Interview with Gil Rosen, President and General Manager at Amdocs:Next.
This text is about an insight I got from speaking to Gil Rosen, President and General Manager at Amdocs:Next as we were talking about the specific art of selling your idea to a company. The insight ended up getting a made-up moniker – Corportelling – and for anyone looking to get a company to buy their idea that one word might be the difference between success and failure.
But let’s start with some background.
“There are three parts to the innovation process:
a) Thinking about the idea
b) Executing on the idea
c) Selling the idea.”
The words belong to Gil Rosen that I mentioned earlier. The President and General Manager at Amdocs: Next. Amdocs 25,000 employees in 85 countries serve the leading players in the communications and media industry and Gil is head of the division that is responsible for products and services in new growth domains for Amdocs and its customers.
Gil Rosen has a long history of working with innovation for large organisations in fast changing industries, from Deutsche Telekom. and AT&T to Bezeq, Israel’s leading telecommunications service provider.
A couple of examples: He helped launch Tolino (a German Kindle) while at Deutsche Telekom, and while at Bezeq he designed and built from scratch an internet router and then commissioned a TV ad for it, yes, a TV commercial for an Internet router (!) – that became the most watched YouTube content (!) for 4 months in a row in Israel. (For a router ad to win on youtube is an amazing achievement if you ask me.) Gil: “Most of my career has been about making elephants dance, I have turned it into a craft.”
To get big and/or old companies to change fast and get them to quickly adopt new ideas – “to get elephants to dance” – is a skill. And it’s a skill that Gil Rosen has mastered.
Getting innovative ideas approved in large organisations is especially and notoriously difficult, so I wanted to know how Gil had been able to do it over and over again.
He told me: “I discovered the art of storytelling.” While Heading the AT&T Foundry in Israel (AT&T Innovation Center), his job, more or less, was to prepare presentations about future technologies in a way so that the audience wanted to buy these early stage or non-existing products and services and Gil did that by creating stories.
“If you put a mental picture inside the head of a person you can move mountains.”, he said but then he added: “But for the person to buy the picture you are painting you have to paint it in the context of the culture that the person is from. You have to understand the culture, the language, the DNA of the organisation the person is coming from.”
I asked him for an example and he told me about when he was trying to implement a project within Deutsche Telekom and he thought they needed to separate this product from Deutsche Telekom. To sell this idea he created a slide about how Mercedes owns the SMART brand and how it is owned by Mercedes, but not branded as Mercedes.
“With that one slides showing how Mercedes had SMART I “implanted a mental picture” that almost in a sub-conscious way could get the management of Deutsche Telekom to feel that they could have their own “SMART” as part of Deutsche Telekom, and yet free from Deutsche Telekom.”. It’s not that this “one slide” do all the work (far from it), but in retrospective I recognize it as one on important mental pictures that created a shift in momentum, a trigger, a seed, the helped me eventually create the spin-off. By using an example from another respected German company the management at Deutsche Telekom “accepted the mental picture” Gil projected and that was one factor that helped them feel safe with the spin-off notion.
And this is what Corportelling is all about.
When you sell an idea to a company you need to know how the organisations behaves – almost as if the organisation, with its culture, norms, values etc, is a real person.
When Gil says: “You have to understand what motivates them, how they think, etc.” he does not mean the individual people you are going to present the idea to from the organisation (!), he means the “corporate personality” of the organisation you are presenting to.
We are often taught to learn as much as possible about the individuals we are going to sell to – and do not get us wrong, that IS important. If the person likes Liverpool mention the win last week and so on. But that is basic sales techniques. What this text is about is understanding that the “corporate personality” is a much stronger factor.
“You, of course, have to pitch to the person in-front of you, but you have to prepare the pitch so that it works generically on any persons within the specific organisation you are trying to sell it to.”
Gil even went so far as to say that if the person you pitch to and the organisation he or she is representing need different pitches then you should choose the pitch that works on the organisation.
To show what he meant Gil exemplified with his own organisation. “Amdocs has a very sales driven, no-nonsense culture focused on business results, so when I pitch an idea internally I make sure to include slides that in a clear and simple way point out the financial gains of the idea I am pitching. I speak the language of Amdocs.”
Gil’s advice for when selling anything to an organisation is to picture the organisation as a human being. How would this “person” like information presented?
Basically Corportelling is contextual storytelling, but not from the perspective of the actual people you are pitching to, but from the perspective of the organisation they belong to. A story pitched to the DNA of the organisation will have a much better chance of surviving outside of that initial sales meeting – and the people in that room will know that. Gil again: “If the people in the room hear a sales pitch based on the contextual personality of their organisation they know there is a bigger chance it will survive the cascading, internal sell – and that makes it a bigger possibility that they will bring it forward.”
Gil ended our conversation by stressing that re-shaping the story you tell to sell does not mean you give up on your own values or believes. “You need to be a fighter for your own idea, but you need to be a poet when it comes to how you phrase it to make sure the idea will get accepted within the organisation you are selling it to. Be part Bruce Lee. Part Shakespeare.”
The next time you are selling an idea to any group of people ask: “What is the meta personality of this organisation?”, what is the mental picture that will drive them, then tell your story to a “meta person” who is the uber representation of the target company DNA.
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