Did u send the elevator back down?

If you are lucky enough to do well, it is your responsibility to send the elevator back down – Kevin Spacey

Such a simple and powerful thought yet tough to implement. There is data that tells us that half the world’s wealth now is in the hands of just 1% of the population. Success is not just about being the wealthiest but look at the other statistics like the fact that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months (report by Bloomberg). A whopping 80% crash and burn. It is getting tougher to succeed today in-spite of the fact that entry barriers in a lot of businesses have lowered. So if you are in the percentage that succeeds it should be responsibility to share the best practices and mentor others too.

The reason I love the Kevin Spacey quote I started with is cause it typically does exemplify our behaviour. How often have u had to wait for the elevator to come down from the floor where the last rider may have gotten off? Am sure a lot of us haven’t even given this a second thought. Also most often we are always in the hurry to get somewhere ourselves and at that moment we are so occupied with our own destination that we don’t pause to worry about others.

As succesful people the best way to give back to the ones around you is to support them to succeed. Look around you today and you would notice a surge in consulting and coaching businesses cause we all need someone who can share best practices and be a sounding board for tough work decisions. What if we could together build an ethos of support and collaboration so we can all grow together. It would require to operate from an abundance mentality and to know that the size of the pie grows as most people succeed and not the other way around.

The best mentoring can happen by someone who has walked the path himself or herself. So lets agree to make a conscious effort to support all around us so we can grow together.

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

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Learn to learn

We have always designed systems to solve particular problems. Our education system was designed to solve the problem of availability of mass skills required during the industrial revolution. We needed people from different streams doing specific job roles. Our growth was linear, start from the bottom as a worker, become better at your job, then manage a team, then a department and then maybe profit centre. For a while this system worked really well, cause the industries grew and so did the need for skills.

Somewhere few years ago this started to change cause we evolved in to an information era and technology changed the way we did things. However our system still remained the same ! Could this be the reason today we have an increased drop out rate? The problem we needed to solve with our education system has changed so the system also needs to change. The skills we need to do our jobs today gets outdated / updated every few years. So going to school for 14 years may give you a foundation but not necessary a skill relevant in times today. We are seeing varying patterns emerge even in our work structures. Some people do well cause they have the ability to identify the patterns and use the skills accordingly – our STEM students doing well in finance and analytics not because they know science but cause their thinking is trained to be logical and strategic.

Todays problem possibly is the learning to learn as an ability. Cause the skills we need are so fast evolving that even to do the same job today your skills required are different over a period of time. Take for e.g.. Sales (since it’s the one I know best) – earlier any one who could easily build relationships with strangers and had the gift of the gab could sell. Then we started to build vertical wise specialisation as the sales role evolved from managing a transaction to being an advocate / consultant to the customer. Today a big part of a sales professionals role is analytics using technology, identifying trends and proactively engaging customers to co create mutually aligned conversations. Just knowing how to talk is not enough – its now about a customer focussed engagement, its using technology tools to know more and stay ahead in the game.

So how is your ability to learn? This is our current problem cause we gave up reading to watching, we broke down large chunks of content into bite size pieces yet everyday I engage with people who feel their education is not relevant to what they are doing today.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler was so right in saying this. How do we then build an ecosystem that allows people to un learn and relearn too? This is the environment organisations of today need to provide. From learning a language to learning calligraphy the skills need to get modular and personalised rather than following streams. We need to be open to learning at every age and every stage of our careers and life.

Learn to learn before you lose relevance !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Kill It!

Recent times with technology as a disruptor we have seen many businesses become a part of our lives that didn’t exist a decade ago. It seems like overnight they sneaked into our worlds and now we can’t even imagine life without them. So are the new businesses killing the old world traditional ones? But to think of it…

Amazon did not kill the retail industry. It did it to itself with bad customer service.

Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. They did it to themselves with ridiculous late fees.

Uber did not kill the taxi business. They did it to themselves with limited the number of taxis and fare control.

Apple did not kill the music industry. It did it to itself by forcing people to buy full-length albums.

Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry. It did it to itself with limited availability and pricing options.

Technology by itself is not the real disruptor.

Being non-customer centric is the biggest threat to any business…

“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better.” this quote from Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin so resonates with what is happening. If instead of solving a problem the business itself becomes a part of the problem its time to kill it and for sure someone will. Some businesses have proactively invested in building new business models even with the threat of cannibalising their own current revenue streams a good example would be Adobe who has had a comeback by adopting the SaaS model. While on the other hand Kodak literally went bankrupt trying to save their photo paper business and not adopting the digital camera when we as customers were struggling with 36 prints after each roll clicked.

While focussing on the short-term the current business may keep you busy, however if the customers are constantly asking you to be flexible and are seeking personalization or customisation your business may be at the brink of disruption. This time competition is no more the known devil ! Apple pay is competition to Bank transactions and Apple is not even in the BFSI vertical. The current marketplace dynamics are possibly the best time to reevaluate your strengths and assess your gap areas. The best feedback comes from the customer. If you are too internal driven even if you have the best product / service / solution it may not guarantee success. Earlier we would sell and then deliver value to our clients in the execution / usage of the product / service / solution today the customer wants the value upfront, even before they decide to make the decision to buy.

“Customers may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” Go on then bring the customer to the core of your strategy and ask yourself how you made them feel. Invest in developing human intelligence around your strengths so you are able to leverage these in the face of new disruptions.

Remember – What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Us & Them = WE

From the beginning of civilisation we have categorised people between Us and Them. Us being the category the individual belongs to and then logically Them is everyone else. It started with the Royalty (us) and the countrymen (them) and expanded to the whites (us) and the blacks (them) and then to political divides of Democrats and Republicans (don’t know which one is the us and them in this e.g.). We also saw the industrial revolution bring this to organisations where the divide was between Management (Us) and Employees (them) and even White collar (us) and Blue collar (them).

This categorisation was well accepted and in fact the ones who didn’t accept it were called the rebels. There have been many definitions to create such divides between the “haves” and the “have-nots” on the basis of power, riches, religion, colour, caste and whatever could be utilised to create this categorisation. This worked cause we had linear thinking and often being logical was about thinking in a straight line. Also we never did have vastness of knowledge or any other stimulus coming to us like today so thinking linear worked.

Technology and globalisation have changed our worlds and taken us away from linear thinking to now thinking patterns. We now look for trends and use that knowledge to build our strategy. From linear bureaucratic systems we are now building matrix organisations. From the “Us vs Them” world we are moving to a collaborative culture that defines “We” that we long to be a part of.

Today with almost 4 generations of employees going to work many organisations are struggling to manage inclusiveness. The challenge also becomes larger cause beyond gender and races we are now connected by our thinking patterns. You may read this article sitting in any part of the globe and have a view-point on it and this platform gives you easy access to share your view and to find others who agree with your view. This is the power we are using to talk of global issues like climate change across the globe with our own insights.

Recently, I have noticed many organisations are embarking on transformation initiatives and many of them are driven by the need to build a “we” culture. It’s not Sales (Us) and operations (them) but its customer success teams (we). Its not Seller (Us) and buyer (them) but transformation project teams (we).

While on one hand we love personalization on the other hand we also want to be collaborative and this is weaving a new pattern of existence. Air BnB and Uber are examples of successful models that have emerged taking care of these two insights really well.

What are you doing to build this “we” culture around you?

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. – Yoko Ono

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

n = 1

Growing up few decades ago we were taught about segmentation and it was a great concept to put people into categories so we could manage our messaging to them. We had just moved from basics of just fulfilling demand by supply to understanding the needs and yes to understand needs we looked at categories – sometimes we looked at where do they stay – class A, what age group are they – 25 to 35, what gender are they – male / female, how much do they earn low income / middle income. Most often tailoring messaging to the segments worked for us in sales & marketing.

Even leaders managed their team basis segmentation. The bell curve was a handy tool to look at low, average and high performers. It also then made it easy to manage and plan development activities for these categories. Even in schools and universities there was an attempt to do segmentation on the basis of score you achieved – slow learners and high scorers got different attention.

One thing that technology has done today is to gift us Data. Even earlier we had data but was broader categories however now we have individual data being captured at different sources through different dimensions of our life. This is creating a big shift in expectations we have today, as customers, team members even growing up in the family.

This is where in the past in market research we always looked for how large was your group n = ? But now actually we are looking at n=1 ! Yes, we are all wanting and expecting personalisation.

From the same coffee machine having the option of serving a different flavour, cup size and even strength of coffee in each cup to advertising basis what behaviours did my online search predict, we are moving to the era of personalisation!

We often love to categorise this as a Millennial way of thinking and behaving and maybe many of us in other generations (like me) have also adopted the “Millennial behaviour” cause we all expect personalisation. When my Relationship Manager at the back cannot personalise their conversation with me or the store doesn’t carry my size and preference I don’t go back to them.

A lot of investments today and of the coming few years will be develop tools and frameworks which enable personalisation. Brian Kramer just wrote a book “There is no B2B or B2C. Human to Human: H2H. This could have not been more relevant ever than today. It is Human to human, its connecting at a personal level with each individual irrespective you need to work with one or twenty. As a leader each individual wants unique attention and has differing strengths that he brings to the team – dump the bellcurve. As a parent each child is unique in behaviour and aspirations.

There is power in Personalisation, but with power comes responsibility. The big one here is privacy ! How far can we go or should go so personalisation is not creepy? Even when we research for understanding people on the digital platform with so many platforms of LinkedIn and twitter to glassdoor and slack its important to draw an invisible line for privacy.

Personalisation does allow us to be predictive and proactive in our engagement however these are tools that should be used to nurture relationships and gain mind share and not used to sell transactions.

We do need to learn and unlearn to adopt the new power that is getting unleashed as we focus on n=1. We need to move away from customisation to personalisation !

Today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true. There is one alive, that is YOUER than you. – Dr.Suess

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Myth of Invincibility

Nothing fails like success ! Many have said it, time has proved it yet this insight refuses to humble us. Maybe its the blinding effect that success has that it takes a step or two to falter to realise that your were just dazzled.

A great example of this was visible at the Ind vs Pak match on Sunday. Last years Champions India, won their last match with Pakistan pretty easy. Was that the reason that it became so easy to lose this time. We all sat with bated breaths and the cussing words as each of our batsman returned to the pavilion with heads hanging down. Pakistan team displayed amazing skill, because they had nothing to lose. They did their best at batting, balling and fielding and walked out being champions.

Many a times we see this happen within organisations. I have heard sales leaders tell us, my boys have a chip on their shoulder cause we just signed one of our largest deals but our last quarter performance minus that deal could have been pitiful. We win some, we lose some however is this the effect of probability or is there a strategy to choose what we want to win and what we are okay to lose.

Is business being cyclic, we win one and then lose two? Then it could be the “Myth of Invincibility” at play. The brain wants to enjoy the glory of winning too long sometimes because of which it gives “Happy ears”. Even if the client is giving signals of not moving ahead we continue in the name of persistence rather than re-strategising. As per Neuroscience when we succeed at something, our brains release chemical rewards, the most important of which is the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical best known for the role it plays in addiction and drug use. While dopamine can be addictive, and makes you aggressive and confident over continuous winning it could also make you overconfident.

In my perspective the best way to handle this and to keep teams connected to reality is to continuously do win / loss analysis. Identify reason we win and reason we lose so that the team can consciously be aware of these. Feedback also is a powerful tool in these scenarios. Awareness of the fact that I may be euphoric too soon which is a red flag cause it may actually make me overlook small instances where I could have used my strengths.

Winners don’t do different things, they do them differently ! Keep winning but don’t get trapped by the Myth of Invincibility.

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

A dangerous Lie

Recently listening to Mark Zuckerberg at the Harvard commencement speech I had my Eureka moment on a comment he made. In fact it is kind of paradoxical that the comment was a complete opposite of the moment I experienced ! He said “The idea of a single Eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate because we feel we haven’t had ours yet and it prevents people with seeds of good ideas ever from getting started in the first place!

The more I lived with this comment the more it made me think about the impact of this insight. Its not that we haven’t heard this before, I remember reading this one of the Nolan Bushnell’s (founder of Atari) article where he said “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference“. Yet everyday we have a shower (I hope !), we have ideas (for sure) and we get out and forget about them even before we get to the breakfast table cause it didn’t have the background music with bubble on our head screaming “Eureka !

Look around and you realise most of the great organisations or business leaders we love and respect were not the ones that started with a “Eureka” but were the ones that needed persistence, perseverance and most of all conviction. Almost all of them got challenged and stood at the point of choice where there was an easy option and the one they believed in ! Life isn’t easy…no one ever told us that from Jesus to Mohammed to Ram to Budha. Its the quest of purpose that makes it worth it ! Yet, everyday we are waking up waiting for the one Eureka moment that would change our lives.

Everyday at work we have several ideas of doing things differently (read innovation) and then we let it slip in the name of culture. Oh ! This won’t work here. If I suggested this, no one would even buy in ! If I put this on the table, I will have to work on it as well, often without support !

We work specifically with Sales professionals and in every workshop I hear few of them come to me and say “ what if I proposed like this” or “what if I walked out of this deal” and I struggle to give them a standard response but for “it depends on you” or “go ahead try it, you have nothing to lose”.

I am going to sum this up with another insight from Mark Zuckerberg speech where he says “a change in the world that seems so clear that you are sure someone is going to do it”. You just don’t realise that someone could be you.

So lets stop waiting for the “Eureka” moment and build a participative ethos around us where we can find each other with our purpose and with persistence and conviction deliver extraordinary results !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Put a shark in your tank

There is an interesting old Japanese fable about how for the love of fresh fish of the Japanese, the fishermen went into the deep sea to get a fresh catch. With the growing demand and diminishing supplies the fishermen needed to go further into the sea which meant it took them longer to get back. They installed refrigerators in the boats to store the fish but the locals didn’t like the taste of refrigerated fish, so they then put in a tank in the boat where they would keep the catch till they got to the shore. As the tank would get cramped the fish would get dull and lifeless and still lose the freshness the Japanese wanted. Then came the idea of putting a baby shark in the tank. The shark would challenge the fish to move around and stay active hence retaining life. This has now become a practice and that’s where the thought of “put a shark in your tank” comes from.

Think now have you “Put a shark in your tank”? We love to find an easy way of doing things, create a formula that we feel would enable us to win and repetitively keep using it as our winning formula forcing us in our comfort zone. “This is what I am good at”, “This is my style”, “this works for me” can’t say how many times have heard these comments specifically by sales people during our engagements. Some may even blame the marketplace for non performance – my product is getting commoditised, we have too much competition, our customers only want to talk of price, we need new offerings !

Lets “put a shark in your tank” ! Challenge yourself in this new VUCA world to create new ways of working. With the advent of technology the platforms of engaging with the customers are changing. In fact the currency of relationship is also evolving. One big shift we have seen and has been substantiated by the research of CSO Insights as well is that adding value to the customer in the sales process has shifted. Earlier we would sell and then add value as part of the implementation of our product / service / solution. However now the customer expects us to add value in early engagement in the sales process. If you are unable to add value you may have very skim level engagement and never be able to gain mind share. Smarter buyers need smarter selling !

This is not only true for sales professionals but true for every dimension of life. When you stay challenged you stay alive and repetitive predictive tasks can make you dull and lifeless like the fish in the small tank. Todays era its not the most educated who succeed but the ones who have the ability to learn, unlearn and learn.

Put a shark in your tank and stay challenged !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Future of Sales – elevate your game!

Organisations don’t buy from organisations, people buy from people. This is a fact and will remain as long as we have people managing the buying decisions. However with the advent and now the take over by technology in most of the core processes of an organization we are witnessing a big change in the sales processes.

Information that was scarce and gave people the power and also the permission to enter into conversation with customers is now moving from analog to digital platforms. To get information about products services all I need to know are the keywords to search for and / or the key influencers to follow. So then what’s the role sales professionals now play in winning deals?

Recently I read an interesting article by Scott Hartley – “Robots Want Your Tasks, Not Your Jobs and it made me think how true is this. How much ever you can automate you can only automate repetitive, predictive tasks not the job of a sales professional unless that’s all they were doing. Don’t get me wrong but there are many sales people who do just that – we call them “courier boy” salespeople. Their role is to land up at the customer understand the requirement and submit a proposal (read:cut copy paste proposal). This for sure can be taken care by bots in the new world, cause artificial intelligence can be programmed to find the right fit !

So the only way sales professionals can make themselves irreplaceable is that they can elevate their game ! The roles of sales professionals is not just to understand requirements and submit proposals but to understand the marketplace trends, share perspectives, maybe even challenge current thinking, bring alignment in the buying influences wins and results, showcase the value (read ROI) of their offerings and most of all be proactive.

Technology and Big Data are great tools for sales professionals to be able to build new skill sets in selling. Using analytics coupled with the ability to join the dots you can enable your customers to Be Ready for the future in their business. Leveraging Big Data you can develop strong messaging for strategic conversations with the senior leaders. With the ability to predict coupled with best practices you can create though leadership rather than worry about lagging indicators.

The future of Sales is welcoming a new era of Social Selling, of innovation and collaboration of crowd funding ideas instead of organisations. Just the way learning to communicate in English was a key skill when we went global in our marketplace, being active on the digital platform will be the new literacy quotient.

Just like the elephants do, its time for us to now shed our old molars and make space for the new; it will require us to chew on rocks for a while but this will be our new survival guide.

Happy Selling !

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group

Vanity, Sanity and Reality

I had to become an entrepreneur to appreciate the importance of cash flow in business. Before I started, all I thought I heard from everyone was how critical it is to have a strategy to get Revenue and have the right operational practices to safeguard your margins. However managing to run a business for 6+ years I would agree with someone who said “Profit is an illusion, cashflow is fact”.

With this new awareness I have started to observe how organisations set up processes to manage this. Am surprised while cash flow is literally like blood flowing in your body not many organisations set up visible practices around managing it. In fact Cash flow velocity can determine the efficacy of processes and even be the really feed forward for strategy. A lot of times cash flow is left for the finance team to manage and the CFO to ensure however like many other KPIs this needs to be a KPI sitting in every dimension of the business.

Lets begin with Sales – the function that leads the conversation with the customers even before they become customers. We need to build sensitivity and clear processes around how the sales conversations can impact cash flows. Firstly, are we qualifying right? In today’s world it’s not about “Can I win?” but about “Should I win” cause sometimes its easy to get a deal but what is not easy is to get a profitable deal ! The second one, that impacts is our ability to negotiate and the sensitivity of knowing the criteria matrix. To use payment schedules and credit period as a part of the negotiations so there is clarity around these in the contract. The third, and possibly the final one for this discussion is the predictability of business. Funnel forecast accuracy is such a big impact on cash flow. If the business is committed for a specific time period but slips over, it impacts the cash flow big time. While organisations have started to monitor forecasts with a magnifying glass there is still a big gap in educating the sales teams as to how this impacts the business and the role they can play in getting this to be more effective.

It’s not only about sales but also about client services / implementation teams that impact cash flows. Many times delivery timelines stretch due to availability of resources not realising this would delay payments if they were tied to milestones and impact cash flows. I so agree with this quote from William Somerset Maugham “Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it.” We don’t live in a perfect world and slips may be something we can’t always avoid however its about the attitude we have to these that can make us more effective in managing our processes.

All the other enabling functions like HR, Legal, finance also play a critical role in managing this for the organisations. HR – getting the right people, in the right job, at the right time can impact cash flows too. It’s also about some of the other lesser discussed motivators like incentive policies, setting up KPIs all that impact the attitude towards the importance of cash flows. For legal and finance its about ensuring the contracts clearly spell this out and also being sensitive to TAT on delivering contracts and invoices that impact cash flows as well.

Many a times I use the analogy of blood in your body as an easy explanation of cash flow. You need to know good blood (positive cash flow) versus bad blood (negative cash flow) and also the pit stops of cash in your system to avoid diseases proactively. Is it delay in invoicing or ageing inventory, is it negotiation or collection practices, is it people issue or process re-engineering ?

Recently in a meeting Umang Gupta shared an interesting perspective on this and I quote “Topline is Vanity, Profit is Sanity and Cash is Reality!”

So stay Real, keep your cash flow managed well and business will prosper.

By

Priya Sachdev – Sales Director

Miller Heiman Group