Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to create great slides for presentations

How to Create a Great PowerPoint Presentation

Are you guilty of information overload? Do you abuse Clip Art? Here, the experts weigh in on how to create a pitch-perfect PowerPoint presentation.
steve jobs, apple, powerpoint, microsoft, janet bornemann
Steve Jobs speaking at a Press Conference On Apples iPhone 4
"There's something in the air." With these five words, Steve Jobs opened the 2008 Macworld conference.  Jobs is often cited as one of corporate America's greatest presenters, and that's simply because he understands one thing: how to tell a story. Like any great sales pitch, an effective PowerPoint offers a compelling narrative; it elicits an emotional response from the audience, even if the subject is, say, debt consolidation, or finance derivatives. The trick is to understand how to engage your listeners, keep them focused, and use the right visual imagery to convey your message. So whether you're pitching an idea to investors, introducing a new product to your clients, or simply reviewing your company's quarterly results, a great PowerPoint presentation will leave your audience feeling inspired.

Creating a great PowerPoint is simpler than you might think. More often than not, you don't need to be a great designer, writer or orator to come up with an attention-grabbing presentation. What you do need, however, is an understanding of how to capture an audience's focus—and perhaps a bit of their imagination.  Here are a few tips on how to create a PowerPoint that your audience won't forget.
Creating a Great PowerPoint: Create a narrative. 

"One thing I like to do is make sure there's a logical story," says Janet Bornemann, the creative director of PowerPoint Studio, based in Acton, Massachusetts. Bornemann, who designs PowerPoint presentations for corporate clients, says that just like any piece of good writing, there needs to be a beginning, middle, and an end to your presentation. Traditionally, in the beginning of the presentation you tell the audience what you plan to cover, in the middle of the presentation you tell them, and in the end, you tell them what you've told them.  One clever tip Bornemann recommends is to use five words per line, and five lines per slide.

Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist and Inc. contributor, has his own technique for creating a storyline for an entrepreneur's PowerPoint presentation to investors. His method, which he calls the 10/20/30 rule, is a great way to structure your presentation's story. "It's quite simple," Kawasaki wrote on his blog, How to Change the World. "A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points."
Kawasaki's recommended structure for any entrepreneurial presentation is as follows:
1.    Problem
2.    Your solution
3.    Business model
4.    Underlying magic/technology
5.    Marketing and sales
6.    Competition
7.    Team
8.    Projections and milestones
9.    Status and timeline
10.   Summary and call to action
Regardless of a specific structure you choose for your presentation, your story needs to accomplish three goals: frame the issue, present the challenge, and explain how you will solve the problem.
Creating a Great PowerPoint: Less is more.

At some point or another, we've all sat through a PowerPoint presentation flooded with an endless stream of bullet points, sentences, or even full paragraphs. It may seem obvious, but according to Bornemann, this is one of the biggest—and most common—mistakes made by presenters. And when the presenter lists too much detail on the slides, few people will be able to retain any of it.

A great presentation "should really just give the highlights," says Bornemann. Steve Jobs, for example, is famous for using virtually no text at all— an icon of a new product or two or three "big picture" words will suffice. "People are afraid to use a slide with one word, but it has merit, because we have to process information before we go on to the next idea," Bornemann says. It's also good to segment presentations in places where your audience's mind can sum up—and process—the information, so that they're actually able to think about what you're telling them.
"It's very important for the mind to be able to rest on an idea or a thought, so if it's a constant flow of words, people will grow tired," she adds.

Jim Confalone, the founder and creative director of ProPoint Graphics, a graphic design studio based in New York City, says that people simply stop paying attention to slides with too much text on them. "It becomes like wallpaper," he says. In other words, it becomes easy to tune out.

Your audience needs to digest information. Don't be afraid to linger on a slide or create a slide with just one picture and nothing else. Taking risks like these will help sell your presentation to your audience, and keep them from getting that "glazed over" look of boredom.
Dig Deeper: 4 Great PowerPoint Tools

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Branding is key. 

Clip Art: the enemy of any great PowerPoint presentation. When assembling slides for a presentation, Clip Art, slide transitions, and other tacky animations are an easy way to pollute your brand's message. While they're easy to use, they make your brand seem generic and outdated. After all, anyone with Microsoft has access to the same catalogue of images, and more than likely has seen it all before.

"You don't want to have a circus of effects," says Bornemann. "Be consistent with colors and fonts. Focus on the message—everything has to have a reason." And, she adds, "effects 'on steroids' don't have a reason."

It's also easy to fall into the trap of overusing charts and graphs to illustrate a point. However, if the graphic doesn't support the information or push the presentation forward, it's not necessary to the 'story.' "As soon as it turns into an arbitrary thing, we throw it out," says Confalone. "If the content is not there, nothing you do is going to work. "
Dig Deeper: Making Your (Power) Point

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse once more.

The presentation on the screen is just as important as the speaker's presentation off the screen. When giving the PowerPoint Presentation, it's essential to add a little flavor to the speech.

"Most speakers get into presentation mode and feel as though they have to strip the talk of any fun," Carmine Gallo, a communication coach, wrote in his Business Week column recently. "If you are not enthusiastic about your own products or services, how do you expect your audience to be?"

According to Confalone, there are two ways a speaker can fail in his or her presentation: a lack confidence, or a misconception about what the audience will retain from the speech.

The only real way to boost confidence is to practice. If you spend 15 hours putting together the presentation, spend another 15 practicing it. Don't rely too much on notes, since the audience will be looking at you to engage with them—not your script.

Confalone also stresses to his clients that most viewers will walk away from a presentation with only the very key points. Therefore, it's essential not to confuse your audience with the minutia or details that are best left for a handout.

All PowerPoint presentations are trying to sell you something, even if it's just an idea, product, or the presenter himself. A "boring" topic is no excuse for a "boring" presentation. "Sexy or not, you need to distill the key points in the conversation," Confalone says. "That element of persuasion is the key to it."


Death by PowerPoint

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

9 Lessons to Disrupt an Industry

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of financial management website, didn’t just set out to start a company, she says. She wanted to disrupt an industry.
Speaking at Inc.’s GrowCo conference in New Orleans, the entrepreneur talked about what she learned--from starting her business in the middle of the recession, wooing investors, and scaling lightning fast. Here are her nine tips.
When everyone zigs, you have to zag. Von Tobel started her company at the end of 2008, as the recession was sinking to its lowest depths. "When everyone is battening down the hatches," she says, "grow." It will set you apart.
Put skin in the game. "When you’re spending your own money it’s different than when you’re spending someone else’s money," von Tobel says. "That should never go away. I treat every dollar like it’s my own dollar."
Vet your investors. "I thought of each of my investors like someone I was marrying--I’m going to be married to you for 10 years or longer," she says. Each of those people should be a person you’d want with you in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic, in the middle of a storm.
Listen obsessively to your users. Every day, von Tobel says, she reads customer emails.
Don’t be afraid to adapt. "What I was thinking three years ago, only about 80 percent of it is true." Every three months, LearnVest holds a summit where the staff talks about what’s relevant, what’s current, what’s happening in the industry.
Maybe most importantly, von Tobel says, is finding the right advisors. "Find three people that are smarter than you, that are on the bleeding edge, and make them your friends."
Identify your metrics. For LearnVest, that means looking at who’s logging in and how often. Is that number going up or down? Are customers referring friends? Figure out the five most relevant metrics and track them constantly.
Further, von Tobel says, don’t just find and cultivate your fans. "Focus on the people who talk badly about your business. That really helps you focus."
Look for outsized passion. "The difference between a good hire and great hire is the difference between succeeding and failing," she says. "The X factor is that they’re obsessed with what you’re building. Everyone at LearnVest believes they’re changing the world."
Take it one day at a time. "You’re going to have really good days, and you can’t get ahead of yourself, can’t forget your strategy," von Tobel says. "There were days that really sucked. [Either way], it’s really important to give every day everything you’ve got."
Protect yourself. Always remember: When you start "a small business, most of your finances are run through you," von Tobel warns. So make sure you’re protected--get a great financial plan from an expert. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Myers-Briggs personality profiles relate to socio-economic status Oct 19th, 2013 at 7:29 PM

It’s always intriguing to take a personality test, but also fascinating to see which types tend to climb higher on the socio-economic ladder.
This infographic from Career Assessment Site takes a look at what personality types veer toward what professions, who tends to rake in the green at a higher rate and a number of other fascinating facts about how our personalities shape our lives.

The Future of Technology

By Brian Berk
Mobile payments, geolocation and heat mapping could soon take the industry by storm

What technologies will the convenience store retailer of the future use to increase sales and boost profit margins? Mobile wallets, geolocation and heat mapping are just three budding technologies that could soon enter the lexicon of every c-store operator.
Cumberland Farms offers a mobile payment option to its customers via an app.
Mobile wallet and related mobile payment technologies are definitely the closest to full retail implementation. According to Doug Kilgour, senior director of business development for mobile wallet provider Isis, the mobile wallet market will reach $200 billion by 2015 and 86 percent of all point-of-sale (POS) terminals in the United States will be contactless by 2017.
"We are finally starting to deliver on some promises regarding mobile payments," Kilgour said during a recent webcast presented by technology partner Gilbarco Veeder-Root.
The future of mobile payments looks "very promising," agreed Danilo Portal of National Payment Card Association (NPCA), a supplier of merchant-branded debit cards and mobile payment solutions. "Most retailers we are talking to have mobile payments on their agenda for 2014," the chief operating officer and chief information officer told Convenience Store News. "I see a very high adoption rate within the next two years by most retailers."
Exxon Mobil Corp. is one industry retailer taking part in the rapid shift toward mobile technology. The company recently launched a mobile payment app called SpeedPass+ at 27 locations in Nashville. The app is designed to make paying at the pump quick and convenient for a new segment of technology-savvy consumers and serves as a complement to ExxonMobil's existing Speedpass program.
"We know how important mobile phones have become to our consumers' lives," said Ted Walko, ExxonMobil's retail fuels strategy and program manager. "We see this trend continuing and accelerating. If our pilot is successful, we would hope to expand to other markets."
Mobile payment technology has also made its way into Salt Lake City-based c-store chain Maverik Inc., which is testing Isis' mobile wallet platform. Isis, a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless, is so happy with the results in its test markets of Salt Lake and Austin, Texas, that the company will launch nationally later this year.
To use the Isis Mobile Wallet, consumers need a near-field communication-enabled smartphone and a SIM-based secure element. "Over the past nine months, we have proven the power of an open platform, creating an ecosystem of literally hundreds of partners dedicated to making mobile commerce a reality," said Michael Abbott, CEO of Isis. "As part of our commitment to consumers, we are incorporating feedback from our [pilot programs] into the next generation of the Isis Mobile Wallet as we prepare for national availability later this year."
Many more c-store retailers are about to follow Maverik's lead by backing an Isis competitor as charter members. A large group of chains, including 7-Eleven Inc., Phillips 66, Alon USA, QuikTrip Corp., Sheetz Inc., Wawa Inc., Hy-Vee Inc., Royal Dutch Shell plc, Sunoco Inc., RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. and Pacific Convenience & Fuels LLC, have joined mobile payment provider Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). Although Dallas-based MCX has not yet revealed an official launch date, experts believe this payment method will begin to gain plenty of traction in 2014, meaning c-stores will be promoting mobile payments to their customers shortly.
Currently, mobile payments still only make up a small percentage of all payments in the United States. In fact, using a baseball analogy, mobile payments are only in the top of the first inning, said Henry Helgeson, CEO of Boston-based Merchant Warehouse, a payment technology company that serves as a liaison between merchants and consumers.
"I would have said players were just stretching and warming up before the game. But we've seen a couple of companies that have gotten out in front right now, and we are seeing some great use cases starting to evolve around these companies," he said, continuing the analogy. "Starbucks, LevelUp, Isis and Tabbedout are companies that are in the field today and are processing good transaction volume."
Why Go Mobile?
The benefit for c-store chains to offer mobile payments is simple: providers such as Isis and MCX are purported to charge lower interchange fees than the credit and debit card companies. With mobile payment technology, retailers can achieve higher profit margins and believe they can control POS transactions in a way they have never done so before.
The Spinx Xtras app combines a loyalty program with mobile payment.
Consumers, however, must still be convinced that there is a benefit to use their smartphone to make POS purchases before the technology can really take off.
"Mobile [payments] have to make someone's life better or they will not use it," said Dodd Roberts, president of MCX. "But it is so important to do so because mobile payment allows a retailer to engage with customers when they are at home or on the road."
Therefore, rewarding customers is perhaps the best way to get them to choose mobile wallets vs. traditional debit and credit card swiping. "Membership and loyalty programs, targeted offers and gift cards are great ways to get customers interested in mobile wallets," added Isis' Kilgour.
Retailers can easily transfer the lower interchange fees they will pay via mobile payment platforms to fund loyalty programs, noted NPCA's Portal. "The retailer can promote cents off, percentage discounts and special offers to this selected and loyal group of customers," he said. "The net result for the retailer is increased sales and a better return on investment."
Last month, The Spinx Co. went this route. The operator of 69 Southeast c-stores now offers the Spinx Xtras app, which combines a loyalty program with a payment option. Customers who download the free app on their iPhone and Android devices can not only earn gas discount awards, but also pay for the transaction via mobile payment, which is processed by NPCA.
"This app eliminates the necessity of carrying another physical card," said Steve Spinks, president and CEO of The Spinx Co. "It also provides customers with a secure and simple way to make purchases at Spinx, as well as easy access to their Xtras rewards balance."
The New Face of Technology 
If there is anything of equal or paramount importance to retailers than increasing profit margins, it is selling more items to customers who enter or are about to enter their c-stores. That's where GPS, geolocation and heat mapping – perhaps the three hottest (pun intended) new retail technologies – come into play.
GPS and related geolocation technologies incorporate many facets under their umbrella, including the ability to have a customer place an order online, pay for it in advance and have the order ready for quick pickup when they enter the store. This technology, often through the use of apps, also helps retailers determine where a customer is located in real-time and can direct this customer to its nearest store or offer a targeted regional offer to consumers.
Geolocation expands even further to identifying customers, such as VIPs, right as they walk in the store. This idea follows a basic tenet that consumers will repeatedly visit stores if a location already knows his or her likes and presents product offerings around that knowledge.
NEC IT Solutions is one technology provider innovating in this area with its recently released NeoFace Watch facial recognition technology. When the software recognizes a celebrity, VIP or simply any other customer who seeks the service, it sends a message to the sales staff with information about that customer's preferences and past purchases.
NEC is not just selling facial recognition, but an enhanced customer experience, Senior Account Development Manager Allen Ganz told CSNews. Facial recognition technology is especially valuable on busy days at a retail location, he added.
"I've often seen it when a customer walks into a store, sees the long line and buys the product somewhere else," he said. "Imagine a scenario where you can walk up to a kiosk where you already preregistered yourself along with, for example, your favorite drink and the store recognizes and knows I want my standard order."
NEC's newest technology requires customers to opt in to the service. Therefore, retailers need not worry about intrusion claims, according to Ganz.
NeoFace Watch works in tandem with Field Analyst, NEC's facial detection software. Field Analyst can anonymously detect the age and gender of individuals at a c-store.
"A retailer can have a better appreciation of the makeup of the customers walking into the store," Ganz said. "It can also be used at the POS, tying the product that's purchased to the demographic of the individual."
The Heat Is On 
Heat mapping has similar qualities to geolocation, but it uses color maps to determine consumer tendencies. For example, if a section of a store is crowded, it will come up as red on the map. If foot traffic is sparse, the area will be highlighted in blue.
Heat maps reveal a red color where foot traffic is the strongest in a c-store. A blue color depicts less-traveled areas.
Today's heat maps can provide so many more details, though. "Video cameras have always been in stores for security and loss-prevention purposes," said Rajeev Sharma, founder and CEO of State College, Pa.-based VideoMining, a supplier of heat mapping software. "But now, we can use those videos and convert it into useful information about shopper behavior in stores."
Heat mapping can determine what products a customer looks at in-store and what they touch. The software measures data from the moment a customer walks in, up until the second they walk out. Heat mapping products can even be used with a retailer's current security cameras if they are positioned properly within the store, noted Sharma.
"You can find out how many people saw a display and how many people bought from that display," he said. "You can also learn the demographics of that customer. We can determine the gender and age range."
In fact, heat mapping offers one additional component many facial recognition programs cannot: the ability to determine a shopper's ethnicity. "You can, for example, determine what Hispanic shoppers look for and differences in how young people and old people shop," the executive stated.
Heat mapping not only helps c-store retailers determine what products sell best in their stores, but it also provides them with vital information regarding where to place particular items in the store. "Most people who come into a convenience store have a purpose," said Sharma. "We analyze the first place they go when they enter the store. Perhaps, that place is where the retailer should place impulse items."
Heat mapping technology can also be expanded to outside the store at the pump, added Sharma. But he acknowledged that the software cannot yet reveal quite as many details about customer tendencies at the pump as it can inside the store.
VideoMining analyzes retail data on a national basis. Hence, the company's heat mapping technology provides an added benefit whereby it allows retailers to benchmark data gathered vs. national averages in several different categories, Sharma concluded.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Google Dominates Ad Tech

Rate New Data Shows Just How Big Google's Ad-Tech Advantage Really Is

In ad-tech, there's Google and then there's everyone else.
The search giant and owner of DoubleClick is far and away the biggest player in the ad-tech industry. Google served over 300 billion ad impressions in September, according to data from Evidon obtained by Ad Age, a massive number putting it ahead of its next nearest competitor,OpenX, by over 200 billion monthly ad impressions.
The index provides a rare look into just how dominant Google position in ad-tech really is. The company is often spoken of as the industry's largest player but does not release impression data and declined to comment for this story. The Evidon numbers though -- collected from sites visited by the over 10 million users of its Ghostery browser extension's GhostRank panel -- provide a telling sample of data.
"I think those numbers are directionally accurate give or take a small margin of error," said OpenX CRO Jason Fairchild in an interview with Ad Age, confirming Evidon's read on his company.
Google showed up in three out of the top 12 spots on Evidon's index: DoubleClick took the top spot with over 229 billion impressions served in September. Google AdSense registered over 59 billion. And DoubleClick Bid Manager, Google's demand side platform, served over 27 billion.
"We try not to focus on how big the elephant is. We take one bite at a time," said Mr. Fairchild when asked how OpenX could compete with a market leader as dominant as Google. "When we started in display, Google was pretty entrenched," he said. "We don't see that to be the case in mobile or cross screen," he added, listing places where Google's competitors might see success.
The numbers are not meant to reflect distinct ad counts. Rather, as multiple tags can fire on each ad, the counts reflect the number of times each company's tags fire even if a single ad contained muliple tags on it. But it shows that Google serves a whole lot of impressions, and its ad technologies mediate much of the ad-supported web.
AppNexus and Rubicon tags rounded out the top five, firing 73 billion and 46 billion times in September respectively. The numbers do not vary much month to month, an Evidon spokesman said.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Akash Sahai Aimia India Interview

Akash Sahai, Managing Director, Aimia India

Yash Ved / 14:47 , Aug 01, 2013

Akash Sahai, Managing Director, Aimia India, has over 20 years of experience in loyalty and direct marketing industries. He began his career as a lawyer and then moved to leadership roles at United Airlines, The Loyalty Group, US Loyalty Corporation, Capital One Bank before moving to Fingerhut Direct Marketing as Executive Vice-President. Post that, Sahai led several entrepreneurial ventures both in North America and Asia in marketing and media industries. His resume boast of a law degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from INSEAD. After having lived most of his life in Canada, Akash and his family decided to relocate back to India three years ago. 

Aimia India is the world’s leading loyalty management company. It offers a full suite of coalition loyalty, proprietary loyalty and loyalty analytics services. The Montreal-headquartered company operates in over 20 countries and employs 3,800 personnel. It owns and operates several leading coalition loyalty programs globally including Aeroplan in Canada, Nectar in UK and Italy, and Air Miles across West Asia. Aimia has delivered thousands of custom loyalty programs and analytics services, for close to 80 years, to hundreds of the world’s leading businesses across banking and financial services, retail, FMCG, travel, hospitality, telecom, e-commerce and other verticals.

In an exclusive interview to IIFL’s Yash Ved, Akash Sahai said Indian consumers are complicated, promiscuous and ready for the next generation of loyalty programs. 

Can you take us through your business strategy?
Though often described as a loyalty company, we are actually in the customer-relationship business. Aimia helps companies understand their customers better through data analytics. It then use insights from those analytics to build deeper, loyal and more profitable relationships with those customers. We aim to bring down our full-suite of loyalty services to the Indian market, help companies retain their best customers and increase sales with differentiated and profitable loyalty programs. Using our advanced analytics capabilities, we will enable companies to make sense of their data, develop insights, and then act on those insights using direct marketing to maximise customer value.

What are your expansion plans for the current fiscal?
We plan to launch several large loyalty programs for a number of leading Indian brands. We are also looking to build capabilities and a team to successfully deliver these programs. To that end, we have set up extensive partnerships with local technology, operations and system integration firms. We are also establishing a broad-based, multi-party coalition loyalty program in India, along the lines of our highly successful Nectar and Aeroplan programs abroad. We are currently tailoring it to the Indian market and partnering with some of India’s largest and brightest consumer companies.

Brief us on your partnership with Axis Bank?
We are thrilled that Axis Bank chose Aimia to launch its eDGE Loyalty Rewards program. eDGE is the first pan-bank loyalty program in India. It will enable Axis Bank to be more customer-centric in its approach by engaging customers across a wide range of products and services. The program was launched over two months ago and is already seeing substantial customer traction in enrollments and redemptions. 

What is your leadership team like?
Given that the loyalty industry in India is still young, there are not many experienced loyalty practitioners, but we were able to hire two of the best. Ajay Row, who leads our proprietary loyalty business, is one of India’s original loyalty and data driven marketing guru with over 25 years of experience in designing and running award winning direct marketing and loyalty programs.  Ajay helped build both Rediff’s and Wunderman’s direct marketing businesses in India. He managed the award winning Taj InnerCircle program for eight years before joining Aimia.  

Our COO and CFO, Vikas Choudhury, built a large analytics company after beginning his career as a consultant.  Both Row, who is an IIM graduate, and Choudhury, who is a Harvard alumini, are native Mumbaikars and well connected in the business community. We also have several senior members leading business development, account management and solution delivery. As a growing company, we are always looking for more leadership talent.

What are the services you offer?
We offer a full suite of loyalty services which covers proprietary loyalty services -- helping a company set up and run their own loyalty programs, loyalty analytics, and coalition or multi-partner loyalty. The services we offer cover the entire loyalty life cycle or value chain from doing a loyalty healthcheck, to consulting projects, managing a client’s loyalty program from design to execution, analytics, marketing and fulfillment. Our loyalty operations include providing loyalty engines and databases, establishing campaign management platforms, operating contact centers, and setting up rewards and fulfillment relationships.  Our loyalty analytics provides clients with advanced analytical capabilities down to the customer and SKU level. It helps maximise program return on investment through sophisticated targeting and predictive modeling.

Who are your clients?
In India, we work with some of the country’s leading brands such as Taj Hotels, Axis Bank, Tata Capital and Standard Chartered Bank. We assist all these clients with all or part of their customer loyalty and direct marketing needs.

Any investment plans?
India represents a major strategic bet for Aimia. Hence, we have made large investments in people, capabilities and time.  Aimia has brought several people from our global operations to help build our loyalty business here. It has also brought its state- of-the-art loyalty technology and analytics platforms to India. Realising that the India opportunity is a large and a long one, it has invested the patience needed to build a large and sustainable operation in India. 

How are your international operations doing?
Aimia is a global leader in the loyalty management space. It helps manage more than 200 million relationships across various programs. Over $76bin worth of commerce flowed through Aimia programs in 2012. We run some of the largest and most successful coalitions in Canada, US, Italy, Mexico, and West Asia. We have developed proprietary loyalty and analytics programs with more than 100 of the Fortune 1,000 list of companies which includes the likes of P&G, Coke, Microsoft, Exxon, etc.  A key area of growth for our business is emerging markets, as evidenced by our entry into West Asia, Mexico, Brazil, China and India. We are investing heavily in capabilities and continue to grow our global footprint. The future looks filled with opportunity.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In today’s markets, we are all salespeople - Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink didn’t plan a career exploring the world of work as much as he gravitated toward it. After studying linguistics at Northwestern University and law at Yale, he became an aide to U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and then served as chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. “When I had the opportunity to dole out assignments, I kept the ones about work, labor, business, economics, and technology,” he recalls.
In 1997, disillusioned by the realities of politics and burned out by the workload, Pink quit to write under his own byline. An article published in Fast Company later that year became the kernel for his acclaimed first book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself (Warner Books, 2002). It plumbed the transition from employee to self-employment by millions of people much like Pink himself, and established a format that Pink has been following ever since: presenting a highly articulate, accessible synthesis of a topic or trend and a practical tool kit for putting it to work at work.
Several more books followed, bringing Pink into the ranks of the world’s leading management thinkers and speakers. His most recent book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others (Riverhead Books, 2012), explores a topic ripe, perhaps even overripe, for Pinkian synthesis. The very nature of selling has been fundamentally altered by digitization, which continues to render long-accepted sales conventions irrelevant, yet, paradoxically, makes salespeople more important to companies and customers than ever before.
S+B: We used to hear that selling would cease to exist as a function—that salespeople would be disintermediated by the Internet. What really happened?
Those predictions underestimated how ingenious we would be at creating new products and services, all of which needed to be sold. Yes, we have fewer people selling music, but people are now selling artisanal foods and cloud computing.
The predictions also missed the rise of small entrepreneurship, which means more people are selling their own services. Someone like me isn’t categorized as a salesperson by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but I spend a huge amount of my time trying to get other people to do things. Moreover, sales is no longer always a discrete function. The software companies Atlassian and Palantir, for example, have no formal sales forces. They say that nobody’s in sales because everyone is in sales. Then there’s non-sales selling. For instance, most of the jobs that have been created in the U.S. in the last 10 years have been in education and healthcare, which are all about selling behavior change.
In 2000, one in nine people in the U.S. workforce was in sales; today, one in nine people is still in sales. And none of the salespeople I interviewed in the course of doing the stories that led up to this book fit the old sales stereotype. They weren’t wearing plaid jackets and patting me on the back all the time, and I didn’t feel the need to cleanse the oil off myself afterward.
S+B: So how would you define selling today?
I don’t think there’s a catch-all term to describe selling, but for me, moving is the closest word. I’m trying to get you to go from here to there. I can persuade you that the Washington Nationals will win the National League this year, but I’m just changing your mind. Selling is an exchange. If we’re colleagues and I’m trying to get you to join my team, you’re exchanging your time and talent for the opportunity I’m giving you. It’s not denominated in dollars, but I still think that’s sales.
I recognize there are headwinds with sales because of the negative connotations. I’d like to bike into those headwinds and take back the idea of selling, not in a namby-pamby, defensive way, but in a slightly more sharp-elbowed, muscular way. I say in my book that I want people to see the act of selling in a new light. It’s more urgent, more important, and also more beautiful than we realize. It requires some fundamentally human skills, and it has become increasingly conceptual. As the VP of sales of the Italian candy company Perfetti Van Melle told me, “We’ve gone from selling Mentos to selling insights about the confections business.” You can’t get any more conceptual than that.
S+B: You propose changing the ABC sales mantra “Always be closing” to “Attunement, buoyancy, and clarity.”
These qualities encompass what you should do and how you should be if you want to move other people. For example, attunement is the ability to understand where someone else is coming from; it can also be called perspective taking.
There’s a difference between perspective taking and empathy that I might have conflated in my book A Whole New Mind [originally subtitled Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (Riverhead, 2005)]. I’ve since come to realize that empathy is related to understanding someone’s emotional state or feelings, whereas perspective taking is much more cognitive and analytical—it’s understanding someone’s interests. I think interests is the key word here.
The facts say that both perspective taking and empathy can enhance your understanding of someone else, but if you have to go with one, go with the analytical. I think the evidence says very clearly that people are able, especially in negotiation and sales situations, to reach a better deal for both sides when they’re focused on interests.
S+B: There’s a great quote in the book from the last Fuller Brush Man about sales being “an ocean of rejection.” How is buoyancy different from the power of positive thinking?
: A lot of the power of positive thinking was not built on any evidence. It was built on beliefs, some of which turned out to be right. But it wasn’t guidance from an empirical perspective. [University of North Carolina professor] Barbara Fredrickson has shown that positivity enhances well-being when it’s in the right balance. She has a three-to-one ratio: Your positive emotions should outnumber your negative emotions by three to one. But if the ratio is above 11 to one, you’re in la-la land.
Studies have also shown that purely positive self-talk—“You can do it,” the Bela Karolyi school—is better than nothing. But it’s less effective than interrogative self-talk. Asking, for example, “Can you do this?” The early proponents of positive thinking would find that abhorrent: You’re questioning your ability? But interrogative self-talk leads to preparation and planning.
Also important is changing the way you explain things. You can ascribe outcomes to internal or external causes. If you lose a sale, it’s probably not entirely your fault. But if you explain it that way, it’s going to be debilitating. If, after a rejection, you say, “Well, this always happens,” that’s just not true. [University of Pennsylvania professor] Martin Seligman’s research has shown that if you adopt an optimistic explanatory style and widen your ability to explain things with accuracy, you’ll be better off.
S+B: You define clarity as “the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems that they didn’t realize they had.” What role does framing play in that?
Framing is curation, in a more conceptual sense. You’re looking all over the place and I’m saying, “What’s significant is what’s here.” I’m helping you separate the signal from the noise. If you frame choices in a digestible way, people are more likely to pick something.
If I’m selling you a great used car that has a minor nick, I’m going to be tempted to park the car in such a way that you won’t see the damage. But research by [Tel Aviv University professor] Danit Ein-Gar and [Stanford University professors] Baba Shiv and Zakary Tormala says that I should point it out, because the nick creates the context for everything else. It helps frame the valuation of the car. In some ways, you’re widening the frame when you do this. You’re saying, “Oh, there’s a nick there, but look at everything else. The totality of it is really good.”
Of course, this depends on how essential that nick is. There’s a big difference between a blemish and a scar. If it’s small thing, then widening the frame is actually helpful. If it’s a substantive defect, then you have to either explain that the defect doesn’t matter as much as customers think or lower the price.
S+B: In your final chapter, you propose extending Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership to sales. Why are service, purpose, and meaning such a pervasive theme throughout your books?
When you sit down and talk to people about their work, you realize that they’re spending at least half of their waking hours on the job. Their work is a window into who they are. And I think that as human beings, we aspire to do something meaningful. All of us ask ourselves, “OK, why does what I’m doing matter? What is my purpose?”
What’s exciting for companies is that appealing to a sense of purpose and meaning is very effective. [Wharton professor] Adam Grant has done some great research in this area. In a study of people in a call center raising money for a university, he found that employees who spent five minutes before their shift reading letters from people who were on the receiving end of the scholarship money they raised more than doubled their sales results.
S+B: To Sell Is Human is a pretty rare sales book. It doesn’t provide the reader with a sales process.
I did that consciously, because I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all process to selling Winnebagos, to asking somebody out on a date, to getting your kids to clean their room, or to pitching your idea to a book publisher.
I didn’t want to give people a set of custom Legos that builds only one particular castle, even if that’s an awesome way to build that particular castle. I’d rather give people a rich set of basic building blocks, which they can fashion into a process of their own and constantly evaluate. Sales processes tend to be very algorithmic. And when people get wedded to a process or to an algorithm, they miss all kinds of other clues and opportunities that could be really valuable.
Reprint No. 00204

Author Profile:

Is Strategy Fixed or Variable?


The short answer to the question above is yes. The challenge is how to make strategy both fixed and variable at the same time, which will increase the pace and quality of your company’s decision making and execution by leaps and bounds.

Successful strategists know that strategy must be adaptable, dynamic, and flexible. This is because every strategy is a bet on a perceived future and each day brings new learning and information about how your future might unfold. Technological innovations, political movements, regulatory changes, competitive disruptions, evolving customer expectations, organizational turnover, and count-less other forces conspire to render irrelevant, out-of-date and off-the-mark even the most “fact-based,” thought-out, and well-informed strategies. Moreover, every company and its businesses are confronted by a constant stream of challenges and opportunities requiring choices that could—and should—materially change where it plays or how it wins. Thus, the true work of strategy is never done; it happens throughout the year, every year and every day.

Nordstrom is one company that has institutionalized strategy as a continuous, variable thing. At each of its executive and board meetings, leaders address specific strategic challenges and opportunities that are material to the company’s enterprise value. They tackle issues and opportunities as wide ranging as whether to create a new young women’s fashion department, how to participate in the ecommerce revolution, and how to digitize its retail floor operations. As challenges and opportunities are resolved, they are replaced with new ones that are rolling relentlessly over the horizon (as they always do for every company). This has dramatically raised the metabolic rate of decision making and execution throughout Nordstrom. And it has made strategy a living, ever-changing, adaptable, and highly effective management tool for its leaders.

As a rule of thumb, companies can make two to three major strategic decisions per year, each of which can be worth 5 to 10 percent of an enterprise’s economic value. Thus, over any five-year period your strategy might turn over completely—though certainly not all at once.

So all strategies should be considered variable, right? Not so fast. While your strategy can—and should—continuously evolve, its foundation should not.

At the corporate level, it can take years to build your own distinctive way of adding value to your company’s businesses and this will always be specific to certain types of businesses. This is why Berkshire Hathaway steers clear of high-tech companies, Procter & Gamble exited food, and Wells Fargo kept away from investment banking (until it acquired Wachovia during the recent financial crisis). You may be able to turnover your portfolio rapidly—even within a few months—but it takes years to change your way of adding value to your portfolio through the capabilities that support it. For example, Frito-Lay’s direct-to-store delivery capability, Inditex’s fast-fashion supply chain, and Toyota’s production system took years to hone into true sources of enterprise differentiation. The foundations of a corporate strategy need to be stable enough for long enough to let it work.
Likewise, at the business unit level, it takes time to build a compelling value proposition and the differentiating capabilities to deliver it. Frequently or suddenly changing your target customers or core value proposition creates a moving target. JC Penney is just the latest poster child for what happens when you abruptly change business strategy. Both its customers and capabilities system were put into shock with its sudden switch from promotion-based selling of mostly its own branded apparel to everyday “low” pricing of store-within-store branded merchandise.

Consider the difference between how Nordstrom and JC Penney manage strategy. At Nordstrom, leaders continually challenge the merchandising, store, channel, and all other dimensions of their strategies in a way that takes advantage of the foundational choices that underpin their corporate and business strategies, whereas Penney pulled the rug out from beneath the foundation itself.
Smart strategists enable companies to modify their strategies as their environment and context change. They avoid the mind-set of “We set strategy and then implement like hell.” Their mind-set is: “We implement like hell and never stop challenging our strategy.”

But the ability to do that is based on having a strong foundation. If your company is clear and consistent about how it adds value to its businesses, leaders will make better decisions about the shape of their portfolios. If a company’s leaders understand what comprises its differentiating capabilities, they’ll prioritize their growth priorities to leverage and enhance those capabilities. If the individual businesses within a company are sharp and consistent with regards to their own target customers, value propositions, and differentiating capabilities, its people will make smarter decisions on what to sell, what markets to enter and exit, how to manage new product development, how to manage costs, where to invest, and all the other choices that are inherent in winning customers and market leadership.

Your strategy must change every day or it will fail to keep up. But much of it also needs to remain constant or all those decisions and actions your organization is taking will be diluted by their lack of direction and coherence. The successful strategist knows how to manage this apparent contradiction. Do you?