Category Archives: Geek Peek

15 tips to achieve excellence in any discipline

“The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.” – Josh Waitzkin #MondayMorningWakeUpCall


Learning is an art, not fart

Few people can be the best in the world in one discipline. Even fewer can achieve this rare repute in 2 different disciplines. Josh Waitzkin is one such wonder who has become world class in 2 distinctly diverse disciplines, chess and Tai Chi.

Josh won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. He is the only person to have won the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships in his career. The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is based on his early life.

Added to his chess accolades he also holds several US national medals and a 2004 world champion title in the competitive sport of Taiji Push Hands (Taiji Tui Shou).

Josh however believes that what he is best at is not chess or Tai Chi – what he is the best at is The Art of Learning, and his book by the same name is the story of his method.

Here’s my interpretation and summary with excerpts of the key points to his method. Feel free to adopt, adapt and apply to become the best, or better than the rest of your circle of musicians, dancers, designers, actors, athletes, scientists, writers, philosophers and professionals, whichever your chosen discipline.


Josh’s first lesson with Bruce, one of his earliest teachers, was anything but orthodox. They hardly studied chess, it was more about getting to know one another, to establish a genuine camaraderie.

Bruce’s core focus in the first months of study was that he nurtured Josh’s love for chess, and he never let technical material smother his innate feeling for the game.

Despite significant outside pressure, his parents and Bruce decided to keep Josh out of tournaments until he had been playing chess for a year or so, because they wanted his relationship to the game to be about learning and passion first, and a competition a distant second


Entering the ‘Primary School National Chess Championship’ when Josh was 8, he was the ‘man to beat’. However, he lost in the finals to a little known rival and was devastated at coming so close to winning his first national championship and then letting it go.

His learning was that confidence is critical for a great competitor, but overconfidence is brittle.

He took a break and at a ripe young age of 8 questioned everything and decided to come back strong with a commitment to chess that was about much more than fun and glory. It was about love and pain and passion and pushing himself to overcome… and the following year he went on to become National Champion.


The wrong approach: The entity theory of intelligence – Children who are “entity theorists”… that is, kids who have been influenced by their parents and teachers to attribute their success or failure to ingrained and unalterable level of ability, see their overall intelligence or skill level at a certain discipline to be a fixed entity, a thing that cannot evolve. Example, kids or people who are prone to saying “I am smart or talented at this”.

The right approach: The incremental theory of intelligence (learning theorists) – Children or people who are more prone to describe their results with sentences like “I got it because I worked very hard at it” or “I should have tried harder”. A child with a learning theory of intelligence tends to sense that with hard work, difficult material can be grasped and step by step, incrementally, the novice can become the zot (master)

Dr. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology, has shown that when challenged by difficult material, learning theorists are far more likely to rise to the level of the game, while entity theorists are more brittle and prone to quit. Hence the advice to parents and teachers (and even to yourselves) to praise the effort and not the outcome.

The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long term learning process.


After Josh won his first National Championship, his chess life started gathering momentum. His passion for the game fueled a long ride of unhindered learning and inspired performance. From nine to seventeen, he was the top ranked player for his age in the country.

However, there were plateaus, numerous periods when his results leveled off while he internalized the information necessary for his next growth spurt, but he didn’t mind. Josh’s had a burning love for chess which helped him push through the rocky periods with a can-do attitude.


Like all regular mortals, Josh had to deal with distractions in his game. This was compounded by the fact that from a very early age he had to stay focused under intense pressure on a game that could sometimes last as long as six to eight hours. A catchy tune could be enough to haunt him for days and throw him off balance.

In 1993, at sixteen, Josh had travelled to India to participate in the World Junior Chess Championship in Calicut. He was finding the surroundings difficult to acclimatize to and was struggling to find his flow in the first round match. Somewhere during the course of the match, he did find it and immediately after, there was an earthquake. While the earthquake shook everything, including his opponent, Josh experienced a surreal synergy, pure thought and awareness of a thinker. When play resumed he immediately made his move and went on to win the game.

The incident was the launching point of his serious investigation of the nuances of performance psychology. Staying calm amidst an earthquake had helped him reach and discover a higher state of consciousness. By systematically training yourself, you can do this at will.

The soft zone is the initial step along the path of achieving your state of creative flow. The nature of your state of concentration determines the phase of your reaction to the task at hand whether it be a piece of music, a legal brief, a financial document, driving a car, anything.

Through performance training, you first learn to flow with whatever distraction comes. Then you learn to use whatever distraction comes to your advantage. Finally you learn to be completely self-sufficient and create your own earthquakes, so your mental process feeds itself explosive inspirations without the need for outside stimulus.

With systematic training you can learn to flow (lose yourself) with the distractions and embrace the difficulties that come your way, no longer letting them affect you detrimentally.


Games, deals and life battles are lost because of a shift in psychological advantage. The crucial trait that needs to be developed is regaining presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error.

This is usually a hard lesson to grasp for all competitors and performers. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction.

Musicians, actors, athletes, philosophers, scientists, writers understand that brilliant creations are often born of small errors. Problems set in if the performer has a brittle dependence on the safety of absolute perfection or duplication. Then an error triggers fear, detachment, uncertainty or confusion that muddies the decision-making process.


There was a period when Josh was training under a Russian Grandmaster who urged him to become more conservative stylistically. While Josh found this approach interesting, the effects of moving away from his natural voice (a creative, attacking player, who loved the wild side of chess) as a competitor disturbing. His strengths were moving out of reach and chess no longer felt like an extension of his being. This also resulted in his performance being uneven and, at times, self-defeating in competition

Josh believes that one of the most critical factors in the transition to becoming a conscious high performer is the degree to which your relationship to your pursuit stays in harmony with your unique disposition.

In his experience the greatest of artists and competitors are masters of navigating their own psychologies, playing on their strengths, controlling the tone of battle so that it fits with their personalities. He has found that in the intricate endeavors of competition, learning, and performance, there is more than one solution to virtually every meaningful problem. We are unique individuals who should put our own flair into everything we do.


Josh was at the zenith of his chess career when he left to pursue Tai Chi. The accolades he had earned in the chess arena meant nought in the Tai Chi arena. He was a beginner, a child learning to crawl all over again. Without the openness of a beginner’s mind to learn and an egoless attitude, it would have been impossible for him to scale the zenith in Tai Chi as well.

Even at the pinnacle, mastery is a constant learning experience. When aiming for the top, your path requires an engaged, searching mind. You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process.


Josh transitioned from a world class chess competitor to a novice Tai Chi artist. During his initial days of training he got smashed around particularly by another more experienced training partner, Evan. But soon a curious thing began to happen. First, as he got used to taking shots from Evan, he stopped fearing the impact. His body built up resistance to getting smashed, learned how to absorb blows, and he knew he could take what he had to offer. Then as he became more relaxed under fire, Evan seemed to slow down in his mind. He noticed himself sensing his attack before it began. He learned how to read his intention, and be out of the way before he pulled the trigger. As Josh got better and better at neutralizing Evans’ attacks, Josh began to notice and exploit weaknesses in Evans’ game, and sometimes he found himself peacefully watching Evans’ hands come toward him in slow motion.

Not much different from fighting life’s battles with the universe I guess.

Great professionals are willing to get burned, invest in loss, time and again as they sharpen their swords in the fire… and of course, they don’t give up on the way to becoming The Greatest


During the All Kung Fu Championships Finals in 2001 Josh had broken his hand. He didn’t show the injury, instead he fell into the rhythm with his opponent’s attacks and quietly fought with one arm. The National Championship was in 7 weeks. Against all odds of recovery, he trained with one hand during this period while his other hand recuperated before the championship which he went on to win

He says that in the finals, his broken hand made time slow down in his mind and he was able to reach the most heightened state of awareness in his life.

He says, “If I want to be the best, I have to take risks others would avoid, always optimizing the learning potential of the moment and turning adversity to my advantage.” And “let setbacks deepen your resolve.” Throughout his career he sought out opponents who were a little stronger than him which made losing a part of his regular experience and helped maintain a healthy perspective even while he was winning all the championships

He says, “The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.”


While honing his Tai Chi techniques, Josh focused on small movements, sometimes spending hours moving his hand a few inches, then releasing it back. Practicing in this manner he was able to sharpen his feeling for Tai Chi, he could translate it onto other parts of the form, and suddenly everything would start flowing at a higher level. The key was to recognize that the principles making one simple technique tick were the same fundamentals that fueled the whole expansive system of Tai Chi Chuan

The essence of this learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick

This principle applies to all fields. Players and professionals tend to get attached to fancy techniques and fail to recognize that subtle internalization and refinement is much more important than the quantity of what is learned.


Once Josh’s broken hand healed and the Nationals were over, the question on his mind was: how can I make time slow down without breaking a limb, recreate the control and experience of All Kung Fu Championships Final?

Focus on a select group of techniques and internalize them until the mind perceives them in tremendous detail. After training in this manner, you can see more frames in an equal amount of time, so things feel slowed down and you can control the situation better to your advantage


One of the most critical strengths of a superior competitor in any discipline—whether we are speaking about sports, business negotiations, or even presidential debates—is the ability to dictate the tone of the battle.

Cultivating the last 2 principles help to control the intention of the opponent by being able to zoom in on very small details to which the others are completely oblivious

Josh’s experimentation with intentionality began during his early chess years. Even as a seven-year old boy in scholastic tournaments, he sometimes lured his young opponents into blundering by 1) making a move that set a trap and then 2) immediately groaning and slapping his head. This over-the-top display would usually inspire a careless moment of overconfidence from his opponent which Josh would be quick to capitalize on. Over time, Josh gradually honed the art of mastering the ability to read his opponents by reading subtle nuances like breath patterns and blinks of the eye. The more you can understand a series of movements more deeply, in more frames, with more detail, the better you can manipulate your opponent’s intentions without him realizing what happened, thereby dictating the tone of battle.


Anger. Fear. Desperation. Excitement. Happiness. Despair. Hope. Emotions are part of our lives. We would be fools to deny such a rich element of the human experience. But, when our emotions overwhelm us, we can get sloppy. If fear reduces us to tears, we might not act effectively in a genuinely dangerous situation. If we seethe when someone crosses us, we may make decisions we come to regret. If we get giddy when things are looking up, we will probably make some careless mistakes that turn our good situation upside down.

Josh often had to encounter opponents who would cheat, right from chess opponents who would try to distract him by going even as far as kicking him under the table or martial arts opponents who would play dirty. After losing the first few times to them he figured that getting angry was getting him nowhere. The first step was to recognize that the problem was his. That there would always be creeps in the world and he had to learn how to deal with them with a cool head. Getting pissed off would get him nowhere in life.

Once he recognized this he continually nurtured his mental resilience, arguably the most critical trait of a world class performer. He looked for ways to become more and more psychologically impregnable, not by denying his emotions, but by learning to use them to his advantage.

Once you are no longer swept away by your emotions and can sit with them even when under pressure, you will probably notice that certain states of mind inspire you more than others. For some it may be happiness, for others it may be fear.


After intense periods of practice and competitions, especially during his chess years, Josh with his family, would often head off to the sea for a break, no matter what was happening in their lives. The boating life was a wonderful training ground for cultivating presence and the release of control. He learned at the sea that virtually all situations could be handled as long as presence of mind is maintained. On the other hand, if you lose your calm, when crisis hits seventy miles from land, or while swimming with big sharks, there is no safety net to catch you.

This also ties back in to mastering the ebb and flow of stress and recovery. The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line. This is why the eminent tennis players of their day, such as Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras, had those strangely predictable routines of serenely picking their rackets between points, whether they won or lost the last exchange, while their rivals fumed at a bad call or pumped a fist in excitement.

The more you can let things go, the sharper you will be in the next drive.

In every discipline, the ability to be clearheaded, present, cool under fire, is much what separates the best from the mediocre.

In the end…

We cannot calculate our important contests, adventures, and great loves to the end. The only thing we can really count on is getting surprised. No matter how much preparation we do, in the real tests of our lives, we’ll be in unfamiliar terrain. Conditions might not be calm or reasonable. It may feel as though the whole world is stacked against us. This is when we have to perform better than we ever conceived of performing. Josh (and many other great minds like mine J) believe the key is to have prepared in a manner that allows for inspiration, to have laid the foundation for us to create under the wildest pressures we ever imagined.

Feel free to adopt, adapt and apply these tips and methods to your own professional and personal life to be better prepared.


Rise #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Sometimes just one word is enough to move a person or even a nation. Other times and most others, need long verses in the form of a song a 100 miles long sung by a pop star, to help them rise and win their much sought after prize.

In this case it’s Katy Perry singing for the 2016 Olympics (and I suspect for you and me)

“Rise” by Katy Perry

I won’t just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can’t write my story
I’m beyond the archetype

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
‘Cause my roots they run deep, oh

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins
I know it, I know it
And I will not negotiate
I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform

When, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time”
But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise

I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos
So I call on my angels
They say

Oh, ye of so little faith
Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in your veins
You know it, you know it
And you will not negotiate
Just fight it, just fight it
And be transformed

‘Cause when, when the fire’s at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time”
But still I rise

This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in
Think again
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise

Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Oh, oh, oh, oh
You know it, you know it
Still rise
Just fight it, just fight it
Don’t be surprised
I will still rise


“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it” – Old Chinese Proverb #MondayMorningWakeUpCall


Zip It or Get With It

A ‘gentle’ reminder to all the naysayers.

And a pump up session, for those who are getting affected by them, courtesy Under Armour, a sportswear brand that shot into limelight with their #IWILL campaign to be spiced up with a bit of Da Da Ding from Nike by “not taking NO for an answer and doing your thing”

Can’t but help notice the parallels in striving for something great, whether it be for individual excellence or entrepreneurship and team excellence in a startup shooting for the moon.

6 step sales process explained through 22 questions for a beginner salesperson


Everybody is in sales

As Zig Ziglar says, “In today’s sophisticated selling market, getting in front of a client with a brochure and saying, “Stop me when you see something you like,” just won’t make it. You can make an occasional sale, but you can’t make a living-and you certainly can’t build a career.”

More importantly, you’re not helping yourself nor are you helping your client or prospect.

To be a valuable sales professional you need to understand the different aspects of sales and be great at all the aspects. The various aspects can also be put together as an almost linear step-wise sales process which is as follows (adapted from Ziglar On Selling by Zig Ziglar):

  1. 6 steps in a sales process
    1. Prospecting – Finding someone willing to buy
    2. Getting Started – Overcoming call reluctance and sales anxiety
    3. Need Analysis – Identifying wants and needs
    4. Need Awareness – Validating the wants and needs
    5. Need Solution – Selling the product (which includes convincing, , making powerful presentations, persuasion and literally not taking ‘NO’ for an answer)
    6. Need Satisfaction – Closing the sales
  2. In addition, there are 3 aspects that cut across almost all the steps, which are:
    1. Handling objections
    2. Relationship management
    3. Having fun

Elaborating the 6 steps:

Step 1 – Prospecting – Finding someone willing to buy


Always Be Prospecting

  1. What is a prospect?
    • An individual or group capable of making the decision on the product or service the salesperson is selling
    • Tip: There is a difference between a “Prospect” and a “Suspect”
      • A “suspect” is a name that could be a prospect, so the name offers hope
      • A “prospect”
        • Has a need for the product
        • Possible desire to own that product
        • Financial capacity to implement that decision
  2. Why prospect?
    • Cos prospecting is the most important key to sales success. If you don’t have a database of people to sell to then who will you sell to? You’ve lost before you’ve started
  3. How to prospect?
    • The best sales people develop a prospecting attitude and are constantly in a state of “awareness” with eyes and ears open for business
    • The best way to begin prospecting is to display a genuine interest in the other person (and concern for other people). Be a friend.
    • Under normal circumstances, with a genuine interest in people, it’s quite natural to weave what you do into the conversation by enquiring of the other person what he or she does
    • Ask friends and family (to use the product/for leads)
      • For those who are embarrassed to ask, here’s some food for thought –
        • If you think your product is good enough for all those strangers, why isn’t it good enough for your friends and your family?
        • If what you’re selling is not good enough for your friends and families then why are you selling it?
      • Find centers of influence – people who are influential in a certain community, area, market or organization
      • Ask for referrals. Some asking for referral tips –
        • “Mr. X, if your best friend were to walk here at this moment would you introduce him to me? Most likely it’ll be yes. “Then Mr. X, let me get you to do this. Why not introduce me to your best friend who has a need for our product/services by giving me his name and a little information about him”
        • If possible get an introduction via telephone/email
        • When asking for a list of referrals, 1st just take down the names and once the list is exhausted, go back to the names for specific details (instead of gathering all details at one go for each referral). Be conscious of the prospect or client’s time
        • Help jog memory
        • Ask which person should you call first and work with the client to establish a priority list
        • Report back to your referrers and let them know the results of your calls
        • Best list of prospects you can possibly get are accounts payable of your clients
  1. When to prospect?
    • All the time

Tip: “Pressure” selling (selling where you must make the sale to survive) is caused by lack of prospects

Bonus Tip: You’ve got to “Go out and make it happen”

Step 2: Getting started – Overcoming call reluctance and sales anxiety


Who you gonna call?

  1. How do I overcome call reluctance or telephone terror?
    • One of the greatest causes of phone fear is failing to set an objective for the call (determine why you are making the call)
      1. Are you going to do a market survey, make an appointment, or get a sale
    • Get on a regular schedule and make an appointment with yourself to be face-to-face with a prospect at the same time every day
    • Anticipate objections (they are almost always predictable) and be prepared
    • Treat cold calls as introductory calls
    • Turn an experience into an experiment
    • Smile
    • Have some fun by figuring out just how much each call is worth to you – whether busy, unanswered or disconnected
    • Note: If your actions come across as what some perceive as stereotypically “salesy” in nature (anytime during the sales process), the prospects are turned off
  2. How do I overcome sales anxiety?
    • The good news is, if you feel no anxiety in making the sales call, your chances of success will be greatly diminished. Scientists have proved beyond doubt that when our adrenalin is flowing properly, we respond more quickly, more accurately and more enthusiastically to the situation
    • Fear of facing the public has a great deal to do with self-image. If the salesperson stands in fear or awe of the prospect, then making an effective presentation is extremely difficult
      1. The salesperson thinks “Who am I to tell this person my product, goods or services will be helpful?”
      2. Until the salesperson learns to “look up to” or “down upon” no person, fear will prevail
    • Build confidence:
      1. One of the best ways to recognize your strengths is to replay the tapes in your mind’s “DVD player” of when you were successful
      2. Learn as much as possible about your prospect. The more you know about your prospect, the more respectfully you will be treated by your prospect
    • Transfer your feeling
      1. If you transfer the feeling that you must make the sale for your benefit, the chances of making the sale are greatly negated. If you transfer the feeling that you want to make the sale for the prospect’s benefit, your chances of success are dramatically increased

Bonus tips:

  • When calling through a receptionist (preferably know her name) –
    1. Hi Kylo, this is Rey with The Force Awakens Training Systems, may I speak with Mr. Vader (without hesitation)
  • Responding to “I’m busy” or “I’m in a meeting”
    1. What is the best time for me to call back? (And make sure you call back)
    2. What is the best time to catch you when your schedule is not likely to be so busy or hectic? (Shows consideration on your part)
  • Try and gauge if truly busy or avoiding? If we know class timings can we meet after their last class or early morning? Ask
    1. How important would it be to communicate better with parents or motivate students?
      • If “very important” or “important” then ask if “important” then why do you want to delay a meeting. I’m sure we can take out 30mins
    2. Just wanted to confirm, are you interested in exploring better solutions for motivating students to practice/communicating better with parents and thereby reducing dropouts/increasing revenue?
      • If “yes” then if you were ever going to start exploring possible solutions then when do you think is the best time to start?
    3. Note: You might find it helpful to make your calls early in the day when their energy level is high and they are more gracious and willing to listen
    4. Responding to “I’m busy but go ahead and tell me what’s on your mind quickly”
      • Do not rush into the presentation because you will probably have to speed through and leave out relevant details and also you don’t want a snap decision
      • “I really think it would be better for both of us if I caught you a little later because with less than complete information, it would not be fair to you and would not be the best use of time for either of us. With that in mind when would be the best time for me to call back?”

Step 3: Need Analysis – Identifying Wants and Needs


Be a doctor

  1. What is Need Analysis?
    1. Need Analysis is to look within the customer and find the needs of the customer-to uncover existing needs. These needs may be on the surface or just below the surface, but they definitely exist.
      1. Your duty (and opportunity) as a sales professional is to develop the skills and talent within the customer and find the needs (that are already there) of the customer-to uncover existing needs
      2. As you are searching for needs, “wants” and desires will surface
  2. How do you uncover wants and needs?
    • With proper probing effort you can discover the needs of the prospect
    • Probing begins by asking questions. You must develop an attitude of curiosity and sincere interest in the answers to your questions. Let the little child out. (The questions are the answers)
    • A series of questions asked in a professional manner that shows a sincere interest in the prospect and her company would imply that the salesperson is truly interested in helping her instead of “just another salesperson out to separate her from her money”
      • It communicates “Let’s work together to discover the need (problem) before you offer a solution”
  3. What questions should I ask?
    • The right kind of questions to ask are the ones to gather information, not facts
    • Thinking vs Feeling Questions: Most of us claim to make logical decisions but the reality is, we make primarily emotional decisions.
      1. Ask: “How do you feel about a learning app that can help you communicate better with parents, motivate students to practice and manage your payments…?
        • Or ask each individually or whichever benefit is relevant
        • Or How do you feel about increasing your revenue by decreasing your drop out rates?
        • Questions in the early part of the Need Analysis segment of the sales process.
      2. When you learn how the customer feels, you are far more likely to find out what the person thinks
      3. One of the strongest emotions we feel is fear… “Fear of loss is stronger than the desire for gain”
    • Combine emotion & logic: Emotion makes the prospect take action now and logic enables them to justify the purchase later. Example –
      • Can you see where the product can help you communicate better with parents/motivate your students to practice/increase your revenue by reducing dropouts/make managing your fees hassle free
      • Are you interested in communicating better with parents/motivating your students to practice/increasing your revenue by reducing dropouts/make managing your fees hassle free
      • If you were ever going to communicate better with parents/motivate your students to practice/increase your revenue by reducing dropouts/make managing your fees hassle free, when do you think would be the best time to start?

Note: If (and that is a big “IF”) you have made your presentation in such a way that you can expect an affirmative answer to question one, then the process will work for you.

  1. What is the proper questioning process?
    • Make the interrogation conversational. The only thing more frustrating than the poor talk show host who asks questions regardless of the answer to the previous question is the non-professional salesperson who does the same thing.
    • There are 3 basic types of questions that allows you to discover the needs and wants of your clients and potential customers. All questions, emotional or logical, fall into one of these 3 categories and should be asked at the right time
      • Open-Door Questions – The purpose of open door questions is to allow the prospects the freedom to take the answer where they want to go (Note: please avoid offering answers to the question you asked)
        • What do you think about…
        • How do you feel about…
      • Closed-Door Questions – designed to keep the prospect’s answers in a certain area for clarification and embellishments
        • Would you tell me more about…
        • How long did you teach before you entered the business world
        • How does your division compare in size to other divisions in this company
      • Yes or No question – You should use this question only when you already know the answer. The danger of this kind of a question is that if it is overused, it may be perceived as patronizing
        1. Do you agree that this would save you money?
        2. Is this app something you might benefit from?
    • The P.O.G.O. formula will allow you to get involved in a conversational interview process that will be comfortable for both you and the prospect
      • P = Person (Get to know the people involved in the sales process)
        1. The parameter for you as the salesperson who is interested in gaining trust and finding out wants and needs is to give (and get) information regarding the people involved in the sales process
        2. Anything that expresses sincere interest in the prospect will be valuable to you
          • Since when have you been teaching?
          • How did you get into teaching?
          • What’s your main focus, teaching or performing?
          • What do you like most about teaching?
          • What do you like least about teaching?
          • What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching?
          • Who are your idols?
          • What do you do in your free time?
      • O = Organization (get to know the organization)
        1. Similar to finding out about the people/person
          • What are your plans for your organization?
          • What’s the toughest part of running an organization?
      • G = Goals (Gather information about personal and professional goals)
        • What are your personal/organizational goals?
        • What do you plan to accomplish in the next 6 months?
        • What goal is most important to you next year?
        • Why would achieving that goal be important to you or what would achieving that goal mean to you?
        • Did you achieve last year’s goals?
        • Tip: Making more money is never a goal. The real goal revolves around what can be done with the money (Ask : Why would that be important to you?)
      • O = Obstacles for reaching the prospect’s goals
        • As a startup/entrepreneur I know that we face our share of obstacles. Would you be willing to share some of the problems you/your organization faces?
        • What are/were your obstacles to achieving the goals?
    • Recognizing and selling to different personality styles
      1. Bold personality – Selling secrets for the bold prospect
        • Be direct
        • Be concise-get to the point
        • Answer ‘what’ not ‘how’
        • Be conscious of the bottom line
      2. Friendly personality – Selling secrets for the friendly prospect
        • Spare the details
        • Socialize
        • Follow up
        • Show ‘new’ products
      3. Sincere personality – Selling secrets for the sincere prospect
        • Earn trust
        • Go slow and easy
        • Answer all questions
        • Reassure
      4. Competent personality – Selling secrets for the competent prospect
        • Show proof and share testimonials
        • Be prepared and structured in your presentation
        • Answer “how”
        • Address any disadvantages early in the presentation

Tip: Practice!

Step 4: Need Awareness- Validating The Wants And Needs


Be a detective… probe deeper

  1. What is Need Awareness?
    • Need Awareness is uncovering the true need and making the prospect understand and aware that there is a need and the specifics of the need. Even when you are sure you have discovered the client’s/prospect’s need, you must continue to probe for 2 basic reasons –
      1. To be sure you have a true need and not a symptom of a need
      2. To be sure that the prospect understands that there really is a need
  2. Why is this ‘Need Awareness’ step necessary?
    • Fact: 90% of people who have problems (including everything from alcoholism to not enough sales) deny those problems. However, when a skilled sales professional probes with the right questions, the same person who was denying the problem is “permitted” to discover the problem. Since he has discovered it, he will be far more opening in discovering your solutions-your goods or services (which he has also discovered)
    • Many times the prospect herself hasn’t thought deeply her true needs are and hence the objections she raises to buying from you may not be the true Example –
      • Parents don’t prefer online payments
        1. Ask if the teacher has told the parent of the benefits of using the app?
        2. Can we talk to the parents (assumption – the teacher wants to use the app so we can help remove this bottle neck)
    • If you have not identified the proper need and made the need perfectly clear to the prospect, either the sale will not be made, or will not stick
      • Unless the prospect sees, understands and believes there is a problem, there is no problem
  3. How do I get started in Need Awareness?
    • You get started in the same way you began ‘Need Analysis’, by asking questions and probing deeper.
    • This at times is difficult because to probe deeper you need to have built a rapport and relationship of trust with your prospect. Not to mention, to ask questions that cause both you and the prospect to understand the needs and wants, you are required to think!
  4. How do I make the prospect see, understand and believe there is a problem?
    • Create an imbalance in the minds of prospects. We rarely take action until we are out of balance. Your job as a sales person is to discover where there is an imbalance and point it out in a convincing manner
    • To create an imbalance you might have to ask some tough questions. Earn the right to ask them by getting to know your prospect better, building a relationship whereby you care for your prospect
    • You can do so by asking closed-door questions like –
      1. How important would reducing dropouts and increasing revenue for you be (or motivating your student to practice or communicating with parents be to you?)
      2. What do you mean by “not with old students” or “why not with old students, don’t you see the benefit in motivating them to practice or ensuring they don’t dropout?
    • To help the prospect become aware of specific needs, 5 areas of knowledge will benefit you –
      1. Product knowledge – You can never know too much about your product. The more we know about our product, the more we believe in our product
      2. Industry knowledge – The more you understand about your industry in general, the more you are able to understand the all-important “why”
      3. Pricing knowledge – When you understand pricing, you understand how you are helping yourself, your organization and your prospect. Price involves a great deal more than money
      4. Application knowledge – How to use the product
      5. Competition knowledge – Everything about your competitor

Step 5: Need Solution – Selling the product

(which includes convincing, making powerful presentations, persuasion and literally not taking ‘NO’ for an answer)


Going past Nooooo

  1. What is the ‘Need Solution’ Phase?
    • This is the phase where you present your product. Now is the time to stop asking questions and begin presenting solutions to needs, convincing your prospect or client and not taking ‘NO’ for an answer easily or at face value
  2. How do I present my solution?
    • Always lead with need. Never lead with the product
      1. None of us buy what the product is; we buy what the product does for us (the benefits)
      2. We want to know ‘What’s In It For Me’
      3. Personalize the benefits for your prospect. Paint the picture so that your prospect sees personal benefits
    • What you sell should match what your customers buy
      • For teachers:
      • For Students:
        1. We Sell: A learning buddy (learning app) to motivate you and make learning any skill easy and fun
        2. Student’s Buy: A learning app/buddy, to help them to stay motivated through learning a skill and make learning easy and fun for them
        3. For Parents:
          1. We Sell: A learning app for their child to help them be involved in their child’s progress and keep them excited
          2. Parents Buy: A learning app to be involved in their child’s progress and keep their child excited
      • There will be times when you will need to reference features and functions
        1. Features (what your product/service is)
          • Visual progress screen
        2. Functions (what your product/service does)
          • It communicates the student’s progress with regards class and practice sessions and skills earned
      • Benefits (how it helps the prospect/client – wiifm)
        1. It motivates the student by making him/her aware how much he/she has accomplished and thereby increases the likelihood of the student re-enrolling for the class. It also helps the parents to be aware of the progress
  1. How do I handle objections?
    • Objections are a salesperson’s best friend. Asking questions or raising an objection indicates interest or feeling
    • When you truly believe what you have to offer is for the benefit of your prospects, you will take a certain number of calculated risks to persuade your prospects to take action in their own best interests. You will do it politely, pleasantly and professionally, but you will do it.
    • Ask for all possible objections together and then address them.
      1. Example – Is parents not paying online the only reason you are not able to use the app? But to confirm, you are interested in using the app and you see the benefit of communicating with parents or motivating students to practice, right? And you would use it if the parents paid online?
    • Before addressing each validate if they “see” the benefit and would use the app if this objection was solved

Step 6: Need Satisfaction (Closing the Order)


Sold is Gold

  1. What is ‘Need Satisfaction’?
    • If you truly believe you have a desire to help other people; if you truly believe in your product or service; if you truly want the prospects to benefit; if you truly want to benefit from your hard work and effort; then you must remember –
      1. A.A.F.T.O. – Always Ask For The Order
    • Tip: Sales people miss 100% of the orders not asked for
  2. How do I develop the courage to ‘ask for the order’?
    • If you know you are doing the right thing for the prospect, you’ll have no reservations about asking for the order.
    • A fact to boost your courage: Research shows that 60% of all sales are made after the fifth closing attempt.
      1. For those of you who are reluctant to ask for the order more than once or twice for fear of coming across as “high pressure” sales people, you will do well to know that your prospect will look at your offer in a different light the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even the 5th time.
      2. Asking for the order 5 times or more can be extremely difficult if you –
        • Don’t have deep belief in the value of your product or service.
        • Haven’t done the proper job in the 1st 3 steps (Need Analysis, Need Awareness, Need Solution).
      3. With each closing attempt offer added information. This enables you to allow the prospect to make a “new” decision based on additional information.
      4. Many times we don’t ask the question cos we don’t want to hear the “no”. Be aware of this situation and take corrective action.
    • Just do it – Just ask for the order (Would you like to order one/buy one?)
  3. How do I frame the ‘Asking For The Order’ question?
    • The 3 questions close: The 3 questions successful sales professionals utilize in asking for the order (adapt in your own words)
      1. Can you see where this would____ ? (insert your primary benefit – save you money, increase time, etc)
      2. Are you interested in___?
      3. If you were ever going to start____, when do you think would be the best time to start?
    • The probability close: Follow up question to the above if relevant or ask independently (This close is best used when you are very close to getting the order but feel there is some resistance you need get into the open) –
      1. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 meaning you are ready to place your order, where would you stand right now?
        • Wait patiently with a response, and when it comes, follow with this question: “If you are at ____ (the number given) right now, what would it take to move you to a 10?”
        • If you are consistently getting < 7, the 1st parts of your selling process are the problem.
    • The summary close: Summarize all the reasons the prospect has given you for buying and ask for the order
    • Tip on Closing: Nail down the sale by asking the prospect why he decided to make the purchase. This strengthens the relationship, allows you to finish the relationship on a really high note and the sale will be even more securely “nailed down”
      1. Script: It will be a big help to me and a personal favour if you would tell me one more time the key benefit of the product you are looking forward to using or what benefit of the product made you buy it or what are you looking forward to the most from this product?
      2. Ask for a referral
  4. How do I handle objections to closing?
    • Change “No” to “Know” Once your prospects say no, they are not going to change their mind and buy from you. When they say “no” you must understand that the “no” must mean the prospect doesn’t “know” enough to make the right decision. Never argue with them. Just understand that you haven’t finished your job and accept the responsibility for going back and providing the information needed. With additional information they will “know” enough to make a new (and favourable) decision
    • Ask questions to understand and identify the objection.
    • Once you understand and identify the objection, empathize with the prospect.
    • Then test if the objection is a real objection (some prospects will not know the true objection – The prospect who is embarrassed to admit that he doesn’t have the money or doesn’t understand the offer may not admit the true objection. He feels poor or uneducated and his pride or ego demands that he say he is not interested).
    • 2 kinds of test will help you identify between superficial objections and true objections. These tests also help the prospect who really doesn’t know what the objection is but knows she can’t get comfortable with the decision to buy (Some prospects will not tell you the true objection and some prospects will not know the true objection)
      1. The “Suppose” Test: Just suppose that condition didn’t exist. Would you then buy my product or service?
      2. Isolate and Validate test: This 2 step process proves whether or not you have discovered the true objection
        1. Step 1: Ask “Is there any other reason why you would not want to take advantage of my offer/product today?”
        2. Step 2: Once you get the “No, this is the only thing” response, you will summarize to validate “So you’re telling me that if ____ and ___ were not issues, you would buy today?” At this point you are prepared to close the sale.
    • Tip: Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and do a pros/cons analysis
    • Bonus Scripts for Objections
      • “Let me think it over”
        1. In running my business I have often found myself on the opposite side of the table from a salesman and have made the very same statement. Over a period of time I came to realize that whenever I asked for time to “think it over” I was really saying one of the 2 things –
          1. In the 1st place I might really want to think it over because I had some questions that had not been answered or had some unaddressed concerns. If this is what you are saying then I would love to be given a chance to answer those questions or address those concerns just so I know I’ve put my best foot forward
          2. And the 2nd scenario maybe that “I’m not interested in anyway but I just don’t want to hurt the salesperson’s feelings though I had no intentions of considering the proposal any further. I can totally respect your decision and would only ask that if this is the case, please tell me now and save us both time” I’ll also know not to bother you by keeping on following up.

Lastly, don’t forget to have some fun. Selling can and should be fun. If you’re not having funyou’ll feel like a nymphomaniac playing the part of a nun.

An anecdote:


Have fun… don’t be a nun

When the prospect reacted to the door-to-door Bible salesman’s request to buy with “I’m broke”, the salesman had a pretty fair response.



Extending the Bible, he responded, “Would you put you right hand here and repeat that?”


Combine these sales tips with 6 weapons of influence and you’ll soon be holding the coveted ‘Salesperson of the year” trophy.

20 rain songs to make your traffu#@ed drive happily long

Sing in the rain to drown the traffic pain in the flood and the submerged car lane #MondayMorningWakeUpCall #MonsoonMorningWakeUpCall

Holds true metaphorically for life as well methinks.


Sing away the rain and pain

10 songs for those who love the rain despite the pain

  1. Singing In The Rain by Simple Plan

2. Kiss The Rain by Billie Myers

3. Rain by Madonna

4. Have You Ever Seen The Rain by Clearance Clearwater Revival

5. Purple Rain by Prince

6. No Rain by Blind Melon

7. If It Rains by Meatloaf

8. Let It Rain – Tynchy Snyder (feat. Melanie Fiona)

9. Hail Rain Or Sunshine by The Script

10. Singin’ In The Rain – Gene Kelly

And here’s 10 for those who would rather ‘Blame It On The Rain’

  1. Blame It On The Rain by Milli Vanilli

2. Why Does It Always Rain On Me by Travis

3. Rain by Mika

4. Set Fire To The Rain by Adele

5. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head by B.J. Thomas

6. Who’ll Stop The Rain by Credence Clearwater Revival

7. Black Rain By Ozzy Ozborne

8. It’s In The Rain by Enya

9. Rain by Status Quo

10. It’s Raining by Shakin Stevens

Have a good drive!


6 weapons of influence and 19 tricks to fire them

“Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip” – Nancy Gibbs #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

Yes, how to influence people is a skill that can be learnt. And it can be more powerful than using power even though you use just a fingertip instead of a fist, whether metaphorically or real. Since it is a skill that can be learnt and it affects everyone’s daily lives, either as an influencer or as an influenced, author Robert Cialdini set out to teach it through his book titled ‘Influence’.

His objective though was to educate us gullible minds on the ‘weapons of influence’ as he calls them so that we can save ourselves from getting manipulated or conned into doing things we don’t want to do.

While he does take a negative view of the weapons of influence, albeit for a good cause, they can be used to positively impact people personally or professionally. Whether you choose to use these weapons to influence your spouse to have a threesome, your child to share her chocolate, sell shampoo to a bald man or promote the Zotbot mobile app to enrich one’s life is up to you. I am just doing my bit to influence you to become better at influencing.

Here are your 6 weapons with 19 tricks based on human psychology… influence wisely.

Weapon #1: Reciprocation

The rule says that you will try to repay in kind, what another person has provided you. Some ways reciprocation as an influence can be used –

  1. Uninvited favour – You can trigger a feeling of indebtedness by doing someone an uninvited favor
  2. Make a concession – If you make a concession to someone, there will be an obligation on the other person to make a concession to you
  3. The rejection-then-retreat technique – Suppose you want me to agree to a certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make a larger request of me, one that I will most likely turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along. Provided that you have structured your requests skillfully, I should view your second request as a concession to me and should feel inclined to respond with a concession of my own and comply with your second request
    1. Sales people can use a refusal to request for referrals
    2. After being exposed to the price of the large item, the price of the less expensive one appears smaller by comparison. In the same way, the larger-then-smaller-request procedure makes use of the contrast principle by making the smaller request look even smaller by comparison with the larger one. If I want you to lend me five dollars, I can make it seem like a smaller request by first asking you to lend me ten dollars. One of the beauties of this tactic is that by first requesting ten dollars and then retreating to five dollars, I will have simultaneously engaged the force of the reciprocity rule and the contrast principle. Not only will my five-dollar request be viewed as a concession to be reciprocated, it will also look to you like a smaller request than if I had just asked for it straightaway.
    3. Warning: If the first set of demands is so extreme as to be seen as unreasonable, the tactic backfires. In such cases, the party who has made the extreme first request is not seen to be bargaining in good faith. Any subsequent retreat from that wholly unrealistic initial position is not viewed as a genuine concession and thus is not reciprocated.

Weapon #2: Commitment and Consistency

A quote from Leonardo Da Vinci sums it up in one line, “It’s easier to resist at the beginning then at the end”

  1. Foot-in-the-door technique – Start with a small commitment and build
  2. Write – Get people to write down goals and commitments
    1. Research has found that something special happens when people personally put their commitments on paper: They live up to what they have written down.
    2. Businesses to cash in on the “magic” of written declarations occurs through the use of promotional devices like testimonial contests where the users compose a short personal statement that begins with the words, “Why I like…”
  3. Asking someone to take a public stand – Whenever one takes a stand that is visible to others, there arises a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person. For appearances’ sake, then, the more public a stand, the more reluctant we will be to change it.
    1. As an example, this is why dieticians require their clients to write down an immediate weight-loss goal and show that goal to as many friends, relatives, and neighbors as possible. Clinic operators report that frequently this simple technique works where all else has failed.
    2. The most effective type of commitments however are the ones we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures. . A large reward is one such external pressure. It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility for the act. Consequently, we won’t feel committed to it. The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.
      1. All this has important implications for rearing children. It suggests that we should never heavily bribe or threaten our children to do the things we want them truly to believe in

Weapon #3: Social Proof

In the context of influence, the principle of social proof states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.

  1. Tell stories of similar proof – Since the principle of social proof also says: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct, salesmen spice their pitches with numerous accounts of individuals who have purchased the product. Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert captures the principle nicely in his advice to sales trainees: “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”
  2. When the world is using… – Advertisers love to inform us when a product is the “fastest-growing” or “largest-selling” because they don’t have to convince us directly that the product is good, they need only say that many others think so, which seems proof enough
    1. The principle of social proof operates most powerfully when we are observing the behavior of people just like us. It is the conduct of such people that gives us the greatest insight into what constitutes correct behavior for ourselves.
  3. Create the momentum – Bartenders and charity jars often “salt” their tip jars with a few dollar bills at the beginning of the evening to simulate tips left by prior customers and thereby to give the impression that tipping with folding money is proper social behavior

Weapon #4: Liking

We tend to get more influenced and more likely to say yes to requests, to people we like. While this fact may not be startling, what may be interesting is how this simple rule can be used to influence people and win sales deals. For this one needs to know what are the factors that cause one person to like another person? Once you know the factors you can try adapting them to suit the situation

  1. Similarity – We like people who are similar to us. This fact seems to hold true whether the similarity is in the area of opinions, personality traits, background, or life-style. So find something common!
  2. Compliments – Pure praise does not have to be accurate to work. Positive comments produced just as much liking for the flatterer when they were untrue as when they were true
  3. Physical attractiveness – Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence. Furthermore, we make these judgments without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process.
  4. Familiarity – For the most part, we like things that are familiar to us. It appears that in an election booth voters often choose a candidate merely because the name seems familiar
  5. Conditioning and association – People irrationally can develop a negative feeling for someone associated with a negative event or a positive liking when associated with a positive event.

Weapon #5: Scarcity

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. —G. K. CHESTERTON

  1. Fear of loss – The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.
  2. Make it difficult to possess – Things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.
  3. Sudden scarcity – People see a thing as more desirable when it has recently become less available than when it has been scarce all along.
  4. Make it competitive – Not only do we want the same item more when it is scarce, we want it most when we are in competition for it
    1. Each prospect who was interested enough to want to see the car was given an appointment time—the same appointment time. So if six people were scheduled, they were all scheduled for, say, two o’clock that afternoon. This little device of simultaneous scheduling paved the way for later compliance because it created an atmosphere of competition for a limited resource.

Weapon #6: Authority

Most people have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority within us. So much so that even if the order is against one’s moral judgement, you will still be unlikely to defy it, World War II being a classic example.

  1. Order (wisely) – When all weapons of influence fail then using the power of authority (prudently and judiciously) as a parent, teacher, boss, person with a superior title or from one wearing a uniform of law and order may be the strongest weapon.

Ready, aim, fire… to influence GOOD in the world.





There are no ironies

And life has a funny funny way of helping you out – Alanis Morissette #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

I loved her original version. And I love her Ironic 2.0 version for the new generation. It’s ironic how ironies change, even though there are no ironies.

Ironic 2.0

Ironic Original Version (in case you’re an irony ignoramus)