Building your business with cross-culture business training. Over 3,500 professionals from India and the U.S. have worked with us since 2011.

May 16, 2019

An Example of a Really, Really Bad Cold E-mail

There are no dearth of IT companies in India. I sure many pop up on a daily basis. And, they all want business. So, they hire a few people under the title of Business Developers to start cold emailing or cold calling prospects. Over the last few years, I have provided some tips to such companies. But, in this post, I want to share an actual example of a cold email I got, and my response to them.

In fact, this is not the first time I have responded to these cold emails with tips to improve. Typically, I never get a response. But, hopefully they may take these tips to improve their business development skills. 

The email (name and email ID changed to protect identity):

Matt Smith <>
Subject: Re: Could we discuss?

Hi ,

We are an IT agency having offices in USA, AUS, India, UK at the moment.

We are expert in the following:

ü  Custom App Development (iPhone, Android)
ü  Mobile App Testing
ü  CRM/ERP systems
ü  GPS Based Apps. (Taxi, Food delivery Apps)
ü  E-Commerce Solutions & Graphic Design
ü  Mobile App Testing

Please revert us if you are interested. (Share your project requirements) and your contact details. (Skype, phone number, Etc)

Beat Regards

Matt Smith

Here's my response:

To answer your email, Matt,

I doubt you'll get many takers. Here are the reasons:
  • This email is not addressed to anyone. A quick view of my site, would provide some team members names.
  • Your email ID is gmail, so no business email ID. Also the email user name is very weird. Seems spammy.
  • And, your business name is actually not mentioned anywhere in the email. 
  • And, you do not talk about my site/business and what exactly you can do for me. Yours is a generic email. It can be sent out as a mass email.

Tell me, if this email came to you, would you answer it? What would you do?

I somehow feel that you're based in India, and using an assumed American name.

I actually provide cross cultural training to teams like yours working between the US and India to bridge culture gaps and get more business relationships.

Here are some blogs to help you:

So, to your sales email, I have written a sales email. But hopefully I have provided you some ideas to improve your approach to prospects. Feel free to get in touch with me to work with your team.

Jennifer Kumar

I did not address any grammatical mistakes. I was concerned with addressing the other glaring mistakes here. The subject line is probably ok. Though, admitedly, this email was in my spam box. I should have mentioned that in my response. I am sure most of their messages are going to spam boxes, so their response rate is very low or non existent.

I am not a sales expert. I am a cultural expert and business coach (see my bio and some of the over 50 companies I have worked with). I understand some of the concepts of sales, as I have to do this for my own business. But, as far as aiding teams like yours, we do pull apart messages like this to see where improvements need to be made. We also look at some cultural expectations that Americans have, so if you are marketing to US Americans, some of the terminology or approaches used can aid in improving those return rates. Recently, I have gotten some good feedback that coaching I did with a few companies has improved cold calling (Getting through the gatekeepers - before the training 1 or 2 calls passed the gatekeepers. Now, 9 or 10 calls pass through the gatekeepers.) and cold emailing (Previously 1 or 2 emails answered out of 10, now 3 or 4 emails answered out of 10.) 

If you'd like to know more about how we can help you, get in touch with us. Also, check out our E-mail and Business Writing Program.

Thank you for reading this blog.

April 11, 2019

Tips for Negotiating [Change Requests] Persuasively

When talking about negotiation on software teams, often we are referring to how to handle 'change requests.' Let's look at a few strategies you could consider using when a client is asking to add a feature to a website or an app which was not in the original project scope.

In the video below, Derek talks about these three strategies on how to approach work-related negotiations:
  • Take the perspective of the person/people you are talking to 
  • Always ask for more than you want 
  • Never take blame for the 'no' or push back 
As the strategies discussed in the video are related to generic situations anyone could face, below the video, I will share some examples of how to apply these tips specifically to discussions with clients who request changes to their deliverables. 

This video is not made by Authentic Journeys.

Tip for strategy #1: 
Take the perspective of the person/people you are talking to
Typically, there is always a reason a client is asking for something to be added or changed. Though our initial internal reaction may be to cringe and say no (it's not in the original scope!), it may be wise to take a step back and find out why the client is asking for this. Typically, clients (or anyone, for that matter) have good reasons for asking for changes. Before they spoke with you, they have gone through some kind of thought process and they are hoping for some outcome with this addition or change that possibly hasn't been considered before or discussed with you previously. Let's look at two ways you can take the perspective of the client that can build business relations while helping everyone to save face:

Understanding the Technical Know-How of the Client
When exploring their reason behind the change, keep in mind the technical expertise of the client. I have consulted with client-facing developers on software teams who have applied these techniques only to find out in the exploration conversation that the addition the client wants is actually already a feature to be added to the website, but the client did not really realize it because it was different or did not look as they have seen it on other websites, etc. Or, in other cases, they were able to talk with the client to adjust features already in the scope of the project to the enhanced requirements the client requested. In cases where the client lacks the technical expertise or doesn't know technical jargon, it's going to be critical that when describing these details to the client, that you as the developer have the verbal agility to describe technical concepts in everyday English (this is something we help you to achieve). Remember clients come to you for your technical expertise, so use your consulting skills to your advantage!

Understand the Client's Business and Outcomes
While it's critical to understand the technical aspects of any project, it's equally important to understand the client's business and related outcomes they expect from this project. What is the outcome they are looking to achieve by adding this feature? Will their customers be able to buy products on their site with more ease or security? Will their customers find what they are looking for quicker? Will the new feature reduce page loading time? Will the feature work flawlessly on various screens? If you can talk to them in their business language, the client will relate to you easier and realize you are taking the time to understand their deeper needs that extend beyond then technical solution. When you are able to do this, this may lead to more projects from the same client, secure support contracts with the same client or could bring additional business from new clients from client referrals.

Build a Personal Connection
Now that you've established your technical expertise and an understanding of the client's business domain, don't forget to get to know who your client is as a person. I also always advocate for building a 'personal relationship' outside of the business relationship through the use of small talk. Making small talk with your clients can help you to understand their mood, temperament and reactions in a way pure business talk does not. Read more about how small talk can improve client relations on global projects.

Tip for strategy #2:
Always ask for more than you want
When hearing this tip, client facing developers may think this doesn't apply to them as this seems to apply to the sales or contracting team. While it is true that this does happen during initial contract negotiations, this strategy can come in handy during projects as well when negotiating timelines, resource management, change requests and more.

In some cases, the client will ask for more than they want, need or can practically get from the scope of the project. However, when your team negotiates with them, using some of the above tips, it's always handy to keep in mind that a change request not only means a change to the output or final product, but how your team manages their time and resources. It is wise, if and when needed, to ask for time to assess how your team can apply a change request and the additional time or resources that may be needed to make it happen.

Tip for strategy #3:
Never take blame for the 'no' or push back.
In some cases, you may be able to blame your project manager or contract for the no. Depending on your team dynamics, it may be that the Project Manager has the final say for any and all changes, in addition to any formal change request forms or written requests that may be needed.

Additionally, depending on the technical scope of the project, sometimes a no can be blamed on the technical parameters of the project. In such cases, the client would be looking to your expertise and knowledge as a leverage to back up these claims. In such cases, it may be wise to not only explain the technical limitations, but suggestions for alternatives that could work in it's place, and the pros and cons of these alternatives. Again, it is advised not only to back up your claims with technical case studies, but a knowledge of how the alternatives fit into their business case or user profile.

How coaching helps:
Jennifer Kumar, author of this post is a trained business coach that provides clients with roadmaps to success when working on virtual teams with foreign clients.  Learn more about our coaching process and outcomes or contact Jennifer for more information today.

Original post: Sept. 2013, Updated: April 2019

April 9, 2019

Stop Speaking to Speak Better!

Building English Skills on Global Teams

I help tech workers like you prepare for all types of client facing conversations, meetings and interviews. When I do, I find a common thread in most of those I am coaching. Many, if not all, at some point answer a question or reply to a statement that was never said [by me]. 

When this first happened, I was confused, thinking maybe it was my accent that the coachee was not understanding. Or possibly, there was a new word or phrase that was not familiar to them [as most of the professionals I coach speak English as a Second Language]. However, when I dug deeper, my coachees revealed a few things to me that I had not considered. I want to share these findings with you, so that you do not make the same mistakes.

Common mistakes professionals make when I coached them for business interactions:
  • Not listening to the entire statement or question. Filling in the unheard words with assumed words, therefore not staying with the flow of the conversation or giving a 'wrong answer' to a question. 
  • Not focusing on what was said, but thinking about something else. 
  • Fearing to ask for clarificaiton if there was indeed a word that was lost in translation. Then, replacing the unknown word with a known word which had a very different meaning.
  • Assuming an 'order' to the questions, therefore if the questions come out of order, or the wording changes, the wrong question is answered or the wrong answer is given to the question.
  • Not waiting until the other person speaking or interviewing finishes their question or statement, and interrupting. This can be a big problem especially for client facing interviews or interviews at immigration for B1 or H1B visas, for example.
Listen your way to better responsesWhen coaching professionals, I notice immediately when the answer or response is incongruent from what was previously said or asked and call the coachee out on it. In such cases, I am often very direct and say, "That is not a correct response for this question." In some cases, I will ask them what question they answered and compare it to what I actually asked. In some cases, I need to point out the word or words the coachee confused to give an incorrect or incongruent answer.

Of course there are many other tips one can apply to listen and provide better responses. Here are a few more tips to help you listen better from US News & World Report:
  • Break any bad listening habits you have (analyze yourself to know more)
  • Face the speaker, check your body language and eye contact
  • Avoiding or not knowing how to paraphrase (summarize and ask clarifying questions)
  • Don't distract yourself (internally or externally)
  • Topping the speaker's story
  • Problem finding - creating fake problems
  • Avoid becoming defensive (using "you language")
For more details on the tips, click here.  

Anyone who has experienced being truly listened to feels cared for and appreciated. When we can listen better to our clients and colleagues, respond appropriately and hold more engaging conversations, relationships flourish and working together is much each. Listening skills not only helps in improving day to day communication, understanding conversational cues, but also in the negotiation (push back) experience. 

How to speak clearly to US clients

Jennifer Kumar, specializes in working with tech workers on global, dispersed teams to bridge the culture gap while communicating and conducting everyday business and meetings. She gives your developers and other US facing team members the confidence, skills and cultural know-how to do what needs to get done in an effective and customer service oriented way. Contact us for more information.

Photo credit: William Murphy, creative commons flickr
Original post: Sept. 2013. Updated Apr. 2019.

March 28, 2019

What or Who is a New American?

While there are many government and private, non-profit 501(c)3 organizations supporting newcomers to the US, I was hard-pressed to find a proper definition for the term 'New American' or 'New Americans.' More interestingly, these two terms can bring up wildly different search results on Google. Additionally, articles or videos about 'New Americans' like I am about to define talked about New Americans but did not offer a definition of this term. Because of this, I thought I'd create a definition for this word not only based on my knowledge of this topic, but also having experience working with some categories of New Americans (expats, refugees, immigrants).

Individuals becoming New Americans at a Naturalization Ceremony at
the Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo from GCNP @Flickr)

By no means is my attempt at defining this term definitive. There may be other definitions out there that differ from mine. If you are aware of these other definitions, feel free to share them with me

An attempt to define New Americans by Jennifer Kumar:
An individual in the U.S. who is aspiring to take the Path to U.S. Citizenship, or who has, in the recent past, become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. 
The phrase "recent past" has purposefully not been defined. This is because each person's situation is different. Some individuals may feel like a "New American" while waiting for official status change, while some feel it immediately or soon after officially changing citizenship. But, for others, it may still take time to adapt to their new country or culture. 

How can I find agencies to help me if I am a New American? 
While, of course, we at Authentic Journeys specialize in supporting and coaching New Americans to succeed in the U.S., there are many other public services (that are probably free of cost) that can help with a variety of services.

To find agencies to help you with a host of services, search for any of the following:
  • "New Americans" and your state name
  • "New Americans" and the county you reside in 
  • "New Americans" followed by your city or metro area 
  • "Services for New Americans in" (state/county/city) 
  • Alternatively, try searching for the term "Immigrant services" with the city, county or state
Note that some services could also be provided through religious-based organizations. Check out an agency's about page to learn what their mission, values and approach is. One example of this is an agency called Immigrant Hope, serving Idaho and Wyoming.

What will an Office of New Americans help me with? 
Services provided from agency to agency may differ, but some common services may include:
  • English language classes*
  • employment assistance, job readiness, and programs for entrepreneurs* 
  • legal assistance 
  • parent education
  • case management 
  • classes to prepare for the citizenship test
  • referrals for local childcare and/or education services 
  • US culture orientation and social adjustment assistance*
  • health and medical referrals
  • translation and interpretation services
  • links to cultural and spiritual organizations 
  • others as identified by area or need*
There are many New Americans who are highly skilled and educated either in the US or from their native country. Many of these programs focus on building self-sufficiency and reducing brain waste among the many immigrants that want to utilize their skills here in the U.S.

Note: The list items above defined with an asterisk are also services provided by Authentic Journeys. In some cases, especially with language services, if a candidate tests at too high an English proficiency level, they may be referred out to an English school or tutor. Call or contact us instead! 

Some Examples of New Americans Service Agencies 
(Focus on the Inter-mountain West): 
Agency for New Americans, Boise, Idaho  
Friendly House, Phoenix, Arizona  
Emily Griffith Technical College (Colorado) 
Global Talent Idaho
Immigrant Services, Jackson, Wyoming (Teton County)  
Mayor's Office for New Americans, Salt Lake City, Utah
Soft Landing Missoula, Montana 

Other areas in the US:
Imprint: Immigrant Professional Integration
Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Massachusetts 
Office of New Americans, Office of the Mayor, Chicago, Illinois
Preparing Foreign-Born Talent for Careers in the USA (Des Moines, Iowa) 
Skilled Immigrants in America (New Jersey)
Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning (Aids Internationally-trained health care providers in Colorado)  
Upwardly Global 

What time of the year do individuals become New Americans (US Citizens)? 
It seems Naturalization Ceremonies can take place on any day of the year, sometimes as soon as you complete your interview, which is the fifth of six steps in the process as detailed below. 

Process to become a United States Citizen: 
  1. Step One: Find Out Whether You Are Eligible. The first question is whether you have a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence).
  2. Step Two: Overcome Barriers to Your Ineligibility. 
  3. Step Three: File USCIS Form N-400.
  4. Step Four: Get Fingerprinted. 
  5. Step Five: Attend a Citizenship Interview. 
  6. Step Six: Attend the Oath Ceremony.
Most recently, I have seen many announcements and news stories for new citizenship ceremonies being held on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17, yearly) and on Flag Day (June 14).

The location of the ceremony may vary based on when you are eligible to become a citizen. Some may happen right on the spot in the immigration office, without much fanfare, while others may happen in public locations like Capitol Buildings, community centers, schools, and other prominent places. I also read some naturalization ceremonies take place in National Parks! 

The video below is a news story from California, where new Americans recite the Oath of Allegiance at Yosemite National Park.

In the next video, we can see how the local TV news KXLF in Butte, Montana covered a naturalization ceremony.

What is it like to become a New American?

Have you went through the process of becoming a New American? Feel free to share your story with us. We also provide coaching and assistance to help skilled immigrants, international students, expats and others thrive in global, diverse business environments. Get in touch with us to discuss further. 

As a side note from the author; as an interculturalist, I am not 100% comfortable to use the word 'American' to describe the citizenship status of those who naturalize in the United States. It may be more accurate to say a "New U.S. American." Why? Well America includes both North and South America. So, technically, a Canadian could be an American, just as much as a Chinese is an Asian. In fact, other interculturists and cross-cultural experts tend to agree on this. To add to this, once I met a Chilean in the US who got very upset with me when I said I was American. He said to me, "I hope you know I am an American, too. I, of course am from South America, so South American, but also American. Why have US Americans monopolized this term?" It was an eye opener for me! 

Related Posts: 
What is a transplant (and other expat-related terms)? 
Test your knowledge of immigration myths (eye opening) 
I am an Immigrant, celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in various US cities in June 
Learn about the US States, Birthdays, and More Trivia   
See a full length citizenship ceremony that took place at Grand Canyon National Park 

Note: The agencies listed in this post do not have any affiliation with Authentic Journeys, nor has Authentic Journeys worked with these agencies. They are being shared as a resource to the readers of this website. 

March 21, 2019

Coaching For Tech Workers: Building Communication Confidence and Cultural Competence

Has training not worked? Let's try something different, more personalized with more long-lasting results: Coaching.

Let's talk about coaching for tech workers! 

Coaching is not training or content delivery. No more boring PowerPoints or sitting quietly in the back of a packed training room. Virtual, online coaching is a dynamic interaction - candidates actively participate in customized one-on-one coaching conversations that build a host of soft-skills that lead to workplace success (brainstorming, critical thinking, problem solving, prioritizing, time management, team building and team dynamics, taking initiative).

Coaching for global tech workers

We specialize in working international career professionals and business people with 3-30 plus years in their fields, holding a variety of job titles. While a majority of our clients are English as Second Language (ESL) speakers, ideal candidates are moderately to completely fluent in English, and are looking to polish Business English, Global English, English with US Americans or build conversational fluency in day to day work related situations and networking events. A majority of our clients also look to build cultural competence, especially in working with US Americans from offshore or while staying or living in the US.

Our coaching process builds communication confidence and cultural competence for offshore and onsite tech workers on global, remote teams and skilled immigrants and international students in the USA. 

Let's look at the steps involved in our process. This process has been written from the viewpoint of a start-up or company sponsoring a candidate for coaching. However, for those reading this wanting to self-sponsor themselves through coaching, we are happy to work with you as well! 

Step 1: Requirements Gathering & Planning
In this strategy session, we analyze the scope of our work together to design a personalized coaching roadmap.

Collecting User Stories
Stakeholders, along with the candidate, identify professional development goals for the candidate, creating 'user stories' as ideal outcomes of coaching.

Fill in the blanks:
As a [job role], I want [to achieve some goal] so that [ideal outcome].

Prioritizing and Managing User Stories
We look at all these 'user stories,' prioritize them and break them down into manageable chunks (iterations) to start working on immediately. From the intake meeting itself, we work on project management!

Coach will maintain a log of goals, meeting notes and time keeping.

To make the most of this strategy meeting, prepare in advance.

Step 2: Coaching Iterations
The chosen candidate meets with us 30-60 minutes every 2-3 weeks for several months, via Zoom, Skype, etc.

Structure of sessions:

  1. Mini Stand-Up: Candidate Check in and accountability
  2. Coaching conversations, brainstorming, role plays. We can say we work on the "project backlog" during this part of the meeting.
  3. Recap, Identify awareness and skill building exercises.
Recordings of actual client calls and/or email threads can be shared to assess client facing skills.

Step 3: Testing Out and Deploying
In between sessions, candidates will deploy their identified solutions as the situations arise.

Based on their test runs, candidates will tweak their skills and approaches to work more effectively with their clients, stakeholders and team mates.

Steps 2 and 3 will continue between 2-3 months in an ideal situation. However, as we know project work gets busy, and client demands can cause schedule changes, in many cases, steps 2 and 3 can continue for 4-5 months.

Step 4: Monthly Stand-Ups
Once a month by email or call, the coach shares with the stakeholders what we:

  • Have completed 
  • Are currently working on
  • Are planning to work on
  • Roadblocks or additional information needed
The Project Manager will share feedback of progress seen with client facing communication skills.

Step 5: 3-Month/ One Cycle Evaluation
Typically, one cycle of coaching completes within 3 months (4-6 sessions). At this time, we meet with the candidate, project manager and any stakeholders to assess progress, assess anything remaining to work on (backlog) and next steps.

Depending on the outcomes of this conversation, we may return to steps 2, 3 and 4 for several more sessions, or we may opt to stop coaching sessions.

Step 6: 4- Month Check in
A month after we decide to stop regular coaching sessions, the coach will check in with candidate, Project Manager and any stakeholders to assess the skill application and scope for further coaching.

*We respect your privacy and confidentiality. A confidentiality form like this one will be discussed and signed. 

It is this time, a mutual decision is made to continue coaching with the same candidate or select another candidate.

Your coach, Jennifer Kumar, born and raised in the US, has lived in India twice (Kochi and Chennai) for almost 10 years. She has earned her Master's in India, started her business in India, and worked with over 3,600 professionals, totaling over 1,800 coaching and training hours since 2011. Her expertise and approach builds teams like yours with outstanding results. Rather than read lofty words, let's jump on a call and talk more about how we can help you or your team today! 

Skype: Crossculturalcoach
LinkedIn (see a list of our client projects):
Contact form 

Related Posts: 
Soft-Skill Training Needs in India 
Characteristics of Successful or Ideal Clients 
Why Skilled Immigrants, International Students, and Expats in the US hire me 
Business English and Career Guidance Coaching for Keralites and Indians

Tips to Prepare for H1B Interviews

External Resources and Experts That Agree Coaching Works!
If your CEO has a coach, maybe you deserve one too - from
How tech professionals can use virtual career coaching to boost their skills - from
Photo credit: Masa Israel Journey

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.