division”. You respond in a bland voice “Congrats, buddy. All the best,” There is no joy on your face either.

A scene that is played out at so many homes – son runs excitedly to Dad, who has just got home from work, and says “Dad! Dad! I hit a six in the cricket match at school.” Dad, who has had a terrible day at the office, responds “That’s nice! Go tell mom that I want a cup of tea.”

Energy Sappers! Motivation Killers! Spoil-sports! That’s what a lot of us unknowingly end up being by not taking charge of our emotions.

The Manager lost a huge opportunity to push the average-performer into a consistent good performer when he refused to pick up the cue to motivate the subordinate. An effusive and positive response from him could have set the tone for a constructive dialog with his team-member.

The miffed colleague in the second sample probably was in the running for the Manager’s position and when it went to a friend the resentment and frustration showed – this person could have managed emotions in a mature manner and participated in the colleague’s success.

The Dad quite obviously was behaving like a child here. Drowning in his own frustrations the parent ended up disappointing his own child. If he were in charge of his emotions this situation could have been used to help him recover from the bad vibes at the office and return him to a happy state. In the process his child would have stayed happy and excited too.

It’s important to be able to take charge of our emotions. So much happens during a day or in the course of a year, some happy events and some not so happy ones; the idea is to interpret and understand each of and respond in a mature way.

It’s important to celebrate the success of your friends, associates and family-members. Relationships can be strengthened or broken by your reactions.

And it’s important to rationalize when one fails – derive the right messages from the situation with the intent to recover from the fall. Wallowing in self-pity or displaying anger and scorn would be extremely short-sighted and destructive ways of dealing with the situation.

Our inability to react logically or sensibly can have a devastating effect on the recipient of that unexpected blow!

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

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Angel calling!

May 8, 2013 12 comments

The call came this morning; thought I must share this message while its still fresh in my mind.

There is a huge backlog at the Sales Coach blog. In 2013 articles haven’t been presented at the rate maintained in 2012.

Gives you their precious time!

Gives you their precious time!

Something’s missing – has the zest gone out of the activity? And that’s when the man who, a little over a year ago, had pushed for this blog’s creation made a phone call. Well, to be honest, that call came a few days back; today’s one was the booster dose!

He asked why the blog is not active these days and I replied “I have lost my mojo; am wondering whether it is worth the effort? What is the purpose?”

His answer was simple, “The purpose hasn’t changed. It is the same today as it was a year back. And it’s simple …. The blog itself is the purpose!”

Can it get simpler than that? Straight and unambiguous!

During the conversation I realized that while the purpose had not changed, but my attitude towards it had. I was clogging my mind with questions that weren’t germane to the issue – missing the wood for the trees?

Have you felt that way? A project that was started with so much energy and gusto starts losing meaning in a while. You wonder whether it’s worth the effort and whether its pursuit would lead you to the results you had hoped for.

You become less intense about it and soon lose focus. And soon you are desperately looking for something else to do. Life becomes a meaningless morass. Been there?

Time to stop meandering in the wilderness! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the careless wandering would eventually lead somewhere. For a lucky few it may but for the majority it only means frustration, dejection and failure.

It pays to realize early enough that you are headed the wrong way. And you probably are one of the lucky few who have a Guardian Angel, someone whose call would come when you are down and out.

But then again do you realize that the person means well – do you see the person as a helping or hindering influence? It pays to listen because he called only because he cared.  Such friends aren’t going to say that he or she is your revitalizer-dose; you need to realize that.

My pick-me-up friend called again today, to check how things were at the blog and to find out whether I had made any progress with my book. Yes, that is the other major project that is hanging fire. A book! I am going to kick-start that one too thanks to the energizing phone conversation with this friend.

Do you have such an angel investor in your life? This friend or guide may not give you money, but provides something that’s just as valuable, his or her time?

If there is such a person, my next question is …. Are you listening?

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

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

At the crossroads!

January 3, 2013 8 comments

These days we stay in touch with most friends using Social Media or the telephone – people are meeting each other less often. Have you noticed that trend? When was the last time you took a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop in on a friend unannounced?
(Here is another question, out of context, I ask a lot of people: “When was the last time you sent a greeting card to someone?” A sheepish smile is the usual response to that one. )

On Jan 1st the route I took to get back to town, after meeting a client, went past a friend’s office – I decided to drop in. The visit presented me an excellent opportunity to say “Hello!” in person to at least one friend on New Year’s Day – thankfully this busy man was having a relatively quiet afternoon and could spare a few moments to exchange words with a friend who had wandered into his premises not unlike a cat that had lost its way.

After exchange of greetings and other courtesies the conversation veered towards his business. I was constantly on the lookout for information that could improve my knowledge of the Indian business scenario – and the corollaries thereof would be opportunities for my consulting practice and fodder for my blog! (Sneaky me, eh?)

The business papers were replete with news about a slowdown in automobile sales – post-Diwali the market was showing a downward trend. There usually is a dip in Sales in December because vehicles bought in the last month of the year have lower resale values as compared with those bought in January – so people usually postponed the purchase. Manufacturers countered this trend by offering schemes that could offset the loss or at least the notion. However, the present dip was more than the norm and had to do with the overall economic scenario, which was still recessionary. My friend’s was feeling the pinch too.

When I asked about Expansion Plans my friend said he would like to share some information about a decision he had made a little over a year back. His current lines were doing well and so he and partner decided to add another dealership to their portfolio. They scouted around and soon found a leading vehicle brand that was looking for a 2nd dealer in town. They had 2-3 rounds of discussions with the local Business Managers of the manufacturer and then tabled their conditions for accepting the dealership. They felt those were fair and essential for them to get a firm footing in a market that already had a well-entrenched competitor.

The brand being considered is a very popular one and their vehicles are in great demand. The Managers knew that finding another Channel Partner who would accept their terms was not difficult. They did not accept the conditions proffered by my friend and soon found another party who was ready to go with their terms.

My friend felt at that time that this was just another opportunity and there would be many others, better ones, which would come their way. But a year later he found that the new player had done well for himself and was on his way to breakeven faster than expected, thanks to the growing demand for the brand.

He analysed their decisions objectively and found that the following mistakes were made while presenting their pitch:

–          Their forecast had been too conservative

–          At that time they did not foresee such growth in the market

–          The impact of the established first dealer was a gross over-estimate

–          Some of the demands made were based with a defensive mindset

My friend says that he does not regret having lost that dealership but he learned a lot from it. It helped him to understand himself – it told him a lot about his decision-making strategies and provided him a fabulous self-assessment.

Have you felt that way? Did you make a decision that you regretted or at least felt later that you could have made differently?

How has the original decision impacted you? Do you feel that your situation would be different today if the decision had been something else?

What are the key drivers that impact your decisions? Are they making you too conservative? Or conversely, are they exposing you to great risk?

My friend was very happy that I had cared enough to greet him in person and I was happy with my spontaneous decision because it gave me a great opportunity to learn something.

Categories: Ideas Tags: ,

Point them in the right direction!

November 28, 2012 13 comments

I ask students in an MBA class, “I am standing at Zero Degree Longitude. Where could I possibly be?”

No clue!

“What is the speed of light?” There is total silence in class!

“Name three Indian Nobel laureates” Somebody said Raman, but didn’t know what he received the award for. No more names after that.

The class was asked to come up to the board and draw a World Map – I said they need not draw it to scale or get the shapes right; only the names and relatives positions of the major land masses and water bodies were required.

Just one student dared to attempt and he got most of it right – while he drew the others stared, and then blinked when I asked one of them to point out the location of a country or a continent.

Is it a coincidence that the student who drew was the only one in class who had read a few books in the last one year?

I said Mr. N R Narayanamurthy had stated that only even in the best professional colleges only the top 20 or 25 % of the students are employable and they just smiled!

And then I went on to ask 2-3 students to explain what they intend to do post the course.

Student – 1

“I will do my own business. First I will work for 4-5 years, make some capital and then start a business or join my dad’s business.”

I – “What are you waiting for? Can’t you start right away?”

“No, Sir. My dad’ said I should work elsewhere first and then think about joining the business.”

That is one smart father. “Go mess up someone else’s business, not mine” was his message.

Student – 2

“I want to do Marketing!”; (not Sales, no one wishes to Sell – that’s infra dig.)

“What in marketing?” I ask.

“Anything, Sir” and when I asked him to be more specific, “Branding, Sir.”

So I ask him to pick a popular brand in the market and explain what it stood for. He had no answer. I asked “What is brand you? What do you stand for?” Still no answer!

Student – 3

“I want to work in the HR Department of a large company.”

I ask – “Why a large company?”

“I will get a lot of experience” I read that as “I will get a large salary!”

“Why do you think you are suited for H.R.?”

“Sir, I like to interact with people. I enjoy being with friends, so I think I will enjoy being with other people too.”

I – “What do you wish to do in the HR function?”

“I would like to do Performance Management and Manpower Planning.”

Lucky that she had spared HR Strategy for the HR Head.

I was too stunned to continue.

I would understand if a child in the 7th standard didn’t know what profession to pursue, but a B-School student who is 6 months away from a job should not be in doubt, he/she should be at least 75% there by now.

They do not have general awareness nor were they sure about the function they wished to work in; they only thing they were absolutely sure about was that wanted to be Managers (heads of functions, even CEOs.

The kids can turn around and ask me how geography, history and general awareness would help in their job. Well, these subjects may not be of use to them in the job, but can a person who lacks curiosity or awareness of the world around him/her be relied upon to take decisions that impact that world. Can any of us operate in a vacuum? Can any business decision be taken without understanding of local culture and sensitivities or knowledge of the market? I can go on ….

These children are totally lost and badly misguided too. The colleges do not advice them well, nor do they get any help from the parents.

When will these kids get the bare facts – if the answer is “After they get a job”, it will be too late.

The colleges paint a glorious picture of the job market because the fees they collect are fantastic and they can’t afford to disappoint the students, or their parents, with the truth. The teachers have little time to spare for the kids and the parents are either ill-equipped to deal with the situation or don’t have much to say beyond asking the grades.

These students need to receive a dose of reality and proper guidance to make the important choices they are faced with. Today the market is inundated with Assessments and Counselors, but there aren’t any available within reach. They are either overpriced or poorly marketed.

And teachers – Please stop lecturing; guide the kids to the answers. Spoon-feeding is destructive. Rouse their curiosity, challenge them to use their brains, put them on projects, tell them to create cases and plans, send them on fact finding missions, give them assignments on the campus. Activities, not monologues, are the need of the hour.

These should not be randomly done nor should they be limited to a few days of the year. There  has to be a structured, round-the year activity and grade them for work done on these as well.

Parents stop oscillating between being good time guys and class monitors. Your job does not stop with paying college fees, providing pocket-money and asking for good grades; spend time to understand what the kids are doing in college and outside. Guide them to prepare a career plan or to choose a career. If you can’t do either at least pay ear while they explain, without ridiculing or being judgmental.  Be assertive, say that you expect them to be more responsible – but don’t be condescending or threatening. Coax, don’t push. Being adversarial or nasty can push them away from you and they will look elsewhere for support; soon it will become difficult for you to start a conversation with them and when you do they will resort to subterfuge and lies.

Young adults are sensitive and keyed up – but under the right conditions they can be pliant and receptive too. It’s a tough phase of life, a time of transition.

Can we be their compass?

What’s the message from the Top?

October 28, 2012 29 comments

Is there space for values, merit and good practices in public life and corporate life in our country?

There are tens of thousands of youngsters being thrown into the job market by all sorts of educational institutions, who claim to be shaping their wards for the future that exists beyond the campus. Talking to Business Owners, HR Managers and HR Consultants I get a totally different picture. This isn’t Breaking News for many of you but everyone I asked tell me that most of the students are not worth employing – they are not aware of even the basics and they come with a baggage of misplaced expectations.

Two illustrations:

My friend Ramesh (not his real name) works for an educational institution with pan-India presence. He teaches Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility, both subjects being credit earning courses in the MBA Program.  The institution is run by a high-profile businessman (Yes, I said Businessman, not Educationist) who spends more on marketing and his public persona than in the quality of the courses run by his institute. The students who pass out from his college don’t make the cut in spite of spending lakhs on the course – but he is beyond caring. Education is not his business, money-making is! I wonder whether Ramesh’s efforts are necessary in this college and should he by working in this institution?

Sundaresh is another associate who runs a HR Consultancy. Recently he tried to sell the idea of an international standard professional studies college to a senior Government official. The Minister heard my friend’s pitch with utmost interest and said that it won’t work – Sundaresh was asking for land and support from the Government, but no matter how hard he tried the minister seemed lukewarm and non-receptive  The reason for the disinterest dawned on him long after the meeting – the “benefit” for the Minister had not been factored into the package, or mentioned during the discussion.

Social Good, boost to the economy, promotion of talent are terms reserved for speeches – they are not to be practiced. Money is the basis for all business; purpose, value and merit are either not seen as an essential or they are at best peripheral issues. It’s as simple as that!

A movie I watched this afternoon had this comment by the hero – “It’s economics, not emotions, that drives people!”

During the conversation with Sundaresh I mentioned the college where Ramesh works and my consultant friend said – “I wonder why so many Indian parents are damning their own children by sending them to such institutions. They spend their hard-earned money on courses that aren’t worth half the fee charged and the children come out of college frustrated and disillusioned. They have just one thought in mind – “How do I recover the amount invested in this program?” Pursing dreams or a career and contributing to the community are long forgotten ideals.”

What prompts businessmen and community leaders do this? It’s simple. Making money is seen as smart, no matter how. And the sooner you are able to whiz by in an S-class Mercedes or a 7-series BMW the more awe-inspiring you become. Getting rich fast is the yardstick of success in this country.

Unlike old fogies like me the young, fast-thinking students are very receptive and absorb the message quickly – Get rich quick!

And that is the lesson learnt in college, the only lesson – because the owner of the institution is fleecing the student, the teacher who instructs them in class is busy making money on the side conducting tuition – everyone is involved in this primal task of money-making. The kids go to college only to earn a degree, and nothing besides. Did anyone out there think that they went there to learn? Think again! When they appear for a job interview they can’t say much beyond the number they expect as salary – they do not know anything beyond that, because they have not been taught anything..

Who will provide them the lessons from the parallel world that exists – the world that everyone wishes to be a part of, but is afraid of entering. That of building careers, taking the tough road, going through the grind, learning the right lessons, relishing small successes, saving (instead of splurging), aspiring before achieving, performing before expecting accolades, contributing before looking for returns.

Is anyone up there listening? Am I asking for the impossible?

T.L.C

October 23, 2012 6 comments

The last article I wrote spoke about keeping an open-mind and being receptive to ideas – because messages and lessons come from the unlikeliest of sources and often our prejudices and perceptions stop us from receiving / accepting them.

After reading that message a regular reader and friend, Kailash Acharya sent this note:

(I have edited his message to retain just the relevant portions)

Good articulation, J. Yes, even after many training sessions and reading stories / motivational stuff we miss picking the other side of the story.

In your last blog ‘Why Train’ we discussed how Telecom companies are not training their customer facing executives. There as well we need to take a look from owner’s angle. Or else why would someone who has invested so much time, efforts & huge money to establish his business ignore such a silly thing. As I’m working on technical side of telecom for the last 12+ years and I have seen how much investment it takes on technical side to run the show. And for them running technical services is much more important than giving great soft services. As customer would not join or leave them due to their call center’s treatment but due to their technical services. Yeah, but we have telco’s which are lacking on both front as well.

We should get a chance to talk to them once and who knows we might change our perspective about it.

(Unquote)

I guess by “silly thing” my friend meant that it does not take a huge effort or large sums of money to train people – someone who has invested crores (a crore is ten million) on a project should be able to get this done without having to stretch a lot. From no other perspective can training be seen as a “silly thing” and I know he did not mean that.

The day he sent me this note I was visiting a software company in Trivandrum. It is an eight year old organisation run by four friends (all in the 30s). Three of them had worked in other software companies and had quit the jobs to pursue their own dreams. The fourth member is a non-technical person who focuses on Business Development and Client Relations. They have around 60 employees, most of them techies, who are developing software products for clients located outside the country. They are smart and competent and the dozen or so customers that they have are happy. The Director – Technical said that for him qualifications did not matter so much, while recruiting new coders he chose people who loved coding and software development – they had to live and love software.

I was taken around the “shop floor” – the Director knew every project inside out and when we stopped at each workstation he provided an overview, following which I asked the team-member involved in that project a few more questions to understand their work better. I was doing this to understand the operations well and to think up ways to help them grow to the next level. My intention was to help them (the owners) see the possibility of releasing hitherto untapped potential and prompt a new spiral of growth.

Hearing the technical hands and their boss speak about their work with such intensity and passion charged me up too – it was a room buzzing with energy. Afterwards we settled down in the Conference Room and couple of other Directors joined the discussion.

Most of the projects they took on involved development of new software products to execute specific set of tasks for the client. They were not doing any maintenance or service. It was new product development that excited the owners. When I asked the Technical Director, the one who had shown me around, why they were not approaching clients in India he replied that it would mean a lot more hassles such as negotiations and probably having to drop prices. He added that it would also need a lot of discussion with the non-technical role-holders such as Business Head and Finance Head. He said they were comfortable doing projects that could be decided by the Technical Heads. I am sure the decision-making in the client organisation is far different from how he had figured it out.

After this conversation I had a separate chat with the Director – Business Development. He said that most of the present clients had come on board based on reference from a previous customer. The organisation had managed to carve a niche for itself thanks to the quality of work don earlier. He said that the former client did half the selling for them. They had clear-cut SLAs for all projects that were then broken into smaller chunks and progress on each was then reviewed on a weekly basis. The coders were in direct touch with the mapped employees in the client account and there was very little lag in their response to emergencies. There were weekly teleconferences to iron out differences and to set targets. The Director – Business Development was categorical that a lot of effort was taken to keep the clients happy.

All of the above looked like Soft Skills to me – not just Core Technical Skills – there was communication, negotiation, service and support, interpersonal skills and team-work in action. I guess it was happening so seamlessly that nobody noticed, particularly the people on the technical side, who thought that their knowledge of software is enough to win the deal.

I believe very strongly that no matter how good one is in the functional or hard skills, soft skills are indispensable when it comes to dealing with people at any level.

If business was about cold technical or functional skills then there would be no need to network, play golf with clients or wine and dine them– you just need to submit proposals and the client would decide on merit. This can’t be farther from the truth because even decision-making is subjective and dependent on emotions – most business decisions involve a significant component of likes, dislikes and prejudices.

Which brings me back to the comment made by Kailash – Yes, Technical Expertise / Skills have a huge role to play in winning the organisation new business and to retain customers – but unless the customer receives the necessary evidence first and support later on they will not have the confidence to remain with the service provider / vendor. If communication is poor and the response to queries/complaints indifferent then there is good chance that the customer is sticking on because there is no other option – and the moment they find an alternative they would walk out on you.

No matter how good the product or the services unless it is backed up with proper Communication, Service and Support chances of building lasting and stable relationships are pretty low.

So don’t risk losing a big opportunity, or don’t antagonize a big client, by relying just on the product to win you business – you are dealing with human beings. They need pampering, cajoling, praising, supporting … a huge dose of old world stuff is needed even to sell new technology.

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