Are you Sold to the Idea?

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Are you Sold to the Idea?

Here’s a first post under a new category called ‘Management Mumblings’.

I recently addressed and interacted with about 70 really smart MBA students, with whom I was sharing experiences from my corporate career, and about starting up and growing, with the objective of encouraging entrepreneurship.

In comparison, I’ve always found it easier to interact with people from industry, comfortable with discussing anything from industry problems, current affairs, new ideas, etc. Interacting with freshers, often makes me a little nervous. They are highly impressionable minds after all, often easily influenced. That leaves us with a great responsibility when advising them on matters such as career, ethics, values, etc.

One popular concern among these students was fear of the possibility of landing a job that might involve sales. 

A lot of us are not too fond of marketing, and many detest sales. Selling has always been that inhuman task of lowering ourselves, often to the point of unimaginable desperation, to close a deal, before moving to the next one.

Salesman

Source: here

I attempted to change their impression of marketing and sales with a simple change of perspective. I hope you too find some benefit in it that helps in some aspect of your career or business.

We have come a long way to the times we currently live in. From times when we had a limited set of friends, and everyone knew what was going on in their lives. To now, when friends are in the hundreds or thousands. Mostly online, many strangers, some we’ve never met, and most we almost never interact with.

Given this reality, whenever we want to convey events, achievements or updates about us, we post things online. We tweet it or blog about it, or convey it in some such way. Be it selfies with a Starbucks cup, a new job, a marriage, loss of a family member, a holiday, a new pet, anything. We convey it online to our friends.

If you have done one or more of those, ever, don’t you think what you’ve been doing is a form or part of marketing? As is with our resumes and the confidence with which we speak at interviews. Which means we are already marketers to some extent, and have been doing a decent job with marketing ourselves. How cool is that? 

Now all we need to do is extend that skill to our jobs if it demands so. Identify what differentiates the products/ services we are trying to sell from that of our competitors, and convey the same to prospective customers with the logical and convincing points that we’d like to hear, were we being convinced to buy that product/service.

This won’t make you a killer salesperson just yet. But hopefully it will warm you up to the concept of marketing and selling.

Qualities of Salesman

Source: here

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Way to go, Alok! The Venture Capital Differentiators

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Way to go, Alok! The Venture Capital Differentiators

A few years ago, I came across this interview with Alok Mittal on the internet. Alok is the Managing Director at Canaan Partners, one of the leading VCs in the technology and healthcare businesses, the world over. And in that interview, Alok was talking about their investment in techTribe a few years earlier. techTribe, by the way, happens to have a job referral service offering, similar to the incentive based job referral business model of the company I wrote about earlier.

Alok had publicly agreed that the incentive driving referrals was not going as expected. And that they have been planning to sell the company as the business model didn’t seem to work. I did feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that my gut feel and reasoning was in a way being backed by someone, who is to me, something of an authority in the field.

Then, something struck me. Here was a world where everything that everyone spoke about publicly was, like the Americans popularized, “good”. And amongst them was someone as knowledgeable, intelligent, and capable as Alok Mittal. It took someone humble, grounded, and true to his work, to openly talk about his mistakes. Literally in Rudyard Kipling’s words, he could ‘meet Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same‘.

Hats off to your humility and honesty towards your work, Alok.!

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Models that Puzzle Me

This is one of of some business models that just don’t make sense to me.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Models that Puzzle Me

If you came here expecting some scoop on Gisele Bundchen or Miranda Kerr, I suggest you hit the ‘Back’ button. This one’s more about the ‘less figure, more strategy’ business models. I’ll work on a post on real models sometime soon though, I promise.

A few years ago, on a random day at office, I received a call about an investment opportunity. At the time, I used to take an average 2.5 inquiry calls per day, speaking to a wide assortment of people. From second and third generation businessmen to entrepreneurs working on their second or third successful venture. And even some final year students who had budding dreams about what could as well be the next big thing. And every once in a way, I’d get a venture who’s business model was confusing. Here’s one of a few business models that puzzle me.

Anyway, so this call, Mr. Promoter of a company that was into the job portal business that was based on referrals. Simply put, the usual job portals work on the model that companies that hire from a particular site would have to pay them certain fees which would give them access to a filtered set of numerous candidates, and perhaps if some of them were hired, the portal would get another x amount of money per candidate hired.

Now that model, as we know, perhaps works just about fine, as demonstrated by the popularity of naukri.com, monster.com, timesjobs.com, and several thousand others.

This particular business model Mr. Promoter told me about, seemed to be based on a reward system. How it works, is as follows. You are  a good friend of mine. I know you’re looking for a job, so I get in touch with this company, and give them your cell number or perhaps your mail id. They get in touch with you, tell you that they’ll help you with getting a job. They ask you for your resume, and for the particulars of the kind of job you’re looking for, etc.

Now suppose they find a suitable opening for you. They put you across to the company, and in case you’re hired, obviously this firm would get their fee for helping them find a suitable candidate. Of that fee they receive, I would get a small percentage for the lead. Thus incentivizing me to refer more friends of mine for more requirements.

I tried discussing with Mr. Promoter, almost to the point of arguing. I just couldn’t see the future of such a business, and I wanted to make sure he saw my perspective. It appeared simple to me. I could of course, be totally wrong. I mean, that’s what the VC business, just like anything else, is about. It’s about perspective. I could have my views, Mr. Promoter would have his. The market and success or failure of the company would prove one of us wrong.

Anyway, so my points of argument were, that the higher the post, the higher the pay the firm, and in turn the person referring someone would receive. But, in the real world, you don’t really find a VP or CEO of a company referring someone to a firm. Right? I mean, who would have the time or the inclination for something like this. And at that level, one would have bigger things to worry about that trying to find people in order to make some quick bucks by way of referral.

So that leaves us with entry-level all the way to perhaps lower or mid-management candidates. Now most of them would anyway be registered on all the top job sites, where many if not most companies, would be tapping into, as one of their many sources for finding candidates. So that being the case, we can’t really expect a group of students from a college to refer each other to this firm in the hope of supplementing their pocket-money, eh?

So, anyway, I turned down Mr. Promoter’s investment proposal and even called him later to try to reason out that somehow, the business model didn’t seem to hold. He however, seemed convinced.

So much for one of the business models that puzzled me. The promoter and I have not been in touch since. And while I do hope he’s doing well, I am curious to know how his business worked out for him.

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