The Second 20 Confirmed Batch at #SaaSx5

2 days to go for #SaaSx5 and we are reaching our limits for this year. I had missed a few folks in the first batch of 50 announced, so including them along with  the next 20+ (in no particular order).

  1. 99Tests
  2. Appmaker
  3. Auzmor
  4. Botminds Inc
  5. CallHippo
  6. CIAR Software Solutions
  7. Cogknit Semantics
  8. CustomerSuccessBox
  9. Deck app technologies
  10. GreytHR
  11. Happay
  12. HotelLogix
  13. Indusface
  14. inFeedo
  15. Infurnia
  16. LogiNext
  17. Makesto
  18. Mindship.io
  19. Pepipost
  20. PregBuddy
  21. Recruiterbox
  22. ReferralYogi
  23. Swym

There will be one last list sent out tomorrow of confirmed participants. Really excited about the sessions which are shaping up at #SaaSx5

The First 50 Confirmed Companies at #SaaSx5

We are almost there. Only 3 days for #SaaSx5.

For people who are have attended earlier SaaSx I don’t need to tell this, but for all those who are attending the event for the first time – SaaSx is an informal event for knowledge sharing by SaaSprenuers for SaaSprenuers. This is why we have it on the beach for the last 3 years. 🙂

If you don’t know what this is about, SaaSx5, iSPIRT Foundation flagship event for software entrepreneurs of India, is being held in Chennai on 7, July 2018 (Saturday). SaaSx has been instrumental in shaping Global Software from India in the last 3 years. This year the theme is to help SaaS entrepreneurs setup for growth over the next 1-2 years.

So the first 50 confirmed list #SaaSx5 companies is here. It has been a slog for us going through all the applications we received, especially the initial drive to set extremely fair criteria and process. Listening to feedback from earlier SaaSx this year we decided to allow Founder and +1 (from their leadership team). Having a tag team we believe is extremely helpful to the founders in learning, assimilating and taking it back to their teams. This also meant that given the small limited space we had to be strict in our curation to ensure most SaaS product startups had an opportunity.

By the time this post goes live many other invites will have been sent and confirmed. We will continue to announce the companies finalized as we go along, so they can start preparing for the amazing sessions.

There are still spots, so if you have not registered or confirmed your invite (check your email), please do it quickly.

saasx5

In no particular order, here are the first 50 (based on their confirmations).

  1. 3Five8 Technologies
  2. 930 Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
  3. AceBot
  4. ADDA
  5. Airim
  6. Almabase
  7. Appointy
  8. Artifacia
  9. Artoo
  10. Asteor Software
  11. BlogVault Inc
  12. Bonzai digital
  13. CogniSight
  14. DevSys Embedded Technologies Pvt Ltd.
  15. FactorDaily
  16. FlytBase
  17. FormGet
  18. Fourth Dimension Software Systems India Pvt Ltd.
  19. Fyle
  20. Gaglers Inc
  21. Godb Tech Private Limited
  22. inFeedo
  23. Infilect Technologies Private Limited
  24. InMobi
  25. Inscripts
  26. JKL Technologies
  27. Leadworx
  28. LiveHealth
  29. Lucep
  30. Mindship Technologies
  31. Netcore Solutions
  32. Olivo Inc
  33. Omnify Inc
  34. Playlyfe
  35. Plivo
  36. PushEngage
  37. QueryHome Media Solutions Ind Pvt Ltd.
  38. ReportGarden
  39. Rocketium
  40. ShieldSquare
  41. Siftery
  42. SlickAccount
  43. Stealth
  44. Strings.ai
  45. Syscon Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
  46. Tagalys
  47. United Translogix Pvt Ltd
  48. Vernacular.ai
  49. Waffor Retail Solutions Pvt Ltd.
  50. webMOBI

[Update: Next 20+ also announced]

All confirmed participants will receive further information in their mailboxes.

Looking forward to an amazing #SaaSx5!

Thanks to our many behind the scenes volunteers who have been tirelessly working on getting us this far and continuing on. Thanks to Chirantan & team from Software Suggest for crafting this post.

Enterprise Sales — 101

Recently, Jyothi Bansal published an extremely interesting post titled “Science of Enterprise Software Sales”, where he writes about the journey and the process behind building a world class sales organization. Its a must read for anyone in sales, even more so if run an enterprise software company.

This post is targeted at the enterprise sales rep, based on my 13+ years of enterprise sales experience.

I’ve had the privilege of being the first sales hire at a couple of startups so far in my life [ I was the first sales hire at Capillarytech prior to Qubole ] and have worked with some of the best people in the business. Having spent over 10+ years in enterprise SaaS sales, I wanted to put down my thoughts on what an individual sales rep could do to become successful.


This post is mostly my reflection as the first enterprise sales rep for the APAC market for Qubole, and to set expectations for many others who want to take a jump from being a sales professional at an established company into the startup world. Also, if you are part of a startup sales team but remote, this post can help you prioritise and focus on efforts that can help you become successful.


For someone who wants to get into sales — you might want to check my earlier post on how Sales can be a great life Skill.

Additionally, this could also help help first time founders to help identify the right kind of first sales hire who could potentially become a great sales leader for the company.

Setting Expectations — The founders are typically the first sales people in the company, but once they have a reasonable set of customers (about 20 in my opinion), it’s time to Hire a dedicated person who can step it up and focus on sales only.

Be Hungry: Don’t be foolish.

Don’t expect Spoon feeding. Understand everything about the business.

Unlike large companies, where there is a dedicated plan for Onboarding, early stage companies cannot afford that luxury. In startups, there is no spoon feeding, don’t expect your boss or anyone else come to you to give you info that you need. One needs to be proactive and must know how to get information that will help you make yourself successful.

When I joined Qubole, I had very little knowledge about the Bigdata landscape but thanks to the brilliant engineers at Qubole and spending countless hours in asking questions, I was able to understand the product, underlying technology and also articulate, why anyone with large amounts of data on the cloud should care about Qubole.

Being the first sales hire, you don’t start with a playbook, you have to build a playbook that works for yourself.You have to close very fast, very frequently. You can only do that if you have answers to all the below questions.

1. Identifying the key personas of people who have the pain point

2. Quantify the pain point or the benefit

3. Create need

4. Create urgency

Small consistent steps, leads to big changes in your pipeline.

In my opinion, the best sales professionals have three things in common

1. They are great listeners

2. They are curious and always ask the right kind of questions.

3. They are Disciplined

When you are part of a remote sales team and you are on your own, you don’t have the luxury of learning from your peers or distributing work to other functions.The best way to learn how to sell is by selling.

Unless you are out in the field and talking to prospects and customers, you can never start. Cold calling / emailing is an effective way to gauge how well prepared you are. Sending emails that get you a response is an art and you will get there only after going through the pain.

Protip: writing emails that get noticed.

i. Be Personal and convey why that person should care.

ii. Asking a question usually helps, it brings a certain amount of authencity in wanting to understand more about how they solve a “particular problem” people have in similar industries

iii. Highlight the single most important thing your company is known for and why you should care.

iv. Always talk about low bar to enter, highlight potential risks of non action.

Doing this consistently, I was able to build a pipeline and the next part was to create opportunities from interest.

Un-qualify

The larger the pipeline, the better right. Partly correct. A better way to build is to narrow down the criterion for a prospective customer so you can focus on. While its important to go wide in the quest of an opportunity, its even more important to ask enough to weed out the ones where there is no opportunity for that quarter.

As much as qualification is an important process, quick Unqualificaton is even more important.

At Qubole — We had 5 questions that we asked in the first call that helped us identify whether or not there was an opportunity. The 5 questions helped us qualify the lead (incoming or self created) — It also saved enormous amount of time for us at events / conferences. Yes, to all questions meant that the opportunity was super-hot.

Qubole platform is used by Data Scientists, Data Analysts and Engineers and allowed people with no skills in Bigdata to implement Bigdata in production. It democratized access to data which in English means — Qubole allowed Analysts (with only SQL skill sets) to write queries against massive amounts of data, which was earlier possible only if you  invested heavily in building a bigdata platform in-house or via a vendor.

Try before you buy — Always have a well-defined Proof of Concept / Paid Pilot to make it easy for your customer to decide, but make sure you are in control of the PoC.

It’s very important to define.

i. Expected outcome of the PoC (what is termed as success or failure).

ii. Expected outcome in what timeline.

iii. Who are responsible to sign off for the expected outcome in that timeline?

iv. Assuming it goes well — what is the next step? Who need to be involved and what does it take for that process to happen in parallel ( eg: Legal review, security review

We had 100% closure rate from this step onwards.

Again, highlighting the importance of Unqualificaton as it allowed us to spend enough time on the ones where the probability of closing was a lot higher.

The Close

Your job is not done until the signed document and money in the bank. Right from your first cold email to your followups to the PoC, this is what you have been waiting for.

What’s the cost of getting a Bigdata project into production 3 months earlier than their original date?

This helped us to close the deal as soon as the PoC was done. Keeping a pay as you go model meant that customers always realize the value before they pay –Which was completely opposite for competition.

Pro Tip — De-Risk the deal from the people.

If your talking to only one person in the company and the success of the deal depends on this one person (even if the person is the CEO), the deal at risk.

Get multiple people who are critical for the success of the project (project = deal to be signed) involved. Never talk to just one person in the company.

If you are doing a PoC, get the contracts vetted by the prospects legal team for identifying potential red-lines, you don’t want this to start after the PoC is done. Most legal teams take 7–10 days to get back and they don’t care about your Month end or a Quarter end quotas.

Bad News Early — One of the things I learnt very well and learnt the hard way was to convey Bad news early in the cycle. This allowed me to set expectations with my management well and seek help when people can actually help and not at the last minute when nobody can help you even if they wanted to.

This is not an exhaustive list but a few things that helped me, to hit my numbers quarter on quarter in a completely new market, where we did not have a brand name, where we had to work on creating the need and urgency.

Quit to start again.

After laying the foundation for Qubole Sales outside of US and building a million dollar business under 15 months, I quit to start Fyle along with my longtime friend and co-worker at Qubole, Siva Narayanan.

Its also a great feeling when your former boss blesses your new venture by being an angel.

Thanks Joydeep Sen Sarma, Marcy Campbell, Ashish Thusoo for an incredible opportunity !

Guest Post by Yashwanth Madhusudan, Fyle.

5 email marketing myths you shouldn’t believe…

email-marketing-myths-you-shouldnt-believe

Well, just as any other marketing strategy and methodology is important and it works, the concept of email marketing is equally important. Email marketing is sending emails to a group of subscribers promoting your product or services.

In fact, most marketers don’t realize that email marketing is one of the major components of marketing.

But just as everybody has myths about web marketing, there are a number of myths in email marketing too. If you want to make this strategy flawless, you can consider 5 email marketing myths you shouldn’t believe.

  • If you think unsubscribing is bad for your business, then it is time you think again

Yes, that’s correct. Unsubscribing has a far wider concept than you think. The audience who subscribes aren’t necessarily focused on knowing about your product or services. They may have done it in the spur of the moment or to get the information about your product for their own use.

That does not mean they are going to buy it from you. And unsubscribing speaks volumes. First, not interested and the inactivity of the user are about not being very much indulged in reading what you present them in your emails. And then unsubscribing saves you from the trouble of including them in the list of recipients who never respond or express interest.

  • Email is dead

If you think that emailing has lost its charm, then you are absolutely wrong. There are hundreds and thousands and millions of organizations that are making huge sums of money with email marketing.

In fact, email marketing is a major component of traffic for most websites.

  • The length of the subject should be less than 55 characters

If you think you can make a better and the intriguing subject line that exceeds 55 characters, and then feel free to do so, because content is the KING.

It is true that if you make subjects that are shorter, it will of course result in higher rates of opening, but it is never said that it will also result in higher clicks or higher conversions.

  • The best time for sending emails to subscribers is either the Monday or the Tuesday

Yes, it is true that everybody gets back to work on these days. But that is not necessarily true that the subscribers are more open to reading emails on these days only. There are millions of people who read their mails on everyday basis, no matter if it is a weekday or if it is a weekend. So you make sure that you send them emails on everyday basis. Weekends are the two days where the people get enough time to take a detailed look to their emails.

  • If that you send with a trusted automated responder, there is no reason to worry

Organizations like Aweber, Infusionsoft etc. changed the meaning of how marketing is done. There was a while where you must be uncertain about giving your email address online because you could open the ways to interminable spam. Then, some big email marketing names ventured up and led the pack so you would know whether you hit “Unsubscribe,” you would be allowed to sit unbothered.

These myths are the perfect signs that email marketing isn’t bad and can result in the increase of sales and business in ways you wouldn’t think of.

There are companies all over the world that are experiencing the rise in business with the help of email marketing only. They are consistent in sending emails to their subscribers, draw their attention and ensure that on receiving the subscriber responses will take care of their queries and answering their concerns.

So do not take these myths into account and make your email marketing more effective.

Author – Charlie Robinson

(He is a marketer and interim VP of Marketing of multiple tech companies. He is currently heading marketing at Adling, a digital agency in Cupertino).

 

BPO Talent To Be Groomed For Inside Sales In SaaS India

With ongoing expeditious advancements in communication, social media, cloud, mobility and related technologies – sales is on a continuous path for digital transformation. This is going to place inside sales teams at a strategic position in sales and marketing process, in terms of significance. A shift is being observed from field sales model to inside sales model which is attracting field sales guys towards inside sales jobs. Therefore, the Inside Sales industry is moving towards a revolution worldwide.

Inside Sales Teams to Play a Greater Role in Sales

Inside sales is quite strategic to India’s GDP growth. Indian BPO industry alone contributes 1% of India’s GDP where professionals are majorly involved in B2C processes including inside sales. IT/ITES and software companies have been early adopters of Inside Sales process for B2B leads generation. With digital sales transformation happening for the digitally dependent buyers, the inside sales teams are going to play a greater role in sales process, as more tasks of the marketing and field sales teams have come under the scope of Inside Sales teams.

SaaS India – Early Adopters of Inside Sales Technology

SaaS, Technology and Professional Services companies in the western world are the first ones to acknowledge a digitally connected buyer by adopting Inside Sales Technology. The traditional businesses like manufacturing companies in US are exploring how Inside Sales tech may add value to their sales process.

However, in the Indian market, mainly SaaS industry is at the forefront on trying their hands on advanced Inside Sales Technology for accelerated sales. The others in the technology industry are going to follow this trend in near future in India. Traditional industries are going to take some time to change their sales processes as their buyers are slowly becoming internet savvy for business purchases.

Inside Sales to Play Significant Role in SaaS India

As per Google Accel SaaS Report 2016 – SaaS India is expected to grow to $50 billion in next 10 years while Indian SMB SaaS is expected to rise from current $600 million to $10 billion in the said period.

SaaS_projection.png

Source: Google Accel Report – SaaS India, Global SMB Market, $50B in 2025

SaaS industry has a strong need for inside sales professionals. As per the report, strong workforce in the BPO sector gives access to talent pool of around 6,20,000 Inside Sales professionals, out of which 1,20,000 are inside sales ready and 5,00,000 are skill ready.

Workforce-1.png

Source: Google Accel Report – SaaS India, Global SMB Market, $50B in 2025

I personally believe that 6,20,000 from the BPO sector, who are assessed as ready for SaaS as per report, need to be groomed for making them sales skill ready as only telecalling skills don’t make a professional acceptable for Sales Development Rep’s role in SaaS Sales.

Inside Sales Talent – A Key Challenge for SaaS India  

SDRs are expected to understand the Sales Processes. They should have the knack of using Inside Sales Tools like Social Media, Email, Phone, CRM and other smart selling tools. The working environment of B2B Inside Sales teams is significantly different from BPO scenario, where the reps are much more controlled, the jobs are temporary, the performance metrics are more around calls numbers and talk time, the customer engagements are very short lived, and end consumers are served with products & services.

This vast difference would require a complete psychological shift in the skills of a BPO professional who aspires to work in the SaaS sales space. They would need to be trained on Inside Sales function from scratch to be helpful, empathetic, B2B marketing and sales process oriented, B2B product/services domain expert, and digital sales intensive to successfully become an SDR. SDR will progress to become an account executive with quota around end closures and finally managing SDRs.

Aspirants looking to fill Inside Sales Talent Gap

There is a need to align the professionals by training for B2B Inside Sales function to serve the evolving SaaS industry in India.

I am associated with AA-ISP, American Association of Inside Sales Professionals as the President for India Chapter. The mission of AA-ISP is to advance the profession of Inside Sales. AA-ISP Gurgaon and Noida Chapter is supported by Inside Sales Box to create an ecosystem for Inside Sales professionals for businesses.

If you are a BPO/ Inside Sales/ Marketing and Sales professional or a Technology Entrepreneur, who is aspiring to stay abreast with best IS practices, discover digital sales tools & technologies, and explore jobs and business opportunities locally and globally – I welcome you to be a part of AA-ISP India.

Kamal Rajini Analogy : Entrepreneur vs Intrapreneurs

RajiniKamal

 

There is heavy pressure in our industry for everyone to get on the train of entrepreneurship or startup, startup mode is on, Govt is supporting this, communities are on it, and now even banks are starting fund startup. This is all great news.

But should everyone having a entrepreneurial spirit, become an Entrepreneur?

Not necessarily. Many prefer to be, but different circumstances in career, money , family and culture make them not venture into that. So whats the option for them.

Here is where I would like to introduce my Kamal and Rajini analogy. I am sure most of you know about these cinema stalwarts from south india. They both had a completely different style and both were successful in their own way

Kamal , the startup guy – Entrepreneur :  Kamal Hassan always tried like a startup guy, tried new things, ventured into unexplored territories, ahead of times, reinvested most of earnings in his movies, and his movies (product) appealed to a certain set of audience (market). Lot of his movies were commercial failures when they were made , but when you go back and watch them after several years, they are gems. He is like Jeff Bezos, not caring about short term, about profits, but only the long term impact his movies creates.

Rajini, the commercial superstar – Intrepreneur : Rajinikanth on the other hand mostly went for the trusted entertainers, big banner , big investment movies, he built his unique differentiation with punch dialogues, style and tricks, and many movie themes were already successful themes elsewhere. He partnered with big cinema houses who would bank on him for delivering what the audience wants, a mass market. Most of his movies were commercial hits.

Having provided this analogy, I often can relate to each of us, with an entrepreneurial spirit, mostly falling into a bucket of Kamal Hassan or Rajinikanth – and we can learn from how these personalities carved their path to success for so many decades.

While most of us have lot of understanding on the Entrepreneur part, I thought of spending more time in Intreprenuer journey. How do you identify them.

In a Forbes article, its nicely highlighted as “those highly valuable executives and team members who will perhaps never become a company founder, but who have learned to apply the essential principles of entrepreneurship to the roles they fill within a company.”

 

Understand Money : Intrapreneurs -while do not put in their money into the business, they think like its their own business, and strive to make every rupee or dollar count. Often they are the pillars for success of the company. Also they expect to be rewarded well for this

Idea mongers – Greeehousing : Intraprenuers are often thinking like owners when trying to carry the ideas forward, the ideas never goes away from them, they make sure that they can deliver on them or bring in the plan /action to do it

Into the future : Intraprenuers are forward thinkers, thinking what’s next, not satisfied with what is today. They are someone the founders and leaders love to brainstorm and take guidance for investing.

Disruptive thinking : Intrapreneurs are out of box thinkers, often challenge the conventional wisdom, often carve out the next course of investment

Don’t miss these great articles on Intreprenuers in Forbes and HBR from where I picked some of the attributes.

So in conclusion, Stay happy as an Intrapreneur – you have lot of company – and if you are the owner, please take care of your Intraprenuers  – and think about success of Rajinikanth 🙂

rajiniKamal1

Selling tips from America’s greatest salesman – Elmer Wheeler

In this article, we see about some of the proven selling techniques developed and adopted by Elmer Wheeler and how it has been applied in selling various goods. The techniques mentioned here are referred from Elmer Wheeler’s book titled ‘Tested sentences that sell’. Mr. Wheeler’s purpose in this book to help the salesman by showing him how to add powerful sales words and techniques so that he will always have complete command over any selling situation. The insights he shares and describes are the result of his 10 year study of and thinking about what successful salesmen, of all kinds are saying and doing to make more sales. The rules shared here are based on ‘5 Wheelerpoints’; it is explained to you in relation to whatever you are selling.

5 Wheelerpoints are

  1. Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle.
  2. Don’t write – Telegraph
  3. Say it with Flowers
  4. Don’t ask if – ask which!
  5. Watch your bark!

Don’t sell the steak – sell the sizzle

The ‘sizzle’ is the biggest selling point in your proposition. The main reasons why your potential customers will want to buy your product. The sizzling of the steak starts the sale more than the cow ever did, though cow is very necessary.

For example, the insurance man sells protection, not cost per week. The vacuum cleaner salesman sells ‘less backache’ not price. He sells comfort not the motor.

While selling the sizzles, use ‘You-ability’ i.e. the ability to get on to the other side of the fence and see your product through the eyes of the customer. You-ability is the ability to say ‘You’ and not ‘I’ in the order that the customer considers important.

TIP: Sell the big reasons called ‘sizzles’ with the You-ability in mind.

Don’t write – Telegraph

Get your potential customers immediate and favorable attention with fewest possible words. Mr. Wheeler says if you don’t make your first message ‘click’, the prospect will leave you mentally, if not physically. Because, people form ‘snap judgments’. They make-up their opinions about you in the first ten seconds. So, use the 10 seconds telegram to attract your prospects. In the case of vacuum cleaners, follow the below phrases.

  1. The grit removers take out your dirt you never you had
  2. You may forget to clean the bag, but the time-to-empty signal won’t forget to remind you

TIP: First 10 words are more important than the next ten thousand.

Say it with flowers

Say it with flowers means prove your statement with the physical object or with your product. The flowers in the right hand as he proposes, tell her more than the mere words from his lips.

  1. In the case of vacuum cleaner, run the cleaner under table, point a dirt finder, turn switch on and off to dramatize the light and say ‘it sees where to clean – and it’s clean where it’s been’.
  2. Push the cleaner away from you, maintaining your hold on the cord. Then pull it back to you, saying ‘it has ball bearing action – a child can move it’.

TIP: Use ‘Showmanship’.

Don’t ask if… ask which

It means frame your words (especially at close) so that you give the prospect a choice between something and something; never something and nothing.

Do not be a ‘how about it’ salesman or ‘would you be interested in’ or ‘could you afford the better priced one?’ salesman. Because these questions won’t get the reply you want. Eliminate these from your vocabulary. Being a question mark instead of an exclamation mark salesman is an important difference between a winner and a loser in salesmanship. Perhaps, these are the winning statements.

  1. Which of these do you prefer?
  2. How do you prefer paying, weekly or monthly?
  • Where do you plan on using it, here or over there?

TIP: Ask the right questions that get you the answers you want.

Watch your bark!

The last point in 5 Wheelerpoints is ‘Watch your bark’. That is, your voice is the carrier of your message. How much your sales words will succeed or fail depends on the delivery of your message.

The finest sizzle that you telegraph in 10 words in 10 seconds, with a huge bouquet of flowers and lot of which, where and how flops if the voice is flat.

Smile when you say these

  1. This will shorten your cleaning time by hours.
  2. You have only one back – one life to live.

TIP: If you fail to smile, you are signalling the prospect to beware. But don’t be ever insincere.

The above mentioned 5 Wheelerpoints are applied in some products or advertisements which use and see in our day to day life. You may observe these in telebuy shopping.

  1. Orbitrek elite
  2. Ervamatin
  3. Tablemate
  4. Super ladder
  5. Ceramicore ladder
  6. Sewing genie – portable.
  7. Smart mob
  8. Roti queen
  9. No no oil dosa
  10. Super dicer pro.

Guest Post by R Ragavendra Prasath, a volunteer for iSPIRT. An avid reader, wannabe entrepreneur and chocolate enthusiast…! He tweets @ragavendra1

Tête-à-tête with Ram Shriram

A mentor and guide to many, Ram Shriram, managing partner at Sherpalo Ventures and one of the first investors at Google, addressed a rapt audience last week at the Bangalore office of [24]7.  Opening the hour long session with his reaction to the start up scene in India, Ram Shriram applauded the dynamic vibe of the IT capital of the country, even as he lamented the lack of infrastructure and the paucity of good Universities to channel the talent of the nation.
A few snippets from the conference for those who missed it.

Does Mobile Only strategy point to lack of Design Thinking?

The runaway success of Indian e-commerce show is driven by the single biggest attraction of hefty discounts available almost on all products! More than any other value proposition of e-commerce such as more choices, convenience, 24×7 availability, payment options and faster deliveries, the Indian customer was lured to e-commerce by the sheer scope for discounts she would not get elsewhere! The intense competition over market share among the e-commerce players ensured that there is always a counter offer for any blockbuster offer from one player. The eternal discount chasing customer is smart enough to sense this opportunity to compare prices of every item on offer with other vendors and settle on the maximum discount offer. While this was the modus operandi of the average online buyer, e-commerce players were sweating out on how to better their offer by attempting to do enormous scales that would only push their quest for profitability farther and farther.

Gme Changer or - Image_1As the dog fight continues to grab market share, e-commerce players are trying to outdo one another by introducing newer business models and innovations; the latest being Mobile Only format. Though there have been many successful experiments that defined the online buying culture in India such as Cash on Delivery, easy hassle free returns and EMIs, the latest experiment’s success is not pronounced yet, while many of the digital enthusiasts are upbeat about it.

Sorry, Mobile Only -Image_2Here comes the Mobile Only strategy!  While all the arguments for Mobile Only strategy evangelize the potential of the native app technology and innumerable values it promises to the marketer, an honest assessment of the anticipated compromises on the side of the customer is yet to come i.e what possibilities it takes away from the customer in order to cut short longer sales cycle.  Ironically, the deterrents for marketers to sell more are also the very value drivers for the consumers to buy more!

What is undisclosed about the real motive behind the Mobile Only strategy? Is it just Customer apathy?

During the years Indian e-commerce players took their baby steps to entice the buyers, this space also spawned innumerable deal aggregators and price comparison sites in empowering the value hunting customer to gleefully snap the best deals in the online space because of customer’s sheer capability to compare and choose across multiple vendors offering products of same specification. While online customers enjoyed this newfound freedom and capability, e-commerce players dreaded this unfettered nature of competition. This had made e-commerce players’ life a nightmare and the only possibility to woo customers was to settle for lowest price and provide faster delivery – both demanded extreme back-end efficiency and truckloads of money to operate at wafer thin margins; if not at loss.  Every e-commerce vendor had been eagerly looking for an effective way to fortify his customer from being weaned away by a better offer from competition. In these circumstances some enthusiasts find the Mobile Only format a perfect antidote for limiting customer’s newfound capability.   Lets look at how the Mobile Only format plays out!

  • In a Mobile Only format, the ease and speed of operation make the customer blind to the loss of the market options- i.e. to compare and weigh the market offers and to arrive at his maximum discounted vendor decision!
  • Deprived of option to compare the customer would be less confused about product choices with other competing products – the bliss every marketer longs for.
  • Customer decision cycle will be relatively short and quick compared to an open market situation like many players offering competing and comparable products as in the case of web.

Thus, effectively marketers are trying to cage customers to the controlled environment of their app and subtly cut off customer from the open market and invisibly condition and constrict his buying behavior for the benefit of the marketer, hoping that customer would fall in place as per their design!

However, what boggles the mind is the unpredictability as to how the customer would react to this stealth move by marketers!

The Mobile Only format yet to sink into the customer mind!

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The inevitability of Mobile Only customer experience

Despite all hype around personalized content spiced with data analytics, the user experience remains the single largest bottleneck for going Mobile Only format. A large section of online users, especially those who have access to PC still consider viewing the products on large screens and doing one’s own market study before placing orders. A lot of online buying is driven by such consumer behavior born out of web format capability, but this turns out to be a huge challenge in Mobile Only format as SEOs are still at nascent levels in indexing app pages effectively to provide actionable comparison. Moreover for the user it becomes quite tricky to compare different sites considering the smaller screen of mobile device, while for the marketer app based approach opens up plethora of possibilities. That brings us to the cross roads in deciding how to navigate between marketer opportunities versus customer centricity?

The behavioral profile of online buyer and the Mobile Only format – a case of mismatch?

  • One of the main characteristics of online buyer is his appetite for best deals with maximum discounts available across vendors.
  • He also derives satisfaction that the deal is actually the best by comparing it with other offers. Therefore he is a value hunter and much less brand loyal.
  • Similarly, the app only promotions may not entice the buyer as buyer may feel the buying experience to be incomplete without going through this essential buying process or may remain non impulsive to respond to a targeted notification in the app.
  • The idea of enhancing personalized buying experience and brand building may be misplaced here, as there is a mismatch between vendor offering and customer expectation.
  • Majority of the mobile Internet users have been using online buying just recently and are yet to realize the compromises they have to make while on a Mobile Only format. Eventually they would conclude that the benefits of web may outweigh those of the Mobile format.
  • When the buyer realizes that marketers are effectively limiting the possibilities of the buyer, the disenchantment may lead to a lot of anguish in the minds of customer and eventually she may look beyond Mobile format.

While we have so much pointers to customers’ buying process already on the table, a complete disregard to customer behavior and expectation will have serious implications in winning a pie from the increasingly discretionary customer participation. On the one hand all the leading e-commerce players claim that 70% to 80% of their total orders come through their mobile platform; on the other hand they admit that 25% of these orders are originally discovered in PC platform and the mobile platform was used only at the clinching stage of order execution. Hence ignoring this huge market will be destroying the value they have hopefully awaited over the years.

Thus, only time will unfold whether Mobile Only format is a game changer in delivering value or a big value destroyer? The early reports suggest that Myntra had mixed response to their app only strategy. Interestingly Myntra’s parent Flipkart has put on hold Flipkart’s app only format originally scheduled from 1 September 2015. In the just concluded Big Billion Day sale in October 2015, Flipkart continued the web format and was heavily promoting the app platform by offering app exclusive launches and additional discounts on app based purchases indicating that despite all the best efforts to push consumers to app only format there is considerable volume coming from web format and marketers cannot ignore consumer preferences.

Going by Flipkart’s main competitor Snapdeal’s founder & CEO Kunal Bahl’s admission, Myntra’s app only strategy has greatly helped Snapdeal’s fashion business ever since Myntra shut down the website from May 15, 2015.   Is Myntra’s case a straw in the wind vis-a-vis the Mobile Only strategy? Industry is watching this space very keenly for more signals!

If Mobile Only is overkill, what is the right balance?

Given the growth of Indian Internet users at YoY growth rate of 32%, the 375 million users (as per IAMAI November 2015) augur well for e-commerce players. More than 60% of these 375 million users are mobile Internet users and the share of mobile Internet users are set to grow at faster rate given the continuous reduction in smart phone prices and more and more 3G & 4G network availability. Apparently, this paradigm shift in net access point very much endorses the idea of going Mobile First strategy. However the Mobile Only strategy is self-inflicting to all categories of products especially for high involvement category products. Categories those are low involvement and completely transaction based and used frequently such as taxi hailing services, bill payment services, travel booking sites, event ticket booking and restaurant services may have a case to go Mobile Only at the risk of losing a small portion of their business, as even those category demands multi channel access points simply because of heterogeneous customer behavior.

Mobile Only, does it sound lack of Design Thinking?

According to IDEO’s President and CEO; “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Where does Mobile Only falls short in integrating needs of consumer and requirements of business with possibilities of technology?

Understand your customer really well: There are many reasons cited for going Mobile Only such as better maintainability, cost savings, huge data mining capability which in turn can power data analytics driven marketing functions like greater segmentation, contextual targeting, user engagement and rapid personalization at scale. While all these are the possibilities for the marketer to embrace the new format, the same possibilities turns out to negate the possibilities of the consumer that is essential for a sustainable growth of ecommerce category. Mobile Only enthusiasts seems to be missing the plot by ignoring customer decision journeys to understand what motivates people and what puts them off and apparently loses opportunities for creating delightful experiences.

Empathize your customer with customer advocacy: While more and more businesses are waking up to the real world business need of ‘empathy’ mapping by putting the customer at the center of problem solving equation, the Mobile Only format looks highly skewed towards the marketer. Apparently we are still not finding a holistic reason for Mobile Only format apart from the ulterior motive of customer confinement, rather born out of customer apathy or total disregard for customer preferences. Building this wide gap requires rallying customer advocacy and customer centric empathy across all functions of business to deliver value and keep customer experience as the most important metric.

Device Option- Image 4Design to delight: Instead of Mobile only format, to fully capitalize rapidly growing net users the e-commerce players should repurpose all the touch points rather than limiting to only mobile touch points. Marketers should offer all options of net access points including web along with mobile, with all screen options and continuously reexamine the new touch points of value creation.

It is very important to explore all the digital channels for effective customer outreach when we are talking about bringing in all the 375 million net users to meaningful online purchases. A deep understanding of customer experience across all channels is just the starting block of the long process. To assume that customer’s interaction with a brand can be effectively managed only through an app (in an app only ecosystem as envisioned by Mobile Only enthusiasts) seems like an incomprehensive view as customers preference to multiple digital channels such as web & mobile advertising, email, search engines, social media and video are increasingly playing a decisive role in customers decision journey.   To capture the multiple touch points of customer interactions every e-commerce company should aspire to capture a comprehensive view of its customers, by implementing mature systems for collecting and organizing those deep insights. It is all the more important for ecommerce vendors of high involvement categories to provide a feel of the product through multiple and large visual interactions that is closer to actual physical experience to reassure the expectations of the product to user. Such affirmative and inclusive measures would increase the adoption of ecommerce at even faster rate.

The need is to remain attuned to customer decision journeys and understand how to use new capabilities to serve customers better. This is possible when marketers prioritize to understand each step of customer’s purchasing journey and design and deliver best experience across all formats. Every marketer’s goal should be to continuously discover efficient frontiers of value delivery without undermining superior user experience essential for occupying the numero uno position in customers’ mind space.

The #PNgrowth #OneThing Series – Mohit Gundecha, CEO of Jombay

When we as a ecosystem try to help our entrepreneurs, we make the mistake of always focussing on the mistakes others have made, and trying to steer away from those. This is evident even from the stuff we write on blogs and platforms with the specific purpose of helping others.

Maybe it’s time we step away from that.

In this new blog Series from #PNgrowth, we are going the other way. We are going to publish a series of posts on what we call the #OneThing. Our best product people will be asked a simple question – what is the one thing that worked best for you when you were trying to scale your company? These answers will be insightful partly as success stories and partly as guides for other startups looking to scale. In the second blog of the series, we talk to Mohit Gundecha, CEO of Pune based Jombay, the hiring portal that uses psychometry science and analytics to find the perfect fit for a job profile.

Mohit Gundecha, CEO of Jombay

Jombay is one of the cooler startups in recent years. With psychometry and associated analytics growing more powerful and insightful in the last few years, there is tremendous interest in these areas. Jombay has ridden high on this with a super-cool tool that is already working for organisations like Citibank, Nestle and Reliance Capital.

When I talked to Mohit, he was in the middle of several other calls, but graciously talked to me, taking his time to explain what he thought was the one thing that worked for them. This turned out to be quite similar to Subrat’s answer in Part 1 of this series

The difference, though, was in the phrasing, and in effect, critical.

Mohit’s answer wasn’t content marketing or something as specific as a particular blog. It was ‘thought leadership’.

If we go to Mohit’s LinkedIn profile, we have a series of posts that span an arc around his company and his interests – mainly around HR and employee culture and hiring and retaining employees and so on. Sharing his thoughts about relevant topics and what he is most passionate about has assured him a devoted following, some of them pretty important influencers themselves. People from his now 30-people strong team write too, and this deliberate attempt has paid off handsomely. Mohit’s articles have been picked up by newspapers and magazines, assuring constant media attention and several interviews, all of which has helped the company gain customers by way of recognition and of course, to attract major talent.

“It is LinkedIn which has been the most important channel for us,” says Mohit. This is understandable in hindsight, as Jombay is first and foremost a hiring portal, but for Mohit and his team to get this insight and execute on it is truly admirable.

There are several kinds of content/inbound marketing, and identifying which kind and what channel works best for your organisation is as important as creating great content.

About #PNgrowth

PNgrowth is a year long mentorship program with some of India’s top product people and founders, with learning sessions and curriculum prepared in collaboration with the universities of Stanford, Harvard and Duke. Content marketing will be one of the major areas being covered, as will all the other points our #PNgrowth series will highlight. 

Nominate your Startup here (Apply before 15th November)

What the Uber-Lyft war teaches us about success and failure in the on-demand economy

This article is based on the book Platform Scale, written by Sangeet Paul Choudary. Platform Scale is available for free download for a limited period between October 5th and October 9th. To access additional bonus content, check the book website here.

The on-demand economy is bringing together technology and freelance workers, to deliver us services in exciting new ways. We are increasingly using our cell phones as a remote control for the real world.

Every week, we see a new platform come up that connects consumers with freelance labor. New companies are forming in almost every service vertical. But not all these companies clearly understand what determines success and failure of on-demand business models.

Success in the On-demand economy

There are two critical factors that will determine the success of a company in the on-demand economy: multihoming costs and interaction failure.

MULTIHOMING COSTS

In computer networking parlance, mutihoming refers to a computer or device connected to more than one computer network. In the world of platforms, this notion is an important one. If your producers and/or consumers can co-exist on multiple platforms, you face a constant competitive threat. Eventually, it may be difficult for clear winners to easily emerge.

Multihoming costs are relatively high for developers to co-develop for both Android and iOS. Multihoming costs are high for consumers also because of the cost of mobile phones. Most consumers will own only one. However, multihoming costs for drivers to co-exist on Uber and Lyft are relatively low. Most drivers participate on both platforms. Given the ease of booking rides, multi-homing costs are very low on the consumer side as well.

In a previous article on TechCrunch, I had elaborated in detail how multi-homing could be prevented by creating long-term stored value within the platform.

For on-demand platforms, this is important because multihoming allows producers (service providers) to co-exist on multiple platforms. With a limited supply of service providers available, this can lead to interaction failure.

INTERACTION FAILURE

Interaction failure happens when the producer or consumer (or both) participate(s) in an interaction, without the interaction reaching its logical, desired conclusion. Imagine a merchant setting up a listing on Ebay that never gets any traction, or a video enthusiast uploading a video on YouTube that fails to get a minimum number of views. Quite often, these outcomes could be the result of poor quality listings or videos, but they could also be owing to the platform’s inability to find the right matches. Producers and consumers who experience interaction failure get discouraged from participating further and abandon the platform.

If reverse network effects set in, this can eventually lead to an implosion of a platform. In the initial days, interaction failure regularly leads to the chicken and egg problem. To understand these phenomena better and how they could impact your platform, I’d recommend this post on reverse network effects and this one on the chicken and egg problem.

Bringing it together – The Uber-Lyft war

Interaction failure is especially important for on-demand platforms. Imagine a consumer requesting for a service and the service never arriving. Imagine, in turn, a producer receiving a request, preparing to fulfill that request, only to find that the request gets cancelled. In both cases, the consumer or the producer may decide to abandon the platform.

This is exactly what Uber had in mind when it waged its war on Lyft. Unethical as that was, I’d like to focus on that to glean lessons for building the next Uber for X.

In some of the largest cities we see drivers drive for both Uber and Lyft, and other competitors. It’s not uncommon for these drivers to switch between the two platforms multiple times a day. With a limited supply of drivers in a city and the cost for a driver to connect to an additional platform so small, we see drivers multihoming on both Uber and Lyft. This has naturally led to intense competition between the two companies and Uber infamously resorted to a playbook to create interaction failure on Lyft using questionable tactics.

Uber decided to target interaction failure on Lyft, by contracting third party employees to use disposable phones to hail Lyft taxies. Before the Lyft taxi arrived at its pickup location, the Uber contracted employee would cancel the ride. With so many cancelations on the Lyft platform, drivers would become frustrated driving for Lyft and, in some cases, switch over to Uber. Lower drivers would lead to further frustration for consumers as they would have to wait longer for their requests for cabs to be fulfilled, eventually spurring them to abandon the platform. This loop is illustrated below.

When multihoming costs are low, producers and consumers will connect to many platforms. With multiple platforms sharing the same producers and consumers, it is difficult for a business to build defensible networks. Thus, it is difficult for a clear winner to emerge in the market. With many platforms operating and defensibility low, interaction failure becomes a key factor in determining long-term winners.

What does this mean for you?

SangeetpaulblogIf you’re building the Uber for X, you need to ensure that you’re tracking a metric that helps you determine the degree of interaction failure on your platform. Freelancers that don’t get business within X days, requests that don’t get satisfied within Y minutes, may all be indicative of interaction failure. The exact measure of interaction failure will vary by platform and the importance of tracking interaction failure will, in turn, depend on the multihoming costs.

About the author: Sangeet Paul Choudary is the author of the book Platform Scale, available for free download for a limited period between October 5th and October 9th. He also writes the blog Platform Thinking.

The Secret Sauce Of Networking Success

On a page of the daily, I saw Mr. Obama shaking hands with a young man at the back of a handful of fans hammering into the president. The young man seemed to be at a height of euphoria and the president almost being dragged by his securities away from the crowd. Pragmatically, there is no correlation between sales and a presidential Campaign, but the image made me think of the essence of successful networking. The American president has certainly nothing much to do with a “Metal Freak” looking young man at his twenties, but he took the pain to be dragged by his bodyguards just to shake his hands!

Approach is the Essence

Approach

What approach to take?

Your approach is the basics of networking because it is what that determines how you network. Your aim is not just to make the sale; your aim is to build a relationship — this must be the central theme of your approach to networking. It is the mindset most appropriate to formulate a plan of action, which is the blue print of successful networking. Adopting this mindset will shape up the businessperson in you, while focusing only on short term goals will make you just another “Street-Smart” sales man.

Do not Dismiss Anyone as Unimportant

With a holistic approach towards your responsibility, enlarge your circle of influence. Consider your clients not by what their position is, but by who they are. The best way to attain this is to realize that: You do not know much about them. Therefore, you need to approach every person who can be contacted. Networking is more than a point-to-point connection; it is a Relationship Cloud of accumulated information. Taking with people offers a vantage to reach other potential buyers on their network, even if they themselves might not be interested.

Creating Demand

creating demand

People need you. But do they know how helpful you could be to them?

Creating your demand when you have none is the key to build contextual relationships. I call it Contextual because networking is driven by objective; else, it would be just seeking help from friends. Demand is created by offering something, which is needed by your counterpart. Therefore, before trying to get something from the person, try to give him something that they value. Find out the ways you can be of help to them, there will be just no way to deny your proposal. Asking, “How can I help you?” before closing any deal results in surprising outcomes. Successful Networkers offers more than they receive.

Attitude Matters a Lot!

Emotional intelligence plays a major role in any business relationship. Being emotionally intelligent is about how much you value your client. Offer genuine answers to every question of your client and make transparency your benchmark.

This creates trust, which itself is a “feel good” factor. Your attitude and behavior are the parameters that determine the perceptions about your personality. Be generous and kind, always maintaining a persuasive but mild tone. Be more open, friendly and honest.

In a nutshell, to be successful in networking, one must know how to grow a relationship and build a self brand through your business interaction. A sales person must be such that people just cannot deny what he or she brings. After all, selling starts from building successful relationships.

Guest Post by Ajay Chauhan, co-founder, Salezshark inc.

Startups!! Do You Know Your Customers Well?

A business exists only till the time it has paying customers. The day your customers cease to exist, or have no reason to pay you for your products or services, your business is in deep trouble. So, if we consider all the stake holders in a corporate, an i.e. employee, executive management, investors and customers, the customer is the most important. Now the chances are that you know all other stake holders reasonably well due to daily interactions in the office or board meetings. The question is that do you know your customer well? If not, what can you do to know them well?

Especially important for a startup to know, as his starting up, sustainability and scaling up are directly dependant on the customer !

There are several stages of knowing one’s customer. What business they are in and which industry they belong to are the easier ones. The more challenging aspects are:

  • Who are your customer’s competitors in the industry? What are the competitor’s differentiators vis-a-vis what your customer is offering?
  • What is their vision of the industry that they are a part of? Where do they think the industry will be in 2 years and 5 years from now?
  • What is preventing your customer to secure a larger market share in their industry?
  • Who is your customer selling to, i.e. your customer’s customer. (By the way, this is the end customer from your perspective). What is his ask? In which industry is he sitting and how’s that evolving?
  • How is your customer’s roadmap evolving with respect to the developments in the end customer’s industry? Are the two aligned or are they diverging? If they are aligned, you are in good shape but if they are diverging, you may go out of business because your customer will go out of business.

To summarize, knowing your customer is a three-tier process: I) knowing the immediate (paying) customer, II) knowing your customer’s industry and its trends and III) knowing the end customer’s (your customer’s customer) industry and how it is evolving?

The problem is that in most of the organizations sales owns the customer and acts as a heavy-handed gatekeeper for any and all customer interactions. Since sales is transactional by its very nature, knowing the customer stops at the very first step of knowing who is making the purchase decision, who will issue the purchase order and release payment. Mostly knowing the customer stops here! Unfortunately, none of these guys can give you long term visibility into the customer’s business which is so essential for long term sustainability of your own organization.

What you need is a three-tier customer relationship, each focusing on one aspect of knowing the customer.

Starts with sales at step (I) where a relationship is built around a transaction and customer organization is mapped.

Then your product manager (for products) or domain expert (for services) has to focus on step (II), i.e. reach-out to its peer at customer’s end and engage him on a product and industry-centric discussion.

The common pitfall here is that product managers tend to get far more engineering (inside) focused in delivery. Their external interaction is mostly limited conferences and exhibitions to collect generic inputs about the industry. They really don’t spend enough face time with their customers directly to get to know customer’s industry, competitors and the customers’ customer industry. Most of the time they depend upon sales to provide the inputs against questions (a)-(c) above, but that’s a wrong expectation. It will never happen.

Now coming to step (III), i.e. knowing your customers’ customer industry. This is where a free exchange of ideas at the executive level starts to matter. The CTO/CEO of your company has to engage his peers at the customer’s end (could be CTO/CEO or BU head) and understand the industry trends. Your executive management needs to collect this information from threads picked across all of their key customers and then make a sound call on how they expect the very end customer (customers’ customer) to evolve. It has to be more than a gut feeling or some internet-based research. Their assessment has to be based on hard data collected from discussions done with your customers.

Once you have a sense of changes in end customer’s industry, address the question (e) above, i.e. is your customer helping to shape the industry or is he trying hard to catch-up? Once you know which customer is sitting in which bucket, you know what to do for your own long term growth and survivability.

Unfortunately, what happens in CXO-CXO meetings is that it gets limited to resolution of tactical issues which couldn’t be resolved at lower levels like price, contract legality, delivery issues etc. It rarely goes outside of this sphere, of never-ending business issues and any discussion to get a deep understanding of their future gets sidelined. In turn, your future gets compromised as it is directly dependent on your customer’s future!

Everything starts with the customer – June Martin

Gues post by Suresh Kabra – Founder, PriceMap

What is a good sales target for a sales person in SaaS in India?

Unfortunately there is no fixed answer. Problem with SaaS is that there are too many moving variables. LTV,Churn,ARR,ARPU etc. So its really hard to come up with one fixed number. So based on our experience and our product the following is a number we have come up with to set targets for our sales organization.

0.8x(x is the sales person’s salary)

So, a sales person should pull in 0.8x worth of MRR every month. Or 9.6x worth of annual contract values every month. This is the number from which they start getting incentives.So for example a sales rep getting around 18 lakhs salary should pull in around Rs.1,20,000 MRR every month. If he pulls in 30,000 MRR(0.2X) he will be just covering his base salary. If he pulls in 75,000(0.5X) he will be covering the organization costs. And only if he pulls in anything above that will the company move towards profitability. And only when the company is profitable will the sales get an incentive.

Obviously there are a lot of assumptions made to arrive at this number. We are assuming the LTV to be around a year and churn is also very low. You can find a spreadsheet with some numbers here. You can modify the variables to fit for your organization.Just open SaaS Sales Targets and play around with the values to see the numbers. You can also download it and modify it as you see fit.

Since we started a sales organization a couple of years ago we have been experimenting with different variables and this is a good rule of thumb to follow for setting sales targets. Please comment on what your experience has been. Is our model too tough on sales guys or too easy. Hopefully we can all come out with a comprehensive model for sales in SaaS in India.