All in Sales

Travel Is A Hygiene Factor

A common question when I’m discussing what I do for a living is whether there’s much travel involved. My answer is always that, yes, there’s a moderate amount of travel involved. 

Of course, the term “moderate” means different things to different people. There are those who feel being on the road once a month for a couple of days is a lot. And then there are folks( in consulting, for example) who get on a plane week in, week out, flying out on Monday AM and flying home Thursday or Friday PM. 

When Having Too Much Money Is A Bad Thing

The recent WeWork debacle is an incredible business story that MBA students will be dissecting and analyzing for years to come. 

How could a company that was expecting one of the richest, most high profile IPOs of recent times now be on the verge of bankruptcy - in barely a couple of months?

It seemed to have all the ingredients you’d want - a flamboyant founder who would often walk around Manhattan barefoot, a lofty mission about elevating our consciousness, a truly differentiated product offering and marketing buzz that the most storied brands would kill for. 

“...Until You Get Punched In The Face...”

There are two types of people in the world: those who plan and those who don’t. 

And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that those who plan are more successful than those who don’t. 

Of course, just because you plan, doesn’t mean everything will go your way. Reality has a funny way of doing things that don’t align with our best laid plans. 

It Doesn't Matter What You Think

Perceptions are everything.

If someone believes something to be true, it almost doesn’t matter what the data says. The most reasoned arguments and the most robust set of facts will pale in comparison to their beliefs, values and worldview. 

And as a marketer or salesperson reaching out to current and potential customers, it certainly doesn’t matter what you think. It only matters what they think, how they perceive the facts.

Rethinking The Idea of Competition

Our natural reflex, when we’re evaluating a market, is to think of competition as being a negative factor. If there is a plethora of companies already operating in a given space, fighting it out for share, our immediate assumption is that this market is “taken” or that adding another player into the mix is a dumb idea.

This might be the case, but then again, it might not.

Sometimes The Problem With Our Message Is Us

In my last post, I talked about the importance of simplicity and authenticity in our messaging. Complex, obtuse and, worse, overly clever messaging does a disservice to the point we’re trying to make. And most of the time, it detracts from getting that point across.

Sometimes, though, this just seems impossible. We struggle with distilling the key takeaways or the so-whats. What keeps emerging is far longer and more involved than what feels right.

Regrets, I've Had A Few...

Very early on in my career, I went to meet a senior executive at one of the fastest growing entertainment companies in Asia.

At the time, I was a Marketing Executive in the Consumer Goods space and, while the work was interesting, I wanted to explore what else was out there, especially in this exciting new area that was taking Asia (I lived in Hong Kong at the time) by storm.

Be The Guide - Not The Victim

Donald Miller is an author and businessman who helps organizations tell better stories. His message is that, in a business world that’s full of noise and clutter, the only way to cut through is to tell stories and engage your audience - in any type of setting.

One of his key themes is that there are really 4 key roles you can play in any story - hero, villain, guide or victim.

Learn The Script - Then Forget It

In any pitch - whether it’s to make a sale, get a job, get a promotion, or fund an initiative - the story you tell is all-important. It has to inform, educate and (many times) entertain and inspire the audience, so that they ultimately say yes, and agree to whatever your “ask” is.

So how you craft that story is absolutely critical. From the key themes, to the overall flow/structure, to the specific messages/story points, to the facts and anecdotes that illustrate those messages, it’s essential to flesh out all of those elements.

Engage And Entertain (Or It's Always Better to Pull Than Push)

The advent of recording technology (from the cassette tape to the VCR to the current digital formats) as well as the ability to access audio-visual entertainment on demand has allowed us to do the one thing that marketers hate:

Skip their ads.

For the most part, you don’t have to sit through a 15, 30 or 60 second ad just to get to the content you’re actually there for. You just hit the forward button and presto! No marketing message, no advertiser trying to sell you something.

It’s Personal, Not Personalized

There’s a difference between “personal” and “personalized”. 

In an age where Marketers are working to find ways to make their messages more customized, more tailored, more specific to who we are, there’s still a marked difference between the two. Just because that email is addressed to you, or there’s a special offer made on your birthday, doesn’t actually make it personal. It’s simply programmed to appear that way.  

You Won't Change The World By Cutting Costs

Strategy is an interesting topic.

You and I can be working in similar areas of management. We can have gone through the same set of experiences in our time at our organization. We can even have a similar view of what defines success in our chosen markets. Yet we can have markedly different perspectives as to what approach it will take to get there. And that’s perfectly normal - in fact, it’s almost always a good thing.

When It's Too Soon To Quit...

In my last post, I talked about the thought process we (should) go through when deciding if it’s time to quit what we’re doing.

While there were multiple idea threads that inspired that post, one of them was an article by Mariam Naficy, the Founder and CEO of Minted, an online design marketplace. In that article, Mariam talked about how she raised a small seed round from friends and family and then launched the business, originally intending it to be a lifestyle business. And then:

How Do You Measure Success?

We’re in a business environment that, for the most part, is fixated on growth. One that values year over year, double and triple digit revenue increases as absolutely essential to being considered a “successful” company, to not be considered a failure.

In particular, if the organization is funded, that’s almost always a base level expectation. You aren’t being funded to simply create a going concern, you’ve been given a charter to create something transformative, huge, the next proverbial unicorn. (The more prominent the funders, the more prominent this expectation becomes.)

There's Always Room For Value (Part 2 - Competition)

In my last post, I talked about how there’s always room for value when deciding to enter a market and that the key is in defining that value in a way that matters to the customer, and is profitable for you.

In this post, I’ll discuss the idea of competition and how defining who you compete with, as well as how they go to market, can and should influence your decision to play within a specific space.

Now, our initial tendency as we evaluate a specific market will be to consider the most obvious competitor in that space. This is our direct competition, and they are always the ones with the biggest brand, revenues, mindshare.

Own The Message

Back in my early consulting days, I was asked to give a presentation to a prospective client and was handed a deck to present. My instructions were to go through the material, get comfortable with the content and then do a run-through with the partner with whom I’d be doing the pitch.

The content was right in my sweet spot, so I was pretty comfortable with the key messages that we needed to get across. But some of the material in the deck didn’t sit well with me.

I’m Not Him

A small portion of the folks who follow me on Twitter think I’m Omar Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. I know this because every so often they’ll Direct Message me with news about developments in Kashmir (usually holding me accountable for it), or they’ll post an article about some Kashmir related issue and tag me along with the Prime Minister of India and other senior South Asian politicians.

It doesn’t happen a lot but it’s happened enough that I posted a PSA in Twitter that I wasn’t him and if you were following me for my views on Kashmir, you’d be sorely disappointed.

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.