How to Pre-Qualify a Sales Lead

Hi readers,

Apologies for the long hiatus…been busy with my travels and tours and enjoying the monsoons hit the sub-continent!

Been thinking about writing on this subject for some time and was waiting for the right impetus to do so…this impetus came to me recently when one of my key account managers came upto me and asked me…”you have written and spoken extensively about qualifying sales leads,….BUT what about pre-qualifying sales leads??”

That was it and here I am …

(Please read my other blog on the subject-

So now you got a long list of prospects?  Don’t know where to start?

Your challenge is to focus your time and energy on the prospects who are the most likely to buy.  And that means pre-qualifying your sales leads….before you call them.

and here I believe is what you need to do..

  • Step One: Visualize Your Target. Ask yourself the following questions: What is the specific benefit or improvement of my customers’ lives that will occur as the result of them using my product? How will they feel differently because they are using it? Who is most likely to experience these positive feelings? What is their income, position, experience and level of authority? Your goal for this step is to determine your ideal customer.LIVE A DAY OF YOU TARGET CUSTOMER !!
  • Step Two: Identify Your Strengths. Ask yourself the following questions: What is that we do better than any other company? Why should our ideal customer buy from us rather than the competition? If our competitors were asked (and answered honestly) what would they say that our company does better than anyone else? Your goal for this step is to determine what’s unique about your company’s offer, so that you can match those characteristics more closely to the expectations of potential customers.DEFINE AND UNDERSTAND YOUR USP!! and repeat that USP over and over and over again…
  • Step Three: Match Strengths and Targets. Ask yourself the following question: who, specifically, are the customers who would value and appreciate what our offering does better than our competitor’s offering? Your goal for this step is to determine specific type of customer which is the best match for your offering. This is a process of elimination, not inclusion! You want to pick your shots, so think like a sniper rather than a machine gunner.LOOK AT THE LOWEST HANGING FRUIT BY APPLYING YOUR OFFER TO THEIR IMMEDIATE NEED !! its that simple….
  • Step Four: Concentrate your Sales Efforts. Focus on those few customers who can benefit the most from your company’s offering. Your ideal customer should want your product, need your offering, be able to use your offering and afford your offering. Making sales calls with customers who don’t fit the profile you’ve created will probably be a waste of your valuable time.FOCUS ..FOCUS…FOCUS…
  • Step Five: Provide Feedback to Marketing. If you’re still getting long lists of undifferentiated leads, you need to help your marketing team (or whomever is passing you those leads) to better focus their lead generation efforts.  Your goal in this step is to make the four step process above more automatic, so that you don’t have to spend your own time eliminating unlikely prospects. MAKE MARKETING WORK!!

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How to Tell Your Boss He’s Wrong

Hi readers,

This blog has come about after a lot of introspection about my experience with start ups in Africa and India.

Whether its a product based start up or a technology start up, the dynamics remain just the same, irrespective of the vertical, the geography, or the people who were the founders !

So let me build up this piece like a story…

I was recently hired in a sales leadership role, to which I was bringing deep experience. Over the first few weeks, I gathered data and information, which led me to conclude that my territory was doomed to failure (as it had previously failed) if we followed our company’s current strategy. Since I reported directly to the CEO, I wrote him a professional report explaining why the current strategy would fail, what should change, and how the firm would benefit from that change, with a detailed cost/benefit analysis. The CEOs response was: “I felt you were criticizing me!” Everything went downhill from there and I was canned. The way I saw it, I had a choice between speaking up and losing my job in three months, or being quiet and losing my job in six. 

So what do you think my options were in this classic situation where I was caught between the devil and the deep sea??

I think personally you dont need to  use your “deep experience” in sales to sell your ideas in these tricky situations. Your CEO would obviously feel that you were criticizing him because… actually you were criticizing him!

The fact that your argument was compelling, and backed with a cost/benefit analysis, just makes the situation worse. No wonder you get canned. That is lousy salesmanship!

Suppose you had a customer that was doing something stupid and hadn’t yet figured out what was wrong. How successful do you think that you’d be selling to that customer if you opened your cycle by sending them a detailed report that said: “You’ve been doing stupid things, and you’ve been too stupid to figure that out, and here’s what you need to do differently?”

Ideally, the best way to get around your CEO in these sort of situations is to treat him like your prized customer and here’s how it would possible look like.

TEP 1. Lay the Groundwork. Spend one-on-one time with the boss, finding areas where he is open to new ideas and planting seeds of discontent with the current strategy. Ask questions like: “Why did this strategy fail in the past?” “What other strategies have you considered?” and “What strategy might we pursue if this strategy doesn’t pan out?” This is, of course, very basic consultative sales theory.

STEP 2. Offer a Face-saving Alternative. Give the boss an excuse to change strategies without looking like an idiot. Blame changes in the outside world that have suddenly made the current strategy financially impractical, rather accusing the boss of persistent wooden headedness. Example: “Due to rapidly changing market conditions, our current strategy will require an additional $25 million in marketing to guarantee success.”

STEP 3. Transfer Ownership of the New Strategy. Package your new idea as something that the boss created, and which you have subsequently fleshed out into a practical alternative to the current strategy. Example: “As you suggested in our meeting on 6/20, the most viable alternative to our current strategy is… And here are some suggestions for implementing your backup plan…”

STEP 4. Present the Alternative in Person. Because the boss feels ownership of the current strategy, the alternative strategy should be presented face-to-face (or even lips-to-butt), so that you can better sense the boss’s reaction and help him make the transition. This is exactly like presenting your solution to a customer and then closing the deal.

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Five Qualities for Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Hi folks,

This is one is coming after a long time since I was away on business travel ….

One of my colleagues at GramVaani technologies ( asked me…”Ashish, we are a startup now, but after some years we will definitely grow, and when that happens I would like to be prepared to climb the corporate ladder”

This set me thinking and I realized that many ambitious young professionals aspire to know how to get to the top and dont seem to have a clue.

This post is meant to answer some of the questions that you too might have on how to get to the top in a corporate.

Five Qualities for Climbing the Ladder to Success

  1. Flexibility. Willingness to change direction, do what it takes, let go of personal agenda, and swallow pride, all for the greater good and the overall health of the business. Also being a team player when it counts most. There’s a maturity factor, for sure. This is the trait that surprises people most.
  2. Honesty. Courage to look people – especially customers and authority figures – straight in the eye and tell them the genuine truth, regardless of consequences. Telling the story straight without sugar-coating bad news. “Yes men” are toxic to companies. Ethics and morality are related.
  3. Leadership. This is not as complex or subjective as you might think. Leadership is the ability to encourage people to follow you, especially when they don’t have to. It also enables executives to drive consensus, or pull a diverse group together, united behind common goals, strategies and plans.
  4. Accountability. Willingness to take responsibility, own a problem, and be held accountable over the long haul, regardless of the risk. Maturity to take it on the chin without pointing fingers and wasting time on CYA activity. Stickwithitness and loyalty are related.
  5. Intelligence. Anybody who denies this is full of it. Everything else can be learned, but not this. Forget old notions of book smart versus street smart. You have to be both. Ability to rapidly digest and analyze information, reason, solve complex problems, and make critical decisions.

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How to Manage Your Boss

Hi readers,

I decided to tackle this subject because I felt recently that this aspect is never “taught” to budding managers, leaders in organizations and it is perhaps because of this that they never get their relationship off to a roaring start with their boss.

I have been a boss of numerous teams for well over 15 years now, and it was now that I am back in India after roaming around Africa and the US for 10 years, and getting involved in my own startup with my dear friend, Shyam ( that I realized that its high time I wrote about this issue for my gorgeous and handsome CREBEL team!!

this goes out to you all OurVivaha CREBELS!!

It’s nice to imagine that the success of your career rests upon your basic competence at doing your job, but that’s only half the picture. Raises, promotions, and other perks depend directly on how well you can manage your boss. If he or she doesn’t warm up to you—or worse, doesn’t remember that you exist—you’ll never land the plum assignments you need to get ahead. In addition to performing well, you have to make sure the boss knows about all the things you’re doing right, while also building personal rapport so that he or she will keep your best interests in mind.

Make “Keeping the Boss in the Loop” a Regular Activity

Goal: Reassure your boss that you know what you’re doing.

The secret fear of every boss is that employees are screwing up and either not telling anyone or (even worse) aren’t aware there’s a problem. To reassure themselves, bosses may sometimes pick an aspect of an employee’s job and begin randomly asking penetrating questions about the details. If you answer these queries with grace and aplomb, the boss assumes you’re competent. Hesitate or evade, and the boss may assume all your work is slipshod.

QUICK Checklist

What Your Boss Expects: The Basics

  1. Credibility. Follow through on assignments and do what you say you’re going to. If you want your boss to trust you, your word has to carry weight.
  2. Professionalism. Bosses appreciate individuals who are serious about what they do and willing to take the time to achieve a deep understanding of their craft.
  3. Integrity. The test of integrity is whether you’ll take a stand, even when it’s unpopular with your boss. The boss has the final decision, but it’s your job to make sure it’s the right one.
  4. Caring. Bosses value relationships with direct reports who care about them. Show that you’re truly concerned about what the boss has to say by responding with solutions rather than complaints or excuses.
  5. Knowledge. Bosses need people who have unique expertise. You don’t have to be a pro at everything, but you do need a specific area of knowledge that your boss values.

Create a Core Message for Your Boss

Goal: Bosses are forgetful. Make sure yours knows just how valuable you are.

When you’re working your butt off, it’s easy to assume that your boss knows exactly what you’re doing. But even though she may have assigned your work to you, in the crush of daily pressures and changing priorities, your contribution easily gets lost in the shuffle. Worse, you could end up pursuing goals that no are longer important priorities.

Hot Tip

Self Promotion Without Smarminess

If marketing yourself to your own boss feels a little slimy, think about ways you can casually talk things up without overselling—and without driving your core message into the ground. Each interaction should add new information, and when you can, fold the message into the day’s news, for example: “I just got off the phone with a candidate for the R&D job. We’re getting resumes from some really impressive people.”

Tap a Vital Resource: The Boss’s Influencers

Goal: Enlist others to spread the word about your importance to the company.

You may think you have a one-on-one relationship with your boss, but you’re actually part of a crowd of people—from your peers to your boss’s peers to your boss’s bosses—who influence the boss’s decision-making. Their comments and gossip will inevitably affect your boss’s opinion of you and your work, so you want to be certain that, if they’re not actively singing your praises, at least they’re reading from the same hymnal.

For Example

Supporting Messag



Your Boss (VP of Marketing) I’m developing a channel sales program that will increase revenue and profit. (core message)
VP of Engineering This new program will get the products you’re designing out to as many people as possible.
VP of Manufacturing With channel sales, we’ll be able to predict demand, which will cut down on job overruns.
VP of Human Resources The program I’m developing will let us expand the business without exceeding headcount limitations.

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With channel sales, we can sell products at a 20 percent higher gross margin than with direct sales.

10 Ways To Become an Utter Failure at Work

Hi guys,

I have been thinking of doing this piece for quite a while.

This is based on my collective observation over the past 20 years of my experience across India, Africa and the US.

Here is a list of what I believe are the 10 reasons why managers, leaders and all manner of people at work fail at their assignments and thus ruin their careers!

  •                                                       Demoralize

Always make sure that the first thing you say when entering in the morning and the leaving the office in the evening brings everybody down. Examples could be “I see the economy has taken another turn for the worse”, “The CEO is planning another round of head cuts according to Sue in HR” and “I knew I shouldn’t have come to work with this bug the kids gave me, 3 people have died from it already in our neighborhood.

·         Horde
If you have any ideas that will help all your colleagues perform more efficiently or be more successful, pretend you’re a squirrel and keep them to yourself. They’re your ideas; you earned, plagiarized or stole them. We’re not living in Russia or China or some other Commie country you know, nobody gives you hands out of cash. Let your motto be” “To have and to hold”.

·         Undermine
If one of your colleagues has a great idea in a meeting, never forget to ridicule it. Point out every way it can and will fail. Tell everybody how a similar suggestion failed in your last company and everybody lost their jobs, homes and ended up in jail. If it’s a really good idea, don’t be discouraged, just treat it as a challenge and undermine even harder.

If all else fails, tell them about how when you worked at Enron they had that very same idea. The gold standard is not just to get the idea thrown out, but the have the person that suggested it ridiculed and hopefully fired.

·         Gossip
Tell Ian and Bob that Jay thinks they’re both jerks. Then tell Amanda that Lucy fancies her boyfriend and has been making eyes at him. Then tell Jay that Ian slept with the boss’s wife at the Christmas party but told her his name was Jay. Send a letter to Bob swearing undying love and sign it Ian and so on and so forth. This stuff doesn’t have to be technically true, as long as you have a hunch, that makes it all perfectly legal and above board.

·         Brown Nose
Always leave the office 30 seconds after you manager and get there 30 seconds before he arrives. Everybody in the office will cotton on to what you’re doing, but the manager will be in blissful ignorance and think you’re committed to the company cause. Roll your eyes at the boss whilst shaking your head every time somebody leaves early or arrives late.

·         Undermine
Spend hours on Facebook, MySpace and dating sites looking for dirt on colleagues. When you find something, accidentally send an e-mail with the link to the entire company. If that’s too risky borrow somebody else’s computer or just print pictures off at home and surreptitiously stick them all over the office when it’s empty. Blame Colin from dispatch.

·         Porn
When surfing for porn, always make sure you’re logged in under somebody else’s username and password and preferably on their computer too.

·         Drinks
If you have a communal fresh coffee machine and you notice it’s getting low, make sure you top yours up quickly otherwise you may be the one to have to fill it up. If you have a fresh cup, simply pour that away and then finish off the good stuff. The same goes for the water bottle. It’s not your job to change it if it runs dry. Just make sure you fill 4 or 5 cups to take back to your desk when it gets very low.

·         Cell Phones
Never ever turn you phone off at a meeting even when requested to do so. If it rings, simply hold up your hand condescendingly indicating everybody needs to be quiet and nod sagely as your mum tells you that Aunt Enid has lost her reading glasses down the toilet again. If anybody else’s phone should ring, roll your eyes; sigh heavily and then say in a low but perfectly audible whisper “disgraceful”.                                                               Deny

Admission is a sign of weakness. If you screw up blame somebody else, anybody else, everybody else. Good people to blame are anybody that no longer works in your office, the timid office mouse that never fights his or her corner or anybody that has been within 100 feet of your desk within the last 6 months.

Please do write back with your comments, observations and own stories..and requests for subjects on which you would want me to write on my blog.

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