The Art Of Making Progress

Making progress is about knowing what you have and making the most of it…

Making progress is about moving in the direction that we want to move, irrespective of the circumstances..

Making progress is about knowing when to stop, step back and re-think about where you are going..

Making progress is about keeping our heads down and keeping at it..

Making progress is about knowing what we can’t influence and what we can and influencing what we can influence.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to change things that are often out of our control, instead of taking action on the things we can influence and impact.

We only begin to make progress when we stop trying to control the outcome and do the work…

This post is inspired by Bernadette Jiwa’s post:

The Art Of Making Progress

 

Does Your Business React, Respond or Create?

Bernadette Jiwa wrote a short but insightful post about the difference between responding and reacting to situations.

She writes:

It was impossible to walk down any high street in June without running into a notice informing you fidget spinners were BACK IN STOCK. The fidget spinner was clearly ‘thething’ of the moment. A month later we’re already beginning to witness its decline. Another fad bites the dust.

A fad by definition is transient. It’s success hinges on what people are talking about today and is not backed by a genuine need that will require to be fulfilled tomorrow. It takes effort and courage to respond to everyday needs instead of following the crowd that’s reacting to what’s top of mind. It’s impossible to do both—which is why a good business strategy is always intentional.

This is so typical of her to raise such important issues in such a short and poignant manner.

I would just add one more dimension to this question

Is your business reacting, responding or creating?

Generally speaking, we see three types of businesses in the market-place.

Self-obsessed businesses:

These are businesses that are obsessed with themselves and what they want to do. These are typically businesses that are founder driven and the founders have a strong vision of what they want to do with their business, whom do they want to serve, how they want to serve and go about running their business accordingly.

Competitor obsessed businesses

These are businesses that are obsessed with their competitors. They use their competitors and their position as the driving energy to do what they do. They want to be better than their competitors. They go after the same customers as their competitors and they want to win the market and surpass their competitors. These lead to markets where there is intense rivalry between the players.

Customer obsessed businesses

Then there are businesses that are customer-focused. They identify a customer segment that they want to serve and then go about solving all their needs. They dont define themselves as they are in a specific kind of business or a specific industry. They want to know their customers really well and want to continue to grow by solving different problems for the same customers.

We can all think of businesses that could fall in either category and are immensely successful in their own rights. So, none of these are necessarily good or bad way to run a business. What is important is that we as entrepreneurs know and are deliberate about what kind of business we are building.

Irrespective of which kind of business we build, we still need to answer the question:

Are we reacting, responding or creating (to/for our customers, competitors or our own aspirations) ?

Reacting:

Reacting gives the power to the other. We are dependent on the customer/competitor or flashes of insights and aspirations to do something new.

Stimuli  —-> Reaction

Responding:

Responding gives the power to us, in terms of how we respond. We can be deliberate the right action, but still needs a stimuli.

Stimuli —— (Deliberation and choice) —> Response

Creating:

Creating rests the power completely with us. We dance to our own music and rhythms. We are setting the pace and owning the outcome. There is no need for an external stimuli which needs a reaction or a response. This is the reason, I believe that as entrepreneurs, we need to be operating in this realm more often than not.

This can only happen if we are deliberate and intentional about how we run our businesses.

So, are you reacting, responding or creating?

The Secret To Building a Successful Business

Premise:

Manish Singhal is a founding Partner of pi Ventures. He is a veteran of 24 years in building hardware and software IP-oriented product companies, early stage investing, valuations, deal structuring and strategy advisory across different sectors. He is also a keen mentor of startups and has conducted many workshops in different parts of India to guide entrepreneurs on how to raise funds.

On July 19th, Manish took time to answer questions from YourStory readers in their weekly section, ‘Conversations at YourStory’.

The Million dollar question:

In response to the question:

“As a mentor to many, what advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and the dreamers?”

His Answer:

Solve a real problem and solve it like nobody else.

At the surface of it, this seems to be a nice logical answer but I think this is the key to leading any successful

There are two parts to the answer that are the key.

Solving a real problem:

While on the face of it, this sounds to be ridiculously simple, in practice, we will be surprised to know that most of the businesses are started not for this reason. There is no real problem (perceived or otherwise) that we are solving. In tech startups, we find or develop something that we think is and then go looking for users for this cool technology. There is nothing wrong in this approach as long as we are able to identify a real (perceived or otherwise)  need that this technology can address and go on to use that as the lever for growth. This is however a more difficult and an expensive way of starting an enterprise.

The easier way is to identify the real need and then go about finding ways to solve this need. Design thinking as a methodology helps us start with the people, go on to identify their stated and unstated needs, which once identified, we can go ahead and solve them. The key is to identify the problem first and start from there.

Solve it like nobody else:

Once we know the real problem that we are trying to solve for a specific cohort of people, we then need to solve the problem in our own unique way. This uniqueness is what will help us stand out in the crowd and get us noticed. As Bernadette Jiwa and Seth Godin say, differentiation is the key. WE can either differentiate in the way we solve the problem or differentiate in the way we communicate and engage with the customers or differentiate in the way we bring the solution to them.

It is better to be different than being better.

Different allows us to stand out and it is easier if we bring our full personality to solve the problem. If we are fun-loving, can we bring in elements of fun in the solution. If we love music, can we bring in elements of music into the solution. If we are an avid reader, can we bring in elements of reading or books to our solution. Each one of these will allow us to stand apart and at the same time will come naturally to us. This also has the added advantage of being too much fun.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, it is important that we identify a real problem (known or even better is unknown) that a specific cohort of customers have and find unique ways of solving that problem for that set of customers. And have a lot of fun along the way. This is as good a recipe for building a successful business as any other that I have seen anywhere else.

PBTO58: Hunch – Where Insights and Foresights Meet! With Bernadette Jiwa

Credits: Opening music credit goes to Riju Mukhopadhyay & Pavan Cherukumilli

Who is on the show:

In this episode, we host Bernadette Jiwa. She is a best selling author of multiple books and writes one of the most popular marketing and branding blogs – The Story of Telling. Smart Company named as the top business blog in Australia of 2016Seth Godin listed it as one of the marketing blogs he reads.

Why is she on the show:

She just released her most recent book – Hunch. The book talks about how we can turn our everyday insights into the next big thing.

What do we talk about:

In this episode, we talk about how this particular book came about. She shares her insight about how entrepreneurs – small and large are getting deluded in the barrage of data and using it as a crutch to not decide and work on their hunches. She shares some very interesting stories about how Richard Turere (all of 12 years old) helped save his cows from Lions and in the process invented the “Lion Lights“. She also shares the story of how one doctor (Dr. Ravenell) leveraged the popularity and the sense of community in a barber shop – Denny Moe’s to change the lives of thousands of black men by converging healthcare and haircare.

She defines Hunch as below:

Hunch = Insights + Foresights

Simple yet elegant way to define something extremely complicated, I must say. She also talks about the fact that in order to get these hunches, we need to look at the intersection of three things.

Hunches are formed at the intersection of Curiosity, Imagination and Empathy.

There are opportunities all around us if only we stop and notice them. She shares her way of getting these inspiring stories from the everyday walk of life. She says that these stories are all around us, if only we can stop and look for them, if we find them, slow down and think about them.

We also discuss how important boredom is and how crucial having distraction free time for us to think about stuff that we have learnt and allow it to sink in and come up with our own perspective and a lot more. She shares how Sara Blakely founded Spanx with 5000 USD and she takes the long route to work, so that she can get some quite reflection time for herself almost everyday.

This is a short episode but one filled with a lot of insights and learnings.

How can you connect with her:

I strongly recommend that you buy her book – Hunch. The book is packed with a lot of such stories and also has a lot of prompts that can nudge us to practice all the three things that she talks about (curiosity, imagination and empathy) that are important for coming up with our own hunches. Also,  subscribe to her blog. She blogs every single day. Her blogs are an oasis in the middle of a barrage of blogs that dont speak to you. They are short but insightful. They speak to us in a way not many blogs do. You can also follow her on twitter @bernadetteJiwa.

PS: You can watch the TED Talks by Richard & Dr. Rayenell.

Credits: Opening music credit goes to Riju Mukhopadhyay & Pavan Cherukumilli

Read This if You are A Sales Executive or a Sales Leader: Best Among What I Read – Sales Edition

Best Among What I Read by Mukesh Gupta

If you know me at all, you would already know that I read a lot of stuff – right from business topics like (Sales, Innovation, Leadership, Marketing) to personal topics like philosophy, religion, psychology, habit formation, economics and the lot.

I used to share a collection of articles that I really thought were well written or were thought provoking for me, almost everyday till a few months back. Some of my readers have indicated that they miss those collections in place, that it saves them time and requested that I start posting these collection of content again.

So, here we go. Below is a list of posts that I think were really the best among a lot of content on sales that i read in the recent past. So, here we go:

Things I Admire In a Sales Force

In this blog post, Anthony Iannarino shares a list of attributes that he admires in a sales force. I really think that if there were a sales team that wanted to create a team manifesto for them to live by, this list would be a great starting point. I particularly like the attribute about helping their team mates succeed.

This is something that is not very common in sales teams at all, but can play a significant role in the overall success of the sales team. I did write about it earlier myself. You can read my post here.

If you are a sales leader and want to inspire your team and get them to rally around together, this is a set of attributes that you should aspire your team to achieve.

Dealing with Your Irrational Competitor

Another blog post by Anthony (I seem to really like his posts, of late). In this one, he shares his insights on how to deal with your irrational competitor. Every sales team faces some irrational competitor who wants to take away market share at any cost, who is willing to go to any lengths, give irrational discounts, make promises that they already know that can’t be fulfilled and take your customers away.

So, how do you deal with such competitors? Not the usual way. For Anthony’s insights on this, read the post here.

Is ignorance the problem?

In his inimitable style Seth Godin brings forth a very important question that all of us as sales executives or sales leaders need to address. Whenever there is a customer who stalls or questions the value that our solutions bring to them, we default to providing them more information – more use cases, more business case, sharing more examples of how and where your solutions have succeeded.

We are assuming that the customer is stalling due to lack of information. What if that is not true? In my experience, most of the times it is not true. The reason the customer is stalling could be because they are not sure, they are afraid of making the commitment required on their part, they are afraid that you might not deliver what you promise to deliver. The issue could be trust or something else.

Mostly, ignorance is not the problem. You can read his really short blog (maybe even shorter than my preamble here) here.

Why You Need An If-Then Storytelling Strategy

Once you have identified that ignorance is not the problem and shoving more information will not help, what do you do? This is where, I really liked a blog post written by Bernadette Jiwa. In this post she talks about having a if-then (storytelling) strategy.

This strategy can be helpful in any environment, retail or otherwise. Can we identify certain situations or triggers in our sales process and have a ready story to tell in those situations. These emotional triggers need emotional responses and stories do it really well. Great sales executives do this intuitively, but this is really a skill that can be learnt and taught.

Do you have a if-then story for emotional triggers in your sales process.? If not, try and develop one. It’s your job as the sales leader to do this.

Stop Complaining That You Have Clients

Once we win customers, then it is time to deliver our commitments and promises. As a sales executive, it might not be you who delivers what was promised. But you are indeed the person who committed the deliverables to your customers.

They trusted you and now it is your job to ensure that your commitments are honoured. When they are not being honoured, either in spirit or in letter, customers will hold you responsible and accountable.

They will write to you about the issues they have with the service standards, about challenges that they have working with someone on your team or about any other random thing that irks them. I have seen sales executives continue to complain about all these emails that they keep getting from their customers, the expectations that the customer is having off them, even though they realise that its not part of their job.

In this insightful and critical post, Anthony (again) shares a perspective that all sales executives who complain forget – which is complacency, neglect and Entitlement kills a sales executives future. Read the post and honestly think about your behaviour towards your customers.

Are you complaining that they are your customers? If so, think again? And more importantly, CHANGE.

Conclusion: 

I do hope that you liked this collection of blog posts that I really liked on the topic of sales and selling. I will see you soon in another edition of the Best Among What I Read on a different topic sometime soon.

PS: Here is how you can follow the people I have quoted in this post.

  • You can follow Anthony and his phenomenal content here.
  • You can follow Bernadette Jiwa and her insightful thoughts on branding and brand storytelling here.
  • You can follow Seth Godin and his insightful commentary on his random observations here.