Tag Archives: business

Winning a Jackpot: How do you decide?

Situation: Imagine you are participating in a game show and after going through qualifying and elimination rounds, you have reached the finals.  The game-show host presents you three options A, B & C and you have to select one of the options which are the respective doors. One of the doors leads to a jackpot (say a Mercedes) and the other doors to an insignificant prize, say a tennis ball through each door. Now let us say you have selected option A. You are curious and excited to see if you have hit the jackpot. The host asks you to be patient, opens the door C and what you see is a tennis ball. Now he asks you whether you would still stick with option A or switch to option B? What would you choose and why?

When this question was put on different platforms like linkedin, what’sapp it was observed that 95% of the respondents voted for A. Now read on:

Analysis: Generally people tend to stick to option A, the reason being they would not like to regret their decision. If A is selected leading to a jackpot, then he would be happy; however if otherwise, then he  blames  the circumstances or his fate. But at least he has the consolation that he was firm in his decision. However if he were to choose B, and were to lose; he would regret his decision and also for not being firm in his decision making process.

Let us see how this situation can be seen from a statistical probability basis. Generally people make decisions through their self-interest and do not look at a situation objectively. For example we tend to discount the impact of the environment on our decisions. When a person selects option A, the  probability of success is 1 in 3. However when door C has been opened with a tennis ball, the probability of B has increased to 50%. Assume instead of 3 options you were given 100 options. And now 98 doors are opened without any jackpot. Would you still bat for A? Now you will appreciate that at the beginning of the game the probability of winning A was 1% but after the events have unfolded B has risen to 50%. So in a single event even though A and B has equal chances, over the long term it makes sense to switch over considering the environmental factors.

What happens if the game of ABC is played 100 times. or 100 people play this game simultaneously? Now you will understand that the human mind is not programmed to think in a statistical manner. During most of programs our clients ask us to train their executives to think out-of the box. But sadly they  are hardwired to think otherwise.

Most people tend to overestimate fatalities and death in aeroplane crashes more than car accidents even though statistically air travel is much safer than car travel. One of the main reasons people tend to assign higher risk to air travel is due to wide publicity in media to such rare events.

A survey was carried out in the US after the 9/11 disaster. More people died in the three months  on  roads than those killed in the aircrafts during  the twin tower tragedy.  People tend to fear dread risk of low-occurrence and high consequence events such as the twin tower attack. ( Dread Risk : September 11 and fatal traffic accidents, by G. Gigerenzer) .There are two types of risks,  actual risk and dread risk, the latter is more out of anxiety quite often overestimated than the actual risk. This in part may answer why people would still go on playing option A.

Another reason for dread risk is an illusion of control. A person driving a car feels more in control of the situation than while flying in an aircraft driven by someone else. Most of our unconscious processes control our thoughts and behaviour, which in turn creates an illusion of self- I or the soul. It also makes us feel that I exist, I am in control and thus I can make my own decisions. But the truth is otherwise. Most of the events in life are beyond our control; there is no self.  And to create that illusion we tell stories, we fabricate them saying how intelligent we are.

The above problem is called as a Monty Hall problem ascribed to the presenter of the famous game show in USA,  Let’s Make a Deal. Monty Hall Problem states that there are two errors people make while taking decisions:

  1. They ignore the influence the external environment makes on their decision making and
  2. How their perceptions are shaped by the external environment. In fact we feel we are making decisions in a neutral environment and our decision making is rational. We feel we are safe when we are in control of our destiny. Rituals and routine give us more control of the situation. However truth is otherwise, Dan Ariely, author of Upside of Irrationality says we are poor in risk analysis and are irrational animals.

Rajan Parulekar|rajan@paradigm-info.com|98450 14098

Three Bad Habits Sabotaging Your Productivity

Clock-StressPeter Drucker was  consulting for a CEO of a major bank in US.  For every meeting the  CEO used to assign Peter a time slot of 90 minutes. A highly effective person, the CEO was delivering  consistent results for his bank year-on-year. During the  one-and-half hour meeting the CEO refrained from taking any telephone calls Continue reading

Achieving expertise also depends on the domain!

Why is there a gap between efforts executives put and the results they get? The linkage between the improvement in one’s skills vis-à-vis the efforts put can be termed as structure of growth.

Last two weeks I was conducting training programs on Effective Value Selling for Capital Equipments which were in the price range of Rs. 50 L to Rs. 1crore.( Approx. $100k-200K) Selling of CNC machines involves considerable technical complexity and the sales engineers need to understand the customer behaviour in a sensitive manner. For most of the participants, I perceived a huge gap between the job role and the skill set possessed.

Remember the adage, practise makes a man perfect. Generally it is assumed that the improvement of a skill is directly proportional to the efforts, time spent and the intelligence of a person which is partially true. But it also depends on the domain in which one is working. Most of the domains may have the following types of growth structure. There are a number of growth structures but the major ones are: Logarithmic, Exponential and Sinusoidal ( Please refer figure: growth figures      )

  1. Logarithmic Growth: Here one tends to get visible results during the initial phases of activity. But the growth becomes harder as you go along. For example, in athletics running 100 metres in 14-15 seconds looks an achievable task for a beginner. Chopping off the next second or two is relatively easy. But to break the 10 second barrier only athletes at international level can achieve. One needs to be an Usain Bolt to reach a figure of 9.79 seconds where the runner up can be behind by just hundredth of a second. Same is true in cricket where a cricketer can scores a century on debut and become a celebrity but then it is only people like Sachin Tendulkar who go on reinventing their styles and techniques even after reaching a few milestones.

The first phase of logarithmic growth is steep and success comes easily. The second phase is like a plateau where the rate of growth slows down considerably. (refer figure a. logarithmic growth)

Thanks partly to media hype, you see such growth in music ( with pop stars, Little Champs in Saregamapa shows etc.) and in sports like IPL Cricket. With some talent and average efforts some people in such domain, become instant celebrities overnight. The real challenge is in phase 2 where you need to maintain your disciplined habits. You need to move away from your regular routine and break away from those habits. You can even develop a technique which may be beyond the textbook. Tiger Woods reinvented his swing in the second phase.

  1. Exponential Growth: There are some fields where one needs to put lot of hard work initially and the results will not be visible for considerable time. Mastering a field like Physics, computer science, music takes a hell lot of time. In the HBR Article titled The Making of an Expert by Anders Ericsson, Michel Pretula and Edward Cokely, the authors propose that to master a particular field it takes around 10,000 hours of systematic efforts. The results may not be visible initially so one needs to have lot of patience (refer figure b. phase 1 of exponential growth ). And one day, a miracle happens. Suddenly things fall in place and what you were struggling all these days and years, the obvious answers are revealed. The pieces of jigsaw puzzle get into the right place. Kekule developed the model of Benzene ring in his dreams by correlating a serpent swallowing his own tail, Einstein worked on his special theory of relativity for a number of years as a clerk in a Swiss patent office. Marie Curie had to process tonnes of pitchblende in inclement weather and in an ordinary laboratory for a number of years before extracting a few milligrams of radium. Science whether applied or pure is a typical example where the structure of growth is exponential. Einstein, Kekule or Marie Curie did not get the success overnight but had enough perseverance to sustain the phase 1
  1. Sinusoidal Growth: Fields like spiritual growth are neither exponential nor logarithmic. You do not start your spiritual journey as your hobby or for earning a livelihood/achieving fame. ( with the exception of fake gurus,babas & bapus ) It only comes out of genuine suffering or existential dilemmas of life. ( Refer figure c. Sinusoidal Growth ) It is said if you have not suffered a breakdown you may not get a breakthrough. Initially you start from a negative state, you may get results for some time, again you fall down and each time you raise the bar. Siddharth Gautam had to experiment with different techniques that were available in his time from the age of 30, and by 36 he realized chasing the techniques itself was a mirage and he was enlightened to realize his Buddha nature.

Each field may have either one or combination of the above growth structures. So to be an expert and an authority in a specific domain, it is not only important what traits you carry ( which is your DNA ) but to see whether there is a synergy between your traits and structure of your domain.

Remember, Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar had similar talent. Sachin could sustain in the phase 2 of logarithmic growth; Kambli could not.

As a professional remember, a formal education at the university does you no harm, provided you start learning there afterwards. It is simply beyond attending a 2-day company sponsored training program.

Who is more ethical ? Sex-Workers or Corporates?

Usha Multipurpose Cooperative Bank (UMCB) is based in Sonagachi, North Kolkata, one of the largest red-light areas in Asia. The bank was formed in 2001 and is run by former sex workers and run for the women from the same trade. ( Deccan Herald, Bangalore 5th Feb 2015)

UMCB has been named the ‘Best Managed Cooperative ‘ in West Bengal for 2014 at the 61st All-India Cooperative Meet. The bank has recorded a recovery rate of 98% of the loans with minimal NPAs.

Now compare and contrast this behaviour and attitude  a few of the ‘suceessful’ corporates!

As per the All India Bank Employees Association the top 50 loan defaulters’ total default amounts to Rs. 40,528 Crores and is headed by Vijay Mallya ( Rs. 7000 Crores+) Sterling Biotech, Deccan Chronicle etc.

I heard a Sr. Finance executive of a large petrochemical company telling me (darling of investors, shareholders etc. all these days) how the company increases its net margins by at least Rs. 100- 150 crores per year by simply delaying the suppliers’ payments for more than six months under some pretext or the other.

The page 3 celebrities get all the limelight and the glitter. But then who is more ethical and moral the Sex-workers or the ‘successful’ corporate?

Ground-rules for Implementing Key Account Management

Can I send Salil, my Sales executive, age 23 years for the Key Account Management programs? said Jagdish,,Sales Manager of an engineering company. I had to tell him the following aspects which determines the ground rules for implementing Key Account Management (KAM)

  1. Needs a Different Mindset: Successful Companies who have implemented KAM look at it as a Strategic way of doing business and not a sales activity. You need to have commitment to work with priority customers differently. For example Supply Chain management can be an integral part of KAM
  2. Commitment from Top Management: It cannot happen at the Sales Manager’s level. The buy-in has to be at the CEO, CMO, VP-Sales level. The sr. people should sponsor at least 1-2 such accounts and interact/visit them regularly.
  3. Select the Right Person: Maturity is the most important attribute while selecting the Key Account Manager. It is not necessary that your top-performing salesman can become a good Key account Manager. He has to be more of a generalist with good understanding of finance, inventory, planning, influencing skills and the ability to see the big picture. A typical salesperson who is desperate to close order may be a misfit. One key competency is to understand the customer’s business beyond his immediate requirement.
  4. Identify Key Accounts Carefully: Lynette Ryalls in a HBR article says the number of accounts should be within 5-25. Even a company like Xerox does not have more than 100 customers as Key Accounts.
  5. Appoint and Train the KAM: The communication and influencing skills of the Key Account Manager has to be exceptionally good. He should be able to talk technicality at lower levels as well the macroeconomic environment, the interest rate with CFO and CEO comfortably.
  6. Put the right Metrics: He should not be judged on top-line results. In case of rate contracts with low margins when the cost of servicing a key account is high, the consequences can be disastrous. Performance should be judged more by the margins or net contribution. Another yardstick can be the lifetime value of the customer.
  7. Rework on the KAM cases every six months: All major accounts need not be key accounts. There are some unique parameters on which you should decide which customer remains in the Key account basket and those who need to be taken away.                                                                                                                            Key Account Management Workshops : Bangalore ( 16th December) &  Mumbai (18th December). For more details :www.paradigm-info.com

Does success in Small Value Sales a Guarantee in Key Accounts too?

This question when asked by my clients,  I am reminded of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got you Here, Won’t Get you There!   One of our clients nominated his star performer, Akshay for our training program. The main reason being he was not able to reach his desired targets in selling high-value capital equipments, the way he was selling laptops and mobiles in his previous organization. It is generally believed that a great salesman can sell anything to anybody. Translated otherwise, most of us feel that a great salesman is the one who can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. The above statement is not true for the following reasons:There has been a paradigm shift from a Sellers’ to a buyers’ market. Today’s customers have more choices vis-à-vis their counterparts in 90s.

  1. Thanks to internet, today’s customers are knowledgeable. A person before buying a mobile or a car has done enough research on the net comparing products technically as well as commercially.
  2. If you try to sell something a customer does not need, there is possibility the customer express his anger and frustration on twitter/trip-adviser etc. and in no time the contents may go viral.
  3. In a low-value sale, generally the customer knows what he wants to buy and the interaction between the salesperson and the customer is transactional. The salesman needs to inform the product features, the price and the competitive comparison.
  4. In case of a high-value sale, or a key account sale, quite often the customer may not clearly know what he needs, he may have a vague idea. He needs a solution not a standard sales pitch. Precisely for this reason the salesman needs to be an active and empathic listener and also willing to probe deeper. He also needs to understand the customer’s business that is customer’s customer. Here the interaction is more on relationships.   You will observe that the some of these competencies can be acquired but others are natural traits like strategic thinking. This is one of the reasons why a Star Performer in Small Sale may not always succeed in high-ticket deals or Key Account Management.

 Paradigm Trainers Private Limited is having training programs on Key Account Management and Advanced Negotiation Skills in Bangalore ( 14/15th Nov.) and Mumbai ( 21/22nd Nov.) for more details : www.paradigm-info.com

New Strategies to Manage the Downturn

It is said that when the going gets tough the tough get going.  Some of the strategies companies are employing to beat the downturn are:

  1. Find New Niches: Some companies are finding new niches which are more visible, easier to record and have a lower cost of acquisition. Maruti is targeting priests in Tamil Nadu and turmeric growers in Nashik.  Groundnut and cotton growers in Jamnagar due to the bumper harvest are cash-rich and are buying mid range and high-end Maruti cars. The sales team was also able to sell 40 Eeco vans as a cost-effective mode of transport to restaurant and motel owners on the highways of Ahmedabad and Baroda.

The niches can be in rural market too where there is more scope for growth vis-à-vis the urban centres. Mayank Pareek, the CMO of Maruti has identified 300 new niches which account for 10% of company’s growth which include potato growers in West Bengal, blue-pottery makers in Jaipur, timber merchants in Gujarat, granite polishers in Hyderabad, painters in Madhubani in Bihar & Nut-bolt manufacturers in Sonepat.

For the migrant workers in Mumbai using entry-level feature-phones, Vodafone launched an application of booking train tickets on IRCTC , says Vivek Mathur, Chief Commercial Officer, “with an application much cost-effective than a  connection of MBs  of a data plan.”

Godrej was selling Aer, its car freshener as a FMCG product through its traditional trade channels. But the response was not encouraging. The consumer care research team found that the car owners are possessive about their cars and the accessories and may not visit the conventional FMCG outlets to buy a ‘freshener’. Godrej changed the strategy and appointed different distributors mainly from the car accessory market. The sales started picking up.

2. Get out of the Office: Axis Bank is  coming out with similar initiatives which include involving senior citizens to open accounts. The Senior Citizen Privileged Account offers health checks, bill payment, an ID card for medical emergencies and a CD of old movie songs. Manish Lath, head of marketing says, “it is not about acquisition business but more of people relationship.”

3. Listen to the Sellers: Dealers, retailers considered as an extended arm of an organization  are the important touch-points with the customers. Aircel has launched a new reward scheme for the retailers who sell the highest number of mobile connections. The star performer’s wife is eligible for a brand new Hyundai Santro car and the runner-up gets to meet MS Dhoni in person. Chandu Virani,  MD of Balaji wafers has meetings with 800 dealers in group of 40-50. The purpose is not about sales and achieving the numbers but to listen to them and resolve the bottlenecks.

Whatever business you are in;  can you identify the new niches which were hitherto untapped and with whom there is a greater fit between your offerings and the niche’s requirement?