What I learnt from Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk

March 23, 2013

Ask pic_sLong after I delivered my talk on “Psychology and Science of selling” various issues are still ringing in my head. While watching this Ted Talk by Amanda Palmer I could instantly connect it with the job of a sales person.

I didn’t know about Amanda Palmer till I watched the Ted Talks and then I briefly read about her.

Her Ted Talk about ‘The art of Asking’ took me back to my thoughts on ‘Psychology and Science of selling’.  I wanted to address the question on why people are afraid of selling, what are those fears and how can I help people become better at sales. Among the things that I had heard from people who are afraid of selling was this huge resistance to ‘asking something’ from people.

I could instantly connect with Amanda’s view that if we ask we get it. I realized how effectively she has leveraged crowdsourcing. How she is able to organize gigs in less than 24 hours ( read about it on her blog here) just by asking.

It is so important in sales role to be asking – asking for information, asking for purchase order, asking for referrals.  At the same time we have to approach it very confidently. We need to remove the notion that asking is akin to begging. We need to be clear that we are also giving something in return so it is absolutely fair – the point Amanda has highlighted in her experience with the family in Miami neighborhood. Same thing in sales cycle – as a sales person we are brining something valuable to the table and we are asking their money in return, so it is absolutely a fair thing to do.

I found people are more comfortable when they have this feeling of ‘giving’ (at least in Asian culture). We need to realized that sales is not just about asking we are also giving something in return but unless we ask we will not get an opportunity to ‘give’.

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Go Socially… Confidently

July 22, 2010

Lately I have been involved in helping companies leverage social networking tools for business development. It has been a nice experience of sharing what you learnt and what you practice to help others.

Straddling across so many tools – FB, Twitter, Orkut, Linkedin, Buzz etc –  becomes a daunting task. To update the status across each network and reply to people. When you are doing it for a business organisation, the challenges are even more. You have to be alert to look for mentions, references and respond accordingly. Today’s social media has a power to create positive or negative impact about your product and services within very short span of time.

Though there are some tools like (bit.ly, tinyurl etc) available that help you post your status across some of the networks simulteneously, those provide limited functionality. For a business it is important to monitor the response and get a sense of effectiveness of its efforts. You need more features such as :

1. Monitor number of responses to your news from each network – number of fans/ followers clicking from FB / Twitter / Buzz/ Linkedin etc This helps you to understand the effectiveness of the network. You can take corrective action or tweak your contents accordingly.

2. If your audience is spread across multiple timezones you need a tool to schedule your post at particular time intervals. For example on Twitter, when you tweet at a particular time, your followers may not be in a active mode in other timezone. When they get active after some time frame, your post might not appear on their timeline. You need to reach out to them in their timezone. That is why you need ability to schedule your post.

3. Auto Welcome message. If your business has more than 20 followers joining you everyday you, you need auto response to them else it becomes very time consuming activity

4. Many companies want to encourage their fans to discuss or post comments on its FB page or want them to re-tweet their posts. You would want to know most active fans/ followers per week or per day or per month.

5. You would want to see geographical spread of your fans / follower and number of visitors etc.

I have gone through few of such tools (there are many with some variations), but I found that what matters most is some one who can help you customise to your needs apart from offering the standard features. On that count I found this tool Go Socially to be best in its class. It is developed using open source components – PHP, MySql and hosted on Linux server. This company is promoted by very enthusiastic professionals who have returned to India after 8-10 years of working in USA. I am noticing this trend of professionals coming back to India after good experience and setting up own businesses. It is very encouraging. The team of Go Socially brings professional approach, global experience and understand the local needs – making their offering very competitive.

I liked their positioning of the tool – “You go where the consumers are, instead of waiting for them to come to you”

They have a one month trial subscription as well if you want to try it out first.

So now you can embrace the social networking tools for your business more confidently and can feel its effectiveness.


That 1st presentation… 1st pitch

June 9, 2010

While pitching to the investors one has to address many things, lets see what are the key elements of the pitch that investor is listening for the first time from you.

Even before you pick up any tool to start making the presentation, you have to prepare the outline in your mind or on paper. It should address the following elements :

1. Who is the audience. Most often a standard product presentation is given to the investors, users and well-wishers. How is that going to help to create interest. As a creator / entrepreneur you have reasons to love your creation, but why others should love it and pay attention to its features and functions. Each audience has different interest. Hence your pitch has to be different for each of them

2. Second thing that you should ask yourself – what do you want to achieve after this presentation. As Jerry Weissman, in his book “Presenting to Win” says that you should be ready to take the audience from Point A to Point B.

This is just the initial preparation. Lets talk about these two points in more details from Entrepreneur pitching to Investors perspective.

Fine-tunning the pitch to the audience :

It is important to note what would be the interest of the investors. Most often the entrepreneurs do the product presentation. They think, if I love this product so much, others would also do. Not true. Investors are putting in money and they are interested in return on their money. They would look for :

Are you solving any problem, is it a big problem, would it address large enough market size and how well are you in a position to address the market.

More often entrepreneurs shy away from saying what is the key problem they are trying to solve. They start with market size, market opportunity – but most  of the time investors know about the market, because they have sat through hundreds of such pitches and updated fairly well – unless it is a very niche market you are addressing.

To give an example – there are lot of products / offering people want to bring to market to tap into the growing use of smartphones using location based services. Most investors, by this time, know the impact of smartphones accessing internet in terms of number of smartphones being sold, use of social media sites through smartphones etc. What is of their interest is what problem are you trying to solve in this space.

The best way to articulate the problem is story telling. Tell a story of a typical user and highlight what limitations he / she has, how it is not being addressed, how through your offering if you solve this problem he/she going to be so happy that he/she would be ready to pay.

You can make the storyline quite engaging by use of audio-visuals, nice pictures etc. The simpler the better.

What do I want to achieve after this presentation – End in Mind

Once you have created this outline, that what do you want to tell to whom, then you have to ask the next question, what do I want to achieve after this presentation.This is similar to ‘End in Mind’ thinking as highlighted in Stephen Covey’s book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective people’

Though, your ultimate objective is to get funding from the investors, you are not going to achieve that in first step. Your first step should be (more often) to get him /her interested in you, your offering. He / she is not going to cut a cheque after first presentation.There are going to be series of talks / meetings, exchange of information before you get the money in your bank. So your first presentation should be to really make him/her say :

“wow, lets talk more”

Wow, it was great, lets see how much money you need”

Wow, this is interesting, this is a real opportunity and we are impressed with your understanding and energy”

Now, he/she may not say all of the above adjectives publicly, but if you get a 2nd meeting with positive impact on the investor’s mind to cut a cheque, you have achieved the objective of 1st presentation.

Then of course there more factors that you have take into consideration while presenting – such as style, energy, timing etc. We would see those as we go.


Startups pitching – what went wrong at echelon2010

June 2, 2010

I was attending the echelon2010 event yesterday. An excellent event, great speakers and wonderful audience. Greate place to be in if you are a start up company, entrepreneur, want to understand what entrepreneurship is all about, meet up with potential investors and mentors.

The last session of the day was pitching by the startups which was judged by the panel of experts. This is an excellent opportunity for startups to get feedback and pitch their company/ products to potential investors. There were 12+ startups who presented but only one of them stood out (foound) and received positive attention from audience and judges.

Other 11 failed to impress, not because none of them had good idea or good product but simply it was a matter of lack of proper communication and presentation. There were lot of comments on twitter ( #echelon2010) about reasons. Dave Mcclure who has become darling of the audience and other panellists were trying to coach the presenters, beside judging them.

In my opinion the number one reason was that these companies failed to define for whom were they presenting the solution. What did they want to achieve after the pitching.

I felt that they were confused if they were presenting to investors for money or they were presenting to potential buyers of their offering or they were presenting to fellow geeks. Your contents, pitch all depend on this factor. If you don’t get this very first thing right, then you are not going anywhere. Then you need to follow other presentation techniques as well.

I was feeling like going out and spending some time with the startups to help them get their pitch right. I would be happy to do so today, if any of the today’s start-ups want some help.


Powerful selling lessons from ordinary people

February 3, 2010

It was year 1990. I was new in the city of Mumbai, was travelling in a 3 wheeler Auto Rikshaw with my fiance’. The rikshaw stopped at the busy junction and all of a sudden, popped in a dark face from the open side, with coarse voice and typical sound of clap and hand in from of my face. I was terrified but realised what was happening. The street eunuch was asking for or rather demanding money. Sitting with your fiance, in a Auto Rikshaw, which is not moving now, you are faced with intimidation of big, huge eunuch, you have no option but to give the money to buy peace of mind and time with your beloved.

This is a common scene for all the those living in Mumbai or visiting Mumbi often. Over a period of time I learnt the art of not giving in to these tactics and also learnt to communicate with these eunuch as normal person.

But I learnt 2 important lessons for my sales profession.

1. Prospecting : Usually the time windows available to beg / get money is 30 to 60 seconds, depending upon the traffic jam and traffic signal. If you observe carefully they don’t waste time with those whom they find are “hardened” Mumbaikar. They know what to look for in the prospect. They scan you in quick 5 seconds and decide to pursue the matter or move to next one. They are usally right about selection of the prospects and don’t waste time with others. This is how they improve their closure rate (so to say in sales language). From my observation the key characteristics they look for in the prospects are : Unmarried couple, just married couples, visitor in Mumbai from other part of India, religious oriented man, single lady, foreigners.

2. Delivering elevator pitch and closing the deal : In next 25 seconds are so they need to deliver the message that would fetch them money (close the deal). Depending upon type of prospect, they chose the right language ( give blessings or put a fear of curse) and straight away ask for money. Even here, they specify the amount which means helping the prospect to take decision quickly.

No one has given them sales skills training, it is the hardship of life that forces them learn quickly or they would starve.

At Ashnik, we help you equip yourself with the right skills, processes and methodologies to be successful in your sales career and help companies to grow their business. We are an exclusive partner of Adventace, a global sales change-management firm specializing in helping sales operations Create the High Performance Sales Environment® (HPSE) through an integrated, metric-driven set of products and services, in ASEAN and India region


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