10 Interstellar Lessons For Only Interstellars!

In 2014, Christopher Nolan came to the world with one of the best movies of all times that gathered 44 wins and 144 nominations, this movie was “Interstellar”

To me, this was not just a brilliant movie, it is a life lesson and one of main sources of inspiration, passion and wisdom!

For whom who did not see that movie, please do, and expect having hard time understanding its end!

The story is about an astronaut ( Matthew McConaughey) going to the space with a team of other astronauts to search for a new planet for humankind to live in as earth will be uninhabitable within few years

It takes us to an epic journey in space that prevails how miraculously human instincts of survival,  love and whole existence can beat all expectations, odds and norms!

 

“Interstellar is a life lesson, you can watch it, enjoy it then forget about it; or, you can absorb it and take through your life as a guiding principle!”

 

I find a great analogy of this story with many situations we face in our lives, where we need to leave places and take bold steps for better futures.

Take the professional career as one solid example:

You landed to your dream job at this great company, but after few years, this job is not how it used to be, and the decision of leaving it, or leaving the company altogether and peruse another challenge doesn’t look easy, and needs lots of talents and courage which is a situation that may identifies what kind of person you can be! You may even think about changing your career altogether or change where you live! and that is a lot more difficult!

A Survivor will always find reasons to stay within the same job and same place, especially if it provides some safety and comfort, while A Dreamer will always think about new opportunities and look up for them.

An Interstellar will take whatever it takes to achieve his/her goal and will go further to the very end for it!

I am not trying to say any type of these is better or worse than the other, life needs all types of people. However, if you believe you are ambitious, driven, talented and willing to take risks in your career life, then you might need to know some of these life principles that I concluded from the movie which might help you better being your own career and life Interstellar!

 

interstellar-itunes-hd-0

1- There is always something that you have not seen before! 

 

Cooper ( Matthew McConaughey) had to fly to space, leaving everyone he loves behind (though he left earth to save everyone he loves there!) which made it more difficult for him and his family (especially his daughter whom he had a special connection with)

He left on a belief that there is something out there for him that would present the last hope for his species

Generally, most of humans tend to believe that their circle is almost the center of everything in the world, the more this circle is comfortable and cozy, the less they feel the need of getting out of it.

Same on the career level, the “Nice job trap” I call it…where you can’t get out of it as it provides a good sense of comfort, financial coverage…etc

However, the seed of Change starts to grow only from understanding that there are always things you have not seen before, people you have not met, places you have not been to and achievements you can attain. If you have the guts to take a brave leap to leave your zone, and go to these places and peruse new opportunities, you will reach to statuses that probably few can achieve!

“There is always something new out there and it worth risking for!”

 

2- Current Status-Quo may kill you!

 

Based on some information and calculations, NASA realized that humans life has no future on earth, so they sent multiple missions to space to explore new planets in another galaxy where humans can inhibit. As surrendering to the current Status-Que meant the extinction of humankind!

In your career life, if you just stayed put with the current Status-Que for too long it means that you will be vulnerable to be wiped at some point later! nothing stays the same, people change, your network changes, and you might be too weak to change your status by then because you did not take that step earlier.

However, someone can be just happy with the regular job with the slow ladder; in that case, he/she wont need to think about being a dreamer or Interstellar and that is okay for many!!

If not, then you will need to challenge your Status-Quo and further somewhere else at the right time! and that might be the most difficult – or the most insane- decision you will take!

“Sense the water heat, gather information then take action before its too late, otherwise, you will end up like this miserable frog!”

 

3- Believe in Murphy’s law: “What can happen will happen”!

 

Statistically, Cooper and his team had slim chances of success, however, they took that scary risk on a belief of surviving. And finally we know they were right! ” Eureka”!!

Don’t say I have no hope to find a new job or to work on this startup idea or move to this country! If there is a chance of success, then your vision, effort and personality can make your odds way higher! and it can happen!

“Don’t give up on your aspirations just because the chances of success are slim, plan ahead,  and go for it before its too late” 

 

4- Choose the right people!

 

Cooper had a team of other three astronauts and one Robot, later on, one more Robot joined. This formed a team based on one common ground and an absolute goal, they were all working in harmony and devotion to serve this purpose, which is exactly what anyone needs from the people working around him/her.

Later on, they met Dr. Mann ( Matt Demon), who was a deceiver and his surviving instinct took over him to trying killing Cooper and escape away!

We meet many people in our lives, we do not choose whom we meet sometimes, but we can choose whom to stay with, so try to see the substance of everyone you meet, make sure you have the right ones around you as much as possible. Avoid the ones who will be skeptical or lazy or toxic or jealous or liars..etc, they will drag you down!

“Choose whom you want to be with. Be with people who can enable you, support you, push you forward and enrich your horizons, beware and avoid who are not!

 

5- Honesty: 90% Humor: 75%!

 

Cooper asking TARS ( a robot):

Cooper: What is your honesty parameter?

TARS: 90%

Cooper: 90%?

TARS: Absolute honesty is not always the most diplomatic, nor the safest form of communication with emotional human beings!

You have always to be honest no matter what, however, being diplomatic is essential to let your message be heard and successfully reach to others. This is what this conversation above entails and this what you should do along your journey

However, with yourself, you can be less diplomatic as what Cooper did at the end setting the new TARS’s honesty level to 95%! Clear Self perception is a mandatory talent for success!

Humor is essential for our daily life, being too serious wont take you anywhere most probably, we are humans, we need to smile and go through life with that!

” Be honest always, diplomatic when needed and humorous sometimes…this will make your journey a lot more successful, clear and enjoyable”

 

6- You will loose and probably fail!

 

Cooper lost most of his team through a journey of struggle, patience and perseverance. He was on a brink of death multiple times, finally he made it, yes, but this came with various prices

Success is not absolute! When you see a success story, you do not know what losses were there, be ready for these losses and be ready to also accept failures! 

 

7- Rage against the dying of the light!

 

Professor Brand kept sending this message from Earth to the crew in space:

Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Rage, Rage against the dying of the light!

Though wise men at their end, know dark is right

Because their words had forked no lighting they

Do not go gentle into that good night!

Rage, Rage against the dying of the light!

Keeping the same pace, energy and passion is impossible, you will go through lots of struggles and desperations…what will keep you alive is always your rage against failure and darkness

During the dullest and blackest moments, raging, resisting and fighting is most needed…do not loose hope until you loose your existence!

 

8- Take it to the end!

 

At some point, Cooper had no chance to go back to earth, he had two choices: “To give up” or “To go further” to the end of his journey on a hope of reaching to what humankind is looking for!

When we take decisions, we may think we are prepared for the consequences and circumstances we might face along the way just from the givens we have in hand, however, the actual way to your goal will never be the same as you thought it will be!

Be prepared for surprises, recharge your energy along the way, and just do not make surprises, haziness or uncertainty stop what you have committed to finish earlier!

9- It’s all about Love!

 

A special and intangible relationship between a man and his daughter saved the world in this movie! an unseen bond between two humans though they are million miles away in two different galaxies!!

Love what you do, love people you work with, love someone who can empower you and give you the energy to go by, the unknown power of love exists! and that’s what’s life is all about!

Surround yourself with the people whom you really love and who they love you back, embrace the mysterious power of love to achieve things your couldn’t imagine achievable!

10- Choose your End!

 

Cooper managed to save humankind in a very complicated way, however, he then chose his end to be with the one whom he leaned to from the beginning (after saving his daughter and humankind). A sophisticated chronicle of achievements and actualization that ended with an eternal inner-self peace!

Sometimes the journey of life takes people too far, where they feel helpless to choose their end or change their last direction, this will be the worst end, have power to choose your end and where you want to be at last!

Go for your goals, start your journey and achieve what you want, just do not forget to be strong enough by then to enjoy a good end ever after!

Building a true Customer Success Organization

success

One of the main challenges with Customer Success function is how it can be positioned within the Eco-System of the current organizational structure? how it can add a new value without affecting the current cost stream? how the reporting lines should align in order to orchestrate properly?

Well, to answer the question of how to position Customer Success?, we should go back to the previous question of why to create Customer Success?. A clear answer to this “Why” question may help much in answering the “How” question

I have stated in previous posts the strategic value of adopting a Customer Success function, let me be more clear about this putting in bullet-pointed answer..

Why to adopt a Customer Success Function?

  • To achieve a true Shift from a sales oriented strategy to customer centered strategy
  • To maintain and optimize sensitive customer related KPIs that normal functions can not focus on ( Satisfaction, Health, Growth Potential…etc)
  • To create more selling situations, accordingly more leads
  • Customer Success warrants more focus for other organizations to do what they can do better as it takes the hassle of maintaining customer relationships from them like persisting requests and business challenges that always occur post the sales process. so then, the sales can sell, the development engineer can code and support can fix product bugs..etc

The name “Customer Success” has a deep indirect value to customers, its not “sales or Account Management or business development” which all customers in most of cases is valued by the amount of business they generate

It is not also Customer Support, where customer business and current account situation is not taken into consideration in most cases

So, understanding this function very well, can make the mission of positioning it much easier

Back to the main question, how to position customer success?

In a reply to a post written by Nick Mehta on LinkedIn (CEO of GainSight) where he asked for some answers to this same questions, I explained briefly part of my vision or approach. Nick post copied below

IMG_0011

My approach for this function is to ultimately achieve “Success”, a mutual Success for both customer and business

When sales numbers step over all metrics, we may encounter medium-long term business risk. High sales figures without continuously increasing customer satisfaction means long term failures

The strategic idea here is to change the reporting lines of sales organization to the top Customer Success Organization, by this change the overall business picture will be more realistic and mature to both reflect the real situation and project the future shape of engagement with customers

So the name I propose for this is Chief Success Officer (CSO), where this role can have an executive dashboard/health-score of all accounts

Then two main reporting lines under the CSO

  • Director/VP of Customer Success
  • Director/VP of Sales

With Such top structure, I believe there will be a great deal of balance with what is sold vs what the customer real situation is, thus, maintaining high and stable sales figures while keeping a growing customer attachment

Another naming conversion I have came across, which is the Chief Customer Officer, it sounds very reasonable and more attractive as it includes the “Customer” name which implies a great deal of attention to the “Customer”

My only take on the “Chief Customer Officer” is that it will be still separated from Sales organization so it will not diffuse the right needed power to embrace the voice of the customer, and yet the Customer Success function will be more of a supporting function than a core one

The only way to have a true Customer Success execution is to put in an equal KPI valuation with sales to measure the overall success of business, which is what the “Chief Success Officer” can achieve much more than “Chief Customer Officer” for the reasons I mentioned above

Copying my Reply to Nick Mehta’s post below

IMG_0012

 

How Forrester Featured my Customer Health Score Formula

In August 16th 2017, Forrester Research published an official report titled: “How To Build A Viable B2B Customer Health Assessment”

F

In this Report, Forrester selected two formulas among a list of these companies

  1. Adobe
  2. Alfresco Software
  3. BMC Software
  4. ChurnZero
  5. Cisco Systems
  6. Customer Success Association
  7. Pro
  8. An education software maker
  9. eSpatial
  10. FDB (First Databank)
  11. Gainsight
  12. Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  13. IBM
  14. Infogix
  15. Kahuna
  16. Okta
  17. RainKing
  18. A recruiting software vendor
  19. reDock
  20. ServiceSource
  21. Shift Health
  22. Totango
  23. Workbooks
  24. Zycus

Among these 24 companies, two companies were selected by Forrester team as “best examples” of customer health assessment

The first one of these two assessments is the one I created for my current employer

I captured the screen shots that feature my formula from this Forrester Report

  • The first one explains the formula in broad explanation
  • The second one features the three color coding criteria

F1F2

I posted my formula in a previous post, it can be viewed here

For readers who are interested in downloading this Forrester report, it can be accessed here.

 

 

 

 

Forrester Research to officially feature my Customer Success Formula

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As per my previous post, I had a very interesting conversation with two senior analysts at Forrester Research over a trending topic now around customer success which is the Customer health/Success Formula

In the past, we have seen a lot of efforts on sales and sales increments, and on the other side magnificent innovations on service quality and customer care enhancements occurrences

forrester

The real challenge I saw among many WW top notched organizations is that the two directions do not go synchronously together, where multiple organizations celebrate sales numbers without paying the same amount of attention to customer relationship innovation or quality improvements. Same goes with the other side of the river, where multiple organizations (especially SMBs) do the larger side of the effort on the customer experience and quality without fueling it with much sales to generate the aspired for revenues

What I see is unique in my Customer Success Formula is that it binds both worlds in one simple vision that can be used by CxOs to making sure the overall situation is visible, monitored and well enriched

I will share the official slide from Forrester Research featuring my formula as soon as it becomes public

 

Customer Health Score Formula

health

I had a meeting with two senior Forrester research analysts for around one hour, the whole meeting focus was about how to think of a way to measure customers’ health from a customer success prospective.

I have a model that I developed personally through my years of experience, I believe the model answers this dilemma very well and transforms the kind of qualitative data, activities and engagements into solid quantitative figures that can be used by executives and subordinates to trace, diagnose and fix issues when needed

I explained this model to them and and interesting discussions started!!

I am summarizing it below, with the assumptions made in the Disclaimer section; hope you will enjoy reading it

 

Disclaimer

–          This formula is not intended to measure customer satisfaction by any means, yet it gives a great indication on customer satisfaction that can be taken into account in any other applications that might be interested in customer satisfaction part

–          This formula is targeted for large business-to-business engagements, where multiple entities/individuals from the vendor deal with one account

–          This formula’s interest is to measure how healthy the customer business is with respect to the vendor’s products and services usage

–          This formula cannot be used for accounts of age less than one year

–          Data to be gathered in this model are to be gathered on yearly basis

health-score

 

Customer Health Score formula

Measuring the health of any account is a sophisticated task that should take into account multiple and diverse metrics

This formula can assess the performance of mostly all departments that deal with the customer, and how the customer is perceiving their engagements, like:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Customer Success
  • Other Supporting departments

It concludes the health of the account into four main categories as following:

  1. Stability
  2. Maturity
  3. Innovation
  4. Adoption

Each category has set of sub-categories that are scored as demonstrated below, the output number is normalized to a base of 10 so the overall health of the account is finally measured as a value out of 10, each value range is mapped to the following three statuses:

–          Healthy: if the score is more than or equals to 7.5

–          Infected: if the score is more than 5 and less than 7.5

–          Sick: if the score is equals to or less than 5

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAXgAAAAJDY5MDFiNjllLWEzNWYtNGVlYS1hZTU1LWY5OGMyMzZjOGE2Mw

 

The scoring and definition of the four categories and their sub-categories are defined below

1-          Stability (5 points)

 Stability is concerned mainly on outages rates, integrations health and enhancements delivered to the customer, as per the following:

–         Outage (weight is two points)

What is the percentage of severity-1 cases with respect to all support cases count? (Total outage cases)

o   %5 and less: 2 out of 2

o   >5% <20%: 1 out of 2

o   >20%: 0 out of 2

–         Integrations (weight is two points)

Are all integrations with our applications working well?

o   All working well: 2 out of 2

o   Most are working well: 1 out of 2

o   Few are working well: 0 out of 2

–         Enhancements (weight is one point)

Number products Enhancements delivered per year to the total submitted Enhancements (i.e. if 4 are delivered out of 10, then score is 0.4)

2-          Maturity (5 points)

This is to measure generally how the customer is using our products; and what is the level of engagement they have with our people as a whole

–         Update-ability (weight is two points)

Are all products are on latest major versions?

o   If 75% and more are yes: 2 out of 2

o   If 50% to 75% are yes: 1 out of 2

o   If less than 50% are yes: 0 out of 2

–         Utilization / Shelf-ware (weight is one point)

Any shelf-ware or unused products?

o   Yes (0 out of 1)

o   No (1 out of 1)

–         Participation (weight is one point)

Has the customer participated in any events or special technical forums online?

o   Yes (online and events) : 1 out of 1

o   Yes (online only or events only): 0.5 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–          Reach-ability (weight is one point)

Does the customer know whom to talk to within our organization?

o   Yes (1 out of 1)

o   No (0 out of 1)

3-          Innovation (5 points)

This is to measure the level of advancement in using our products generally, whether new or existing ones. And how this is evaluated with respect to our special reference and exclusive programs we offer

–         Earliness  (weight is two points)

Does the customer has two or more of our new products?

o   Two or more: 2 out of 2

o   One only: 1 out of 2

o   Zero: 0 out of two

–         Development  (weight is one point)

Does the customer have in-house applications integrated to our products?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–         Referencing (weight is one point)

Is this a reference customer?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–         Exclusiveness (weight is one point)

Does the customer participate in any special programs (Beta testing, brain storming…etc)?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

4-          Adoption (15 points)

This part’s focus is on how successful are we in selling our products/services to our customer (adoption level), the assumption here is that if the account health is good then it should be reflected to the sales figures

However,  this part could be taken out of the health calculation if we assumed that only heath is measured on the delivery/usage sides

–          Licenses/cloud/subscription sales

Have we achieved all planned new licenses/cloud/subscription sales opportunities in last 4 quarters?

o   All Yes (5 out of 5)

o   Partially yes, then normalize the sales percentage to 5 (i.e if 80% of sales achieved, then score is 4 out of 5)

–          Services sales

Have we achieved all planned services sales opportunities in last 4 quarters? (support, education, professional services..etc)

o   All Yes (5 out of 5)

o   Partially yes, then normalize the sales percentage to 5 (i.e if 80% of sales achieved, then score is 4 out of 5)

–          Vertical sales

Any upsells (licenses/cloud expansion or services expansion)?

o   Yes (5 out of 5)

o   No (0 out of 5)

Overall health score

As explained above, the total score is divided by 30. Then the final score can be categorized as following:

–         Healthy: 7.5 and above

–         Infected: between 5 and 7.5

–         Sick: 5 and below

This could be color coded and presented to top executives, corrective actions can take place by tracing the scoring losses.

 

Customer Success & Shelfware

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The larger the size of the organization gets, the higher the probability of encountering less utilized customer applications or totally unutilized applications (unused)

Both ways, this is Shelf-ware!

One of the ultimate goals of Customer Success function, is to make sure that customer’s environment is utilized at upmost standards, shelf-ware is one the silent killers that each Customer Success Representative should work with his/her customers to decrease or eliminate its existence

A Cause and Effect analysis I made on Shelfware is demonstrated in the figure below that shows why Shelfware is dangerous!

Slide3

For some customers, shelf-ware is more than 25% of total install base, that could be a huge Unrecognized value which has a lot of implications and direct impact on achieving vast customer success KPIs like adoption, renewal values, overall satisfaction…etc.

One of the smartest solutions is to offer some options to convert from install base licensing models to cloud base models exactly like what Microsoft did with its WW customer base

I am introducing this Go-To-Solve model in the diagram below that can be used to address the Shelfware problem, this model does not need any extra new systems investment so it can be used directly without any overhead cost on the orgnization

The model has basically five main steps:

  1. Track
  1. Identify
  1. Review
  1. Plan
  1. Propose a solution

Slide4

Each step is explained in the diagram below

Slide5

With such model, it can be highly possible to overcome this problem with your customers; achieving high overall success criteria and making sure all organization’s stakeholders are viewing thus addressing this pain area

Building a WW Digital Sales Strategy

business-strategy

In this article I will demonstrate a top executive level design I made in 2016 for a WW Diginal software sales strategy, it was based on mainly six strategic directions (themes), this design lays the foundations for this Digital sales organization, subsequent programs and plans should be designed on later stages….this strategic map called “Hex-Go” consisting the six directions (themes) below:

Hex-Go strategic directions

  • Revenue
  • People
  • Partners
  • Marketing
  • Customer Experience
  • Interlock, Incubation & integration – I3

six themes

Each of these themes is identified by three metrics:

  1. Objectives
  2. Actions
  3. Measures

 

The difference between Digital sales and Direct sales is basically the market size and nature of the targeted customers

Currently, Direct sales organization makes most of the revenue through working directly with large customers, however, Digital sales organization deals with SMBs thus makes less revenue

This Strategic plan is focused on increasing the Inside (Digital) Sales market share through vertical upselling to existing customers and horizontal selling to new customers (As shown in the figure below)

MarketShare

Going in further details, I demostrate each of the six themes and its assosiated metrics

Revenue

Objectives

  • Increase number of bookings by XX %
  • Achieve YoY increase by YY %

Actions

  • Incrementally build on the current sales methods
  • Foster rapid, energetic and innovative sales plans
  • Boost vertical and horizontal sales acts

Measures

  • Review sales numbers on quarterly/monthly/weekly basis

Revenue

 

People

 

Objectives

  • Having a highly skilled and well trained sales force WW

Actions

  • Select, Build, empower and foster a strong organization culture
  • Training and enablement
  • Incentives and rewards

Measures

  • Business reviews and Employee reviews
  • HR analysis/metrics

 

people

Partners

Objectives

  • Increase number of partner bookings/leads (where applicable WW) by XX%
  • Partners as brand ambassadors and secondary/primary sales force (per region)

Actions

  • Build a partners ecosystem WW
  • Integrate with local partners managers WW
  • Review Partners business margins
  • Leverage partners recognition and rewarding

Measures

  • Regular Review partners sales numbers
  • Partner surveys

Partners

Marketing

Objectives

  • Marketing department to widen sales horizons
  • Marketing department to be part of total customer experience

Actions

  • Manage the quality of customer data (scope + details)
  • Apply appropriate segmentation methodologies (segmentation matrix)
  • Usage of state of art marketing tools and adopt innovations

Measures

  • Communication and media KPIs
  • Customer data quality review
  • Events/activities impact on direct sales and user experience

 

Marketing

 

Customer Experience

 

Objectives

  • Create a total customer experience that is simple, reliable and innovative
  • Review customer experience journey among all entities

Actions

  • Work on more innovative customer online experience
  • Appropriate customer management tools to be in place across all functions
  • Review with customer success/advocacy organizations

Measures

  • Customer reviews
  • Customer online traffic/interactions
  • Analysis against competition

 

CE

 

Interlock, Incubation & integration – I3

 

Objectives

  • Inside sales to be fully connect with other BUs internally
  • Inside sales force to have clear access channels to other BUs

Actions

  • Kick off the communication with all BUs WW
  • Implement internal support models/methodologies
  • Recognition to other BUs

Measures

  • Review calls/activities with other BUs
  • Monitor Metrics and KPIs

 

I3

The inside sales (Digital Sales) organization must be aligned with other BUs, this can demonstrated in the figure below

 

I3picture

 

 

 

Escalation Management, further more!

fireOne of the main work streams I have been doing for more than 10 years is escalations handling, its a function that many like to avoid due to the huge pressure it entails! I was asked before by one of Marketing intelligence startups: How to warrant having a proper escalation management for our killing issues with customers?…I tried to give my short and  quick insights about this, just to assist on understanding how to have a proper escalation process as short and direct as possible, here below:

how-to-handle-call-center-escalations

1- Communication:

The most important factor to consider, communication with the customer should be regular, clear, informative and receptive

Internal communication between the teams should be seamless, fast and diverse

2- Ownership:

Escalation Manager should be the owner of communication with the customer, this will make is easier for the customer to follow-up and positively perceive a clear value from the escalation process, also the escalation manager should be the internal owner, driver and enabler for other stakeholders to solve the customer’s issue in shortest time possible

3- Visibility:

The escalation progress internally should be visible to top executives, the escalation process itself generally is triggered when the normal process fails to meet the customer’s expectations, which results business risks. Thus, top executives should be involved to making sure we are having the right internal attention and to show to our customers how importance the situation is to our top executives!

4- Involvement:

The escalation manager should involve the right stakeholders who can make tangible difference to the customer, if it is a technical escalation then maybe senior support, RnD and product managers must work together to find a solution or even a workaround for this issue. Business escalations should be also handled same way with sales and commercial teams

5- Resolution:

An escalation is only successful when a proper resolution is met and agreed by the customer; making sure that this resolution is clear and acknowledged by the customer is a key criterion of proper escalation handling

For an escalation manager to be successful in what he/she is doing, he/she should possess specific skillset like, compassion, enthusiasm, patience, superb listening skills and a proper sense of direction to lead the situation to an acceptable resolution

Presenting to a CxO? Here is what you need to do!

For any customer facing role (whether sales, consultancy or service delivery..etc.), conducting face-to-face presentations is an integral part of your job! You might be meeting your customers on weekly or monthly basis, less or more! However, CxO presenting is something that most of us do not do with the same frequency, even if you do, you will always need to be ready for a meeting that is absolutely different than the regular the meetings you have with other CxO subordinates

The scope of this article is about meeting and presenting to CxOs; whatever is there in the X. Meeting a CxO can be simply a maker or unfortunately a breaker! You may have only one chance -that might not come again – to pitch for what you stand for; if this did not go well, it might not go well for long or forever! If it went right, you absolutely have opened the right gate!

Accordingly, preparing your CxO meeting should be different; and if you are presenting, that needs another special preparation as well.

So, whether you are an experienced presenter or still in the beginning stage of learning presentation skills, you will have some interesting take aways out of this article…

Let me breifly discuss the three main stages of these kind of meetings before going into deep details of each of them:

  • Before the meeting, you need to be well prepared with what can all serve your purpose
  • During the meeting, having the right level of attention and engagement is all what you can hope for a good beginning that will cut most of the way to a positive end, upon finishing, the story doesn’t end, it is just the beginning!
  • Post the meeting; make your story! Do the right follow up, fire the right spark and continue the journey of business you have been looking for

Let me get more into that !

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Before the meeting

Do the homework

If you are going to speak about an ongoing project, know all facts and review the progress in details. Check with your team what milestones have been achieved and what are the challenges in place, you need to know the overall situation 100%, most probably, other people will be in the meeting room with you, and you never know what questions you might get!

If you are presenting a new proposal, study the current situation about the company you present for and speak to other stakeholders inside this company as much as possible. Know their vision, struggles and aspirations. This will help you so much while pitching in front of the executives so that you can link their needs with what you are showing!

Know something interesting!

It can be very positively distinguished if you leveraged your knowledge before the meeting about something interesting for the audience, like new update on the market, insights about the competitors, new trend…etc

Knowing about your audience background is very useful, their personal interests, their career path, their area of expertise…all these and more

Your presentation: Design, design and flow!

Your slides have pivotal importance in your meeting, there are tons of advices  about designing and presenting, however, for CxO presentations, the prospective is much broader and consideration should be taken into higher level !

Humans use their eyes before their ears! So your design is absolutely the first thing to consider if you don’t want to be forgotten! A proper, interesting and storytelling flow keeps your audiences attained and less consumed!

So you can reach to the goal you came for!

  Therefore, a Design must be…

  • Catchy in a modest way: Your CxO needs to see a difference than other presentations, but not too much!
  • Very limited smart animation: Or no animation at all!
  • Fewer contents per slide: Otherwise, the eyes will get lost, accordingly the focus!
  • Avoid putting too much data: As much as possible! To avoid draining your audiences’ energy too quickly!

In addition, for a proper Flow…

  • At the beginning: Story-like start, more incidents and less data
  • In the middle: More facts less numbers
  • Before closing: More talk about the future!

Dress-up!

Cultures are different, accordingly, every way of dressing. Normally – for a woman or a man – a suite works everywhere in the globe, but it is not just the suite, it is rather more about the details of how your look implies…instead of going into fashion dilemma, I want to discuss why you need to be dressed-up! And, what impressions and ideas you want to foster out of that!

  • You need to look acceptable to the audience
  • You need to show respect to your audience by dressing well!
  • You need to avoid looking too slicky or too perfect!
  • You need to catch the eye sometimes, but not too much!
  • You need to look smart and attractive!
  • You need to feel good about your look before your meeting! This boosts the confidence

So no matter what you wear, it’s your talent to choose what can serve the goals above!

Shake hands genuinely

The first thing when getting into the meeting room is to greet your audience, they look at you first before saying Hi, a first impression takes 5 seconds, and this might last until the end of the meeting!, the first 2 seconds when they look at you, and the rest is when they shake-hand with you and say “Hi!”

Shaking hands is a human way of communication where people agree to open up for something, whether a short conversation, a meeting or just a greeting. Shaking hands in all cases is an agreement between two people to communicate, showing the right interest by looking in the eye genuinely and shake hands can be the best way for the other party to positively begin to “Accept” then maybe “Like” you and be ready to start the meeting!

During your meeting

Position and gestures

Stand in a position where your audience can see you comfortably as much as possible, your physical posture builds subconscious impressions among your audience, simply a normal, open and interactive posture is all what you need to lock-in your audience eyes

Avoid rolling your eyes or head to side directions; this implies you are either embarrassed or unfocused. You need to generally look in an angle where you can grasp everyone, and to avoid giving too much attention to one person, even if he/she is the CxO, however, you can shift your eye focus to the CxO direction from now and then if needed

Opening

Opening your presentation is the core of your pitch! When you present to a CxO your ultimate goal is to grab the attention from the very beginning, a strong, bold and factual opening is sometimes the best approach for that, a short story telling is another good idea, and there are many techniques that you can use! Just ask yourself this question in order to know how to open up for your presentation:

Why does this executive may want to listen to me?

Because you supposedly will solve a problem, or your will add value

But this is not the right answer! Many others believe they can fix problems and add values; you are just one of them here!

A CxO may want to listen to you because you will convince them that you have the best or the most unique solution for their issues, or you will add a new and interesting value for their business! Planting these ideas in your audience minds and hearts is best done during the opening part of your presentation!

Diversify your communication

Changing the communication style helps in two main things:

1- Refreshing your audience energy of attention, so they can keep up with your presentation

2- Unlocks your audience conscious doors by using different communication keys that can open the way for your ideas to flow

This is generally an act of training, talent and experience, if you cannot do it now, you will definitely can do it later if you kept working on it!

Briefly, maintain a medium, acceptable and clear tone of voice that can elevate to higher levels while using proper body gestures to support or explain the ideas you are presenting, a good way to test you audience attention is to move around a bit and see how they will cope with your move!

Ask!

Assuming you and your presentation slides are interesting enough, the audience will get engaged properly with you and you will be asked questions during your pitch, if not, then you will need to ask them a question from time to another to elevate or maintain their attention level

The catch here is that if you asked this classic kind of questions: “Is everything clear?” “Any questions?” you will not probably get the right level of engagement you want, also, you need to avoid asking too much provoking questions or teacher-student like questions: “Does anyone know why I am putting this instead of that” or “who can tell me…?” these kinds of questions must be avoided, you are speaking to executives!

Nevertheless, there is a type of questions that is very efficient; I call it the topic-opening question. It is when you ask the audience about specific parts of your presentation and refresh their minds on what you presented, For example, questions like “Do you need me to talk in more details about the KPIs part?” “Is the executive summary covering all queries you have in mind?” “Does this optimization feature links to a current issue you have?” ..etc., I recommend using this kind of questions especially in the parts where you need them to absorb your contents most

Your answers should be clear, short, comprehensive and informative, and then offer to speak in more details if needed. This approach shows that you are aware of what you talking about while maintaining an executive focus

Close with a summary and an idea!

Your closing is the last thing you leave to your audience, giving a brief summary before closing is as important as giving an interesting opening. With the summary, you aggregate all contents into something compelling, simple and easy to memorize, best to use one slide-summary with more visual contents that are easier for the eye to capture

At this time, state the whole idea that made you have this meeting, there is a difference between goals and ideas. You should have mentioned multiple goals during your presentation, so now it’s the best time to make your audience thoughtful or heartfull about what you talked about. For example, if you are presenting to a mobile operator CTO a new service to launch for their IT Service Catalogue, it is the best time before closing to say that the only way to keep leading in the competition is to offer unique, robust and continuous services to your customers, which is why you came!

The importance of such kind of closing is that you bind your audience with a strategic idea aligns with what you have presented, in such way, you get closer to convince this crowd with what you came for without being too persuasive or desperate

After the meeting

Post meeting chats!

Now the presentation is finished and people start to move off their chairs, kicking off some side talks and some action can come to your way!

You might get comments or questions about your presentation or anything else, this opens great chances to build one-to-one rapport with your audience, answer the questions that you know and promise to get back with answers later for the ones that you do not, in both cases; write these questions down in your note. Reply with more details later to any comment you might get, be nice and attentive all the way

Strike while the iron is hot

It is very important to send a confirmation email with your presentation slides (if applicable) and short summary to your audience within one day after finishing your meeting, you need to keep this channel on by sending this summary within the right time window before being forgotten! State the questions you got, confirm the answers you said and promise to get back with more details if needed

Offer multiple options if possible, be flexible and supportive

Confirm any important statements mentioned, articulate your summary so that it looks simple to read and easy to understand

Fire the internal spark

In most cases you will be asked about things that you need to act on, this is where you get your golden chances to show commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm to your customer

Your ultimate goal at this stage will be to get the most detailed and comprehensive answers for your audience, you may need to work internally within different stakeholders/organizations to get these answers for them

Make sure you are doing the right internal follow-up, make sure your audience get the answers they are looking for, send complete answers; that may open another questions to be asked and keeps a positive attention moving forward

If you got a one-to-one question, make sure to send a one-to-one answer, if you got a question by one to all, make sure to send your answers to all. This is one of the secret keys to establish a strong personal bond with your audience

Aligning with different internal resources in your company is vital, without that, you may encounter delays or communication gaps, which will put you in a difficult situation to commit on what you have presented, thus firing the internal spark is needed to be around your customer as complete as possible

Make your story!

Meeting a CxO or a senior executive is just a story that is part of a continuous journey. Make your one easy, interesting, valuable and profitable so that you can sustain long lasting relationship with your customer. When you pitch for a presentation, you are building the most important part of your journey; that should be a memorable success story for you, your business and your organization to share and talk about!

Circular Economy and Business Process Modeling

**Please check an updated version of this article on my LinkedIn Pule page here

In the past years we have seen many changes in how organizations moderate their business models to cope with the constantly changing market needs, powered by the evolution of technology and quality management.

As a result of that, some concepts have been dramatically changed in the modern business. In marketing for instance, the standard concept of “specific stable target segment” has entirely changed, main reason behind that is the advancement in marketing tools and data analysis that can multiply any business reach with more depth factors than never before! so we saw mass segmented marketing transformed to advanced intellegnt markteing where each customer is an independent segment. And the norm of specific target segments of customers who share some common traits swapped with N-matrix segments and single consumer segments.

This changed traditional go-to market strategies and took it to new areas; Just recalling how our Facebook home pages ads are mostly related to our past purchases or online activities can make it clearer to see how deep marketing and sales approaches have become in modern days

Thus, the increase in data volumes and analysis drove all industries to new areas where competition stands only with whom who have more intelligence to reach customers in best and most convenient ways, or manufacture goods at most acceptable standards. it shifted as well the way of how advanced macro economy works, it became entirely technology dependant relying on more advanced revenue generation patterns along all business cycles to achieve higher profits at less waste possible

This nourished the idea of circular economy, the concept itself is not new, however it has recently passed through various updates, circular economy is based on retaining value along all stages of manufacturing or business in a more efficient way than the traditional linear economy or regular business models

Traditional linear economy is based on retaining one direction value chain along manufacturing stages: source, design, produce and consume, which still results large amounts of material waste and missed business opportunities despite of all traditional efficiency optimization methodologies used till now

What circular economy tries to achieve is to reuse all processes outputs along with production, a common misunderstanding here is that many people might think circular economy is only about recycling products to raw materials, which is not correct. Recycling is actually one of the least values of circular economy, circular economy retains its larger value from looping manufacturing along all industry stages like parts harvesting, refurbishing, reusing or recreating…

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On consumption level, the product can be circulated on multiple consumers among different markets, locations and segments. On manufacturing level, the product is produced from series of recursive production stages, and at any stage all spare parts can go into new processes to be reused and be part of another re-manufacturing processes/products. For example a manufacturer will lease out a TV for 2 years instead of selling it, then sell the same product to a different customer, along all that, the TV components can be reused, refurbished or re-harvested for another production cycles

Adopting a circular economy is one of the most interesting methods we see nowadays, as it opens doors for entering completely new markets where original products usually can’t reach (as emerging markets)

linear-to-circular-economy

Example on Circular business model

A simple example is what we saw in the past days in the US mobile phones market, after the release of iPhone 7, almost all service providers (T mobile, Verizon, Sprint and AT&T) offered a special program to its customers. The program gives customers the opportunity to exchange (trade-in) their older iPhones (5, 6 and 6S) with new locked iPhone 7 provided that they should commit to a two years contract plan, this program was extremely successful and the benefits were great for all parties (customers, service providers, Apple and others) how is that? could be explained below…

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Whenever a customer exchanges his or her old phone, the old phone is sent to Apple by the service provider, part of the monthly contract subscription fees goes to Apple as well (depends on the agreement between Apple and the service provider), Apple takes the old phone and sells it to partners who refurbish it then resell it to another consumer in the US or outside the US

So the benefit to the consumer: He/She will have a new phone model at apparently no cost

Benefit to service provider: Higher customer satisfction, customer retention and securing stable consumer revenue over 2 years

Benefit to Apple: Selling new models, reaching out to other markets by selling the refurbished phones there and reusing of spare parts in various production stages

Benefit to Apple partners: Selling refurbished models with good profit margins for different customers in other markets, Apple itself may bypass this partner sales stage and sell directly refurbished phones

iphone-7-is-here-1-700x376

Introducing the circular business process

As seen from the example above, the idea of Circular business/economy generates totally new revenue streams which is an interesting approach for any executive to review and analyze. As a matter of fact, adopting new circular business models will involve a lot of transformations and changes in the existing models

I am introducing a new process representation to be used in any circular business modeling. That is the circular business process. A circular business process is simply a process that repeats itself with slightly different changes in inputs/outputs depending on which circle, loop or state the process is in

Circular process have iterative production circles; where first circle represents the first time input/output, then this process can go through another cycle (circle #2) with different 2 versions of input/outputs are generated, this can go to N times and so on…

In order to simplify this and to avoid making huge changes in the current linear process representation, the box that represents a circular process can be drawn with a circle inside it.

The circle can contain a number to represent the process cycle number, where a circle number tells us in which circular state the process is at (1st, 2nd and so on)

This can be represented in the figure below

linear-vs-circular-proess

I think this representation provides an easy way to model a circular process without changing much the existing linear process representation

Conclusion

Adding to the huge environmental benefits, Circular economy definitely generates new streams of profits, multiply any brand reach and leverage businesses development. Business Process modeling must be changed to represent this type of new modeling, this should be simple and easy to represent without affecting much the current linear representation as demonstrated in this article

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