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A day at Pier Sixty taught me more than a decade in corporate America

Sales, Marketing, Empathy

The view from my booth

Maybe a slight exaggeration but its pretty darn close! After being in #USA for over two decades, finally, I had the chance to visit the iconic piers in Manhattan besides the Hudson River. With the statue of Liberty in the distance and the sun glistening on the river and large boats full of excited tourists passing by, what’s not to like? Well, I was not there for pleasure, in fact it was anything but – was at the #CloudSecuritySummit hosted by @PaloAltoNetworks and I was there for an entire day – hold your breath – doing booth duty as the sole representative of @UberKnowledge (my latest gig) and my aching legs and parched throat at the end of the day taught me lessons that I will hold dear for a long time.

A little bit about how I got there – promise I will not make this a biopic! A decade as an engineer, a short gig as an architect (yeah right!) and another decade-plus as a product manager turned product exec – I thought I knew it all. And then sometime last year, I started reveling in making the complex consumable through analogies and storytelling – videos, articles, and podcasts – skills I never realized I had and then I thought I had nailed it. Tech, Business, Tech Storytelling – I am the complete package mate! #FarFromIt.

The functions I had never fully embraced in my life – sales, marketing, empathy (yes, that needs to be a function) – I got a short but powerful dose of it on October 16th. How so?

Sales – The best article I have ever read on sales came from a16z.com that asked three questions – Why bother, Why you, Why now. And standing there in front of the small booth, looking at every passerby in the eye – making just enough contact without looking intimidating and a smile that is welcoming enough so they actually stop and then being able to get to answer those three questions so they feel that it is worth their time to stop and listen (why bother), be able to understand our value (why you) and then the most important question of all – #Time – do I need to do this now? Did I succeed? Not every time, as evidenced by a an occasionally steely stare that went through me or a pretentious glance of my non-existence, but with more than a few hits and great conversations I got better with every engagement.

Marketing – I had a great deck (thanks @Ruth) running in the background to complement my Indianish-American accent, but it was about the core message which in the spirit of three’s had a catchy phrase to it – Plan, Practice, Prosper. And a small handout that I gave away with the simple yet powerful (remember I am donning the marketing avatar right now so humor me a little) message. And I had the divine pleasure of having a scanning device to get leads scanned. But having been on the other side in conferences, ready to run the other direction whenever I spied the men and women with these digital intruders, I was being ultracareful to ask for permission only after I had concluded my discovery conversation before asking the dreaded question. Mind if I scan your badge? And now with the leads in my backpocket, I am getting ready to coerce, guilt and harass the unsuspecting prospects into responding to my follow-up email. #Never. That is never the way to engage. It will be personal, subtle and yes – time-consuming for my team and myself – but not the bot fueled automated scripts!

Empathy – I will freely admit it. This never touched my soul at work – for a loooong time. In whatever function I was representing, I had a goal to achieve – delivery on my roadmap, convince customers on our strategy …. – where was the need for empathy (snigger). But something changed over the last couple of years and my only regret is why that did not happen sooner. At this event, every person who stopped by, I was trying to relate as a human being first. Busy women and men, who had taken a day off from work to learn and network at this event while their worked piled up and unanswered emails were mushrooming with vengeance. What could I do to help them? Make their learning a bit more fulfilling for stopping by. Thanking them for their time for showing interest in what we had to offer. Or maybe realizing that this was not of interest to them and striking up a conversation to engage on any topic of common interest. A touch of humanity – that’s it.

I don’t claim to be a great sales leader or a marketing whiz. But I did grow up in a hurry and my respect for those functions and the tireless workers doing an honest day’s job selling and marketing – Hats off mates. Walking in your shoes taught me more than decades in my siloed job function. For that, I am eternally grateful.

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