Learnings from “Running Inside Sales for US, from India” – iSPIRT Playbook Roundtable

It is an exciting phase for the Indian SaaS eco-system. There are a lot of companies from India trying to build products for the global market. Some of them have been able to scale to tens of thousands of customers and millions of dollars in revenue. Many others are just getting started or want to step up their game. In both cases, there are trying to figure things out, sort of solving a jigsaw puzzle. Sales is a big part of the puzzle. There are many questions to be answered – how to generate leads, how to sell, whom to sell, how to hire for sales etc.

To get answers to some of these questions and more, iSPIRT organized a playbook roundtable – “Running Inside Sales for US, from India”. It was moderated by Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KiSSFLOW and I was fortunate to be part of it.

Running Inside Sales for US, from India

This blog aims to highlight some of the key learnings from the discussion.

Product-Market fit

This may sound cliched but getting Product-Market fit right is critical before you begin your sales process. Without getting this right you are just shooting in the dark.

Branding and positioning needs to be aligned to what the customer thinks/needs. Customers won’t be thinking the way we are – brand needs to solve that. One way to achieve this is to start by having your product / company name synonymous with what your potential customer is looking for. There are plenty of examples out there – Recruiterbox – Recruitment software, Freshdesk & Zendesk – Help desk software, SalesForce & InsideSalesBox – Sales/CRM software, KiSSFLOW – Workflow management software.

Marketing / Demand generation

Most early stages startups work on an inbound lead generation model. This means, getting SEO right and having a website that looks great & conveys the right message to your prospect is a no-brainer.

One point that came up during the discussion about SEO was content marketing. Invest in building great content for your users and they can prove to be a good source of inbound leads. Also important to remember is the role of distribution of content. No point in having great content if it doesn’t reach the right audience.

Interestingly, Quora was mentioned a good source of leads if answers point to content you have generated.

Other lead generation strategies that were discussed

  • Adwords : important to make a list of primary and secondary keywords and bid for them so that you end up in the first page of search
  • Listing on business app marketplaces – Google Apps, Capterra
  • Outbound lead generation : Some tools to get a database of companies – Discovery.org, DataGuru, Datanyze, Rainking. Use tools like Sendee or Amazon SES for outbound email campaigns to get better open, response rates.
  • Doing Paid webinars at domain specific sites : need significant effort and money.
  • Analyst relations : KiSSFLOW has used Capterra, G2CrowdSource, Gartner and Forrester, TrustRadius. Getting listed is not difficult. Improving ratings needs time and effort

Inside Sales Team Roles

Sales team structure

Before setting up the sales team, it is essential for the founders to map the entire sales process. This sets the tone for the sales team to follow.

Suresh raised an important question – Is your product complex enough to necessitate two roles – SDR & AE.

Sales Development Rep (SDR)

  • Should be good with talking and selling and need to do the bulk of talking and writing to customers
  • Generally have about 300-400 leads to work on and set demos for AEs .
  • Incentives – At KiSSFLOW, it is composite – based on email opens (they have some metrics), completed demos and a small portion of booked revenue.
  • Qualify leads based on multiple factors including no of active sessions, user-base, profile of signed up user etc.

Account Executive (AE)

  • Typical AEs are prior pre-sales guys with ~4 years of experience
  • Have very good product knowledge
  • Important metric for AEs is “Time to first WOW / Magic moment”
  • They typically floor the customer during the demo by spontaneously configuring everything needed during the session itself.
  • Should be able to figure out whether a discount would help close the deal.
  • Generate leads on their own other than leads from SDRs


An interesting suggestion that came up was hiring AIESEC students for sales roles. These students would be foreign nationals visiting India on an exchange programme and are generally available to work for about 6-12 months and would be a good fit.

Some of the companies mentioned, they have a intensive training program to train SDR’s.


Important learning – many make the mistake of making quick decisions when it comes to pricing, and not giving it enough thought. Needs to be very simple, but also needs to be constantly worked and improved.

Tools & Resources

Some of the marketing & sales – tools & resources used by the participant companies

  • LeadSquared : Generate landing pages easily for campaigns
  • Sendee / Amazon SES : For email campaigns
  • Discovery.org, DataGuru, Datanyze, Rainking : Lead database
  • FullStory : Recorded video of user actions/activities. Alternative tool, MouseFlow.
  • Moz : to check SEO ranking
  • Pipedrive, SalesForce : CRM
  • Wappalyzer, BuiltWith – technologies used on website – useful for competitor analysis
  • Guide to marketing & selling in SaaS – A Jump Start Guide To Desk Marketing and Selling For SaaS – thanks iSPIRT for this.

Closing thoughts

It was really a insightful and informative session and a great starting point in Sales for many of us.

Thanks to

  • Amarpreet Kalkat, Frrole & Avinash Raghava, iSPIRT for organizing this round table
  • Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KiSSFLOW for moderating the session
  • Other startup founders for sharing your insights
  • And finally, Sumanth, CEO, Deck App for hosting us and for the sumptuous pizzas, tea and biscuits.
Guest Post by Gautham Sheshadhari, RecruiterBox