Recapping the Sales Competition  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in

MIT hosted and ran the sales MBA competition ©.

It has been a whirlwind ride over the last few weeks. I flew into Boston on the weekend of the 17th October to participate in the MBA Sales Competitionrun by MIT. The competition pits contestants from different business schools in sales role plays. The final two rounds in Boston consisted of a 1-on-1 individual role play and a group role-play, where the representatives from each school sold something together. Unfortunately, my 100% score in the preliminary phone-based cold call round, which got me there, counted for nought.

My individual 1-on-1 roleplay was probably best described as "a bit of a disaster". The roleplay centered around selling private wealth management services. I should have known a request for a for a "verbal pitch" actually meant powerpoint. The important lesson for me was that it is often better to give the illusion of over-preparedness, than to actually be over-prepared. The Group round, during which each school sold SAP to a potential customer, went slightly better.

The organisation of the event was quite impressive, and I was surprised to hear how strong MIT Sloan's offerings are in the sales space. Sales is not something most people would associate with the school, but their sales club is the second biggest on campus, they run a conference, offer training from external partners and off course run this competition. MIT Sloan certainly seems to be building a brand for sales.

Overall, it was a good event and I'm glad to have been lucky enough to participate. The logistics would have been a nightmare to organise, with entrants from almost a dozen schools, but the MIT students did a fantastic job getting the event together. Nevertheless, the Kellogg kids might not have won the sales competition, but I'm sure we've sold some of the Sloanies on the idea of on dropping out and applying for Kellogg class of '12 ;-p.


The Knight News Challenge  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

The Knight News Challenge slogan: "You invent it. We fund it". ©

I've applied for a grant with the Knight Foundation. The Knight News Challenge is a contest that awards up to $5 million each year for innovate digital projects that have a geographical or local element. The business idea that I am pursuing fits the bill and, I've estimated, needs less than $200k to get going.

Although the application is very simple - less than 800 words in total - I've spent an inordinate amount of time on it over the last two months. Writing and redrafting, the process was similar to applying to business school. I believe tens of thousands of applications are made each year, from which a dozen to two dozen projects are eventually funded. The odds are not good, but I figure that it's worth a punt.

I debated whether to make my application under the "open" category, so people could view it and make comments on the Knight News Challenge website; ultimately I opted to apply under the "closed" category. Although seeding copy-cat competition is an issue, the main reason I've applied under the closed category is so I can manage my time. If I applied under the "open" category, I would need to undertake a large marketing effort to get it viewed by lots of people, rated highly and get good comments on it. I'm sure the Foundation will disagree, but social proof (or the lack of) is hard to not pay attention to. I feel my time is better invested actually looking for funding - this is after all why I am applying.

If I am successful in winning the funding that I am seeking, my project will be able to follow a utilitarian path - I will be able to concentrate on producing the best product possible, and it might just help improve the distribution of news in local areas. If I am unsuccessful, I will be relying on purely commercial funding and the focus of the product will likely have to focus on the distribution of news and marketing relating to commercial products.

Although it is a very small step, and potentially will not yield anything, I feel like I've taken my first step to starting a business out of business school. I can now concentrate on the next step.


MIT Sales Competition  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in

I wonder what we'll be selling for the next round of the competition.  ©

I entered the MIT Sales Competition as a way of learning something about sales - I'll need to develop this skill if I am to have any success with my entrepreneurial aspirations. I never expected that I could actually progress past the initial phase to the final round - but indeed I have. I head to Boston in two weeks.

The competition consists of two rounds. In the first round, entrants from thirteen different schools participated in a cold-call competition. Each participant cold-called a judge, who evaluated our performance. To this judge, we each attempted to sell supply chain management software; the actual scenario was based on a case we were given. From Kellogg, perhaps ten people participated. The top three scoring individuals from each school progress to the next round in Boston. I am fortunate to be among those three for Kellogg!

My strategy for the cold-call paid off: I spent most of the call asking questions and eliciting concerns so I could "pitch" what I was selling against those concerns. It was a bit clunky in places, but the judge responded favourably to my approach. I'm also sure the fact that I smile a lot (and that people say you can "hear" someone smiling) helped build rapport.

The next round takes place in Boston, on Saturday 17th October. It will consist of a 1-on-1 selling role play, as well as a group selling exercise - where the participants from each school sell something as a group. I hadn't anticipated getting this far, so I'm continuing to view this whole thing as a learning experience. Hopefully my fellow Kelloggians and I do well in representing out school.


Self-discipline, motivation and business school.  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in

Life at business school is not for robots. ©

Follwing pre-term, I'm a few weeks into life at Kellogg. Yet, it feels like a lot longer. It feels like we've all been here for several months. The coursework load has started to ramp up. Clubs are recruiting people for leadership positions. The social scene is still lively. I feel like I'm stretching my time as far out as possible and struggling to keep up. Perhaps the problem is simply self discipline - sticking to what I had planned to do and getting things done. By self discipline, what I really mean is motivation. Yet considerable thought and recent experiences have led me to a time-honored simpler answer.

I would once wake up in the morning and lie in bed for an extra hour. These days, that hour has chopped down to a few minutes. I think this is what is necessary to operate in the business school environment - greater and greater self control of your urges. I'm realising that this is one of the things I need to really master. There is probably just enough time to keep up with only the readings and coursework for classes. Adding clubs, career pursuits, socialising and everything else means there is less and less time for procrastination and distractions. Yet, I find it difficult to not let my mind drift to other things - especially while reading dense text that was probably designed to test your reading stamina. If I am to achieve everything I want in these two years - self discipline will surely be key.

Yet, self-discipline does not have to feel like self-discipline if there is motivation. The stronger the motivation, the quicker things happen and the less procrastination there is. I expect to finish writing this blog post within 30 minutes, for example, simply because I am motivated to keep writing and also motivated to get back to dealing with the rest of the stress of business school. Yet, when it comes to completing assignments for some classes - the motivation is not there: minutes become hours. Soon, I'm already behind and scrambling to keep myself interested to keep going. So beyond self-discipline, if I am to achieve everything I want to out of business school, I need to learn to motivate myself to do those really hard things - those things that are easy to put off. I need to be motivated enough to complete them quickly and move on.

For all this talk of self-control and motivation, I have to admit, though, that there is a simpler device that has been getting me through everything: coffee. I'd been off coffee for several years, but I've picked up the habit again. It seems like such an easy way to stretch out the day. Perhaps this is the simple answer to all my worries? Perhaps with a bit more coffee in my blood, I won't need self-discipline or motivation? Or perhaps I am delusional - I hear that happens when you're body is running only on...