All posts by Vikram Kohli

Book Review: ‘Sell’ By Subroto Bagchi

“To sell is human”. But I used to hate sales and sales guys; because their commitments to customers have caused me and my team spend days and nights in the office working like crazy. Now learning and doing sales myself, I understand the importance of this profession and what it is NOT about.And what sales guys in my previous organizations were missing in their approach. And what we need to improve as a team on the sales front at qilo.

Copywriters Hachette, India
Copywriters Hachette, India

Read this book, if you are able to correlate with my challenges.

Who should read this book: The book will help people who want to improve their understanding of the B2B sales, specifically about technology B2B sales. This book will be more beneficial if you have been involved in sales function from few months, but looking for understanding it more from the perspective of

  • How to improve your prospecting, funnel management and sales process,
  • Importance of consultative approach in B2B sales,
  • EQ management in sales,
  • Impact of your company culture on your sales.

This book is not for: This book is not for people who are specifically looking for a manual or how-to guide on understanding and improving your sales process. But then you only need nuggets from the master like Subroto to tell you what is going wrong in your sales process or what you are missing in your approach.

My learning from this book:-

  • Best sales people never give-up on follow-up’s & having conversations. And in you are an introvert like me and lacks the ability to have conversations, you will have a tough time initially in the sales job. Read a-lot on different topics, about your prospect and what’s happening in the world in general. And slowly you may learn the art of sales.
  • Don’t take rejections at heart. You will get plenty of that in your sales life.
  • Your funnel size decides your conversion rates.
  • As a salesperson, you need to be good at understanding people and what makes them successful.
  • The best line of the book is “The prospecting process has changed. Your future customers are already doing prospecting about you and your company“. Read the book to understand this in detail.
  • There is a thin line between selling and helping the customer find a solution. The minute you sell, your prospect goes to the shell of not sharing their problems and challenges. People like to buy the things rather than being sold the things.
  • Be yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Customers want to buy from people who are genuine and comfortable being themselves.
  • The best read is when Subroto shares story “The Naked Burger” when he attended the Apple sales conference. I will buy this book again just to read this chapter.
  • Never ever lose hope while making a deal. But you should have a strong belief in your product and its value, if you don’t have, don’t sell it.
  • We may be living in a digital world with bots and AI, but people still buy from people. Simply quoting data and facts will not appeal to your customer. Humans are beings. Connect to a being to allow your customer to open up. Best line “Authenticity is in short; hence in demand”.
  • Another gem in this book is this chapter “DO IT LIKE SWEDES”. It talks about how progressive companies around the world are embracing the different set of behaviours to influence their organizational culture. Customers want to buy products & services with a certain culture at its core.
  • To build a successful profitable organization, it’s not enough to win few wars (customers). You have to do it for many years to come without excreting yourself. A successful salesperson learns to be effortless by planning well, choosing their turf wisely and prepare themselves to play a long game.

There are only few books on B2B technology sales. And specifically from those who have done sales, and that too large deal sales. It’s definitely worth a read without much heavy weight jargon.

Blitzscaling 15: Diane Greene of VMware on Scaling Product & Culture

This is my 12th  blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling. Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

The previous blog related to Blitzscaling is here.

Diane Greene was a founder and the CEO of VMware from 1998 until 2008. Currently is senior vice president for Google’s cloud businesses. VMWare was the pioneer and the first successful company to provide software that can enhance the utilization of computer resources, called Virtualization.

  1. Organization culture is important when you scale your organization. And people whom you hire should be aligned with the organization culture.
  2. Help your people to leave if they are not culturally fit for your company. One way to check that is giving them the opportunity to be part of critical conversations early on and see if they are able to match with energies of people
  3. Hire ex-military people if you like them, as they are far more disciplined in their approach towards work
  4. How to bring discipline and reduce chaos in teams: Ask each team members of yours to share what’s going on in their teams by Sunday night. And as a manager, highlight what is important, collate all the notes and share it with everyone in the team.
  5. You can share the same notes with new hires so that they come to know what kind of things are going on in the team.
  6.  It is founder and leadership responsibility to put up a plan on how the team and individuals in the company should communicate with each other.
  7. When establishing your partner network, the strategy is NOT to give special preference to any one of them.
  8. If your salespeople are not giving results, its either you have a bad product market fit or your salespeople are NOT able to perform or messaging is NOT right.
  9. If you have a complex technical product to sell, put a team of 3 people in sales chasing same numbers. These 3 guys will be:
    1.  A guy, who is trying to sell product on phone
    2. A guy who is going & meeting clients and explaining things to customers from technical perspective(also called as solution’s guy)
    3.  And the third guy, who will be closing the deal. All these 3 guys should be chasing the same numbers.
  10. Establishing a partner network will act as your another direct sales channel, but make sure you have a win-win model with them. At VMWare, channel sales partners which are hardware vendors like HP & Bell, every VMware solution they sold, it leads to more hardware sales for extra storage and extra servers.
  11. To create a high-performance culture, hire people who are self-driven at all the levels in all the roles. Self-driven people who set high-expectations from themselves have high expectations from their team too.
  12. Appreciate the behaviors showcased by employees which as a founder you want them to display
  13. An advantage of under promise and overdeliver is not just it gives customers WOW, but also you decide your own pace.
  14. Best advice: “As CEO’s you never overcommunicate”

Practical guide to identify and establish your organization culture

ROI of establishing a unique organizational culture is equal to ROI of gaining the intellectual capital. Think of it as you are able to discover a life-saving drug and you can capitalize on that for next 20 years.

The biggest problem is the understanding of what makes a culture. Culture is not about fun Friday’s, yoga sessions and allowing unlimited holidays.Here are the 7 recommendations that can enable you to identify and establish your organization culture.

1. Identify your core: this means answering questions like

  • What you want your customer to achieve?
  • What are the means of achieving your core?
  • What should be the outcome of achievement?

qilo coreCredits: balsamiq

We keep answering these questions within our team as we are evolving. I always thought and confused this exercise with “marketing”. It’s Vipul in our team who is always able to identify and guide us internally on identifying the core.“Identifying your core” will help you to define your purpose, short term & long term priorities.

2. Identify the habits and behaviors that will help you to achieve your core, short term & long term priorities. Identifying behaviors and habits is not an easy part. And there is no standard steps or process for this. But if you have answered the questions stated in “Identifying your core”, it will also help you to come up with those behaviors. You have to keep your customers in the center while identifying your expected behaviors.

3.Communication about your core and expected behaviors: Once you have identified your core and behaviors or on the path of identifying it, you have to communicate this with every single person in your company. You want people to inculcate those behaviors while they are achieving your organization priorities and while they are working in teams.At qilo, we are able to articulate in well after 2 year of our journey.

qilo values

4.Recognize your people when they showcase those behaviors: Once you have identified those behaviors, it’s imperative to recognize those people who showcase those behaviors. And do not link it with incentives, gift cards or bounce. Recognizing people is different from identifying an employee of the month because here frequency should not be the criteria. And make sure that the recognition is visible to the entire organization so that it can influence others on showcasing those behaviors

5.Keep evolving your core and expected behaviors: Nothing is constant in this world, not even your core and expected behaviors. They need to be evolved or changed based on the competitive landscape.

6.Define process on how your employees are evaluated: The way you evaluate your people is the way they will perform. Giving performance review is a very complicated and difficult business. And managers don’t do an especially good job at it. The fundamental purpose of performance reviews is to improve the person performance in future. The review process also represents the leadership thinking. Current practices of performance reviews are discovered in industrial age, its not apt for this digital age

7.Share customer feedback (bad for sure) and success stories constantly: Customers are the reasons your organization is surviving. What she thinks, feel and experience should be far more important than anything else. The feedback they are giving should not be just restricted to your customer facing team, but to people at large. It’s your customers who will at the end enable you to evolve you on your core, your expected behaviors from people, internal communication and how people are evaluated.

The concluding note: To identify and improve your culture, you have to think beyond chasing numbers and doing daily transactions. For a while get out of it and spend some time on this. Defining, evolving and fixing culture has helped many companies accelerate the growth, beat the competition and gain more market share. It’s not a theory and it works.

Are you game?

Getting ready for your purpose

Do you believe that universe orchestrates incidents to get answers for questions that matter to you? I never believed in this till recently. In the last 2 months, series of incidents has happened which provided clarification to the question that matters to me: “Is purpose really required in life?”. I am sharing 4 such situations from the series of them.

I was watching a session by Shishir Mehrotra on scaling YouTube and 10 things that matter when you are scaling up. He mentioned about the importance of purpose and suggested to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

Screenshot_1

The central theme of the book is about how to unlock your intrinsic motivation through Purpose, Autonomy, and Mastery. As per Daniel “Humans, by their true nature, seek purpose- A cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” The book has done its job of helping in identify what motivates people and what will motivate people in future to achieve extraordinary results. But my conclusion about purpose was still like “It sounds good like mission and vision statements which companies put on their websites, but does it really works in real work?” My understanding & belief till recently was: Your purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life.

Another incident happened when  I recently visited the upper Himalayas area “Lahaul and Spiti”.This part of the Himalayas is NOT much populated and also crowded by tourist. We took a road trip from Keylong to Baralacha pass. Balaracha pass also connects  “Lahaul and Spiti” valley with Leh and Ladakh. It was mesmerizing and the connectedness which I felt with the mother-nature & the entire cosmos lead tears in my eyes. At the same time, I was realizing that what we humans have done to this beautiful place, called earth, because of our never ending greed.

IMG_20170607_184631221_HDR

While moving from one mountain valley to another, and looking at the size of mountains, the torrent of rivers and scenic beauty, why the hell someone will even be bothered about purpose. You and your size don’t even matter here.

Back to the office from the Himalayas, I have put in purpose at back burner & was back at work. And then Arun and Vipul(other co-founders a qilo) insisted me to join them in a leadership workshop at Bangalore. And I was like, what impact will another leadership program make? But then, I have to surrender against the students inside me. And the worst case scenario of  4 days program will be we end up spending more time with each other if the program doesn’t turn up to expectations.  I submitted the fee and was ready to attend the program.

While on my way to Bangalore, I meet Virender, the taxi driver who dropped me at the airport. Virender also works part-time for an NGO where he helps in rescuing girls who are forced into prostitution at GB road(a red-light area in Delhi).

IMG_20170707_135931275

The kind of details he shared with me was spine chilling. Few details which he shared with me : 70% of young girls and women are forced into prostitution, they sleep just 3 hours on daily basis and they serve on an average 105 to 140 customers per week or higher,  are enough for anyone to think, Are we really evolving as a society? And the problems we face at the professional or personal front of life are far smaller that problems faced by many people out there in this world. I landed at Banglore with a heavy heart. And with lots of thoughts on how things can improve in this world, and my never ending quest of “Is purpose really required in life?”

Program “Mission Impossible(MI) Leaders“ started at 8 in the morning.The first question asked on the first day and within the first-hour was “Who all want to identify the purpose of your life?” Dear Mr. Purpose, you are back again in my life within 12 hours. I answered to facilitator “Is purpose really required in the life? I think purpose keeps changing based on the stage of your life”.

Facilitator smiled and replied back “But do you really want one?” I questioned myself “Are you really open to getting one?”

Next 4 days of the program was very tiring: physically, mentally and emotionally.  MI leaders program turned up as NOT just any regular leadership program where you will learn some key leadership skills. It provided much-needed clarity on my quest to get an answer for “Is purpose really required in life?”

Your purpose of life cannot be limited to yourself. Most of us keep putting our priorities in life as our purpose. Do you really think the purpose of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Henry Ford, Mother Teresa, J.R.D Tata, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandella, Thomas Edison and many others like them are limited to themselves? Your purpose is your means to feel connected to this universe.And it will push you every morning to do good for every species on this earth.

Next time when you are listening to any talk on YouTube or TEDx, or visiting a place where you feel connected with nature or meeting your Virender, consider that you are getting prepared for your purpose.

So have you found your purpose? If not, it’s worth an effort to find one.

Summary of Learnings

  • The priorities in your life are NOT equal to your purpose of life. Don’t mix them up.
  • Your purpose is your means to get connected with the universe at large and live a more meaningful life. If it’s limited to you, it’s not a purpose.
  • This world is driven by unreasonable people. Your competencies and capabilities will not help you being unreasonable, but your purpose will.
  • Once you find your purpose, is it 100% that you will be able to achieve it? Doubt is good.

Blitzscaling 13: Shishir Mehrotra on Scaling YouTube and The 10 Things That Matter

This is my eleventh blog on the notes and my interpretations on the Blitzscaling sessions. In the fall of 2015, Reid Hoffman began taking session called Technology-Enabled Blitzscaling at Stanford University.Blitzscaling is what you do when you need to grow really, really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal of becoming the first mover at scale. And its also about why organization culture is important for Blitzscaling Because when you’re growing an organization very fast, you have to make people accountable to each other on a horizontal or peer-to-peer basis, and not just vertically and top-down through the hierarchy.

Session 2 notes can be found here. Session 3 notes can be found here. Session 4 notes can be found here.Session 5 notes can be found here.Session 6 I haven’t covered. Session 7 notes can be found here. Session 8 notes can be found here. Session 9 notes can be found here. Session 10 notes here.  Session 11 notes here. Session 12 notes are here

In session 13,  Shishir Mehrotra, who helped guide YouTube through hyper growth shared 10 things that matter when you scale your early stage organization.

10things that matter

  1. Tailwind is an aviation industry term which means wind pushing the aircraft from its back; resulting in the higher speed of aircraft; opposite of tailwind is “headwind”, which means air is pushing the aircraft from its front, resulting in the slower speed. When applying this term to start-up world; “tailwind” means your start-up is or will be riding an existing wave of change, for example:-early stage businesses working in renewable energy which we taking advantage of society becoming sensitive about the environment.  “Highwind” means your start-up is or will be moving against a reluctance towards a change. for example:- Cloud based businesses 10 years ago was struggling to prove their point to CIO’s that cloud based hosting is way cheaper that on-premise server hosting. Success doesn’t matter whether your early stage business is tailwind or headwind. But being in tailwind, you can avoid many mistakes which headwind start-up businesses has done in past.
  2.  Purpose is one of the core dimensions that motivates people to do what they do. Mastery and autonomy are the other two dimensions. Purpose means connect what you do and why you do it. If you don’t communicate about your purpose, people will keep doing the transactions, which will never lead to WOW for your customers.
  3. Thesis matters means you have to focus on core & simple insights of your domain. Discovering those simple insights is going to take hell lot of time.
  4. Deciding which metrics to measure is very important. At Coca-Cola rather than measuring their market share vs Pepsi, someone at Coca-Cola suggested measuring Coca-Cola share in customer’s stomach. That measure resulted in Coca-Cola investing in packaged food products & drinking water. At YouTube, Shishir and team shifted measuring “Watch time Of YouTube” vs  “Watch time Of Television”. The previous metric that was measured at YouTube was the number of video’s uploaded to ad revenue to the quantity of ad’s coming to office. YouTube set a goal to increase its watch time from 100 million to 1 billion hours of watch time for Television. So setting the right type of metric to measure helps you to accelerate growth in the right direction. Pro tip: Use OKR to measure the progress on your business metrics
  5. Its often hard to make decisions in your business when you don’t have enough data. So you need more and more data to simplify your decision-making. The best decisions are those which simplify your life in making next 10 decisions.
  6.  Every business is a part of eco-system doesn’t matter how big you are. And there are set of people in that ecosystem on you have relied on to make you grow. And it’s very easy to presume their incentives if you don’t ask.Don’t presume things, collect data and/or ask hard questions, you might get more insights on this. For YouTube, their ecosystem is content producers. And YouTube worked hard to come up with the model on how to incentives the content producers.
  7. Value Matters as you grow. Think about your values well in advance before you become big enough that you can’t work on those & you can’t explain them or inculcate them in your employees.
  8. Talent matters alot for growing your organization. Divide your entire landscape of talent into 4 level as follows and compare them on their performance to decide who to take forward and whom to work with and who should be those who get out of the system.

Level 1) Executors: People who do day to day execution

Level 2) How to execute: People who give instruction on how to execute the things

Level 3) Solution to work on: These are the people who identify the solution to problems                       and priorities to execute

Level  4) Which Problems to solve:  These are the people who figure out which problems to solve

When you are starting a company having a small team, people do everything. And if you got a people, specially co-founders who cannot think at all the level, it’s not good. But as you grow, you need people specific for each level. Where companies go wrong is when they compare the performance of people at level 1 with level 2, this means you lack transparency in your organization about the roles. Define proper roles and measure the performance of people among same roles.

9) Your roles matters in an organization and if that role is impacting the work of many people in the organization, you better avoid micromanage your people, or become a dictator or become a one who over empathizes.

10) When you are setting up your goal’s & objectives, your team members should have exposure to the bigger picture. You as CEO have to align every individual with the higher purpose of the organization. This will result in high level of commitment within your organization.

 

CEO vs Post 2008 Workforce

“What’s wrong with the kids coming out of college, why they behave like by working for the company, they are doing a great service to you”, said the career banker, an entrepreneur and ex-CEO of one of the FinTech company, an arm of largest telco network in India. He continued “Don’t they realize that they should respect the job they have got and should be working hard to excel in their careers”. I can correlate with his pain. As a CEO or as an entrepreneur, you want to execute things faster.  And its people in your organization who can help you achieve that.

ian-schneider-66374

I was looking at the issue of “getting work done” especially in Indian context. To analyze this, I have divided the workforce into 3 generations, from “1965 to 1998”, from “1999 to 2008” and “Post 2008”.

The generation who joined the workforce after 1965’s till 1998, their basic need was to put enough food on the table that family can have it the entire month.The government was the major job creator and India has started moving from socialist to a capitalist economy.

From 1999 to 2008, people who joined the workforce are interested in making sure family moves from lower middle class to upper middle class. And growing sectors like IT & IT enabled services, Banking and Pharma helped many people achieve this. The job priorities are to get more and more money, bonuses, and higher level roles in the company. In a way, this generation was high on extrinsic motivation than intrinsic motivations.

Post-2008 workforce is prominently the part of the knowledge economy. For them, enough food was already there on the table. For post-2008 workforce generation, their needs and priorities are bit different. They want the purpose of their life to be largely fulfilled by their work. They are delaying marriages so that they can attain a certain level of achievement in their career. Thankfully it will also help India in controlling the growing population. Young generation today are much more career-focused than the earlier generation and are much more demanding of their employers. They want to listen more from their CEO about the purpose of the organization, from their department heads and managers where they are heading to as a unit. They want more and more autonomy at work and coaching to attain the mastery.  The minute they see the purpose of this organization is not meaningful enough, they are not getting enough coaching & flexibility to attain the mastery they will switch to your competitor. And it’s not that they don’t want money, but they are far less greedy than earlier generation. They are still high on extrinsic motivation, but very high on intrinsic motivations. To get a detailed understanding on this, I will highly recommend you to read “Drive” by Daniel Pink.

As CEO and as an organization, you want to get work done. And to get that done with utmost excellence in execution and quality. And you want to identify people in your company who can take your vision & priorities to next level.  You are absolutely right in your ask. But the ways in which you want to get things done from post-2008 generation has just changed. The attention span of digitally enabled generation is far shorter than previous one. By

  • Communicating you purpose, beliefs and expected behaviors,
  • Defining right kind of performance metrics transparently,
  • Enhancing your managerial effectiveness and
  • by giving balanced flexibility, you will be able to take your organization to next level of growth.

The Younger generation doesn’t mind putting up extended hours of effort for your vision & purpose, only ask is to communicate that vision & purpose in a colloquial way and to make them feel the part of it.

Summary of Learnings:

  • Post-2008 work generation doesn’t want corporate emails from your PA’s about your organization purpose, progress, and expected behaviors.
  • Town Halls don’t work. Ask your leadership team to find a more colloquial way of communication.
  • Define performance metrics transparently.
  • Enhance your managerial effectiveness and help them become better coaches