Last weekend, we had a playbook roundtable on sales(mainly B2B) at the Ozonetel systems office in Hyderabad. Aneesh Reddy from Capillary led the RoundTable. The focus of the roundtable was on sales in product companies. This included early stage sales as well as issues faced during scaling sales. A lot of points were covered and the participants were involved in very lively discussions with almost everyone learning something new from the others experience. So without further ado, the following were the main learnings from the roundtable:
1. Sales solves everything. The panacea for all the problems of a startup is sales. Somtimes even a PPT is enough to do sales. This was explained by Aneesh how in their Capillary journey they showcased their to be built product on PPTs to prospective customers and made the sale.
2. Initial sales has to be done by founders. This was universally accepted by all the participants. So every founder has to become a sales person. There is no second way about it. Once you scale to a certain level, you can look at hiring dedicated sales head and building a sales organization.
3. Freemium model does not work too well in India. Get a customer to pay something(maybe even Rs.100). Make the customer also invested in the product. Only then will they give the time necessary for your product and evaluate it properly. Pilots work well, but try to make them paid pilots.
4. In India Push sales work, for outside markets, consultative sales works. In all cases, your sales person should be willing to listen to the customer and understand his pain points.
Payment collection is a big problem for SaaS products. Following up every month for the collections is a full time job. Some pointers to help in this are:
5. Quarterly, Yearly payments. See if you can push your customers to pay quarterly, yearly upfront. Give a discount two sweeten the deal. This is ok as you receive the money up front and you are reducing costs on processing collections.
6. Disconnect services. Most participants agreed that disconnection of service works as a deterrent to the customer. Give enough indications/alerts about the pending disconnection and follow up with a phone call for collecting your payment.
7. List rentals. Aneesh suggested that buying the list of conference participants gave a better RoI than sposoring some event. So identify some good conferences in your domain and buy the participant list from the conference organizers.
8. Attend exhibitions. Exhibitions in well known places like HiTex in Hyderabad gave a lot of leads to the NowFloats team.
9. Subscribe to local magazines. Local magazines are a good source of business listings as all good businesses advertise in local magazines. Build your list by mining this data.
10. Employ a good PR agency. Once you are at some level of scale, it makes sense to employ a PR agency. The PR agencies have good contacts in the media and they will get you good coverage. Though, they may not directly get you leads, they will help in brand recall, hiring and fund raising efforts.
11. Start with a 2-3 member inside sales team. Aneesh was of the strong opinion that inside sales is the way to go for B2B sales in India. Start small and monitor the team closely.
12. Invest and be patient. Sometimes, it takes around 3-4 months for an inside sales team to show some traction. be invested and be patient. Things will slowly pick up.
13. Team composition. One combination could be 1 data collector and 2 tele callers. Try different approaches and see what works best. To get started, you can out source the process, but that may turn out costly.
In the next part we will look at some metrics that will help us monitor sales.