Monthly Archives: June 2012

The 2 Minute Contact Rule!

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The 2 Minute Contact Rule

For those of you in marketing, what I learned in my years can be reduced to a few simple principles. One of these simple principles is something I will spend the next two minutes explaining to you — it is called, the two minute contact rule.

If you are prospecting for new clients or calling existing clients, contractors, subcontractors, or people you work with, the rule still applies. Business is about relationships, and the key to relationships is mastering the stages of a relationship. You get to know someone, you consider working with someone, you start work with someone, you develop your working relationship, and then from there it either ends or it blossoms!

As a general rule it is good to make quick regular contacts with people you work with. It strengthens your relationship with them regardless of who they are. You will be in the front of people’s minds if you keep in regular contact. They will be more likely to want to work with you, and they will be likely to do better work for you too.

If you are prospecting for new clients, the most important thing is NOT to make a sale right away. It is hard to sell to a stranger, so the first hurdle is to make the stranger an acquaintance, and one who likes you. It is good to make a quick contact with a decision maker. Be nice and be positive. Let them know that you are there to help and listen to what they have to say about their needs. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson with a deal they want to push down your throat. Never be pushy! Be gentle, friendly, and prove to them through knowledge (not force) what a helpful asset you can be to them. Your first call to a prospect could be as little as two minutes where you introduce yourself and your company, and what you could offer them. It is not even about price or availability at that point. The point is people connecting with people — it is powerful and it is effective for future sales. The fact that they have gotten to know you a little, and that you were pleasant and helpful makes you 100 times as likely to get a deal out of them than some other clown (not that you are a clown).

Calling those who you work with
If you hire people, or work in conjunction with others, it is great to make a two minute call from time to time. It is a little like throwing another little stick on the fire. It keeps the fire going, and momentum is everything in relationships and business. You can just say hi, and bring up one or two quick points in a casual way. If you live in India, many of you need to learn to be more casual in your business relationships — being uptight just isn’t pleasant for others (at least not by my standards). The people who you work with will work better with you as a result of your quick call. They might work more efficiently for you or put in more hours just because they are thinking more about you, and thinking in a positive way.

Calling existing clients
People who succeed in business do so generally by having many long term clients. Building momentum and trust is everything. Giving your existing clients a quick call is a wonderful thing to do. I do this all the time. They might have questions which they never thought to email you about. Your call will stimulate these questions, and thoughts about purchasing more. I notice that when I contact several hundred people in a two day period with quick calls, there will be many new sales as a result of these quick talks. Not everyone buys something, as a matter of fact, relatively few purchase anything as a result of the call — at least right away. But, a few will make a purchase within 72 hours, and then others in a week or two, and a residual sale or two will pop up a few months later as a result of your quick calls. If I put a dollar or rupee value on these quick calls, it might be worth $200 or more per hour to me in the long run. That is a lot of money by my standards!

What to talk about?
In a quick call, you could ask the other person if they have any questions. Or, you could ask a few quick questions, or quick discussion topics. You could also make quick pointers or customized suggestions for a client. NEVER make general suggestions, because it can turn people off. It shows that you care and are paying attention if you offer suggestions that are taylor made for the individual you are talking to, and this applies to emails to. If you segment your email blasts to target companies with similar needs, then you are sending companies information that is particular to them which they are very likely to appreciate!

Let bygones be bygones?
On the other hand, it is part of efficient management technique to know when NOT to contact someone. If a relationship proves to be fruitless, you need to know how to identify how fruitless it is in order to stop all contact. Don’t waste your time contacting companies or individuals who are just not worth it. Become an expert at assessing other people’s worth — and don’t listen to those religious types who say, “Judge Not” — that doesn’t apply to business. Judge! And judge effectively!

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Rules verses Reality: Feng Shui and Vaastu

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Rules verses reality of Feng Shui and Vaastu

For those who are regulars to my blog, you will know that I look at business in a multi-dimentional way, including metaphysical viewpoints in my greater perspective. India has Vaastu, and China has Feng Shui. Both are concerned with finding lucky spots and lucky directions, and I use it DAILY in real life — and I am no fool. Yes, it works, but you have to know how to work it!

The rules don’t always apply?
I went to a formal Feng Shui school. We learned how to do charts of houses and learned formal rules of feng shui. I didn’t stay long enough to learn the advanced materials, but enough to know how to do basic readings. There is a simplistic rule that water to the North is good for money. Another general concept is that places where the affluent stay have a better vibration for making money. My last Feng Shui trip to San Diego proves this that this theory doesn’t always produce favorable results.

I frequently go to the San Diego area in California to de-stress after weeks of over-working. The relaxing energies there really help, and the water energy at the beach is great for my health and spirits. The purity of the water there helps too, as the coast in Los Angeles county is impure from all of the heavy industry and heavy thoughts in the air! I stayed at a few different hotels to test out the Feng Shui. I stayed a really swanky place for one night. The Hyatt. Wow, was it expensive, and the soaps smelled so nice. If only I were a millionaire, I could stay there every night and have fragrant body lotion and fluffy towels every day! My business did extremely well the following day after a night at the Hyatt. But, the next night I wanted to try out the theory about how water to the north is good for money and business.

I know from experience and from school that water to the North is good for money, but if the water isn’t moving, it doesn’t help so dramatically. When I go to Yosemite National Park, I will stand directly South of a large waterfall to absorb the energies of the fast moving water directly North of me — and YES, I bring a digital compass to verify the exact direction.

Water to the North doesn’t always help?
But, during my last trip to San Diego I stayed at a hotel on the La Jolla Beach coast that had water directly North and West, and the waves were decent enough to surf on. The hotel was in a well to do area, but I got a cheap rate since I arrived late and left early. They gave me the “crash” special. Rich area — water to the North — this is a formula for wealth, right? WRONG! We made very modest sales the following day. By the way, my experience with lucky Feng Shui spots is that they effect you for roughly 24 hours after you arrive, so I track sales the following day after staying at a hotel or having a long dinner in a lucky restaurant. My only conclusion here is that the hotel was too old, and had a bad chart which was why my sales weren’t better the next day. Or, perhaps I just went on an unlucky day? Astrology is a factor here too. It is best to try a location on three non-consecutive days to get a basic preliminary reading assessment.

Poor areas aren’t always bad!
The next night I stayed in my favorite town of Encinitas. I love this place because the people are very nice, and the restaurants and coffee houses are so interesting and unique. Have you ever tried cardamom ice cream or dark chocolate cayenne ice gelato? You should! And, you should try it very soon if you have good taste! I love this town because Yogananda built a beautiful meditation garden there that has been blessed by the gods including lord Krishna. Even Jesus appeared there in astral form before Yogananda at that garden once! I like to meditate there and absorb all of the divine energies plus the healthy vibrations from all of the flowering plants and the sea. A few weeks before, I stayed at a very modest hotel in the area, and sales the next day were almost nothing. So, I thought the whole area had a bad money energy. But, this time, I stayed at another modest hotel, and sales were through the roof. We made triple the average new sales that day. So, the moral of the story is that knowing all of the various feng shui rules is good for your personal reference, but sometimes a very average place might have very good feng shui. You really have to spend time in many places to get a good feel for which place is lucky and which place is not. Take notes otherwise the experiences you have will go to waste!

Regardless of what country you live in, there are lucky places you can go. Even if you only go to a place for an hour per day, that is long enough to get roughly 40% of the energy you would get if you were there for 24 hours which can change your business tremendously. Visiting a lucky hotel, waterfall or restaurant can completely transform your business if you go regularly. This is part of my lifestyle because it is powerful!

Techniques for interviewing outsourcing companies

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Techniques for interviewing outsourcing companies

Don’t be confused reading this post. This is not helping the job seeker interview. This is helping the company boss give an interview to a company that he is considering hiring for some outsourced tasks.

What is the goal of the interview?
You can never know how good an individual’s work is, or how good a company’s work is unless you try them out. But, you can only try one company out at a time (generally), and it is expensive if you choose one who does a poor job or is aggravating to work with. So, asking the right questions is really important.  The problem is that people always tell you what they think you want to hear, so you have to use tricks.

An interview with a customs inspector – trick questions
Actually, I don’t know if this guy intentionally tricked me or not.  He asked what my address was, and I gave him my mailing address, not my physical. He asked if I was the only one at that address, and I said yes, because it was a mailbox that only I had access to.  Then he asked me about my physical address and I said I had housemates.  He raised his voice in anger and said that I told him that I was the only one at that address.  I told him that many people have mailing addresses, and that I thought he was talking about the mailing address, because that is the address I give to people in case they want to send me something.    The point here is that he might have been profiling me as a criminal and wanted to see if I panicked if he raised his voice and accused me of telling him false stories.  I’m not sure what tricks or techniques he was using, but this could have been a sophisticated technique.

Ask probing questions
If you are at a restaurant, and the waitress comes over and asks, “How is everything?”.  This is the most stupid question you could possibly ask — and 99% of waitresses ask exactly this question. Nobody will give you a true answer, so why bother asking? You would be better off asking if they needed anything.  Everyone will say everything is fine unless something is very wrong. If you REALLY want to find out how they gauge the quality of your food and service, ask something more probing.  “Was there enough garlic in the burger?”.  That is a question that brings out the food critic in me.  If you ask a prospective employee, “Do you like your work?”, do you expect him to say no? You can read his body language, because that doesn’t like. If he starts looking at the floor when you talk about work, that is a sign right there. If it were me, I would ask open ended questions that start with, “Tell me about your past work experience and about the programming languages you use”. That forces them to think and create conversation of value. I might also ask, “What do you think are the characteristics that makes a good call center worker?”. That way you can see if they are in tune with what matters, or at least what matters to you. But, what if you want to see how they handle sticky situations?

Catch them offguard!
In real life, some people are honest, some stretch the truth, others are nonsense artists, some are helpful, and some are neglegent. You need to get as good a picture of the people you are hiring before you are “involved” with them.  It is costly to get out of a work relationship sometimes — emotionally and financially.

I was a bit rude at an interview once, and found that I got amazing input about the company from this rude remark. Please keep in mind that when I made this statement, I was not intentionally trying to catch them offguard, it just happened spontaneously.  I said that the neighborhood they were in was scary, and that there seemed to be a lot of drug activity in the area.  The girl said that drugs were everywhere — which is sort of true, but avoided the point that their area had exponentially more drugs than most.  Then, I said that many people outside were wearing winter hats in 75 degree weather, which is indicative of drug or alcohol dependence.  The girl said that the locals felt cold since they are used to much warmer weather.  I learned that the type of answers I got from my off the wall comment were valuable to me, because I got to see how this individual handled controversy — and she handled it politely, but with evasion.

The problem is that conflicts happen when you use a company, and you need to know as much as possible about how they handle conflicts.  You need to know if they keep appointments on time. You need to know if they overbill, or are careless in their work too. Other companies might ditch you in the middle of a big project.  There are many types of debilitating issues that can happen when you hire a company.

The most serious issue I have with companies is that you might work with a different employee every year or two in a company relationship.  One employee might be wonderful, while the other one might be a disaster from hell.  A particular company is only as good as the employee that they have who works with you now!

So, how do you craft probing questions?
Probing questions are easy. Just ask open ended questions that can only be answered with a paragraph. If the interviewee clams up, then you know that the person is really not very thoughtful. If the person has a very thorough answer and peppers it with a few little jokes, then they are very thoughtful.  You might get an answer that sounds like it comes from a textbook in a dull monotone as well which tells me all I need to know.

And how do you craft trick questions?
Hmm. This really depends on what you want to find out. If you want to find out if they bill for excess hours, then you could mention in passing how this “Other” company you heard of gave your friend a crazy bill with all types of inflated figures and unauthorized charges — see how the interviewee reacts.  You might learn nothing from this, or just get a politically correct neutral answer.  They might assure you that THEY would never do that. It is hard to tell what you will actually learn. If it were me, I would pay attention to their level of anxiety when you ask this question, and what their body language tells you.

If you are concerned about being ditched or put on the back burner in the middle of a long project, discuss the topic of time sensitive contracts with incentives and penalties for timely or untimely delivery of work up to specifications. See if they would consider it.  A contract doesn’t really protect you.  Someone irresponsible will fail on a contract very often, and perhaps get sued, while someone reliable will be true to you with or without a contract.  A company’s willingness to sign a time sensitive contract would be an encouraging sign, but there is no such thing as a definte sign — there are only indications.

If you think that many employees are drunkards, you could make a remark about how many people in the neighborhood or at some other company you went to were drunkards.  See how people react.

You will learn nothing by asking questions that lead people to only one answer. Don’t ask if they like their job, and don’t ask if they are conscientious.  As HOW they are conscientious, and WHAT they like about their job. Ask probing questions, and try to catch people off guard to see what happens.  Prepare a few curve ball questions and take notes on how everyone reacts.  With Indians, this might be a little harder to manage, because there are many people in India who are emotionally very over-reactive and panic very easily.  Have fun, and keep the paramedics on speed dial just in case you accidentally ask someone if they did something bad that they actually did — and then they have a panic attack and have trouble breathing!

Indians who ask a million questions

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I was sitting in on a phone conversation between my assistant and some people in India.

Each step of the conversation, the person in India, had a list of questions that were asked in a very unfriendly TONE:

Who is this person? How do we know your address is what you say it is?

How do we know you are in America?

My assistant’s name is Maria, and the person she called thought she was Filipino due to her name. But, Maria is a name common for Christians worldwide.  Mary, Maria, and in Arabic — Miriam, Mariana, all derive from Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Filipinos do not have exclusive rights to Christian names, although they dominate the call center business.

It is confusing, because my assistant is from Vienna, Austria, but lives half the year in Los Angeles, California. Then, she does phone calls to India.  Her global lifestyle can be confusing to others I guess.

So, my assistant said a few sentences in Hindi to the gentleman which proved herself to not be Filipino, since most Filipinos don’t know Hindi.

In any case, when doing business in India, people assume that every claim you make is false, so you have to have evidence that is easy for them to see that everything you are saying is verifiable!

When doing business with people in the West, don’t behave like this guy behaved or nobody will like you!

When to lose your temper at a BPO!

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When to lose your temper at a BPO

As Americans, when we watch Indian managers at BPO companies or other companies act very politely to us, and then we watch them violently yell at their workers, we are shocked!!! This behavior simply doesn’t exist in America. Sure, American managers threaten, and give ultimatums to workers, but this abrupt yelling is a cultural oddity to us.

In America, the cultural norm is to have a talk with a worker who is not performing adequately. The manager might “write the worker up”, or threaten to. This means taking a note of what wrongdoing the worker did. If the worker gets written up several times, or has low performance in generaly, perhaps they might get suspended or fired. This would depend on the company, and the conditions.

But, India has an almost comical and theatrical way of dealing with these issues at BPO outfits and companies in general. It is so common for workers to ignore the instructions of their boss, and keep ignoring until they are yelled at. Sometimes, yelling is the magical medicine which resolves all problems. In America, a manager might get fired for yelling, but in India, it seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

So, if you intend to be part of BPO or other types of management in India, either from an American company, or as an Indian in India, you should practice your drama skills starting today. You can stand in front of the mirror and practice getting really angry. It’s all an act, but you need this skill to survive. Below is an example dialogue you can practice at home when you are feeling bored.

BPO Manager: “Surrendra!! You didn’t get the file to me by 3pm as I instructed!!!”

Surrendra: “Oh…..sorry, sorry, sorry…. right away sir”

BPO manager: “Don’t let this happen again — always be on time — every time — or I will be forced to let you go and you will die of malnutrition for sure!”

Surrendra: “Oh…. yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.”

Please note, that in India, when you apologize, it is normal to say sorry a minimum of three times really quickly!

Disclaimer: If you are going to be with a company that doesn’t permit bad behavior, please don’t lose your temper, or you can get fired yourself!