Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Idea Salesman

A recent issue of Knowledge@Wharton had a review of The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas by Wharton professors Richard Shell and Mario Moussa. The authors describe a simple 4-step approach to selling your ideas – 1.Survey the situation, 2.Confront Barriers, 3.Make your Pitch, 4.Follow-up on Commitments.

What attracted my attention and helped me relate to what the authors had to say was that these four steps are not very different from another (almost) 4-step process that I use everyday, the Software Development Lifecycle – Analyze, Design, Implement, and Maintain. The similarity seems to point to the possibility that, like building complex software, idea-selling or influence is an art that can be mastered by following a simple process.

The study, think, act, follow-up process is one of those abstract universal patterns. You can use this process to achieve just about any goal, provided you know the specifics of the particular goal that you wish to achieve. ‘The Art of Woo’ seems to get right to the specifics – the 6 channels, 5 barriers, 4 styles, 3 mistakes.

The first chapter of the book is available online. I'll have to wait till the next purchase cycle at the library to get a hardcopy though. Meanwhile, I came across this BW article - The Art of the Ask - that deals with the closely related topic of how to get people to put their money into your idea.

PS,Further reading:
Seven Hints for Selling Ideas

Friday, November 23, 2007

He he he, Namskara!

I am in a meeting. Phone rings. Unknown number. I had just taken a new connection a couple of days back and the only my immediate family and friends knew the number. So I assume it must be important, excuse myself from the meeting room and answer the call. The voice on the line goes, "He he he, Namskara ..." Sounds like someone called the wrong number so I politely try to explain. But the voice on the line does not seem to care. That is when it occurred to me that it must be a recorded voice ad from my mobile operator.

After the meeting, I try to call up the customer care centre but all their executives are busy. So I try again and then again. But even after an almost a hundred attempts, all the customer care executives are still busy and I'm the only one having nothing better to do. That’s when I heard about the national do-not-call registry. After some searching, I finally find my mobile operator's do-not-call web page, filled it and click the submit button. That was two months ago.

I still get an average of three calls per day. If I don't answer it, they immediately follow up with an SMS. Very prompt. But then again, all is not as hopeless as it seems. I heard from a friend that he gets similar calls on his landline from a competing operator. Imagine dropping whatever you are doing and running to answer the phone only to discover that your mobile operator has a new ringtone for download. If that isn't bad enough, there is this other guy I talked to, and he actually got a call from one of those busy customer care executives offering to block unsolicited calls for only 99 rupees per month. Now that is the definition of the word - hopeless.

However, this experience has served to broaden my perspective. I now understand that people don't always think alike. My friends and I may not like receiving those calls. We may find it annoying. We may even consider it downright harassment. But there must also be more than one marketing executive and his manager who think that this is a great idea. Come to think of it, if it serves to broaden people’s perspectives, then certainly it must be a good thing. In fact, it is entirely possible that these telephone operators are trying hard to broaden people’s perspectives out of as sense of corporate social responsibility. And customers like me who have had their perspectives broadened should be thankful for that.

PS: Figured out a way to reach one of those busy customer care executives. Called the customer care number from my office phone. Talk about differentiated service!

Monday, November 12, 2007


It has been almost a month and a half since my last posting. It wasn't because I didn’t have anything to write. For a change, it was because I was actually busy with something else. Busy, jumping through hoops and totally stressed out. (But that is a different story and I hope to write about it some other time.)

So in the midst of all this, I asked myself the big question. Why? Why am I doing all this? Does it really matter in the end? What really is the purpose of this life? I was at my wits end and nearing burnout, so I was in an unusually religious frame of mind.

The answer was obvious - the purpose of this life is to do God's will. But then, what is God's will? I am yet to see any burning bushes. So how do I know what is God's will? What does God require of me? As it turns out, I was not the first person to ask this question. And so I did not have to search far and wide for the answer.

Someone had once asked Jesus a similar question, "What is the greatest commandment?" It was meant to be a trick question. But then again, being God, Jesus was pretty clear about what he wanted from people. Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

It is as simple as that. Love God, love yourself and love the people in your life. That is all that God requires. He doesn’t expect me to change the world, get a promotion every year, make a lot of money, achieve the impossible or any of those things. In the end, it only matters how well you scored on this love thing.

And somehow, knowing that made all the difference.