Sales Kick Offs in a Post-Pandemic World

Sales Kick Offs in a Post-Pandemic World

Every year, January and February is the time when companies organize Sales Kick Off (SKO) events. The name of such event may varies but the idea is always the same. Bring together people from different regions and different functions and deliver key messages of the year to them. Typically, it is 2-3 days packed with PowerPoints during a day and socializing during a night.

Two years of limited travels and COVID pandemic forced to make those events fully virtual. And it does look like that many companies are going to continue with hybrid format for SKOs. First of all, when you saved all this travel budget during the last couple of years, it is very uncomfortable to start spending the money again.

So, how can we make SKOs in a post-pandemic world more efficient? Below are my some ideas and examples from successful and that much events.

Pre-recording of keynote sessions

Keynote sessions are designed in a way where information flows only in one direction. Hence, the key messages for the year may not be live streamed. They can be pre-recorded and then streamed in different timezones. Ideally, every keynote session should come with a transcript distributed to an audience before or after the session.

Watching parties

If some sessions should be live streamed it makes sense to organize watching parties with pizzas and drink. Especially, it works well for EMEA region people for whom US-West or US-East based events are outside of business hours. It is also simply more fun.

Top priorities 30 seconds pitches

Every team or organization has 30 seconds to present their top priorities for the year. In my experience, this does not work well. It is difficult to maintain timing and people will not be able to remember anything anyway. Online collaboration board, like Miro, where everybody can add their pitches would work better.

TED Talk-sized demos and presentations

For a fully virtual event, reduce demo and presentations length to 15-20 minutes maximum. Increase number of demos and presentations instead. Limited attention span is real. So, if you want the audience not only just listen through but actually pay attention, then SKO sessions should be short. Another advantage is that there is a higher probability that people will watch a short content after it is published.

Gamification

Let the audience acquire virtual coins for an every video they watched or a quiz they passed. Make companies swag purchasable for these SKO virtual coins. Any element of a game will make a virtual event easier to consume and help people to keep concentrated.

Capstone project for regional teams

Create an assignment that every regional team of sales reps should deliver in the end of SKO. For example, produce an essay about how they understood the strategy or how they are going to implement new ways of working introduce during the Sales Kick Off. If you need to produce some output, then you will pay more attention.

So, these are my thoughts what can be improved for virtual SKOs. Post in the comment section your ideas!


Amazon Bar Raiser

Amazon Bar Raiser

With this post I want to celebrate a personal achievement and important milestone in my career. After passing extensive training program, I have become Amazon Bar Raiser!

Since the day I had my interview at Amazon back in January 2020,  I was amazed by Amazon hiring process and when I started interviewing myself and learnt more about how to Make Great Hiring Decisions and the role of Bar Raiser, I knew that I want to become a BR myself.

So, now I will do my best to keep raising the bar, support my peers in different Amazon organizations and continue do what I enjoy – meet diverse candidates, learn about them and help Hiring Managers.

The formal definition of Amazon Bar Raiser goes as following:

A Bar Raiser is an interviewer at Amazon who is brought into the hiring process to be an objective third party. By bringing in somebody who’s not associated with the team, the best long-term hiring decisions are made and we can ensure that the company is always serving, surprising, and innovating for customers. The role of the Bar Raiser is to be a steward of Amazon’s 16 Leadership Principles.

https://www.aboutamazon.eu/news/working-at-amazon/what-is-a-bar-raiser-at-amazon

I want to share some of insights that I got during my Bar Raiser In Training program.

  • Some candidates eager to know who is a Bar Raiser at their interview. This is partially a natural curiosity but in the reality, this information does not matter much for the interview outcome. The candidate is being assessed holistically and exceptionally good interview with a Bar Raiser will not outweigh issues with other interviewers
  • Authenticity matters a lot. It is very clear when a candidate is trying to pretend and when their stories are not aligned with how they possess themselves. So, instead of trying to act like some other person, concentrate on quality of the stories.
  • While subjectively a candidate may think that the situation they are describing is complex, it may no be true. So, think in advance – Are your examples, actually complex and not everybody would be able to achieve results you were able to achieve?

Check out my other post Amazon interviews “Yes, but…” insights


Multipliers

Book Review: Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Years ago, at the beginning of my career, I learned a simple but powerful idea – people come to work for a leader, not for a company. Talent development and retention is one of the most difficult parts of a people manager’s job. So, how do you “multiply” intelligence of your team?

Even if a company fully equipped with learning materials and encourages employees to develop themselves, if will not going to happen on a large scale without a leader who possesses right skills to help people to grow. But what are those skills? And how to measure them?

A one way to measure these skills is to check if people around a leader become smarter over time or they stall in professional development and degrade? The book uses this specific metric to group leaders into two categories “Multipliers” and “Diminishers”. And it makes a lot of sense – if people grow around a leader, they can contribute more and willing to do it. The book calls it “Multiplier Effect”. And vice versa, if people don’t grow, they will give less and less. They will “quit and stay”, as the author nicely put it.

5 chapters of the book analyze patterns and anti-patters of behavior that help a reader to identify are they a “Multiplier” or a “Diminisher”.

  • Talent Magnet vs Empire Builder
  • Liberator vs Tyrant
  • Challenger vs Know-It-All
  • Debate Maker vs Decision Maker
  • Investor vs Micromanager

The book describes how patterns above influence people productivity and collective intelligence . This part has helped to see my own flaws as a manager and a leader.

One interesting idea described in the Chapter 1 is “The Logic of Addition”. And I think, may organizations and individuals operate exactly as the book describes it:

Operational leaders entrenched in the logic of resource allocation and addition argue:

1. Our people are overworked.

2. Our best people are the most maxed out.

3. Therefore, accomplishing a bigger task requires the addition of more resources.

Wiseman, Liz; McKeown, Greg. Multipliers (p. 14).

If this logic applies in a growing market, it may work for a long time. But, inevitably, an organization will face a problem that cannot be solved by throwing in more bodies. And what to do when it happens? Increase productivity of an organization by getting more from its people. It is an obvious conclusion that is very difficult to implement in practice. First of all, why people should care about giving more?

The book gives perspective and recommendations how to run a team in a way that people will want to contribute more and will do it voluntarily. Out of all recommendations, one was specifically interesting for me – “Work The Extremes”. The research done by the authors showed it is not necessary have strengths in all Multiplier dimensions. The one can be great in one or two. What is important that there are no obvious weaknesses. I will use this idea in my development plans.

Overall, a great book – 5 out of 5. If you are a people manager, I highly recommend you to read it.


Check out my other book reviews!

Levers of Influence

Levers of Influence. Why do we comply?

Humanity social systems can exist because people can collaborate and align on common goals. Without our abilities to influence each other and comply to each others requests our civilization simply would not survive. It is not very important how exactly our ancestors evolved those abilities, probably, being social and collaborative gave significant advantage in Stone Age times. What is important – is to learn what exactly makes us comply. And why?

For sure, we are influenced by facts and rational explanations, but behavioral economics and great book Thinking Fast and Slow prove that people are irrational. There are other factors or levers that significantly impact our judgment and readiness to agree.

I have finished recently a book “Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion”. This book has detailed analysis of main behavioral models (we can call them biases as well) that force us to comply. These biases trigger embedded mechanisms in our brain – skip critical thinking part and jump directly to conclusions and actions. Click and run. Let’s dive deeper into them.

Reciprocation

If somebody gives us something, we feel urge to give something back. Favor, gift or our compliance with the next request. There is a deep psychological connection between reciprocity, gratitude and life satisfaction – we feel better when we are participating in exchange of goods and favors. We use this mechanism to influence others decisions and make others feel “much obliged”.

In Japan, normally people say “arigato gozaimasu,”  meaning “thank you”. However, people also say “sumimasen” when they want to express their appreciation or a feeling of regret, guilt, or another negative emotion. For example, when they receive unexpected gift or favor from others.

Practical implementations of reciprocation lever are everywhere. Free samples of products, small gifts after first purchase or a small concession made by one of the parties in negotiation process.

Liking

There is famous quote: “People buy from those who they like”. It is a golden rule for every salesperson – in the situation where competing products price and features are the same, people buy from whom they like more. Even if they know that it is just a compliance strategy.

But liking is a vague term. If we will try to decompose it, then we will see that we like people who:

  • Similar to us
  • Give us compliments
  • Easy to contact and ready to cooperate with us.

That is pretty simple to use in real life. Focus on commonalities rather than differences. Show others that you appreciate them and their actions. Be a “go-to-person” who is ready to work on a shared goal.

Liking is the reason why brands go to influencers for advertisements. Because thousands of people like them and inevitably extend their likeness to a brand too.

Social Proof

When I go to a new restaurant, I often ask for the most famous meal in the menu. Collective experience of other visitors cannot be wrong. The same logic applies to product reviews and ratings. We view an action as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Social proof lever is especially efficient in ambiguous situations. The more unknown environment we are at, the more we rely on others behaviour. I think this is the reason why in a new city I trust reviews at Google Maps completely and blindly.

So, if you need help, don’t rely on others reaction unless it is clear for them that there is an emergency. A lot of us witnessed situation when a person lies on the ground and people demonstrate zero actions to help the person. Why? Situation is ambiguous and everybody rely on each other reaction. And nobody takes a first step.

Another tip I learned – if you are delivering a webinar and want audience to ask questions, you have to break the ice yourself first. Come up with a couple of artificial questions, read them loud and give an answer. Social proof will do the rest for you.

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Reading List 2022

Reading List 2022

Welcome to year 2022!

Last year the list had a decent mix of professional, fiction and non-ficton books. In 2022 I am going to concentrate to learn more about following topics:

  • Psychology of decision making and influence. How we make decisions? What can persuade us and why? Answers on these questions help to understand how to build inter-personal communication and inspire people.
  • Organizations’ efficiency. It is quite astonishing to see how different can be efficiency of organizations. This year I continue to study this area and learn about mechanisms that creates “1+1=3” effect.
  • Visual story telling. Even I work today in a company that heavily relies on writing texts instead of creating slide decks, visually compelling content is a king. Structure, composition, color, size of picture and text are key components to keep audience’s always reducing span of attention on the topic.
  • Personal efficiency. Last year I was trying to implement several useful habits to my daily routine and was only partially successful. I have realized that I need to learn how to create habits more efficiently. And, of course, continue to train ability to concentrate.
  • Plus, some non-fiction titles as an entertainment.

Hereby I present you the Reading List 2022!

Leadership and communication skills

  1. Influence. The Psychology of Persuasion
  2. Social Architecture: Building On-line Communities
  3. Slideology
  4. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
  5. Atomic Habits
  6. Concentration: Maintain Laser Sharp Focus and Attention
  7. The Invincible Company: How to Constantly Reinvent Your Organization
  8. Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
  9. The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability
  10. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
  11. Nudge: The Final Edition
  12. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

Non-fiction

  1. Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts
  2. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You
  3. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Fiction

  1. Project Hail Mary

5 Key Mistakes

5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

The post from May 2021 had created a lot of traction, so I decided to convert it to a short article and translate to English.

Bad relationship with manager may be not a first reason why people quit their jobs, but it is definitely in top 5. And is in any human-to-human interactions, if communication is broken, most probably relationship are in bad state either. Let’s try to figure out what are the key mistakes in communication with management and how to avoid them.

Everyone has a management. A person or group of people with whom we discuss results of our work and who interested in positive outcomes of our efforts. A Software Engineer has a Product Owner, a Sales Rep has a regional VP and a CEO has Board of Directors and shareholders.

And (surprise!), they are all humans. Humans are biased, they have limited amount of memory, their physical and emotional capacity is not infinite and they have ingrained or adopted beliefs and preferences. What is more important – they have own challenges and goals because they have management as well. There is no ideal manager, like there is no ideal human. But it does not mean that you cannot build a successful communication.

Here is my definition of a good manager (if we will not take functional skills into consideration):

  • They listen and not only talk themselves
  • They delegate and inspect results
  • They give freedom of actions, but they give guidance and set expectations

Now, let’s move on to a first mistake.

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How to concentrate

How to Concentrate in the World of Distractions?

Time is a limited resource. It is the only resource we cannot reproduce. If we want to achieve more then we need to increase productivity. Individual productivity depends on how well a person can concentrate and manage distractions.

And our world is full of distractions (surprise!). Everything competes for our attention all the time. Ads, social media, Slack messages, emails. The list is infinite. The world is not going to change (in fact, it is going to be worse over the time). So, we have to adopt to stay focused and keep a steady course to our goals.

There are different opinions on what is happening with human attention span and how digitalization affects it. Some researchers are saying it decreases, others disagree with that. However, the trend to short everything from entertainment content (TikTok videos and Instagram stories) to educational content (“bite-sized” lessons 3-5 minutes each) is clear.

This article is a summary of mechanisms and habits how to manage distractions and improve concentration skills. Some of them I already adopted, others are in the backlog or in progress. I cannot guarantee they will work for you, so feel free to modify them to fit your personality and lifestyle. The mechanisms are not in the priority order and you can start to adopt any of them in any point of time.

Want to know more? Click “Read More” button.

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FailProject: 5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

I have participated as a speaker at FailProject workshop.

We spoke about key mistakes in communication with management, how to avoid them and what instruments exist to build successful communication with your manager.

Recording of the workshop is available here or here.


Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Humanity is a civilization of text. More precise – civilization of text written in English language. Good it or bad is another debate. The fact is 1 billion people use English as second language.

I have studied language at school and university. But education system was focusing more on speaking and reading skills than on writing skills. So, I never had opportunity to learn proper English writing style.

The more I progress in professional life, the more I see importance of writing. The greatest Zoom/Chime/Teams call will not have progress if minutes of meeting is not clear for participants. You cannot transfer context of a problem without clear definition what is the problem. Plus dozens of other examples – emails, feature requests, account plans and etc.

Amazon takes writing very serious. Narrative is one of the corner-stones of Amazon culture. Text does not rely on person presentation skills. Text allows to break borders of PowerPoint slide and transfer full context from a writer to readers. Well written text does not leave space for misinterpretation and confusion.

The Elements of Style is 100 year bestseller that teaches how to write in plain and clear English. The book has prescriptive guidance about punctuation, syntaxis and style. It also uses easy to comprehend examples of a good and bad style. It is short – around 100 pages.

Some of rules and examples were so subtle that I was unable to feel a difference between good and bad. Both examples were good enough for my non-native speaker eye 🙂

A lot of daily communication has moved to instant messengers, like Slack. IM communication is shorter, more frequent and has lower bar for writing skills. But average attention span time has drastically reduced over last decade. So, a writer should very concise and clear to make people read a text. And it requires practicing and skill development.

I highly recommend this book for every person who uses English language for professional communication.


Inside-out Products: A Trap for Product Manager

Let’s imagine a mid-size IT company. It was founded around a decade ago by group of smart engineers who are probably still around as executives.

Back in early days, the company built a highly successful and innovative product. The product allowed quickly expand worldwide, made company profitable and created foundation of today’s success.

A decade later, the company is not a start up any longer. Some processes are around, engineering is busy adding new features, marketing is creating nice slide decks and sales are sweating to deliver their quotas.

Everything looks great. But market became more competitive, customers are more demanding today than a year before and YoY growth is not that impressive as it used to be. The company wants continue to grow and it needs new products in portfolio that will rock the market.

What is inside-out product?

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