How do our readings affect our careers? What role does business, sales, innovation, and entrepreneurial books play in shaping our career and personal growth? Can reading help one evolve from a CTO role to a CEO one? Founder of process automation started that Zappy.ai and winner of many innovation awards, Ambuj Agrawal, and myself, address these questions in a recent conversation.
Introducing Ambuj Agrawal, technical co-founder of process automation startup, Zappy.ai
As mentioned in a previous article, Ambuj is a serial entrepreneur, having founded three startups and acquired working experience in a leading bank, Citibank. He has co-founded Zappy.ai which enables productivity gains by automating processes.
Books to improve the sales cycle
The first category of books has to do with the sale cycle. He mentioned that the book sale or be sold. Help them understand the sales process. In the past, he used to present his product and push forward. But, after reading the book, he realized that it’s best to pause, listen to the customer, and identify with him the nature of the problems that he’s faced with daily. Then, a talented seller would show how this product can help the would-be client address some of his problems. And the sales conversation goes on with the presentation of pricing. Then, sending out a summary email is a great way to wrap up the conversation and go on with the next steps.
Ambuj mentioned that the simple process helps him shorten the sales cycle by a factor of 10. For example, before, selling a product would take up the six months. Now it’s only a matter of weeks.
The second category of books has to do with innovation, entrepreneurship, and started creation. He’s reading Zero to One, The Lean Startup, and The 48-hour startup. The latter showed how to build a business without any capital.
The Zero to One book helps them understand that building a startup does not involve bringing incremental improvements to the current offering available on the marketplace. Rather, imagining a category defining product; that is a kind of product that does not exist on the market today, is key.
As a technical founder, Ambuj feels gifted in computer science but he has gained less experience in interpersonal communication. The book entitled How To Talk to Anyone stood out in that it helped him initiate conversations with a diversity of people, like lawyers, doctors, comedians, marketers, when, he had formed a habit of only interaction with people resembling him. And yet, acquiring the soft skills are critical in finding new clients and business development.
“Books help us become we want to be” : evolving from a CTO role to a CEO one
He mentioned that on a very general note, his readings are helping him evolve from a CTO like role to a CEO like role, which, in addition to requiring technical abilities, also involves an understanding of business development, client attraction, and customer development.
We also talked about what ideas really stuck with him months after having finished his favorite books.
He mentioned that the book Zero to One does not provide specific actionable advice, but is a motivation booster. The famed entrepreneur turned venture capitalists, Peter Thiel, makes a point in showing that creating the startup takes a lot of time and comes with facing many challenges. Also, as startup advisor, Ambuj noticed that most entrepreneurs give up after six months or one year. But, in the end, succeeding is a matter of persistence more than talent or anything else.
The makings of a great book : readability, skill acquisition and realistic storytelling
For example, the book how to talk to anyone was very readable because it was based on stories. The author would present a very specific story and show how this one anecdote could make a broader point.
Ambuj also stressed the fact that authors ought to show readers what they will get out of a book and what skills they will acquire. The author must also explain why skills are critical in succeeding in business or getting wet ones, what one wants out of life.
Ambuj also stressed the idea that stories are best if there are realistic. The author of how to talk to anyone would make a point in describing the context of the story, the action, results and learnings. As a wrap-up, a before and after comparison crystallizes progress.
That summarizes my conversation with Ambuj. You’ll find more right!
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