Closing the Deal by Disrupting the Sales Community

“Take action! A small step is better than no step at all and you learn so much along the way. Take those steps.” – Ian Adams, Senator Club
Photo courtesy of Ian Adams
Photo courtesy of Ian Adams

Open up your newsfeed and you literally can’t escape the overnight success stories of today’s startup world. It seems like every enterprising millennial is solving a problem and in turn, making a six to seven figure payout. But, with our rapidly shifting economy those of us who aren’t giving up stability to pursue an idea, can be left in a vulnerable position. In a time where one is lucky to find a job, especially with benefits, figuring out how to stay two steps ahead to be ready for the next job isn’t a hobby; it’s a survival strategy.

Laying the Groundwork

No one has figured that out quite like Ian Adams, the founder of the Senator Club. Senator Club is a social club for junior sales professionals who want to get ahead. Inspired by the popular corporate sales incentive of President’s Clubs, Ian created a way to help junior sales people get the tools they need to meet or exceed their sales goals. Starting out as an informal meetup group, the Senator Club now caters to over 400 members. With networking opportunities and expert speakers, Senator Club has helped members find new jobs, develop new skills and simply get ahead. Focusing on the needs of this demographic has allowed Senator Club to develop a following beyond who goes to their events. A growing Twitter presence as well as being featured on Inc.


Taking the Leap

Quickly, Ian realized that the heroic tales of overnight startup success couldn’t be further from the reality. For a year and a half, Ian watched his first two ventures fail and learned a wealth knowledge from it. The most important lesson for Ian was the importance of work/life balance. Ian had left finance to get away from the 60+ hour work week and working as a startup founder did not meet that goal.

Following the end of his second startup venture, Ian decided to look for work at an established company in sales. With his experience in the startup world and finance, Ian believed that his transition would be a smooth one. However, in the span of 3 months, Ian went to 27 interviews and received one job offer. Those odds left Ian shocked and decisive that he would not let himself land in that position again. Like many millennials, he found tight competition at every turn and tried to make a diverse work history fit a narrow job description.

Steli Efti for the Senator Club.
Steli Efti for the Senator Club.

Reeling from the  arduous job hunt, Ian realized he probably was not the only career changer to go through that experience. By establishing the Senator Club in July 2013, Ian has been able to build a growing and supportive community that has helped younger professionals strengthen their ties, close deals, and play a crucial part in their career development.

But, building a community of sales professionals is filled with its own set of challenges. First, and by far the most challenging,  is identifying a specific vision. At the beginning, clearly defining what resonates with his audience and creating value based upon those findings required a lot of testing and trying what worked best. Once Ian found that vision, conveying a relevant message that would have value 5, 10, 15 years from now became his second most pressing issue. Once, messaging and vision became clearer, Ian has been faced with managing business operations. These challenges allowed Ian to learn his greatest nugget of knowledge,”there is always more to learn, there’s never a point where you stop learning.”

Hiro Rodriguez at Senator Club
Hiro Rodriguez at Senator Club

While frustration may mount as Ian navigates the issues of early business implementation, his greatest success has been witnessing the genuine relationships that develop within the group. This was never more evident for Ian than when he was laid off from his first sales job. At the time Senator Club was just gaining traction. Let go from his job just days before the next Senator Club meeting, Ian shared with the group that he was back on the job market.  Within days a member of the club connected Ian with contact that lead Ian to find his current job. Witnessing the value Senator Club has provided to Ian and other sales professionals to the Bay area has made the journey all worth it.

From investment banker to founder to sales professional, Ian Adams has gained a wealth of knowledge and insight through his various experiences. His goal setting advice:

Really be clear in your big goal in what you want to accomplish, people fail get too into the details and not the big picture. When you keep an eye on the big picture the pieces will come together.

If you would like to connect with the Senator Club, you can check them out on Twitter, their website, and Youtube.

How Improv Comedy Is Changing Lives

Be Present. – Coonoor Behal

Photo courtesy: Coonoor Behal
Photo courtesy: Coonoor Behal

Some of the most iconic comedians to the millennial generation (i.e. Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Joan Rivers) have built incredible careers on their early careers in improv. While it’s most common use is to entertain in shows, like Saturday Night Live, one millennial has harnessed the power of improv to help her clients gain a more collaborative perspective on their work life. Improv comedy is centered on the ability to communicate and innovate with others. By learning how to accept the creativity in others and use it to build a story, improv comedy can often adjust the way we see working with others.  But how can improv principles be used build better organizations, better communities?

Mindhatch in action
Mindhatch in action

Meet Coonoor Behal, the millennial mastermind behind Mindhatch, an organizational and customer insights firm that is guided by the principles of improv.

Offering services in design thinking, innovation facilitation and organizational improv, Mindhatch is impacting the way team members collaborate with each other. She does this by walking groups through a variety of games and then moderates a debrief with the group. No session is ever the same as she tailors her workshops to the needs of each client.

Coonoor at Work. Courtesy of Mindhatch.
Coonoor at Work. Courtesy of Daian Glover Photography.

For Coonoor what inspires her most is seeing her clients’ moments of clarity, where she can see them actually shifting in their perspective. The most noteworthy moments have taken place during the games, “Yes, And…” and “Solution Circle.” Although each game has a unique approach, both games are used to teach  what happens when we justify other’s ideas. “Spoiler alert, everyone immediately recognizes that more ideas and more fun happen when we say ‘Yes!” Learning how to engage and support, even the craziest of ideas has allowed participants to experience a collaborative and innovative culture. That type of culture, often attributed to hip tech companies not non profits or traditional companies, can be applied to any work environment. As Coonoor demonstrates, it is simply a change in mindset.

The Prologue

But, Coonoor wasn’t always crafting improv inspired ways to foster collaboration. In fact, Coonoor started her professional path by searching for a way to impact the world. By obtaining a Master’s in International Affairs, Coonoor then chased her dream of creating change in the world with her first job at a non-profit. Stifled by the inflexibility that often comes with grant funded work, Coonoor left the non-profit world to work as a consultant with Deloitte Consulting.  Through a variety of projects, Coonoor grew within Deloitte and perfected her abilities in a variety of ways, specifically design thinking. Her most significant experience came Coonoor landed an opportunity to work with the Deloitte Global Innovation team. With Deloitte Global Innovation, she helped clients find the connections between business and creativity.

At the same time, Coonoor began taking improv lessons in her spare time. She quickly discovered her talent and passion for improvisational comedy. Inspired by improv and finding a market demand from her work at Deloitte, Coonoor began to feel like she was ready to start her own business. By “focusing on merging business and creativity through design thinking, organizational improv and facilitation” Coonoor was ready to launch Mindhatch.

Photo Courtesy of Mindhatch
Photo Courtesy of Red Turtle Photography.

With Mindhatch, Coonoor has built a diverse clientele list and creates unique tools for each one to help her clients address their most pressing needs through experiential learning. For example, one of her clients wanted to master the art of going “off script” at donor meetings. Using the principles of improv, together they were able to build up that’s client confidence in that skill as well as engaging in more informal conversations with donors. Another wanted to set the right foundation for her new team. Desiring a creative and innovative team dynamic, Coonoor designed a workshop that helped them set that tone. Through Coonoor’s work, her clients have been able to sharpen their abilities in connecting and working with other people .

Looking back, Coonoor’s winding journey had many stepping stones leading her to start Mindhatch. Like many millennials, she is driven by the need for impactful work that allows her to be challenged and creative. By starting her own business, Coonoor has been able to meet her professional needs and in turn , is creating value for communities actively looking to change things up.

If you want to connect to Coonoor and her team at Mindhatch, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website here.