EP 8 – Attracting and retaining talents in a virtual world- Jim Kanichirayil

Presentation of the episode

On the eighth episode of The Virtual Selling Podcast, Gabriel talks to Dr.Jim Kanichirayil, Talent Strategy Transformation Evangelist at Circa and host of the cascading leadership podcast.

He tells us all about how companies can attract retain and develop talents in a virtual world and the importance of a professional brand.

About Jim Kanichirayil

To learn more about Jim Kanichirayil and Circa, click on the links below :



With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal. We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organizations, KPIs.
Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast, we address these issues in depth, twice a week, with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablement of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared. Find out how you can shorten sales cycles, convert more leads and increase customer engagement. Virtual selling is here to stay. And so is sales

Hi, I am very happy to be with Dr.Jim today who is a Talent Strategy Transformation Evangelist at Circa, and also the host of the cascading leadership podcast.

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Hey Gabriel, thanks for having me on. It’s going to be a fun conversation, so I’m pretty excited to be here. So I appreciate your reaching out and looking forward to driving the conversation and helping your audience be more effective when it comes to selling in a virtual world.

Yes, thanks a lot. And tell me a little bit more about Circa and cascading leadership podcasts.

Sure. So circa, we are an end-to-end talent strategy solution. So when we’re talking about talent attraction development, retention, we are a SAS platform that provides those solutions to the broader world of work. But what makes us different is that we take a DEI focused approach, a DEI first approach. Now cascading leadership. It’s a show that I started a couple of months ago with my co-host Lawrence Brown and the intent there was to interview, women, immigrants, people of color who have risen to senior leadership and share their stories about how they navigated their careers with the intent of taking those lessons and passing that down to the next generation of emerging professionals so that they can actually move their careers further faster. So it’s kind of related to both of those, you know, where I work and what I do from a podcast perspective integrates really well. And when we’re talking about the integration of passion, purpose, mission, vision, those two things come together because we’re, you know, circa as an organization is all about helping a company bring in more diverse talent, bring in more talent and have that talent stick and develop, over the course of their career. So thanks for asking about, you know, circa and the podcast.

And that’s very interesting and what I find really great with virtual setting and the remote workers that we have today is that you can have immigrants into your company, but you also can work with people in any country in the world. And with SalesDeck at the moment, I have someone working for me in Israel and another one working for me in Nigeria. And that’s really great. And I really liked the fact that the world is opening with virtual conversation and with remote works, it’s opting inside and outside.

Yeah. And you know, it’s, for all of the terrible things about the pandemic and lockdowns and things like that. I think one of the things that is really good that came out of it is that It opened up the entire world. It allowed us to have a level of conversation with a broader population than we would normally engage with.

So the challenge from a sales perspective is, you know, now you have this great wide world of potential people to talk to, you know, how do you effectively build those relationships in an authentic way and just start the conversation. And that’s, it’s always been difficult in sales, but it’s even more difficult now and there’s a lot of ways that people can do it wrong. And I think one of the important lessons to share with the audience is, okay, well, how do I speak directly to the customer that I want to get in front of and do it in a way that is authentic, that is honest, that is transparent. And in a way that’s similar to how you make friends in real life.
So that’s going to be a critical skill that people are going to need to develop. As…

I am having the problem myself, I want to develop a SalesDeck in the US and I have to, I use LinkedIn to be introduced and to discover people. So that’s really a, and I’m coming from France. I have the language barrier on top of the other. So it’s really interesting to have your feedback on that.

Yeah. So, you know, I think you and I are sort of on a similar page, I mean, I can relate to kind of your experience of trying to be an immigrant navigating or being an immigrant or opening a new market being in unfamiliar environments and trying to build relationships that way.
I think when I look at it from the perspective of the world that we are in, there are so many platforms that are out there that allow you to build authentic connections with anybody that you want to between Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Tiktok and all this sort of stuff. There’s so much stuff out there.
And I haven’t even gotten to like discord and Twitch and Reddit and all these things. And there are so many ways that you can kind of build an authentic relationship. But I think the fundamental principle in doing that is operate from the perspective of, and this is philosophical, operate from the perspective of being interested in genuinely interested in the person that you’re trying to get in front of.
So Gabriel, from your perspective, you’re, you know, you’re a leader within your organization. You’re a founder of sales deck and you want to get in front of your customer. So the first step in that process is to find out where the customer hangs out. It could be LinkedIn. It could be any one of those other platforms and have a clearly defined target. So we call it the ICP and I’m sure you do too ideal customer profile, have that defined out. And then you start building sort of your lists on whatever platform that your customer is hanging out and you start bringing them into your ecosystem. So that’s step one is you need to have a level of focus on who your ideal buyer is. So that’s one and then step two is operate from genuine interest and genuine curiosity about that person. And that will set you on the path that you need to be on. I think where a lot of sales professionals go wrong is that they’ll either won’t have a clearly defined ideal customer profile or they’ll have a clearly defined and think it’s perfectly fine to reach out to a complete stranger and ask for their time. I mean, that’s not how the world of work works. Like if I was wandering around Paris and I didn’t know you Gabriel and I just walked up to you in the street and said, Hey Gabriel, I’m Jim want to hang out? You’d be like, who is this crazy person? So, you know, I think that’s step one of that process of doing it effectively is be interested and be focused on who you want to get in front of.

Okay, so what to do next?

So when we’re talking about what to do next, so you’ve built out your list, you’ve identified who your ICP is, you’re operating from a place of curiosity and a place of interest. The next thing that you need to do is be able to build a relationship with that person without ever having had a conversation with them. So you have to get them to know like, and trust before they even know who you are. So how do you do that?
Well, one of the things that I talk about, and this is something that I have in alignment with Steve watt, who is the director of marketing at seismic. He talks about this regularly it’s called buyer centric social selling. And the first step in that process beyond what I just listed off is how do you leverage LinkedIn or the platform that you’re on, whatever platform that might be to speak directly to the customer about the things that they care about, but do it in a way that is authentic and in your own voice.
So I talk about, you know, Hey, I’m a talent strategy evangelist. The voice that I use is that, Hey, talent strategy in terms of how organizations are handling that entire spectrum is fundamentally broken. The old ways of connecting, attracting, hiring, developing, and retaining your people are broken. So that’s speaking directly to a particular customer that I want to engage with.
So all of my conversation from, you know, the LinkedIn video that I have in my about section, my company’s section is speaking directly to the customer about what I believe. And it’s speaking directly to the customer about why I believe what I believe and how we can present a solution to them. What problem is it that I’m solving?
So this is sort of pretty basic stuff, but you have to orient yourself into the position of the customer. What does the customer that I’m trying to reach out to care about, what is the biggest problem that they’re trying to solve. So when I look at, you know, from my perspective throughout my career, customers are always struggling with sort of a couple of fundamental things. How do I find great people for my organization and how do I keep and develop them within my organization? So it does. So that’s the voice that, you know, throughout my career, that I’ve kind of cultivated over the years and that’s what I’ve done in terms of building a brand. And here’s the thing, you know, whenever I talk about brand or any of that sort of stuff, people think, well, that’s only for senior level people.
No, everybody has a brand. You just have to speak from a position of what is it that you care about, and what’s the change that you want to impact in the world. Does that help?

Yeah. Sure. And saying that every salesperson has to do his own marketing, it’s not about corporate marketing, but it’s about personal marketing and really thinking of what you could provide to your buyer and to the people that you meet.

Yeah. And that’s exactly right. And I would actually emphasize, it’s less about corporate marketing and more about personal marketing because people don’t buy from corporations, people buy from people.
So if I don’t like you as a person, Gabriel, it’s going to be very low chances that I’m actually going to buy anything from you. So you have to, you know, stand for something and you have to be vocal about what you believe in sharing your journey and being transparent about it because that’s what builds that attraction model of the people that are out there in the world that might want to have a conversation with you.
Like here’s the fundamental problem that we deal with in sales. Where we find the 3% of the buyer pool that’s interested in what we have to sell. And that’s the fundamental problem. Oh God. How do you find who those people are? Well, you can’t find those people unless you’re having conversations. So how do you generate conversations at volume or at scale and the way you generate conversations about at volume or at scale is by speaking about the problems that exist in the world and the problems that you solve, but doing it in a way that’s in alignment with who you are as a person.

True. True. What is really interesting about this buyer centric social setting, it’s really very close to my daily job before launching sales deck, which is a marketing agency. But you do the same one when you do marketing. You think about your ICP, you think about their pains and construct a pitch and about us explaining the pains and driving people into the funnel. You are saying that every sales people should do that also.

Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I think one of the areas where that goes sideways is sales does connect with marketing and collaborate with marketing because, and you’re a marketing guy so you’ll know exactly where I’m going with, marketing is the voice of the customer.
Like in an ideal world, marketing should be interviewing current customers, lost customers, and customers that are in process to find out why they buy and what that information allows sales professionals to do is translate that voice to the customer and allows us to be in the minds and in the worlds of what our customers are dealing with on a daily day in, day out basis.
And what that does your most effective salespeople, what they, and I get passionate about this stuff, what they do better than, you know, your average salesperson is that they connect the dots between the voice of the customer and driving value relevance. Like if I want your time, I have to bring something relevant in front of you.
Hey, Gabriel, this is Jim over at XYZ company. I talked to folks like you all the time, and one of the consistent problems that they deal with is not having enough candidates to fill their roles. Are you dealing with that right now? And if you’re in my ICP, I’m 90% certain that you’re going to say yeah, I can’t find enough people. Okay. Well, what have you tried to get more people into your funnel or get access to more? Well, I’ve done this, this, this and this. Okay. How has that worked and what are the challenges that you’ve encountered? So you’ve created a conversation by driving relevancy first for just the opening part of it. And now you’re actually into an organic discovery conversation when I just reached out to you cold. So that’s an example of how sales working together with marketing can be positioned in a way where you’re speaking directly and consistently to the pain that your customer is dealing with. And at that point you’re not presenting solutions, you’re collaborating with them in the pursuit of a solve for that problem. And there’s a lot of different ways that you can.

And is it an individual way to do that? Each salesperson should have to look for the pain themselves, or it could be shared between a full sales team?

I think, and again this goes back to the marketing piece of the conversation, if you have a clearly defined ICP and you’re in the process of defining your buyer journey, you can build personas based off of interviews. Now that’s a gap that happens too is that oftentimes organizations from a marketing perspective, will build personas based on what they think this person cares about.
That’s gotta be driven through the interview process and actually Ryan Paul Gibson, who I’m connected with on LinkedIn does a great job of distilling this out from a customer research perspective. But that research component is critical. So if you’re building personas based of what your customers are telling you are the reasons why they bought from you or whoever they bought, then you’re better able to drive value relevancy. So it just depends on kind of where you are from a maturity perspective, but absolutely it could be something that is put into place at the organizational level that everybody taps into in their effort to do better outreach.
But I think the first step in that process, or at least, from a sales perspective, you really have to have a good understanding of what this particular group of buyers likely cares about and speak to that. Have all of your messaging focused on that, not your product or solution. It’s what problem are they fate likely facing?
And how do you engage and uncover the extent of that problem? Because it’s that conversation that’s going to position you for the win later on.

And how do you make it personal? How do you make it authentic for the seller and not having, or the sales team having the same discussion and the same conversation and the sense that from one to the other or the same LinkedIn profile also.

Right. And this is why I talk about personal professional brand. You know, you don’t want to look like a carbon copy of everybody else on the team. And this is the, you know, I have this conversation a lot with, you know, people that I talk to, you know, Hey, I’m just an early career professional. I have nothing to say. And, you know, I don’t want to, you know, what am I going to offer the world in terms of insights or anything that they’ll find interesting. And I think that’s a fundamental mistake, or at least a wrong way of thinking mindset, a mindset issue that exists. Share your journey. Like, Hey, I’m an SDR and I’m running into this problem. Here’s how I’ve tried to solve it, this is what I’m doing. Any advice on how I can do this better if I’m trying to get in front of a CEO or a CFO or whatever the buyer happens to be. Those sorts of posts on LinkedIn for the people that do consistently post get a lot of engagement and you can do that at any level of the organization at any level of skill. It’s talk about your journey, what you’re facing and share. So operate from generosity is one of the things that I talk about all the time, be generous with offering advice and be generous and vulnerable in sharing your experiences, because that’s how you build that relationship without ever having a conversation because people get to know before ever having met you versus, you know, you’ve seen, you know, any number of people on LinkedIn who just have, you know, just boiler plate, corporate speak and it’s not very interesting, right? I mean, the way we connected on LinkedIn was because we belong to the same community we popped on each other’s LinkedIn feeds and at some point I go, well, that guy’s pretty interesting though. Maybe I will connect with Gabriel cause I see him posting about all this stuff, and that can be replicated anywhere, you just have to put yourself out and be vulnerable in a professional way to share your experiences and that builds its own attraction model.

So marketing can help you give you an idea of your ICP or an idea of their pains and how you can connect to them, but it is your job to adapt it and to make it authentic and close to what you are in your life at this point.

Yep. Absolutely. I mean, you can’t assembly line authenticity, right?
You know, you can’t cookie cutter being authentic. It’s gotta be your story. Like, what’s the story that you want to tell? What do you want your customer to understand about you or what you care about and draw them into a conversation. And when they engage, engage back, you know, move the conversation beyond just your cursory. Oh, that’s a great point. Add something of value that advances their thinking forward, or asks a question that you’re pondering and ask for their help. So it’s gotta be a virtual conversation and you have to be looking for those opportunities to engage. And, you know, operate from that position of generosity and curiosity first, those things go hand in hand. The way that you can screw this up is you build your persona or build your profile or build your brand and you never share. You’re always taking, you’re always asking or taking from everybody else. If you do that, you know, you’re not going to move the needle.

Okay. We are already at the end of this episode and it was very interesting. You want to add something before we have to close?

No, I mean, I think if we’re talking about being effective in a virtual selling environment, the biggest thing, there’s three big things that you have to operate from.
Number one, be genuinely interested in connecting with the world around you. So focus on them, not you.
Number two, activate your curiosity, you know, Hey, what is this person about? You know, this Gabriel Guy, he’s got an interesting product and he’s got an interesting story. He’s a French guy that lives in Paris and doesn’t like PSG. So what’s that about? Those are, yeah-


Yeah, we won’t tell anybody. And share, be generous. So do those three things on a consistent basis and show up that way every single day. And you will not believe the volume of relationships that you will build and where that will take you. So focus on those three.

Thanks a lot Dr. Jim, it was really really interesting. This episode of the virtual setting podcast is over. Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode with new stories and challenge of giants in the field. If you enjoy today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback, share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don’t miss any episode. This episode was brought to you by, the virtual selling platforms that increase your sales team efficiency and sales readiness, enable remote management, and vente operational excellence. Book your demo today to discover how you can close more deals with engaging and better prep customer meetings.
Thanks a lot, Dr. Jim. It was really a pleasure. Thank you.

Thanks for having me. Nice chatting with you.


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