Ali Ghaemi

Take The ‘l’ Out Of Ali

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Sep 142023
 

And you have AI. My friend Bhuvan and I were chatting last night and the conversation drifted to the topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Owing to several movies in the last few years, OpenAI and its already mainstream ChatGPT, and the general proliferation of the concept and technology the acronym has become a buzzword. We were remarking on the tech and its usefulness versus hype when Bhuvan joked that taking the ‘l’ out of my name may be a neat idea.

In all seriousness, we have all begun working with, or at least seen mentions of and read about, Artificial Intelligence recently. To be exact and lucid, AI is serious business with a serious utility (in more ways than one). Persons who do not learn to use it are falling behind. Companies that do not adopt it will be at a disadvantage.

With that said, at this moment in time, hype is overtaking both the utility and reality of the state of AI. Like any other concept, humanity tends to overdo everything. Everyone hires at the same time, fires at the same time, buys stock in tandem and sells at the same time. AI is not a FAD, but its idea is being abused today.

Artificial Intelligence came up because while travelling last week my home airport was displaying advertisements regarding AI. Then upon landing (and later returning) digital billboards advertising companies with ‘AI’ products were ubiquitous. Walking around San Francisco my eyes caught glimpses of an ‘AI’ dry cleaner and an ‘AI’ cafe. Being short on time, and probably cynical, I kept going, but should have otherwise taken a moment to step in and find out more. Perhaps folks are confusing AI with mere automation the same way the new name for the software industry seems to have become ‘SAAS.’ On the other hand, perhaps there was true AI at work at these businesses, although my doubt lingers.

What do you folks think?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Confused taxonomy around hip technologies

From The Best Of Technology Times To The Not So Best Of Technology Times

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Aug 272023
 

When various stock markets entered a bear market in Q3, and into Q4, of 2022 technology companies that had grown even more rapidly in the previous two to three years than was normal were caught flatfooted. The need for technology to replace in-person interactions had propelled revenue growth. By virtue of their rapid rise and need for being intrepid these companies are also sensitive to interest rates and cost and availability of borrowing. The inevitable interest rate hikes in reaction to soaring inflation rates would trigger a drop in stock markets (as they make bank deposits and bonds more attractive) while slowing demand due to society opening up compounded the problem for the technology sector.

Technology companies had overhired and layoffs resulted and continue. Companies large and small began laying off employees (to avoid depression do not click here or here or here or here).

How companies with access to state of the art technology and sophisticated analysts and analytics did not see this coming is fodder for some head scratching.

Photograph Credit: Mohammed Hassan

Pivot To Interviewing

With people out of jobs and companies enacting hiring freezes the pool of job seekers swelled. In such a situation it is normal to drop one’s standards and become more flexible when applying no matter the type of job, nature of the company or income requirements. To work in order to feel valued, remain productive and put food on the table is natural.

With that said, jobseekers should always ask themselves if the job they are applying for is the right one. Is the company offering a fit? Do you feel happy or motivated to work on the company’s product? Are they in an industry that is, if not inspirational, at least something akin to interesting? Are their requirements in tune with what you are comfortable with? Does the salary, and entire package, work for you?

You have to know yourself before you get to know them. Take a little time.

An employer-employee relationship should begin with some requirements’ gathering, introspection and be a conversation before it is an interview.

The company is relying on you to be successful and you are going to spend more time with them than you would with your family.

Photograph Credit: Danymena88

Things That Need To Go Away: Interviewing at random everywhere

THE JOLT EFFECT BY MATTHEW DIXON AND TED MCKENNA

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Aug 072023
 

Challenger Selling

 

 

There is a Mandarin saying that rhymes nicely. It is, “Bu zuo, bu cuo.” It translates into English as, “I won’t do anything wrong if I do nothing.” That, in a sentence, is the summary of what the newest ‘Challenger’ book addresses. Millions of salespeople, knowingly or unknowingly, face that dilemma during the course of their work and The JOLT Effect makes the problem its subject matter.

As it turns out the calamity that befell the planet in 2020 became an opportunity for the authors and researchers behind the book. Matthew Dixon and Ted McKenna took the transformation that occurred in the sales world when all interactions went virtual and threw AI at it in order to use the words, information and structures to figure out what makes a customer move from inaction to action. In the process, to structure the data across millions of sales calls, the writers tagged more than 8,300 unique factors across the recorded sales calls and marked the sales that closed versus those that ended up in a loss.

 

Earlier, the first book of the two writers, The Challenger Sale of 2011, found that whereas 5.4 people were involved in modern B2B sales the number of stakeholders has ballooned to 6.8 now. It discussed how the best salespeople make customers see themselves differently.

The Challenger Customer of 2015 spoke of mobilizers and how to get customers moving.

The latest book is called The JOLT Effect and addresses the issue with customers who cannot decide. Resulting in ‘no decision’ losses, the conundrum translates into months of wasted time for both sides in B2B sales. In fact, 40 (for more complex sales) to 60% of sales are lost to a check-mate when the customer does nothing because making a decision is difficult.

 

It is often said, and JOLT repeats it, that today’s buyers are 60% through the buying journey by the time they connect with sale. They are learning on their own. Sales needs to reframe the customer’s journey.

 

Customers know they must do something, but still do nothing. What do the salespersons do? They dial up the fear to overcome the status quo. Yet the book argues that overcoming indecision needs sellers to instead dial down the fear of purchase. Customers fall into omission bias mode. The book points at loss aversion and how people prefer to minimise losses rather than maximise gain. It is better to miss out than mess up. This is termed as FOMU (Fear Of Messing Up) and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and the former, which is a fear of personal failure and responsibility, is mightier and more dominant than the latter.

 

FOMU occurs because the buyer suffers from:

  • Fear of picking the wrong thing
  • Fear of not having done adequate research or
  • Fear of not getting the expected benefits

So the seller is instructed to instil the need for change and address 1, 2 and 3 in order to bestow confidence to the buyer.

 

By the way, what does ‘JOLT’ stand for?

J is for Judge The Indecision. People are indecisive and sellers need to use SONAR to understand and actively hear if the customer is conveying something akin to, “help me, what should we include in the first phase?” Remember that some people are more comfortable with the level of ambiguity than others. Pages 46 and 47 help the salesperson diagnose the source of indecision and the book’s website helps in grading and lending the sale a probability score! Sellers need to understand whether the concern is a. valuation problems, b. Lack of information or 3. outcome uncertainty and, as a result, gauge the ability of the prospect to decide and to buy.

 

O is for Offer Your Recommendation. Prospects are overwhelmed with choice. Limit choice and recommend strongly. This is something that has preoccupied this reviewer for years: how choice is bad and has the opposite effect to freeing folk. Offer your recommendation with confidence as the customer is overwhelmed!

 

L is for Limit The Exploration. Sales should deconflict information by stopping the flow of it and also inserting what customers don’t need into the flow as well. Discourage customers from spinning their wheels! Data is clear: limit it

 

1 – Owning the flow of information

2- Anticipate need + objections

3- Practise radical candour

Ask why and find out what the questions behind the question is.

 

T is for Taking Risk Off The Table. Start small and add insurance. For example, get Professional Services involved. This may be counterintuitive because it makes the sales more expensive money-wise, but in fact this piece of insurance allows buyers to gain confidence in their eventual success with the product or solution. Manage expectations!

 

Indecision could be due to:

1- Value

2- Lack of information or

3-  Fearing that purported benefits are unreal.

These concerns are addressed through the JOLT process.

 

To start, convince customers candidly that a change of status quo is needed. The purchase will be a success and it will get over the line. Be the soother that counsels that failure will not occur.

 

High performers in sales do not go for fear, but plan and share proudly with the customer. They may, for example, map out the first three months for customers inclusive of quick wins and expected long-term outcomes after that.

 

While presenting research-based facts and anecdotes, including all of the above, the authors shatter a couple of myths along the way. Good sellers talk more and, in fact, interrupt customers (who are on the wrong track). Having said that, I did laugh at the “cooperative overlapping” phrase, which is when one talks along with someone, as it sounds like such a euphemism.

 

Customers are always thinking about it more, need more information and resources, have more questions and require proof. What does sales do: introduce FUD. Customer has outcome uncertainty and the salesperson begins to scare them! Here the customer is afraid that a decision will make them lose, is afraid of the cost; is afraid of looking foolish and then…  the sales team begins to frighten them. It does not make sense, right? Often it is not missing out on winning that the buyer is concerned with (perhaps they have been burnt before?), but the aforementioned issues. Don’t make them feel bad, make them feel good and outline a plan. For example, offer multiple options or paths forward. Starting small also could build relationships.

 

The book expands into foretelling how employing JOLT actually builds customer loyalty and also offers a chapter on how sales managers could make the right hiring decision by bringing on folks who will do the right thing for the sales process. This is specifically relevant to hiring managers.

The JOLT Effect is a good read and more valuable than the average sales books because it comes at you courtesy of empirical data.

Jan 032023
 

Photograph Credit: Stephen Brown

A couple of posts here have discussed and expanded on curiosity, energy, working hard, courtesy and more as desirable traits for successful salespersons. One more has been gnawing at me since those posts and I have been reminded that, as people have heard me say, good salespeople disqualify as much as qualify. In other words, good salespeople know where to spend their time.

 

There is a proverb that goes like this:

The Way We Spend Our Time Defines Who We Are.

It is obviously true. It is also true that this resource is limited and, for us mere mortals, is precious.

It is crucial that salespeople spend time, spend time doing the right things and spend time understanding where they spend time. Yes, scrolling through TikTok or your Facebook feed is off (and moreover the future of civilization says ‘thank-you’).

Picture Credit: Mohamed Hassan

Good salespeople control their time, use it for productive endeavours and do not get sidetracked. Good salespeople are also the ones who admit when something unexpected has happened to sidetrack them and feel discomfort. The discomfort propels them to make up for the lost time and get back on track of consistency (of doing the right things and not doing the things that do not help with their goals and success).

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Not Automating Tasks That Can Be Automated, Not Knowing What Is Unproductive And Promptly Eliminating It And Above All Not Preparing For Effectiveness

 

 

Nov 202022
 

curiosity

Many readers of my posts are probably among the people who think a great deal about sales and what makes a good salesperson. It is a constant source for thought and observation. Personally, being a hard worker has always struck me as being the key ingredient to sales success – even over ‘smart work’ or product knowledge. This belief stems from personal experience and my own observations over the years (as well as published research).

 

What made the topic top-of-mind again was a new article on BBC’s website, which posited that curiosity is a trait that drives success. The story pointed out that those who are curious, and show patient inquisitiveness, are more likely to experience academic success, boost earnings and boost memory. These are useful traits for a salesperson and, should help with complex enterprise sales as well, since they enhance the desire for discovery and engagement. Who could argue with those vaunted traits?

My caveat – there is always one – is regarding when curiosity is misdirected and unproductive. Scrolling through Twitter or one’s Facebook feed does not count. Sparking one’s curiosity is important (as is the employer sparking employees’ curiosity), but it has to be directed at the right activities.

 

If sales is the lifeblood of a company and salespeople lead the sales then what other skills are desirable?  How about consistency and focus? How about desire and desire to learn and teach? Well, perhaps ‘desire’ falls into the ‘hard work’ category. I would add presentation skills and sympathy and care to the list. Sympathy and care apply to the salesperson’s feelings towards both the customer and one’s own company. The last quality may encompass this, but let us call out interpersonal and people skills of course. Perhaps these are all fit for individual posts, but what do you think?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Salespersons Who Do Not Care

Oct 092022
 

Had you heard the phrase “ghost job” before? I had not even if its meaning should be obvious.

It is sadly stupefying that such a concept exists. First, though, let me travel back in time to a previous life when I was personally job hunting. A former VP of mine was employed at a company on my target list so, noticing an opening, I pinged him for an internal referral. His answer? That position was filled some time ago. Why was the job posting active and marked as open?

Whether as a team manager or VP Of Sales I had been open with my direct reports, human resources and larger team that we should always be recruiting and keeping an eye out for good candidates. Things happen. people leave, promotions create openings or more good staff is needed due to expansion. That, however, is distinct and different from actually having job listings for positions that do not exist.

According to a survey of over 1,000 managers involved in the hiring process by lending company Clarify Capital 43% of hiring managers kept job postings active to “give the impression that the company is growing.” Moreover, also 43% kept job posting open in order to “keep current employees motivated.” 39% admitted that the job posted was already filled. Among other statistics 34% said it was done to placate overworked employees.

How many euphemisms for lying are there? Ethics of leading people on aside, one wonders how the marketplace and existing employees (including overworked ones) reacts to a company and its management that is not honest when one reason the ghost jobs exist (or don’t exist) is to impress that same market. 27% of employers with active job postings even claimed they forgot to delete the job requisition, which begs the question whether anyone is even looking at the incoming job applications. This comes on top of a survey earlier that found that 77% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by prospective employers. Astoundingly, 10% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by employers after they have been offered a position!

This lack of courtesy surely has business implications in terms of creating distrust, ill will and, one wonders, whether the barrage of statistics claiming millions of unfilled positions in the economy is accurate.

The recommendation to look at the date of the job posting is sound. Jobs posted for 30 days or longer are likely ghost jobs. Moreover, companies that repeatedly post the same jobs on their career page and pop up on job sites with the same position month after month are also clearly suspect.

My request and advice is for everyone to take responsibility and treat one another with more dignity, integrity and honesty.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Untruths, Half-Truths And Toying With People

 

 

Oct 062022
 

Photograph Credit: Brett Jordan

Most people agree that salespeople are infused with specific temperaments and skills. It goes with the territory, sure, but how durable is the expertise that makes the person capable?

 

Theoretically, the know-how, the proficiency and the innate drive should be as perpetual as any job – if not more. Then how does one reckon with the following scenario?

A friend, who is a musician, was laid off from his stage hand job, did some carpentry, worked on music a bit and now, good news, is busy and working as a stage hand again for the first time in a couple of years. Apparently, he is employable and has not lost his skills or chops despite a two-year gap.

Let us switch over to sales and sales management now. A salesperson who has stepped away from the profession for a year would perhaps not be afforded the same courtesy as the friend above. Recruiters are always fishing for that employment gap. The hiring manager may have instructed the recruiter to avoid folks with gaps in their resume or the recruiter shuns such individuals as a matter of routine. Stepping away from the profession is unacceptable and apparently precludes one from the ability to sell.

Photograph Credit: Lubo Minar

The question that makes me ponder right now is whether there is something special about sales and sales management that makes recruiters zoom in on a concern or perhaps there are too many sales/business development/management types and recruiters can be extra picky. Perhaps the concern is more prevalent than just salespeople and it is that there are not enough handy folks and, therefore, standards are more forgiving?

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Actions Without Rationalization

Oct 062022
 

 

Is this website going racy? No, not in that sense.

On the phone with a former colleague of mine he was lamenting how he has to fly to a tropical destination to attend President’s Club. For those who are not familiar with the term, ‘President’s Club’ is an annual reward bestowed to salespersons who have achieved a milestone and typically met or exceeded their goals. Their employer treats them typically to a trip – could be other incentives – to a coveted location.

Sounds good.

Then again… motivation is personal. My friend was hating it and sounded particularly unhappy about it. This person had obviously achieved his sales targets and been placed in an elite category to be offered this incentive (membership?), but the company had managed to ruin his proverbial day by offering him a free aeroplane ticket and stay somewhere far away. Perhaps it was the pandemic, perhaps it was the long flight or the discomfort of being away from home or family, it really does not matter, but he was irritated to be going to “club” where he sarcastically complained would have to spend time with his boss “the VP of sales in a speedo.”

What is wrong with this picture? The presumption that everyone is motivated in the same way coupled with no one being willing to stick their necks out to do things differently means that – COVID-19 aside – companies organize ‘club’ events not really acknowledging that motivation may mean different things to different people. Not being an accountant this writer cannot vouch for the accuracy of this statement, but conventional knowledge has it that companies can deduct part of the costs of the Club by incorporating educational sessions into the schedule.

 

So, companies need to understand what motivates their people and personalise their approaches. My own assumption is that most people would be motivated by the opportunity to attend President’s Club, be recognized, network and receive some education as well. Then again, perhaps that is not true or a proportion of people simply play along because they believe it is expected of them to react a certain way. What a shame.

 

Things That Need To Go Away: Companies Motivating Their Employees Without Finding Out What Actually Motivates Their Employees

Jul 212022
 

Photograph Credit: Samuel Regan Asante

 

Are you familiar with the concept of WIIFM? It stands for What’s In It For Me. No, it is not (exclusively) the modus operandi of the Facebook generation. It is a formula for getting what you want. You get what you want by appealing to other people’s needs.

 

We had spoken about negotiating higher salaries and overall benefits before, but there are more things that we want and the best way to obtain them is by figuring out what the person we want it from wants. In other words, trade for it. In a perfect world, people would have sympathy and all be perfectly interested and objective, but in this world a clash of styles, egos and competing priorities interfere.

 

Get what you want based on what the person you want it from wants. It is negotiation-persuasion time.

Need a raise? Conduct your research as the linked earlier articles mention, marshal your facts and enter into a dialogue with your boss. State the facts, justify it and do not put the boss on the defensive. Justify the request and make sure the boss hears what you have done for the company and, indirectly, the value you bring him or her.

Need resources? You need more room, more vehicles, more equipment or more people? Think about why the person you are asking cares. What is the detrimental consequence of your lack of resources for the person you are approaching. Connect the dots explicitly to the person’s responsibility and professional health. Let the person know what may not occur or fall short without resources and ensure they are things directly related to what this person needs. Offer metrics and outline expected results. Numbers make it real as opposed to intangible benefits, which would be harder to justify.

What about a colleague? The easiest way is to negotiate and give something back to the person in exchange. Again, what does the person get for giving you what you want? Do you have resources to trade for? Do you have people, expertise, machines or time to give back? If not – this is the harder way – you have to go to the boss to get someone to listen. Management should make co-habitation, collaboration and coordination a workplace rule as well,  but most do not.

What about externally? Do you need more business from a customer? Have you been giving them 100%? What will they get from you in exchange for a referral or introduction? Could you offer them extra free licenses, free rides or cheap consulting in exchange for their Rolodex? This is a win-win and net increase for both sides.

 

It is worth noting that a positive self-image is important to most people. The intangible piece of this conversation is to make sure the person you are speaking with hears how giving makes them effective, impactful and a role model.

Photograph Credit: Andres Haro

As always, do not forget to take the shot. Famously, one who does not shoot does not score.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Taking and not giving