increase B2B sales in China

China Paradigm transcript #102: The way forward to increase B2B sales in China

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Find here the China Paradigm 102. In this interview, Yoann Delwarde co-founder at infinity growth where he helps CEOs and companies to increase B2B sales in China with integrity.

Full transcript below:

Welcome to China Paradigm, a show powered by Daxue Consulting where we interview season entrepreneurs and experienced managers in China about their business experience in the country.

Matthieu David: Hello everyone. I am Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue Consulting and its podcast, China Paradigm. Joining me today is Yoann Delwarde. You are the co-founder of Infinity Growth and what you are doing or what you have written on LinkedIn or well, that will be one of the questions that we have. You are helping B2B companies that need to scale up and sell more with integrity. The word “integrity” is something I’d like to know more about and why you insist on it. You do B2B sales coaching, sales training in Shanghai, and consulting and you have been in China for – from my calculations – for at least 7 years. It may be actually more. So, it is a sizeable amount of time that you have been in China.

You have been working in a company and you started your company and you are also on the side, very active by lecturing, mentoring, and something that for me, firmly defines you for some time, which is Toastmasters. You are very involved in Toastmasters clubs in China. I feel along with Chinese communities because Chinese communities are also very involved in Toastmasters here in Shanghai. Thanks, Yoann for being with us. I am very happy to have you here. So, what do you do with your company now, Infinity Growth?

Yoann Delwarde: Thank you, Matthieu, for the introduction, amazing. So, actually, at Infinity Growth, we are helping B2B clients, as you mentioned to get the service they deserve. So, this is really the one-liner, “Get the service you deserve”. We help them to scale up, as you said, so to increase B2B sales in China and also selling with integrity. We’ll come back to the word integrity later in this conversation because I believe, now, that’s what people want to buy. They don’t want to be sold. They want to buy something they believe has integrity. So, this is what we do, basically.

Matthieu David: Tell us more about what kind of teaching you give to your clients? Do you have products; meaning like specific teaching and segmented or everything is adapted based on what you think they need, or it is both of them?

Yoann Delwarde: So, that is a very good question. If I take you as a potential client, you are the CEO of your company and I am sure you want to be a successful CEO. You are already and if you want to be even more successful one thing is to have more sales and one of the prime’s of this year is that we are in a recession. So, you may feel stuck or you may feel pressured and so actually at Infinity Growth what we do first is, we really understand you because we have privacy executives and so that’s really the key. Why I can say that is because actually we got 90% of our clients by referrals.

So, we don’t just care about numbers. We really care about you and how we usually do it is, first, we start by getting an assessment of how you do the sizing of your company today, and then based on this assessment, we build a plan together and then execute this plan with passion and with great care and enthusiasm to increase B2B sales in China.

So, usually, if you want to have the rhyme, we say, “We meet up. We team up and we raise our glasses up.” So that is how usually I introduce myself. So, coming back to your question on how we practically do it. We have a series of methodologies and tools because I believe that sales is a science. We have the mindset, the methodology or behavior of the way to talk, the way to ask and I think that this is no further than that. That is why it is a mix between methodologies, processing tools and processes; sales processes, and also about the mindset and the behavior.

That is how I would maybe put an umbrella on everything we do and as you said, we already have lectures or courses and we also have trainings and so we already have our set, but actually, 80% of what we do is really customized or tailor-made because everyone has different challenges. So, we look at different situations and we identify what could be the weak parts because each situation has a strong and weakest link and then we work on that with different sprints and methodologies of scanning everyone in our niche. Every quarter we have a sprint and we grow.

Matthieu David: Are you a member of EO? Are you a member of the ChinaAccelerator or EO because scaling up is a book that is used a lot about by EO; Entrepreneurial Organisation, which is for people listening to us who may not know, which is a big organisation in the U.S.? They have entrepreneurs, which are mentoring and teaching other entrepreneurs on how to scale up. So, we have four chapters.  One is about cash, one is about money, one is about; I don’t remember actually all four of them, but you certainly know them and it is very, very organised and to the opposite to what you can release in podcasts, books, whatever success is not random. I think that the basis of the thinking is that success is a methodology, success is a habit, like the Rockefeller habit (learn more about the Rockfeller habits[MOU1] ) also that they communicate on. So, are you a member of EO and do you inspire yourself from this organisation?

Yoann Delwarde: Actually, this is interesting because of why I started this company; the main reason is because of ChinaAccelerator and so I am extremely grateful for this organization. I have wonderful friends there and now I am a mentor since 2018 and actually, they inspired me because my first client was one start-up from ChinaAccelerator who basically asked me to charge them because they were loving what I was doing when they received it.

Matthieu David: We interviewed them as well in the podcast.

Yoann Delwarde: Fantastic and so actually when I started in ChinaAccelerator I realized that I was very successful in my previous company, however, if you want to have… because they have a star-up every 6 months. So, if you want to have ten start-ups all in different fields, you’d better have tools, you’d better have a process, you better have habits because it is not bout experience-sharing anymore. Because they have all different industries and all different challenges; the size of the plans. So, you really have to go one level deeper and for three years, I realized that ChinaAccelerator batch after batch, challenge after challenge, success after success and also failure after failure, because a start-ups’ failure rate is very high, even for ChinaAccelerator. So, that really forced me to find the methodologies and tools and as you mentioned also about EO; actually, I have many clients from EO.

I am not a member yet, but I know very well their committee and actually, we are thinking to register EOP this year because they are changing their criteria. Before, if you wanted to enter as 1 million dollars as revenue, but now they are more flexible and actually I am even thinking to join faster. I was thinking next year, but maybe I will start this year.

Yesterday I had a phone call that was fantastic and that’s why I am so happy today, with Jack Daly and actually, he is one of the sales guru’s and I had such a nice phone call with him and he shared with me the experience that when he started his business during the first 3 years he was spending so much time with EO, PO and global CO because they are for him, the center of influence. That’s where he got most of his leads and clients.

I am doing the same methodology with the American Chamber of Commerce, with ChinaAccelerator, with EO and soon with other organizations through my panel who is contact also maybe with the more businesswomen in China (learn more about how businesswomen are changing the corporate culture in China). This is definitely a big plus for our business, and this is where I believe we can find the people who are most coachable and who are really willing to change and have sales training in Shanghai, and that’s the clients we love to work with.

Matthieu David: Let’s try to be specific. You mentioned tools to increase B2B sales in China. Would you mind being more specific about the tools? Are they digital tools? Is it something like Trello, CRM that you are using, or are there tools that are more conceptual that you are using, like Lean Canvas or other elements? Would you mind being specific on the tools you may use?

Yoann Delwarde: Of course, so before we talk about the tools, I want to talk about the funnel because maybe for some people in this phone call, that would be a good introduction. So, I believe there are six steps of the funnel. They actually mention 5, but I believe there are 6. So, the first one is targeting when you have to choose who your ideal clients are and who you want to work with, and then it is the interaction.

How can we communicate with them to understand the needs that they have and then it is the proposition stage; how can you set up the value proposition and then you mentioned business Lean Canvas. That is a great framework. Then there is the closing stage where basically you need to close, you need to sign, you need to shake hands and then there’s the stage of exceeding expectation where you need to deliver or over-deliver and then there is the last stage, which is growth.

This is about key accounts, cross-selling and renewal, and also referrals. So, each stage has different tools, methodologies, and principles. So, if I take an example, for the interaction; the product you are selling is the mindset when you ask questions so that you can dig into some clients’ needs and then you use the embassy for you to understand them, you use the authority to explain who are the clients you are working with and so all of that can be framed in a one-page strategy with a graph and then, of course, it needs to be executed through the different tools and checklists, for example of questions.

Through recording with the CRM; Customer Relationship Management system and again, the tools for me are not the most important because when the people use the tool and they don’t know why they don’t use the tool well (listen to another episode on CRM in China).

So, first, we focus on the why and we make role play because actually role play is a key for us. It’s like CRT share and you have a competition and you send your students, or you send your sports team to the match. Of course, they will lose if they don’t train before, right? This is the same for salespeople. Not only about the process itself. It is really about the ecosystem that you can build around at each step of the funnel. Is that helping you to visualize more?

Matthieu David: Yeah, 6 steps, very clear and we talk about B2B so, it is very clear. Talking about how you support this sales training in Shanghai and this transformation, do you interact with them with an initial understanding of who they are and what they do and their challenges, but then how do you work on the transformation with them? Every step you organize a workshop every week, every month, or is it… could you give us ait more of an idea so that you can project yourself in how you interact with the companies you are coaching, mentoring, and supporting?

Yoann Delwarde: So, the first “F” is Focus, the second one is Fun and the third one is Follow-up. So, focus means actually every week we have a clear focus and I usually spend one or two hours coaching, with the executive; sales executive. So, actually, at the beginning of the quarter we have a plan for 3 months and then every week we have something specific following this plan and also, we have some time to sit with the challenges. So, that is usually how we do it. We have the coaching and then if we see the team needs something specific, we set up a one-day training or two-day training. So, this is a mix between coaching and training however, most of the time what I realize is that people don’t need theoretical knowledge.

They need advice and they need to reflect, and they need to ask questions because they don’t know who to ask and so that is basically what we do; 80% of what we do. It is practical. So, they have a closing and how to close. They are talking to this client in an industry they have never approached before; how to do it. They are trying to expand into a client. They have so many businesses. They don’t know where to start. So, that is really practical.

Matthieu David: When they have questions, that is something I am always wondering. When we have a question for more clients on Daxue Consulting, we have to do research (learn more about the research methods at Daxue Consulting). We have to collect data. We need to interview people. When your clients have questions, you are talking about one specific topic. Daxue covers a lot of topics, so we have to update ourselves and so on. You have one topic. Does it require you to dig into the industry, to go further, or basically you have most of the concepts in mind and so you able to answer them? Or does it require you to take one day at home to work on your training, to go back one week later with answers to the questions they have raised?

Yoann Delwarde: For sales training in Shanghai, there are two key roles. The first one is sales; that’s my passion and the second one is coaching. Actually, there is the spirit of coaching, which is we believe that the coachee; the person we are coaching, has the answer already. So, the key is not about the answer that I can give. It is about the question I can ask to make them realize what they know and what they don’t know and then, how can we ask questions so we can know what they don’t know and most of the time in sales, this is not about them. It is about what the client wants; their needs, their motivation, their political agenda.

Once we know that, the sales race because actually, I believe sales is a transfer of trust. So, maybe my goal with the salespeople is, how can they build trust with their clients and how can I give them the confidence to ask the question in a proper way and so that I really a lot about changing the way they act with the clients.

I thought sometimes you would have to go back for some research, but most of the time there is no need because first of all, it is urgent. They need to apply right now and second of all, it is most of the time based on the behavior and they already know. It’s just they don’t execute it in the proper way or sometimes they forget or sometimes they have the stress of all the things going around and they don’t take the time to focus on one thing.

Matthieu David: I see. You said that sales is a science and then you said a bit later it is an art. You know, the word of Peter saying entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice. If we look at the word, science art, and practice, how do you articulate them because you used two of them and I believe the practice is not to overlook neither in sales.

So, how do you feel about those three? If it is a science, then it can be taught at university, it can be lectured and after that, you are done. You know how to do it. If it is an art, then it needs talent. Not everyone can do it. Science everyone can learn, right with some time and investment. If it’s a practice, it requires time. You have no choice. You just have to spend time. So, how do you articulate those?

Yoann Delwarde: Actually, I use those because they are opposite and now it is true that if you bring practice it makes it look like a triangle and this makes me think of the three from Aristotle. Credibility, logic, and motion. It is the same for me. These three need to be combined with each other and if you only have one, you will be just okay sales, if you have 22 you will be a good sale, if you have 3, you will be the great sales. So, this is what I believe about those three and if I make an example, starting with practice when I don’t practice sales, I lose my saleability. It is like when you don’t work out for 2 months, your body just cannot forget.

Of course, it is easier to keep up if you were a previous athlete or you are used to doing sport every day, but still, you are using your physical abilities and it is the same in sales. If you don’t close every week, you lose your ability to close. Or if you don’t make a phone call every day, you lose your ability to make phone calls. It’s like public speaking, basically.

I gave 500 speeches in the last 5 years, and I can feel it. I am not as good as before because I don’t speak as much as before. That’s it. It’s simple. The second one is about art. Why is it art? Because you can really see who the most successful salespeople are. They are usually not the ones with the highest IQ. They have the highest EQ (learn more about the importance of IQ and EQ for salespeople).

So, they are really the ones who can adapt to the environment and to the person they are facing and make them feel good, make them want to hear what they want to hear and help them and support them in a way, but at the same time, if you are just an artist, but you don’t have the science or you don’t have the process, how can you build a team? How can you scale up because that’s actually does one of the great sales of the funder? They sell a lot and then when they recruit their team, they don’t know how to share the knowledge.

So, actually, for me, these three are really inter-dependant and this is a triangle and if you have a triangle you are extremely strong. So, what we do is we are trying to understand for each part, what each client could develop because everyone has already their strengths so that they can become more systematic and they can scale up and be something that is sustainable.

Matthieu David: You just anticipated one of the questions I had, which is what are the main failures or mistakes that you see among the people you are coaching, and one of them, you just mentioned is that funder can be good at sales. He can be good at a lot of things, but he has to be good at sales otherwise his business won’t take off. So, he is good at increasing B2B sales in China, but he doesn’t know how to get more salespeople and I have seen that. I have seen that a lot. The struggle to actually get people to sell something valuable. That is one mistake or difficulty you are seeing. What other difficulties are you seeing in B2B sales around you?

Yoann Delwarde: If I make categorize, as you said from 0-1, I would say 0-1, 1-10, 10-100, 100-1 billion. I have those 4 categories in mind. From 0-1; this is about the funder and as you said, if the funder is not able to sell, his company will never grow, or if you don’t have a co-founder or someone on your team that is good to sell. All the start-ups that fail for me, most of them is because they don’t have the right sales mindset.

They think about their product, they think about their features, but they don’t think about the benefits if I could summarise. So, that is really the most important challenge for me. From 1-10 it’s about training, coaching the 3-10 salespeople that can help you to sell more than only yourself. So, it is really about giving your knowledge because if you are in a small company you need really to explain how you did in the past and then if you want to go from 10-100 it is about the departments. It is more about the culture. I’m thinking about the incentives, about the rules, how can you make them collaborate and not compete.

Then, when you go from 100-1 billion, it’s more about the strategy and so it is more about the vision and the direction. I am not saying that the vision or direction is not important from 0-1. I believe it is less important if you make the priority. So, depending on different stages, you have different challenges, different failures and that’s actually why I think some companies have some bottlenecks in the kind of numbers of employees and I think ion scaling up, we both read the book talking about it because there is something to do and they don’t really know why they don’t really know what and they need some external point of view to help them to go to the next stage.

Matthieu David: We talked about it already. You said that you are helping companies to increase B2B sales in China to let’s say the right formulation; which needs to scale up and sell more with integrity. How do you feel that it was important to mention you with integrity? When you think about salespeople, we think about aggressive people, we think about people who are going to make big money to sell as much as possible. Integrity is a basis, but it is not seen as something like a tag line. It is more to have hyper-growth. People will say, “I helped you to reach hyper-growth.” You say selling with integrity. Would you mind sharing with us why you use integrity?

Yoann Delwarde: Actually, that is interesting because I come from very modest family background. I am the first one who got a high degree diploma, I am the first one who got an engineering diploma and I am the first one who is starting a business. So, in my family, the culture is not really about entrepreneurship and I have to say I have some challenges to start with sales because I was like you. I was thinking basically sales are not really honest people.

They are just trying to take benefits or take advantage of you, but the thing that I realized is that actually, we can really build a high level of trust when you are not selling when you are helping and here, I have a clear example. In my career, I told my potential client, “Listen, I don’t think I am the right one for you. I know someone else who can do better at a cheaper price.

That is what I can do”. Doing so, I got so many more customers because this one was trusting me and he was seeing me as a trusted advisor and then he referred me to the people who would really need me, eventually. That’s when I started to realize that selling with integrity and honesty can play a very big role. In all the sales guru’s I would say, or all the salespeople who are successful entrepreneurs, they all have this mindset. They are not trying to cheat people.

They have a higher value behind it. Why integrity right now is very important for our business is because actually, my co-founder is involved in many sustainability projects (learn more about the “green industry” in China).

She is helping people in need, etc. and we discussed a lot and we realized that actually, we can have so many companies. So why not choosing the one that really has a higher value, that take care of their employees who want to have a positive impact on society, on the environment because if we help them; I know it is a small contribution and I know it may be a dream, but in the book that we are writing, if we take, for example, these nice companies, then it will inspire more people to believe that actually they can do something great and it is not because they are making money, that they are doing something wrong.

So, that is the mindset behind it and that is why we are so passionate about this key role. Just yesterday I was with a client and he was telling me maybe I should fire our sales guy and I asked him this question. I said, “Have you tried your best with this sales guy or not yet?” He paused for 5 seconds and he said, “It is true. I didn’t try” and I say, “Why didn’t you try?” That is how we do it every day.

Matthieu David: I remember I was part of EO for some time and I remember that one of the coaches said for the values you choose, choose the values that will really resonate with who you are. He took the example of; I don’t know if you remember at the end of ’99, beginning of 2000; before the crisis in 2001. This company or one of its values was selling with integrity.

They cheated their investors and accounts and accounting and so on. They could have said, “My value is growth, whatever it takes.” That could have been a valuable line. He was in some way cheating the investors because it’s growing whatever it takes, but then use integrity, which was not adequate, actually. So, you are talking about B2B, but you are also talking about digital because you do sales training in Shanghai on LinkedIn on how to increase B2B sales in China. Would you mind sharing with us, what the learning is that you have to use LinkedIn to increase B2B sales in China?

That’s my first question and the second question is about China. Is LinkedIn a digital way to sell in China? The learning that we got in the past 10 years is that Baidu is a good channel to increase B2B sales in China. It is not a good channel to increase B2B sales in China. LinkedIn is a good channel for B2B all over the world, but in China still, not all the professionals are on LinkedIn (learn more about LinkedIn in China). You may not find all the contacts on LinkedIn. So, would you mind sharing more about LinkedIn and digital in China?

Yoann Delwarde: Yes, that is actually a great question and I want to make a small remark. I use LinkedIn a lot and I advise my clients to use LinkedIn a lot related to the stage targeting. When they want to get some people in the organization that they are targeting and then interacting. However, once you interact then for me it is to increase B2B sales in China and LinkedIn is actually not so useful. So, this is how I use LinkedIn because in sales, to have the leads you really have 4 ways. The first one is through SU and you mentioned it; Baidu, when people type a keyword and the second one is inbound marketing, copyrighters, and marketing agencies. The third one is outbound, where you send a lot of e-mails and the 4th one is targeting where you are more precise.

So, I use LinkedIn for the targeting part, so just to make it clear. The content marketing one; there are people who would advise you much better than what I can do, so I prefer to stay in my circle of expertise and actually what I realized with LinkedIn is as you said, not everyone is there. However, in most of the companies now, there are at least 5-10 people.

At least in the biggest companies and actually, when you interact with them and when you really take the time to listen to them, they can introduce you because you have two ways; bottom-up, bottom down. On LinkedIn it is very easy to do bottom-up, then from the top-down, what I realize in China is that there are many of what we call the center of influence and the center of influence; they are connected through the whole industry. You are one of the centers of influence because you have interviewed more than 100 people already.

So, for someone that is willing to have access to the circle, if he or she would contact you and make a good level of trust with you, you could probably introduce him/her to that network. In China it is working a lot like that because in every industry you have some I would say a key opinion reader, who can really connect you and this is actually what I realized, as I was really hopeful for my clients to help them to detect who could be those centers of influence that are not competing with their business.

Because, of course, your competitor doesn’t work and then how together you can create a partnership so that you support each other and you create an ecosystem where you can actually really support the people who are our clients. If you have a client who wants to improve their sales, now you interview me and if I am meeting the clients that need your service, I would love to do a podcast I would have introduced you as well. So, this is I think a way that could really work to increase B2B sales in China.

Matthieu David: On a more technical side of using LinkedIn, what you are mentioning is that when you create your own connections on LinkedIn, then you will do the hashtags, the hashtag of those people to mention them on your post. So, actually, we gain visibility with their feed and with the people they are connected with and will give them visibility as well to the people you are connected to within your feed. You also give strength to the algorithm of LinkedIn because you are doing hashtag the name and that is why you are mentioning partnering because the word ‘partnering’ or to partner with someone is so much overused that sometimes we don’t know what it means and in this case, you are meaning the mentioning, the liking, you are mentioning, sharing and commenting on those people you are actually posting.

Yoann Delwarde: Exactly. That is a really good example. That I something that we are doing a lot of recently, especially this year because now most of the people are at home. So, I think it’s also about creating content, but thus far, again I am not the expert. As you said to interact with the people, so they like, comment and add them, try to create some value together, and again, this is not a sales approach. This is more of a conversational approach, where you try to build trust, you know each other and that doesn’t mean that they will be your direct line, but one of the networks could be, as you said.

Matthieu David: On LinkedIn, when you contact someone it is an e-mail. There is a mailbox on LinkedIn, and you send an e-mail. I found out over time that a good e-mail can be very powerful. A good e-mail… I have some theory on it, and I have some thinking about it, but I’m pretty sure you thought a lot about it, and you have a lot of practice in it. What would be some of the key elements to remember when you write an e-mail? Would you mind sharing that? I have some tips from myself, but I am not as organized as you are or as conceptual as you are. What would you advise people to do?

Yoann Delwarde: That’s a question that all my clients ask. So, now I have a very standard reply. I use the triangle of Aristotle; credibility, logic, and motion. So, I always start with credibility and so I always start with the fact that actually people love, love stories, and also when you are talking about them, so I always start from them.

So, I would say, “Hi Matthieu. I saw that you are a CEO at Daxue Consulting.” So, you know that I know about you. I am not just randomly writing one thousand e-mails, right? And then I will mention your credibility. So, who am I already with that you know, or who could give me the authority so that you would want to reply to me and in this case, if I say, “I know that you are doing a lot of podcasts and I know that you interviewed Sophie from ChinaAccelerator and I saw that she is amazing in a lot of your podcasts” the credibility is there.

So, you know that I know Sophie and since you interviewed Sophie, you believe this could be interesting, right? So now you have more interest to look at my profile. Then the last one is about logic. So, it is to give them a clear next action. So, the next action could be, “How about we have a 5-minute discussion so we can know more about each other? I would love to share more stories with you and to see what we can do together. I wish you a wonderful day.” That’s it; 5 lines and he will probably reply.

Matthieu David: My experience is that I am very careful with e-mails within the team. I try to also have a high standard because indeed, you can receive some very bad e-mails sometimes and good e-mails, which are adapted. I would have one thing as a comment, is that I saw some bad experience mentioning people we don’t know, or mentioning people we know, sorry, but we don’t know the relationship with this person and I know it was not by e-mail, but it was by speaking. I mentioned, “I know this one. You also know this one” and actually, they hate each other, and actually, it was not a good mentioning and I realized that I had to stop to say that we know someone in common. So, there is a bit of risk in mentioning someone in common that we know.

Yoann Delwarde: That’s true and that’s why I usually mention companies. In your case, I wanted it to be adapted for the people who listen to the podcast, so I mentioned someone who was in the podcast that I know and she also knows me, but usually, I mention companies because companies, as you said, you cannot hate a company, right? If you hate the company, you need to explain to me how you can hate a company. So, I usually mention the company, but the key there is about credibility. Why should they listen to you; because you are a big company that is similar to them and so they want to know more about you.

Matthieu David: The concept, the knowledge you have got; you mentioned one book which is scaling up or scale-up. What other books would you recommend for people, specifically on sales, on learning about increase B2B sales in China, if you can narrow it down to B2B?

Yoann Delwarde: I have a list of 15 books that I can send you later on because it is also a question that I often get. I have to say that I have read many sales books. Actually, I have a belief. I don’t choose a book; the book chooses me. So, when I go to the library, I look at all the titles and there is always a challenge that I like two books and I open them and go through the agenda, table of contents. If there is one thing I like, I open it, I read it quickly and if I like it, I buy it. So, that’s how I do it.

Matthieu David: Interesting, so you go to a bookstore to find books you don’t even know. You don’t go online to check what people say and so on. You would go to a bookstore and look at the title and then you would go inside to see what’s inside?

Yoann Delwarde: Exactly and also every time there is someone that I trust who read a book that liked it, I ask them what they learned and if I liked it, then I just go and buy it online. I have two ways to buy books. My library is full. I think I need one hundred years to finish all the books, but that’s okay because I know if one day, I need something I can go find it there in a book. That gives me a lot of feeling of enthusiasm and I also bring books with me. I have a book that I am reading actually, every day which is called the Sales play Book by Jack Daly, the person that I had the chance to talk with yesterday.

That is my new Bible. That was alive before I met this book and it is alive after I made this book. This book is gold because most of the time a sales book is full of stories which is amazing because you remember stories, but there is nothing conceptual behind it. For me, there are stories that are very structured. I really like it because when I have a chance I go back and I also have some videos from him, and he makes me reflect. So, that is really the book I would suggest and also, I will send you the fifteen books that you can also refer to.

Matthieu David: Last question before we go to the usual questions I ask at the end of the interview and you already answered some of them. It is about Toastmasters. You have been with Toastmasters clubs in China for a long time. Chinese people are very involved in Toastmasters clubs in China, more than French people. I am French. You are French and you are French, right?

Yoann Delwarde: I am.

Matthieu David: I am not sure because we speak French in different countries, so we were not that involved in France with Toastmasters. I think that China is very involved in it and you are too. Would you mind mentioning what you got from Toastmasters clubs in China and what Chinese you feel they get? I have a sense that they are looking for English learning or English classes, some of them more than public speaking learning.

Yoann Delwarde: Toastmasters is one of my passions. I discovered it 5 years ago actually by chance. It is actually 6 years ago now. What I got through it is the confidence to do public speaking in China, because actually, public speaking is the biggest fear in the world. People fear to do public speaking in China more than spiders or death, just to let you know how strong the fear is of public speaking.

Matthieu David: Sorry to interrupt, but there is an anecdote; Warren Buffett was scared about public speaking and he learned from decalogy, I think and he had his diploma in his office and actually I think he doesn’t show his diploma degree. It helped him to learn how to speak in public and that changed his life and changed the business he was to create.

Yoann Delwarde: I fully agree and what I can tell you is that there was a life before Toastmasters and there is life after Toastmasters. I feel more comfortable to do public speaking in China in front of 100 people than to speak to you now because I got used to it. I got stressed if I talked… what is Matthieu going to ask me? If I stand in front of 100 people, I feel more natural. It is kind of a new feeling.

The thing is, if you can speak to 100 people and 100 potential clients, you save so much time because if I have to speak to all of the people in China, but if we organize a conference; no matter online or offline and there are hundreds of people listening to my speech, there will be at least one or two that will come to me at the end of the speech to say, “I love what you said. I need you. Let’s have a talk.”

Matthieu David: To be more specific, what did you learn at Toastmasters clubs in China? I understand the one thing you get is practice. That is clear. For people who don’t know Toastmasters, we didn’t say what it is but is I the regular meeting where you give a speech to an audience within your community. It could be your university, a district and I don’t know how long the speech should be, but after there are some discussions and feedback from the audience on the speech, but you are going to tell us more about it.

Yoann Delwarde: What is the goal of Toastmasters? So, it was created more than 90 years ago and now we have more than 170 000 members across the world in almost every country and this is NGO. So, a non-governmental organization, so a non-profit organization and in China, in the district that we are we have east district and east district has more than ten thousand members and as you said, that is getting more and more trendy and the goal of Toastmasters is to help people improve their communication skills and leadership skills and actually the leadership skills is something that people don’t really know, but that is where I learned the most. I was leading a team and I was helping actually; in my last project, I was helping 80 people to run a project that had an impact on 5000 people within a year.

So, this is really a strong leadership common line there. For communication, as you said, there are 6 steps. The first step is you have the objective of the speech and so, what is the goal for you to make the speech? It is not just to speak. You have a key objective and it could be about body language, it could be about coaching, it could be about sales. You have the objective before the speech and then you do the speech and after the speech, you get an evaluation; an evaluation that is very constructive and empowering where they tell you what you have done well on and where you can improve.

Actually, it is like a step by step process because you start from scratch, and then at the end, you can become a keynote speaker and then we even have some certification for public speaking that we are doing at every year in the international conference. That should happen in Paris actually, but due to the situation maybe we do it online, but again actually that is one thing that I got from Toastmasters is the network.

In 2017 I was in Canada and I had the great chance to meet Tony Buzan, the inventor of the mind map; one of maybe the top ten most famous people in the world. He was there and I had the chance to spend the whole night with him because we went out with some friends, because actually he happened to know one of my Chinese friends and there are so many people like that in Toastmasters.

They are willing to share and that you can reach out to them, shake their hands, and get their book. So honestly, I really advise everyone to go there. That’s just amazing. More than 90% of the fortune 500, have a Toastmasters clip. So, most of these are extremely encouraging and so I would not be surprised that Bill Clinton was a member. I am not sure I had the chance to meet him yet, but if I meet him, I will ask him.

Matthieu David: I think he was. So, the last question I usually ask, and I may not ask all of them because you answered already some of them about the books. What do you read to stay up to date about China because you have specifically coaching, mentoring, and helping companies in China? So, you have your concepts, but you need to implement them in China. What do you read to stay up to date?

Yoann Delwarde: I will be very frank with you. I believe that even if I read all the books, as soon as they go out, they are outdated. So, what I really do, I talk to people because I believe that every ordinary person, they have extraordinary stories to tell and I ask them questions. I am a very aggressive listener.

When I listen, I really listen. I even mute myself and when I am not sure about something, I try to ask 5-10 people in my network, “Okay I have this challenge. This is what I am thinking. What do you think?” or, “You hav some experience in that, how do you think they will react?”  If all of them tell me, “Yoann, you are going through the wall.” I back off. If they tell me, “Yoann, that could be good, but think about that.” Most of the time this is something that helps me and so I read a lot. I meditate a lot and reflect a lot, but also, I talk to people even more. I think that now, again, most of the challenge is you need to ask people how they would react because they are all complex.

Matthieu David: Yeah, you begin by saying, “Can I be honest,” but actually that is certainly a swirl that many people mention is to… I would not say to meet and talk is to refer to their contact. It could be WeChat, it could be LinkedIn, it could be Talk, but it seems that a lot of the people get information from WeChat and LinkedIn and so on. Do you have anything you read? I read from the New York Times and The Morning Post to know what is going on in China. Would you have some sources you would like to share?

Yoann Delwarde: What I am trying to do is I am always trying to have different sources of information and so I like Frog, for example. I like the New York Times and also, I read some newspapers from China. What I am always trying to do is to cross the different information because obviously when you only read one newspaper or one book from one nationality, you are biased.

So, I am really trying to see different angles and different perspectives, but I have to say the really good books are written in Chines, which I cannot read yet so I really rely on my Chinese friends and my Chinese partner. When there is something trending in China, I’d rather ask and I am thinking about the new social selling communities, I am thinking for Alibaba, etc. I just go and ask because if I read a book written in English, I lose so much information already because of the translation, etc. So, I prefer to ask people who read Chinese books.

Matthieu David: I feel you are someone who can think a lot about productivity and productivity tools. What productivity tools do you like most?

Yoann Delwarde: I am trained from GTD; Get Things Done and I did two training’s and so I really like this methodology by David Allen and this really helps me to be effective. I don’t believe inefficiency. That’s actually what I say to most of my clients. If you want to be more efficient, you will get a 5-10% growth every year and I don’t want to work with you. I want you to be effective. So, I want you to get 50% or 100% growth every year. So, it is really about mindset shift and not about 5-10% saving every day.

Matthieu David: Is there a specific tool or software you really like? We may use simply sometimes a calendar or notes on I-Phone. That is something I use a lot. Will you have some tips to share about software tools?

Yoann Delwarde: Actually, it’s funny because I have a buddy. We are coaching each other every month. He is an extremely organized guy. The thing is that it doesn’t work for me. So, what works for me is a very simple Excel file, I have a book and I reflect every week what I have done, what I want to do the next week. I am a bit old school in that, but I have seen people who are using their phones, but for me, I still like pen and paper. What is really important is about the mindset and no matter the tool, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is first, you collect, your mindset, or everything in your mind, you write it down. Then you organize into the next action and then you prioritize and then you have your yearly plan, your quarterly plan, your monthly plan, and your weekly plan. Just make it happen. So, first is, you plan, you do, and do something I that plan. I try to decrease the doing something in the plan and actually it doesn’t really matter. I plan and I do what I plan and when I do what I plan, I am present and mindful.

Matthieu David: There are two questions that I ask at the end of the interview, which comes from Peter Drucker. You can assess innovation when you look at a success that was unexpected or a failure that was unexpected. So, it gives you an idea of what is going on in the market. An example I often use is carpooling leaving China, which is unexpected and it shows that e-commerce is taking over the economy.

What would you be able to share from your observation over 8 years in China? Something the company; events or something in society that has been successful or a failure that you were surprised and it shows something bigger happening in the society or the economy.

Yoann Delwarde: This is very interesting, because when you asked me this question, I had the same discussion with my parents last weekend, and actually I told them that China was already advanced and actually this outbreak of Covid-19 is just a catalyst that makes China even more advanced. Why do I say that; because everything that is happening online right now is just amazing. I mean the fact that you could stay at home when people could not go out and you could still get your food.

When I talked with my friend in Europe they were just out of the blue like, “Wow. How can you do that?” And about the robots, about the drones, I see even the healthcare how they can improve and then again I say that as purely when I look at the business, the way they are trying to speed and I am not talking about the values because this is something that I think many people are getting emotional about. The speed that they have and the vision that they have is tremendous and yeah., I think this is just a catalyst. I think they are already advanced on many topics. It’s not that I’m surprised. For me, it is no surprise. It is just that I think it is just making it happen, fast.

Matthieu David: Yeah and in some way, we are all more aware now that China has reached a level of development, which is in some aspect more advanced than the so-called…

Yoann Delwarde: I am talking about technology here.

Matthieu David: What about failure? What failure have you witnessed that was a surprise to you and shows that something is going on?

Yoann Delwarde: Well, actually the last one that I saw because I have one client at FNB and I heard the news by a local coffee and I was surprised because the way they started, I mean 3 years ago you see no drinking coffee, right and now you see drinking coffee everywhere, even more than Starbucks. I was thinking, “Wow, they must be super successful” and the way they were approached at the beginning, they were trying to learn from Starbucks the ideal plan, etc. Go to the building and target the best clients and also to have cheap prices seems to be working and then when you see it dropping and them falling behind, you realize, “Hey, sometimes it looks good, but actually behind it is not so good.” So that was a good reminder.

Matthieu David: What’s even more surprising is they could have said fake things to so many people and so many investors and that they could have worked its way. I feel that that is a failure we need to learn from.

Yoann Delwarde: Actually, it is more related to the start-up community because I am in this one and I can clearly see. There is a bobo and there is a bobo especially in China that is exploding now. So many start-up’s fail because it was built on nothing, especially the ones that were purely Chinese on and Chinese invested, especially from grants from the government which has no sales behind, no business model behind and it is just going to poof and so I think this was good because it was like Internet bobo in early 2000. I think it is the same now for start-up technology. Only the one that really has something tangible and a good business model will survive. All the rest will be out within a year.

Matthieu David: Thank you, Yoann for your time. You took your morning for us and I really, really appreciate it. Congratulations on what you did. I’ve known you for a long time; 6 years I think because we organized together with a forum with SME and big French groups and actually when we look at them, some have left or some have changed or some have grown and some have left.  So, this landscape has changed, but yeah, thank you very much. Congratulations on what you did for the foundation of Infinity Growth. It’s such a good name, by the way. I don’t know how you got it and I don’t know what domain name you have. I’d like to check that and I hope you enjoyed it. I hope everyone enjoyed as well the talk and thank you to everyone for listening.

Yoann Delwarde: Thank you and if you want to reach out to me just add me on LinkedIn and I will be happy to talk to you. Thanks, Matthieu for the interview. That was perfect.

Matthieu David: E-mail; do you want to share your e-mail?

Yoann Delwarde: You can just add me and you can see my profile and then you can write to me. That is much better.

Matthieu David: Okay at least they know that now they need to write a good e-mail.

Yoann Delwarde: They can say they listened to the podcast and I will add them directly. Matthieu David: Thank you Yoann, for your time. Good-bye, everyone.


China paradigm is a China business podcast sponsored by Daxue Consulting where we interview successful entrepreneurs about their businesses in China. You can access all available episodes from the China paradigm Youtube page.

Do not hesitate to reach out our project managers at dx@daxue-consulting.com to get all answers to your questions

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