Wednesday, October 26, 2005

GYAN:: Entrepreneurial Criminal?

Funnily I've noticed that the creative/ingenious bent of mind is shared by entrepreneurs and criminals. For simplicity while these two are strong words to use I'll try and define them as follow:-
1. Entrepreneur - someone who generates personal wealth while ensuring that he remains within the framework of societal conscience.
2. Criminal - someone who breaks the law

While sometimes the Entrepreneur does end up breaking the law and thus is performing criminal activities frequently he does remain within the boundary of societal conscience and thus his actions do have the approval of society at large and are frequently the catalyst for the revamp and rewriting of laws. However where lies the difference?

I would say the entrepreneurail and the criminal ingredients are the same, its just the effect of training and societal mentoring and conditioning that create the difference. Post looking at a lot of entrepreneurs from close quarters as well as some criminals (belv. me we have a lot of them in Dubai) , i've tried to put together what differentiates them. I call it my activist - rebel model.

The quickest way I like to portray the difference between an entrepreneur and a criminal is to picturize a activist and contrast that with a rebel.

The activist picture is clear. He's the person out there protesting Vietnam. He's the guy on the front lines. He's the idealist and he's got the support of the common man to back him and amplify his voice. This is the entrepreneur and while quite a few times the causes may be flawed and sometimes fighting is futile (think Tianmen square) the Entrepreneur manages to cause a wave while still remaining in the system. You will not see an entrepreneur resorting to violence or riots. They somehow have internalised that by breaking the law you just give the authorities a cheap way to trash your cause which is all important. Think Mahatma Gandhi.

The Rebel. Think Che Guevara, Veerapan, the kid sulking in the corner and refusing to stop crying. This is a LONELY picture. While there might be pockets of sympathy and a certain amount of romance surrounding the rebel society at large does not support their cause. While they might be the stuff of stories they are not able to get people to leave their daily lives and join them at peril of life and limb. The Rebel is also prone to ad hoc measures (give aways and free offers) when he realises that he does not enjoy the respect of society at large and melodrama in general to gain sympathy and expose what he feels is his righteous cause but the fact remains that he did violate the rules and that led his entire cause to failure.

While we all have a little bit of the activist and the Rebel in us, we need to think hard and really internalize that we need to control the rebel and promote the activist in us. Great causes have been let down by a rebel and not an activist taking charge. Do we want causes dear to us to suffer the same fate at our hands?

GYAN:: Doing business with the Americans

Well having spent quite a bit of time doing business with the Americans and having had my share of wins and losses thought I would try and put in some pointers about how to do business with the yanks. Love to also hear viewpoints from others out there.


  1. Your relationship is not unique. Americans while not as process driven as the chinese or singaporeans are not as chaotic as the Indians. While we always feel that every deal is unique and hence its not uncommon for indian companies to draw up fresh contracts for every business relationship, americans would rather work with standard contracts and templates. What this means is that it is in your interest to fit into their standard engagement models. Study in advance what each agreement commits each side to give and receive. If you are going beyond the scope of the agreement, my sugggestion would be to start with a single agreement and start the relationship before seeing what else can be done with the same organization. What will end up happening is that you will probably realize that a single relationship is most lucrative or else the partner company will ask you to enter into another relationship governed by a completely new set of agreements, gives-takes and of course different people.

  2. Do what you say you will do. Don't over or under promise. This is the one quality that will give you the respect of american executives. The biggest and best part of corporate america is that everyone is accountable. The commitments you give, end up becoming a small or large part of the CEO's own commitments to the Board and hence if you do do what you say you will do, it means he would have exceeded his commitments as most people would buffer and hence you would pretty much be his blue eyed boy. As it should be, a steady partner is valued much more than a mercurial one.

  3. Be clear this is a business relationship. Americans are very good at switching off their business mind as soon as the day ends and are very genuine in their personal interactions. I say this because in an Indian context going out for a few drinks with possible business partners is categorized as business and not pleasure while an american taking you out for drinks – he's having a good time and expects you too to let your hair down.

  4. Communicate regularly and with detailed reports. This is really really key. You will not be able to rease memories of the six months you were incognito by surfacing one fine day with a big order for the company. Demand periodic conference calls and dedicate one person from your organization to generating reports in a format that the Americans would want. Demand similar reports from them.

  5. Plan in advance. No matter what we like to believe, the Americans are running global businesses. While Indian international businessmen are generally internationally travelled businessmen. This is not the case with America. The CEO of a Fortune 1000 company with customers in 100+ countries might not have visited more than 10 countries outside the United States. Its just not normal for the CEO of an American company to take off and travel for 15 days a month. They are already traveling a lot to meet their family (you'll be surprised how many of C level execs live and work in different cities doing the weekly commute), meet potential investors, major strategic partners and analysts (wall street). They really dont have the time to fly down to india to meet that customer that will place that 1mn USD order that is crucial for you to meet you targets. Hence, if you do need them to travel, plan well in advance and its better to work with other major partners to see how it can be clubbed as part of a global roadshow or customer meets to ensure better time utilization.

  6. Try and get rid of preconcieved notions about the Americans and their knowledge of the world, their ability to understand technology, the reasons behind 9-11 etc. They actually might suprise you!!

  7. Numbers, numbers, numbers – drill down everything that is expected from you into numbers and whatever you expect from them into numbers. This is really crucial. This will be the only thing that is measured later in the day.


Hope this helped, look forward to hearing other views!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

GYAN:: the business of channels

channel sales seems to be the new mantra nowadays. Every software (and hardware) company seems to be adopting a similar channel driven strategy. What does it mean and take to be channel driven?

First why take a channel approach anyhow. You have a killer product. You're pretty sure that once you get it in front of a customer he will buy the same, why enrich someone else in the first place? If you can do 1bn USd in sales and make 100mn in profits why employ a channel and bring that down to 750mn in sales and 75mn in profits.

The answer lies in two points - margin and Cost of Sales. Margin is the final contribution to profits from every 100$ in revenue while Cost of Sales is the upfront investment required in order to achive 100$ in revenue. building a successful start-up means balancing the Margin cum cost of Sale objectives in order to conserve equity. Thats right conserve equity and not cash. By virtue of being a start-up and thus inherently risky the possible options to raise capital end up being equity or else debt through soft sources i.e. credit cards, family and friends etc. As a Start-up CEO you really want to GO FOR THE EASY MONEY while spending as little capital as possible. There will also be opportunities to make more money later but at the present moment, its worth it to close your eyes to some business and focus just on that which is easily addressable and predictable. Remember, minor miscalculations and even missing a quarterly revenue target can prove fatal for a start-up.

The second important aspect that needs to be considered is the Cost of Sales. What really is the cost of sales in a start-up. Its in my opinion 60% of the entire cost structure of the company. More than just being an unimaginably huge amount to fund based on unproven technology, it also exposes early stage companies to the execution risks involved with going from a 50 person 1mn USd revenue company to one with 1000 people and hence 150mn USD in revenues.

Now that I've stated the two complexities, you might ask, OK. What have we learnt -

1. My revenues in steady state are probably gonna be lesser than what they could be in a non-channel approach
2. My margins would probably go up and my risk would go down.
3. Most importantly a strategic insight would be that the economics of the channel approach are derived from the moving of the responsibility and hence the onus of funding certain activities from the start-up who has per se no expertise or track record as an organization with sales to a Reseller with specific vertical or geographical expertise and hence the ability to raise capital at better terms to fund the exercise.

Having said this - what does it take to run a channel friendly business ? While it might be a bit inelegant for readers, I just have to put these down in points

1. It's a must must must to have clearly positioned products with comprehensive collateral material etc. to ensure that the channel is saying what you want them to say and have NO ROOM to innovate or to insert distortions into the entire product messaging.
2. Pricing and Discounts need to be worked carefully. Here its helpful to start off by looking at your experiences with your own direct sales force. Specifically metrics like Average selling price, Length of sales cycle, customer wins by vertical and key buying reasons need to be quantified. Having done this its important to put in place a list price SLIGHTLY HIGHER that the average selling price and provide a discount band for the partners to ensure they make reasonable amounts of money if they were to sell at the present average selling price. While this means that your own revenue yield would be lower, you will benefit from the dramatic reduction in cost of sales and should take this as a way to enable that.
3. Committed relationships are the way to go. Be firm in your own committments and that of your partners. Ensure you have the budget and the human resources to support the partners and demand that they dedicate the same to ensure success of your products.
4. Manage with software. The channel today has to be software driven otherwise your budget for experienced channel managers will have to be doubled if not tripled.
5. This is a marathon. Be prepared for it. Spurts of energy and activity will only serve to disorient and frighten partners. Consistency is the main reason to adopt a channel approach. Practice it yourself and demand the same from all partners.
6. Think international. Make it easy for global partners to do business with you. Structure your products so they look feel and appeal to global audiences.
7. Invest in lead generation activities. By these i mean most importantly online activities which generate qualified leads. You just cannot rely on partners to prospect accounts alone and cold calling is the most expensive way to qualify accounts. You have to focus on doing stuff that will make customers come to you!!

Good for today?

DISCUSS:: the changing face of enterprise software

In case people have not noticed, we're in the Middle of a major upheaval in enterprise software. Over the past year we have seen LARGE MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS. To put this into perspective - JD Edwards, Peoplesoft, Veritas and Macromedia are no longer around. What does this mean for the world of Enterprise software?

It's nothing to worry about. The writing is clear. In the abscence of a disruptive shift enterprise software companies have no other way to grow financial metrics but to consolidate. This would reduce inefficiencies in administration, R&D, channels and global operations; improve individual market shares and most importantly give them access to technology and lucrative maintenance and/or upgrade revenues.

Is this good for the industry at large and how does this change the world as seen from a start-up perspective?

My views are this is to the greater benefit of the universe at large. Lets face it. Innovation today is limited and clearly the larger companies have realized that they have to grow and improve on their metrics without relying on the same. Customers esp. the Fortune 500 are not willing to compromise on essentials such as support, documentation and quality in order to get early access to features as they were willing to in the hey days.

Start-ups who see the writing on the wall will be the ones to make significant amounts for their investors and managements.
Today is the day for start-ups to:-
1. focus on innovation and being ahead of the curve in a niche that just might go mainstream.
2. Focus on the early adopter customers. You are better off crossing the chasm post acquisition by a larger vendor.
3. Focus early on on working closely with the big consolidators - Cisco, IBM, Oracle, MSFT, Symantec, SAP, etc. through strategic relationships.
4. Go global but with a clear target segment - Innovation in the future is going to be seen in prodcuts to tap into new untapped markets.
5. The big 5 - cisco, intel, msft, oracle, symantec will have significant budgets for strategic investments.
6. Forget going public. The capital markets are no longer gonna let companies with sub billion dollar revenue streams go public. The next 2-3 years will see the quick flip investments generate the best returns.

All in all, this is an exciting time for enterprise software. Innovation is sorely needed and the technologies that will drive innovation are all around us. Its like they say: Opportunity knocks on many people's doors; only few recognize her.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

LIFETALK::Career Choices?

Today during the course of conversation with a new entrepreneur had to introduce myself and my career path over the past many years after a long time. Listening to myself as I spoke to him, I began to wonder.


Why was my career path like this? Is there any way I would do it differently if I could? Where am I going?


Let me start by introducing myself to those who don’t know me. I grew up in the tiny country of Qatar – growing up as one among the 400,000 or so people on the peninsula and as one of the 2000 odd students (at the peak) at M.E.S. Indian School (the only Indian school) there. While growing up I pretty much was at the top of the pack. Was naturally good at the science, math and social skills and like to think I was a pretty balanced kid with a lot of friends and who managed to get out while excelling in academics. Post high-school moved from there to Bombay – India to study Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay beginning 1996. While at IIT Bombay, was exposed to the beginnings of the internet. It was fascinating to see single page websites like Yahoo, hotmail, rocketmail, geocities and xoom start off, become huge and get sold / go public for billions of dollars. Was very motivated on hearing during this wave stories of large number of IIT graduates who were part of the wave. These were really the beginnings and over time grew a serious interest in Entrepreneurship. Pretty much taught myself a lot of stuff by reading voraciously over the Internet and towards my senior year had already pretty much figured out what I wanted to be. Spent the final year building my contact book and looking for a specific idea which would be my first company. Met Sandeep - a fellow student at IIT Bombay and founded myzus, within a span of days won the business plan competition at IIT Bombay, raised seed capital and the journey had begun. This was around Jan 2000. Spent the next three years going through the grind. In what were to be some of the best years of my life went through the entire cycle. The thrills of working day and night to build something that you truly thought would change the world, living with your team in sleeping bags at the office to meet impossible self imposed deadlines, going through the crash and renewed focus towards profitability and earning battle scars by going through layoffs, splintering in the team, refocusing efforts on the product, a bitter fight with my cofounder and day in day out rejection from customers on whom I was calling on akin to a door to door salesman. Also learnt the hard way how while majority of your staff will be great people, you would get those bad apples who would be outright dishonest and whose behavior could and would jeopardize the entire survival of the company. Somewhere down the line realized my heart was not in the venture and managed to somehow keep the boat afloat while transitioning to a new CEO. Was saved by the fact that I had one good customer which closed - Batelco. Done this I took a small break to clear my head by visiting family in Qatar. Around this time was already looking for multiple other opportunities in Singapore and the Middle East. By sheer coincidence, at around the same time bumped into Suraj Thampi a classmate of mine while on a short visit to Qatar.


Suraj was running at the time while based in the United States a offshore call center servicing the American market based out of Qatar. He’s inherited the business as a result of an investment made by his dad and his partner and was at a difficult stage w.r.t. where to take the company. We talked and at this point of time made a decision to move to Qatar to take over as CEO of the company. Made the decision because I wanted to run a different company. Wanted to work more with people, processes, quality and the global customer. Once I got in realized how difficult the situation I inherited was. The company was bleeding money and the shareholders just wanted out. Had a team that was riddled with mistrust, incompetence, infighting and lacking a leader. Worked fast and furious to fill that gap and like to feel in a short span of time inspired people to see the bigger picture and rally around in one last push to make it. At the same time, relooked at the business and decided that we just had to make some hard decisions to restructure the company. Reoriented the focus from a global call center to a local one and trimmed the team to ensure that only the highly motivated team players were retained. At the same time, kicked off the local sales effort to ensure that by the time we were restructured, there was business to keep the resources busy. Ended up being saved in the nick of time by one good deal. Having done this, was faced with another dilemma. While the company could survive with this order, it would be a shell of its older structure and would take time to build itself up into its older strength and structure. Something that would justify someone like myself running the same. Decided to make a quick exit and was done grave injustice by fate.


Took up an opportunistic assignment to run a call center in dubai. The money was good. I didn’t pay much attention to what the assignment was. Was just happy to be moving to dubai and away from Qatar where I really felt my creativity and drive was being stifled. Dubai for some reason felt like the place to be as soon as I landed in the country. I was reminded of Bombay. Global tech gave me some time to think. It taught me upfront how companies should not be run and the things to never lose sight of in case I ever became an investor or board member. The good thing was it gave me time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I really was at a juncture where I had a difficult decision. I basically had three choices – to work for someone else, to apply to b-school or to do another company. At this stage, met my partner Vivek. Bonded instantaneously. I guess Vivek was also battle weary from his company at the time – Communicate2. He’d put in a considerable amount from his inheritance into building a product and taking his company away from the services hell and sales were just not forthcoming. I guess we were both looking for something more lucrative to do with our lives. At this point me and him discussed multiple ways of converting our collective energy into a company and One Nine Three was born. I really thought hard before starting this company. At this stage I revisited questions and checklists I had before starting myzus – what would be unique about this company? What was the barrier to entry for competition? Why would customers buy from us? In the end, made the decision purely on gut feel.


My ego had really taken a beating with myzus. While I had proved to myself that I could build a product, manage a team, inspire others, raise capital, I could not demonstrate to myself what I felt was the most crucial aspect of running a company – delivering the numbers. My other biggest failure was being unable to manage my relationship with my co-founder. This was another of my biggest dilemmas – was I to blame ? had I done something wrong ? Was I the one behaving immaturely? Could I have done something differently? In the end decided that there was no other way of getting my self-respect back apart from making my new company a success. I had to demonstrate to myself that I could sell. With nothing that could come in the way as an excuse. I would go out and choose the besr products, concentrate on a very vibrant market (the middle east) and just see if I could do it. I would try my best to build a healthy relationship with my partner and not just put in place a relationship where we were buddies but one where we were achievers. I had to make it happen to demonstrate to myself that I was capable of being in the start-up business. Before raising money again I had to prove that I could put it to good use. I needed to be confident enough to invest my own capital in the company. Introspected about vivek and in the end made up my decision on purely one point – my judgment of his integrity – felt he was a mature person of integrity. Admired his tenacity and his ability to do the tough things. Areas where I lacked. Had to go ahead. This is the story as it stands. Have been on the road for slightly over a year now. It’s a journey I’m happy I undertook.


Have learnt a lot at One Nine Three. Here was a business model that was simple. No rocket science. No big capital requirement. Nothing to hide behind. Get rights to sell products in the region for a commission. Sell them. Make commission. I’m happy I made this decision. Day in and day out interact with some of the best product companies in the world. Meet and recruit channel partners for them. Support channel partners in their meetings with customers. See upfront what customers say when they are evaluating products. Get to see upfront how the best companies in the world run their businesses. Am getting an education. Along the way am learning some lessons in how not to run a business. Where things go wrong at the ground level. How to build a product organization. What the best kind of products are. The importance of innovation. Of strategic partnerships. Of meeting a true customer need.


Hopefully In 2-3 years I’ll be educated. I’d be ready to make the next big shift. To run a company that will really make it big. I’m confident I’m on the right path. Need to work hard and make this a success. It’s going to be my biggest test. A personal one before I start another company. And I’m having fun on this test.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

LAMENT:: overvalued stock

sometimes you wonder why companies continue to get decent valuations. Case in point - Rediff.com.

the company has had ample time, liquidity, the team and the investors to innovate and today after maybe 10-12 years of existence the end result

10mn USD in yearly revenues with about 1mn USD a year in losses, no clear direction or strategic shift planned (or communicated) by the management to change the course or direction of the company. The guidance seems to be - the indian internet subscriber base will explode and then even our revenues will explode hence please buy us.

My retort:-
1. Rediff has continuously missed the bus
2. Its revenues are pathetic given their cash position, liquidity and the fact that even smaller players like shaadi.com have done a better job of monetizing their eyeballs.
3. They seem to lag in all aspects and seem to follow a me-too approach with no innovation in either email, instant messaging, mobile content, or business services
4. The management team does not seem energized or committed to technology or any bigger picture given the fact that they do seem to claim that they will be the pre-eminent and largest online portal in India - a land of 1bn possible consumers.

I find it hard to believe that when the internet subscriber base improves, indian users will continue to partake of the pathetic online offerings from Rediff.

yet the comapany is enjoying a market capitalization of 172mn USD inspite of 10mn USD in cash and the fact that it is losing 1mn USD a year. How does wall street justify this? Or is this the india story at work feeding the madness of crowds?

Do let me know your views. . . .

Friday, October 21, 2005

GYAN:: Product Management

Hi, Today I wanted to touch upon the role of product management in the success of a product company. Sounds obvious doesn’t it. product company must manage its product or else it wont do well. Funnily enough this is THE most neglected function and the single most common reason for the failure of a start-up.

In my meetings with founders of technology companies, I end up slotting most of them into three categories – the techies, the slimies and the product managers. What do I mean by these ? The technies are the researchers, the guys fascinated by technology and the guys who love creating new features and cool products which only they would use. The slimies are the venture capital insiders – the finance guys, the analysts the associates and many other assorted MBA type creatures who post realization that their opinion is not valued by the fund their at decide to try and make money by doing a start-up. They are able to raise capital because of nepotism and the companies are symptomatic of the trend of the month. The third caregory and the rarest of all is the product manager type. These are the guys who are semi-technical and love tinkering with technology but they never talk technology – they talk about the customer. Their pet subjects are solving customer needs, simpler user interface etc. etc. In all of these categories the technies are most likely to fail, the slimies are most likely to flip and only the product managers have any chance of creating a long term good business.

Why is this would you say? Isn’t Roshan being very biased in his views? Well, not really. Having interacted with multiple founders the one question I always ask each one is “Why will your company succeed?” The standard answers end up being

“Some cool technology we are using which will kick butt and ” –techie

“We are cheaper, this is a crucial need, customers much buy” – slimy

Only the product guys actually end up saying “Because our product is the best”. This is the one true test I always run. The product guy is usually the only one who is willing to bet the success of the entire company on the superiority of the product as a whole. The technies very frequently also might say that their product is the best if you were to ask them but on probing their reasons for the same are non-customer related etc.

Now what is this role called product management and why is it so crucial to the success of any company?

Firstly,

I’m a firm believer that product management has to be a function led by the CEO of the company and assisted by a mixture of veterans and young bright engineers. Why do I say this?

If product management is the most crucial role for the success of the company shouldn’t it be handled and supervised directly by the head of the company? Its really that simple. Not doing so is like saying “We are going to focus on quality” and then assigning the role to someone who is known to be incompetent and on his way out. For a product company product management is core.

I’ll define product management as the organization that interacts with customers and industry conducts market research and gives engineering a crystal clear brochure, data sheet feature list, screenshots, mock up of what the product should look like once it is developed. This is crucial. Product management’s role is not to come out with single statements like “We will build a ultra scalable open source portal development tool” Product management’s job is to define the product to a level of granularity that engineering, sales and marketing can visualize the product even before it gets built. This means a lot of effort into screenshots, mock-ups, feature lists before embarking on development and this means that the product management organization MUST have resources sufficient to deliver at this level of granularity.

Typically the product manager’s role should encompass the following on a continuous basis:-

  1. Market research both on the market (passive) and about the organizations own proposed offering (active)
  2. Industry interaction – ensuring that the product is aligned with initiatives by larger industry players and the state of the industry in general. Closely working with their own teams to time product roadmap to their own internal roadmap for launch of various initiatives.
  3. Product Feature management – Creating the detailed Feature list, sales proposal and data sheets which the product should meet and seeing to it that the same are attractive to potential customers. Some times this would also entail vertical specific product add-ons for companies adopting a “Axing the tree” marketing strategy. Further details of this strategy will be given in my next posting.
  4. Competitive analysis and fine tuning of the product based on continuously changing market environment.
  5. Working with key beta customers, handholding them through the process and ensuring communication of the product roadmap which might include features not in the present release.

On the whole, the product managers role will ensure that the money being spent by the organization goes towards creation of a real asset similar to a house, factory or any other physical asset. It is worth it to remember at this stage that cool technology or a cost advantage can never be sold. Only products can.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

GYAN::The Science of Sales

The sales function in any organization is often shrouded in awe, mystery and frequently derision. If you were to take a snap poll of start-up CEOs and ask them which function in their organization was most frustrating to manage it would most likely be Sales. Sales is also for as long as my memory serves me been the area which is difficult to predict and while many technology entrepreneurs try and understand the process using their engineers logic, sales teams generally consider this a futile exercise – evidence of a non-sales persons lack of understanding of how sales works.

I’ve put this question to multiple people and roughly divide the replies into two categories – the guys who feel sales is a science and those who feel sales is an art. The guys who feel sales is a science point to logical processes such as the buying cycle, process tree, etc. while those who feel its an art form refer to superhuman achievements of the sales stars and their ability to go into any account and sell them anything no matter how illogical. I’ve tried to study this and come out with my own view and surprisingly its neither.

Sales in my opinion is a sport and the sales guy is akin to a sportsperson. Being a good sales guy is something in my opinion that the majority of the above average IQ population can aspire to, becoming a great sales person is a combination of genetics, personality and of course training.

Why do I say this? Fundamentally in my opinion sales resembles a sport. The most important thing to do to learn how to sell is very similar to what anyone needs to do to play a sport reasonably well. We all have heard our coaches tell us this secret repeatedly.

Practice.

I’m a firm believer that any above average person can become a sales person by just practice. The Enterprise sales process is very much like a game and with thorough knowledge of the rules and practice in how to play them, anyone can become an average sales person. The big secret is that 90% of the sales people out there are just that – average sales people. They are just regular people who have learnt the rules of the game through practice. Nothing more nothing less. While they can serve, rally, topspin with ease, they can never play competitive sales.

Being a Sales Star akin to a sports star requires going to the next level. Similar to a sports star it takes four main qualities – focus, hard work(lots more practice), temperament and a thorough understanding of science. Why do I say this? Many of us have had the opportunity during our growing years to see some of our peers attempt to move from the amateur sportsperson to become pros. The first thing you notice is how their vocabulary changes. While during their amateur days its more gingoistic (I’m the best!! Noone can beat me !!) the lingo as soon as they start training with a professional coach becomes science – the food they eat, the muscles they try to build up and their practice moves from maybe running a few times before sports day to training every day for at least a few hours. Transitioning from a sales person to a sales star is similarly a difficult and concentrated effort on the part of the best and brightest to move to the next level. As part of this they realize that:-

  1. They must must practice an order of magnitude above the rest.
  2. They must understand the science of sales. This means yes, they have to understand prospecting, lead generation, sales funnels, the buying process etc.
  3. Temperament – Sales ultimately is keeping your cool, staying focused for the long haul and not letting your competition break you. This is something the best sales people cultivate over the years
  4. They must be fully prepared with thorough knowledge of the customer as well as their own product offering similar to how the star athlete must be prepared thoroughly for the race or risk injury.

As such, these are some of the reasons why I call it the Sport of Sales. However, there is one more reason.

When you look at any star athlete speaking post winning his medals while thanking his parents and siblings, you’ll always notice one person he will thank. While the cameras always focus on the star tennis player or basketball star they will frequently also show this other person. Yes. The Coach.

Without a coach who is superlative no sales person can become a sales star and sales star under a coach who they don’t respect show performances that are dismal to say the least. And the coach is the reason why I again say that Sales is a sport.

The Coach in the corporate setting is either the CEO or the VP-Sales. They’ve got to be the coach and bring out the best in the sales team. Being there to pump them up, give them the knowledge on what to eat, what to read, how to meditate, what the sales process will look like and ensuring that the best players play and the remaining get dropped.

Sorry btw for the misleading title ;-)

First Column for Times Property

Image via Wikipedia Hi Everyone, I'm happy to post the first of my articles that will be appearing in the Times Property - a supplement ...