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
  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.


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
  45. Syscon Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
  46. Tagalys
  47. United Translogix Pvt Ltd
  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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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

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


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.

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.

How to move from “selling through my network” to “building a sales process”? #entrepreneurSales

MANHATTAN (2)Most every entrepreneur does things initially that don’t scale, and that’s okay to start. Pretty soon they realize that the things that made them successful enough to get initial sales and customers wont work for them to reach the next level at their startup.

One of the most frustrating things for the entrepreneur is when they run out of folks “in the network” who they can sell to. After having sold to their ex colleagues, friends, etc., their network dries up. No longer is it possible to sell via the network to sustain the growth.

That’s when they realize they have to build a sustainable sales process and organization to grow the business and increase revenues.

They then encounter 3 most frustrating things as they try to recruit sales people, define the sales process and grow their sales muscle.

1. How to hire the right sales people who are motivated by commissions alone? 

First, realize that the market tends to be fairly well balanced. It follows consistent demand and supply constraints. Most good sales people have many folks chasing them to work in their company, similar to good engineers. If you wont expect an engineer to work for stock options alone, then expecting a sales person to work for commission alone is something you should be able to relate to.

The problem I hear from many entrepreneurs is that they are unable to determine if the sales person would actually close any deals, so they are unwilling to make a commitment to the sales person. Well, that’s the chicken and egg problem for sure, which means that person who’s more in demand will not make the compromises. Most likely, you the entrepreneur will end up finding some small amount of money to pay as base salary to give the sales person a start to get going. The best sales people are smart about risk and reward. If they see the opportunity to make more money by forgoing their base salary but get a much higher commission, they will.

2. How do they share the details of the “sales process” that they have perfected with the nuances that make the new sales people successful quickly?

As an entrepreneur and the initial sales person, you understand the sales process for your product the best. You have likely sold to many potential prospects and have addressed many objections and handled the toughest questions. So, it is best for you to detail the steps of your sales process to on-board the new sales person. It is best if you do it in a 2 step method.

a) First you can tell – take the sales person through the steps in your sales process via examples. How you sold to the first 5 prospects is more important than how the ideal sales should happen. Take them through the detailed steps in the number of meetings, the different people you met and what questions came up at each stage.

b) Follow this up by showing them – go on the first 5-10 sales calls together so they can learn from your initial pitch, the questions, etc. Show them how you demo, how to position the product, handle pricing questions etc. This also helps you build a bond with the sales person so they can be honest with you later when it comes time to ask the difficult questions.

3. How can they determine if the sales person is on the right track?

Initially you have to be on all / most of the sales calls after you hire a new sales person. Hopefully you have hired someone ambitious and mature, so they will be able to then build a sales organization for you instead of you having to hire a new VP of sales above them. The Tell and Show approach works best for sales people, is my experience.

Use this time to determine and evaluate the sales person – are they able to build relationships with the prospects? Are they able to handle questions effectively? Are they following through on their commitments? Are they able to keep activity level high consistently?

The other thing you should do is to take your average sale cycle time – lets say that is 8 weeks from introduction to close. Double that and evaluate the sales persons ability to close deals in that time period. The reason is that the first cycle time is usually the period of extreme learning. It is rare to get a sales person that will shorten the sales cycle right away unless they come with connections in the industry who have the problem you set out to solve.


A successful sales team recipe

As sales leaders, we all know that crafting a skilled, productive sales team is essential to our ultimate success; experts consider the keys to building a successful team a balance between art and science: a careful combination of skills, experience, education, and personality traits. New research, however, reinforces what we at ValueSelling Associates have long believed to be true: there’s a recipe for success we can all follow to develop a successful sales team.

salesOf course, the right leadership goes a long way in shaping our teams, and  a recent study from Software Advice supports that managers should seek to hire for certain fundamental skills, education, and experience. Following this recipe will yield success every time.

Education: Part of being a great salesperson is connecting with customers and knowing what they want. That means developing our writing, listening, and business acumen, all of which education can teach us. According to the study, 67% of sales industry employers involved in the study require candidates to have a degree in higher education, and the remaining 33% regard experience as an equal substitute to it.

Experience: Software Advice’s research indicates that 72% of employers look to hire folks with industry-specific sales experience. and if it’s technical or management experience, even better. We agree: the most successful sales professionals have a deep understanding of the customer’s business, that is built by working in the industry they serve.. Having knowledge and experience specific to customers’ needs and their industries enables us to better understand what specific issues they face, and how to best  communicate with them. That experience translates to the ability to deliver and communicate customer-specific value.

Skills: At the end of the day, it is critical that the sales rep knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  Sales is a communication process that is based on a number of different skills. Education and experience are great to build upon, but they won’t suffice alone. Our sales teams need the right expertise and abilities to actively listen and manage an effective sales call and conversation. Negotiation and presentations skills are among those critical for sustainable success in the sales profession.

Sales Process: Once you have the key ingredients, it’s important that they are mixed and blended properly. Every world-class organization has a well-documented and defined sales process.  Adherence to the sales process allows sales teams to leverage best practices, communicate with a common language, and productively allocate resources.

Building a world-class sales organization rarely happens by accident.

40th #PlayBookRT in NCR on “Break the Barriers of Selling” by Deepak Prakash

iSPIRT kicked off its first roundtable for 2015 on 17th January at the office of Eko India, Gurgaon. The PlaybookRT was led by Deepak Prakash, Former VP of Sales at Tally Solutions. He has led building the entire sales network bottoms up and was the #1 sales person at Tally. Under him, Tally evolved from direct selling to single-tier home grown network for dominance and further evolved into a two tier network to create availability supplementing with all possible marketing activities with money/without money to reach-out to every potential buyer of our product(s).

The theme of the PlayBook Roundtable was something that poses a challenge for all tech entrepreneurs – Sales. Sales is what riddles most of the IT Product company start-ups – each one to his riddle. The intriguing problem of sales combined with Deepak’s experience and expertise in this subject ensured we had a full house on cold Saturday morning.

2015-01-17 18.30.11Overview

There are roughly about 1.25 crore SMEs in India, and about 40 Lakh of them have computers and are ready for automation. This provides a huge opportunity for enterprise software providers. Most of tech entrepreneurs have built interesting products to address this large market, however sales has always been the Achilles’ heels. Deepak broadly outlined the following sales strategies to tackle this market.

Building an effective sales team

Understand the sales psyche

In order to build a successful sales team, it is imperative to understand the psyche of sales people. As tech entrepreneurs, we usually tend to apply the same yardstick for both technology folks and sales team. This approach is incorrect.

  • Engineers and techies can accept failures easily, take it up as a challenge and build upon it. If there is a defect or something is not working, they will try new approaches to solve it. But for a sales guy, who is in front of a customer alone, failure can more often than not challenge his pride and ego. It needs a lot of effort for a sales person to swallow this failure and start afresh next morning. Inorder to keep his motivation high, it is necessary that we celebrate small sales victories and communicate the role he is playing in the organization.
  • Developers and tech teams go by logic and enjoy data, analytics and whatsapp/SMS. While sales teams enjoy phone call over IM and there is more emotion in place. It is very easy for a sales person to become lost or feel small in a tech setup. Entrepreneurs need to work and ensure that both teams understand each other’s importance.

Hiring A Sales Team

In response to a question on what traits we should look for while hiring for a sales position, Deepak mentioned:

  • The person should be able to make the customer comfortable and make him speak about his problems and needs. Only if a sales person can understand the pain point of customer, can he suggest the right value proposition. Someone who talks a lot and does not let others talk is not necessarily a good sales person.
  • A good sales person will typically have his pipeline on tips of his fingertips. He should be able to spell this out at any time.
  • Someone who says I can sell anything and I don’t need to know the product is a person you want to avoid. Because as an entrepreneur you want him to focus on product demo, and confide in the fact that your product is good enough that sale will happen if the right message goes to the customer.

In response to comments that it is difficult to find sales people who are ambitious or motivated, Sumit Kapoor from Employwise mentioned that it is not entirely correct. It is for the leader to inspire their people. We are able to inspire and motivate tech people easily but not sales people.

However, before hiring a sales team, founders need to ensure that the product or startup is at a stage where someone else can do the sales for them. E.g. if the sales calls become repetitive, you know that our sales process and collateral are ready for delegation.

Sales Team Training and Measuring Success

Deepak also shared his approach of measuring the success of sales teams:

  • Do not measure the success of a sales person by the number of cheques he gets but by the number of demos he makes. As an entrepreneur, we need to believe that our product is good and so if the sales person focuses on a good demonstration, cheques will come and business will happen.
  • The target or objective for sales team should be to talk about your passion, your innovation and your pride.
  • We need to understand the dream of sales people. Rather than imposing our dream on them, if we start worrying about their dream, they will start worrying about yours.

The discussion then meandered into how to train and motivate your sales team. Everyone one chimed in with interesting thoughts and here are some of them:

  • The first sales call for a new joinee is like sending a child to school. As parents we have to hold their hands and be there at the background. In case we close sale, do not ever say that sales happened because of me. Motive the new member and make him feel that he was the one who closed the deal.
  • In technology, we attempt to solve problems that are under your control, while sales depend on other people (end user, decision maker and several stakeholders) and so we have to be patience and cut the sales team some slack.
  • The only fear that sales folks have on the road is that sale will not happen. With every rejection, they lose a bit of self esteem. They have to recover from this loss over the night and get ready for a new day and a new fight. And on top of it, we as organizations impose tools such as CRM they have to fill in. These CRMs do not talk back and understand their feeling. At Tally Deepak used to call his boys everyday at 7 pm and hear them out, giving them a chance to vent out their feelings.
  • In a tech company, usually a sales person is considered an outsider. But if the rest of the team starts seeing as a bread winner and if the sales person gets a feeling that the team depends on him, this will give him a high.
  • As entrepreneurs, we also need to understand the difference between entrepreneurs and employees. Employees live for a lifestyle while entrepreneurs live for building an organization. Employees will plan for vacation, holidays etc. and we need to appreciate this.
  • Normally we give just product training to sales teams but customers usually want to talk to someone who understands them. So domain knowledge becomes important.
  • We try to surround sales people with tools such as CRM citing terms such as productivity, efficiency etc. These terms more often than not are Greek to them and they feel you are trying to control them, while the feeling inside them is freedom. We have to explain them to them that the tool is for liberation so that they start enjoying it.

2015-01-17 15.29.56Digital vs. Feet on Street

The discussion also got into choosing between Digital and Foot on Street and whether startups should try both. Sumeet opined that it is best not to get into a situation where we do both.

  • A digital strategy takes time to build as you have to create content, online brand etc. that does not happen overnight.
  • You also need to ensure that your customers are comfortable going through the entire sales cycle digitally including making payments. If there is any trade deficit, digital may not work.
  • While building your digital content strategy, you also need to ensure whether your target SMEs are coming online to search for data. Do they have enough time or knowledge on how some of their problems will be solved.

While if you are going for feet on street, you need to remember to bring in processes that will help you scale. E.g. you have to build a sales engine through which if you run a new hire, he can go and sell your product.

Sometimes combining both digital and feet on street can mask problems in either of the approaches. E.g. if customers are not comfortable making payments online, we get our sales team to talk to them and make payments offline. This prevents us from addressing the real problem, which perhaps could be a trade deficit.

Building a Channels Strategy

The mantra of success was that they created their own channel network, this lead to a dedicated network which will take all the products Tally would have created or will create. They ensured that their channel has enough activity to do, opportunity to encash and inclusive work for their growth was charted.

Channel works well when people already know your brand. There are three major things that channels can help you with:

  • Sell your product
  • Act as fulfilment centres for your product
  • Extension of network for messaging

Your channel strategy also has to evolve in-time. When you want to create deeper reach and availability you need to recruit another set of partners, and in parallel ensure that the already present channel also gains from your expansion.

Channel strategy has changes considerably between pre MNC and post MNC. Earlier there was a lot of relationship building, but now most of the channel partners play around very low margins. Entrepreneurs need to be wary of which strategy they want to adopt here.

Bundling Your Products

Another strategy tried by several companies is to bundle the product with another product that sells more. FMCG industry has done it very successfully. A couple of things that need to be taken care when pursuing this path are:

  • The product you are bundling with should resonate with your own product. E.g. both products can complete each other
  • Are the sales people selling the original product understand your product or are able to explain to customers about your products.


Referrals are another avenue that startups can explore, however before doing so you need to ensure that you are capable to handle all the leads that come in. Throwing a bigger net that you can manage can actually backfire for you.

Right Business Model

Several SaaS based business have a monthly model where they would call businessmen every month to pay. This may not work well with SMEs. Your customer’s business is not to buy software with you. He would rather want to concentrate on his business. Hence it may make more sense to opt for an annual model. The serious customers will anyways buy this. Exotel had a similar experience.

Reaching out to different stakeholders

Often in an B2B setup, the user, decision maker and paying authority are different. The discussion moved to what should be the order in which different stakeholders are reached out. Usually sales team members are hesitant to meet the owner as they face the possibility of heavy rejection. Also owners are not interested in features but in how the tool can either help them save money or make more. However, they do depend on feedback from the user or beneficiary. Hence the sales team should first reach out to the user or beneficiary and then the owner. Sometimes the owner also depends on inputs from a Subject Matter Expert, who could be an IT guy or engineer in his friend/family and sometimes others (e.g. CAs in case of Tally)

However, in case of channels the approach is opposite. You first reach out to the owner to get them buy your proposition. Following this you want to reach out to the sales team of the partner so that they are well educated and trained to sell or demo your product.

2015-01-17 15.30.21Monopolistic Market

Dinesh Agarwal from Busy Software shared insights on how they penetrated a market which was dominated by one large player – Tally. He banked on users and stakeholders in accounting software to identify niche features that were required by a segment but not offered by Tally. One of such feature was statuary compliance. They launched this feature at half the price and this helped them penetrate. They also carved out their channel strategy and ecosystem that helped to build a strong market base.

Going International

Deepak also touched upon some key considerations while eyeing international sales:

  • Your product will need to be adapted to the particular market you intend to tap into. It could be for example statuary compliance or local language support.
  • International markets can be expensive and hence you need to plan well
  • From a sales strategy, there will be broad similarities. E.g. international markets also have channels that work on the same motivations and contours.
  • You need to accept the fact that no one in a new market knows you or your product. So if you start from scratch.
  • The business problems and challenges are similar in different markets. They too have similar HR problems or business problems.
  • There also needs to be a culture adoption, especially the way you communicate or conduct your sales effort.
  • Before starting to build a channel in an international market, it usually makes sense that you acquire the first 10-20 customers yourself. This will help you understand the market better, ensure your product is ready and help you exploit the channel strategy much better.
  • Set clear expectations and objectives so that you know when to get out if things are not working.


One thing that stood clear from inputs of all participants was that there is no size that fits all. Different solutions and strategies yielded results for different teams and entrepreneurs. It is imperative not to wear someone else’s stripes. Pick up a strategy that is doable for you based on the types of person you are and situation you are in.

2015-01-17 13.36.59The high level of interest and engagement from all participants was evident as the session that planned for 3-4 hours got extended to beyond 7 hours. We finally concluded our first Roundtable for 2015 with a promise from Deepak that he will back with us in a couple of months.

When anxiety is a good thing

Ever wonder why some buyers effortlessly make decisions to move forward, while others never engage or take action? When momentum with your prospect stalls, it could be time to shake things up. We need a fresh approach to turn cautious prospects into active clients.


Consider this: Prospects expect a sales pitch. They expect us to tell them what we’re all about. Rather than tell our prospects what might happen if they don’t do anything, we need to be prepared to ask questions that allow them to imagine the negative consequences of their own inaction. In the few seconds it takes for them to consider their anxiety, it’s likely that their unique personal motivators will surface. Then we can offer our solutions to ease their anxiety and fix their problems.

Let’s dig into the best practices for telling stories that establish credibility.

Example anxiety questions:

  • “Are you confident that you can eliminate the backlog of IT requests without increasing costs?”
  • “What’s the impact to you if the cost of management initiative is delayed?”
  • “What would be the impact on your ability to raise capital if financial information is not readily available?”
  • “Are you confident that you will be able to support management’s 35% annual growth plan without impacting costs?”
  • “How safe will your job be if revenues don’t increase?” (This question practically guarantees anxiety!)
  • “I noticed that your return on assets is below the industry norm. If this situation continues, what will be the impact on your stock price?”

When asking an anxiety question, we need to integrate what we know about prospects and/or their industry. Being specific makes it more effective. We can also trigger an emotional response by making a direct connection, such as referencing war stories about people the prospect knows or leveraging relevant third-party information. The question should require prospects to imagine the future. Along the way, we must be careful to avoid insulting them or damaging the trust and rapport we’ve already established.

Asking anxiety questions is a reliable way to reignite the sales cycle. By reshaping prospects’ perspective of what they need and want, we can lead them to focus on a future in which we provide the solution. We have to begin with the end in mind. In other words, we start with the value we believe our products or services can bring. Ultimately, by cultivating a sense of urgency within our prospect, we can shorten the sales cycle, which will have a direct impact on our success.

Nuts and Bolts of Marketing & selling SaaS products to US customers from India for First Timers

In innumerable brainstorming and “gyan” sessions with friends, mentors and experts, one of the most stressed focus area is getting product market fit as soon as possible and then follow it up with scaling sales.  I think most early to mid stage entrepreneurs are instinctively aware of this but struggling with “Hows”.  So when I saw this playbook promising precisely to explain how, I grabbed a spot. I wasn’t disappointed. Suresh Sambandam is very down to earth and spoke earnestly and in detail about different steps he took while selling the OrangeScape’s product KiSSFLOW. Attendees who themselves run early to mid-stage companies and Kishore Mandyam of Impel CRM chipped in with their stories and inputs. Here is the detailed enough capture of the same.

The relevancy of this session is greatest to Early and Mid-stage entrepreneurs going from $0-5K MRR to $50K MRR selling to US MSB. This session is NOT meant for discovery or product market fit but I have inserted the discussion at the end.

The blog is organised as below Product Market Fit / Pricing as step 0; Followed by Inbound Sales and Marketing and then finally Outbound Sales and discussion on tools.

2014-11-15 16.37.05Product Market Fit

The absolute first step (may be zeroth step) in Sales process is getting the product market fit. You know you have a Product Market Fit with a B2B Mid-Market SaaS product when unknown folks start buying (Inbound sales is picking up traction). Unfortunately in cases that were presented at the session, the discovery process of the product happened organically based on another product that they were building.

However the generic solution for early stage product discovery goes like this.

  • Create a landing page with a “notify when ready”.

  • Create a SEO/Adword campaign for getting early adopters. You need to be very clear about the product category and fine tune your Adwords to exactly match what product aspires to solve. There are usually two approaches to any product i.e Disruptive Innovator or Faster Better Cheaper. So Adwords need to be in line with these

  • Once people signup engage with them and partner with them to fine tune the product.

To put succinctly Bring-> Engage->Convert->Succeed; As you can clearly see from this model, “Marketing Comes Before Product” or as Suresh puts it bring the horse to the water.

Pricing and “Freemium v/s Free Trial”

So which model suits best for a SaaS product? Is there one preferable over another? Very subjective topic but the thumb rule seems to be for SMB / Mid-market SaaS Free Trial is a best method to go.

Models aside, what matters most to the conversion is the post-signup engagement and the price factor. Faster conversions are dependent on many factors but one of the key factors is pricing. If pricing is within the decision-making authority of the midlevel managers, it is easier to convert. The discretionary spending seems to be around about USD 5K. Keeping the price low per user and making minimum unit purchase of say 10 users per bundle works quite great.

Inbound Sales

WebSite – Suresh firmly believes that Website is a core asset for a B2B SaaS company and hence should not be outsourced. He advises to have a minimum team of Web Developer, Creative Designer and Automation Engineer.  This would help perpetual A/B testing in short cycles..

Couple of nifty tricks to make the whole experience frictionless is to have a one click signup. Visitor should be able to experience the main software within few seconds. The other participating companies in the round table have used various  techniques to authenticate emails like SMTP Ping, email pattern matching, etc.

It is also important to closely monitor the users interaction with the website, capture it and feed it back to the Engineers to close the gap and arguments between Sales/Marketing and Engineering. One of the recommended tools in this category is FullStory.


Lot of interesting debates on this; discussion ranged from how get the right keywords for searches and what optimization works and how to track the metrics. Suresh again firmly believes in having a dedicated SEO guy and focus on defined key words. They manage about 28 keywords and track them very meticulously. Some thumb rules and objectives again are

  • Do it Slowly but Steady
  • Don’t alert Google
  • Build Backlinks (Naked and Anchor)
  • Improve Google Crawl Frequency


It is preferable to have one dedicated person with number crunching and finance background. This will help track the cost per signup for search ads

Content Generation:

While it is important to have this come from founders, it is very hard to find time for the founders. One technique employed by KiSSFLOW is to hire fresher from visual communication background who has a grammar nazi attitude and give a very specific target like 2 +2+2+1 per week (2 blogs published 2 interviews done, 2 assured interviews for next week and 1 research post). He also uses 10-80-10 formula for the content itself where beginning 10 and ending 10 percent are reviewed in detail by founders.  One of the other key points stressed was to have self ads in each of the content which leads to signup.

Outbound Sales

Contact DB

Obviously the most critical first step here is having a database of all the companies and the decision makers that you want to reach out. Linkedin Premium works best. This is how Suresh does it. He uses Linkedin DB to create a list of all target companies and then assigns the task of creating the contact details to an online consultant who was discovered on Elance. It usually works out to INR6-INR10 per contact. There are other dbs one can purchase directly from companies such as, Discover, rainking and slew of others.

Once contacts are obtained it is very important to use direct emails as opposed to using mailchimp, constantcontact, etc as most of them will not land in inbox. It also helps to be as personalized as possible.

Sales DNA

It is absolutely essential for the founder to set the tone of sales.  For US be ready to pull night shifts continuously.  Although it is the founders calling, it is good idea to assume the persona that appeals to US clients say Bob and position one as a sales manager. It is also important to make the sales hire to listen to the call handling to build on this.


Not all channels are suitable for SaaS and one needs to do some trial and error to figure out the best channels. The channels include Events, Road Shows, Reselling Partners and Referral/Affiliate partners, may work well but Orangescape has ignored them.

Metrics, Tracking, Tools

Meticulous tracking is critical and many tools are available to manage and measure the process. Some that are being used by the roundtable companies are listed below.

Metrics to track

Metrics to Track

Suresh SambandamTools

These are the various tools used by the KiSSFLOW team and other participant companies who attended the roundtable



Very hard to summarize such a detailed session, but one parting thought stands out. Attention to details followed by automation and customization seems to be the way to go.

How to Structure Sales and Marketing in a SaaS Business

PlaybookRTThe discussions continued post-lunch in the Playbook Roundtable led by Girish Mathrubootham, CEO and founder of Freshdesk, organized at the Freshdesk office in Chennai. During the extended session, Girish outlined the sales and marketing structure in a SaaS business. While this may be only taken as a pointer to setting up the sales and marketing teams, each business owner needs to focus on the appropriate strategy that brings him the maximum number of customers. As explained in the last report on this roundtable, firming up the business model after iterations and adaptations is very important before a SaaS business would scale. Remember the product is the key. And when the celebrated investor Andreessen Horowitz featured in his blog Mark Cranney’s “If SaaS Products Sell Themselves, Why Do We Need Sales?” it kicked a lot of debate on why Cranney is right. Some strategies outlined by Girish might be of great help in not only positioning your product but also making sure that customers continue to use it after they buy it. The Q&A format continues.

How do you structure the sales function?

The sales function has two components: inbound sales and outbound sales. For inbound sales, the ability to identify good people to fill the position is absolutely essential. If they have capabilities of researching on the customer and can write personalized mails, that works better than lifeless common mailers. Further, the response rates increase in case of personalized mails although it might not convert into sales immediately. The inbound sales guys should be able to identify themselves with the customers and a “We” pitch infuses confidence into the customer’s mind. In all, inbound sales people should be able to make the customer feel special about interacting with the product and the organization behind it.

Outbound sales is a pure arithmetic in one sense. Read Predictable Revenue by Arnold Ross. If you invest x amount of money, you harvest an amount y (usually as multiples of x) as revenue. To be able to achieve this, you need to have a structure sales organization inside the team. It could be divided into market research team (which identifies potential target sectors and customers), sales development team (which continuously interacts with the customers to understand their requirements and explains to them how your product can address their needs), and an account executive team (which specifically oversees one or more specific customer accounts). This should be supported by the pre-sales team.

People are key to all the roles mentioned. It’s important for the CEO or the senior management to identify who is good at what and then placing them at the position they can perform best. If someone is capable of creating a good rapport with the customer, move that person to pre-sales. Some people show an inclination to solve problems. Put them in the support team.

A small hint about shifts. Keep the people in the same routine, which means keep them in the same shift they come in. Some people like night shift and if they want the night shift, keep them there. Rotating shifts might need to unnecessary resetting of biological clocks of the shift people that might show up as poor performance. Be wary of this.

Should you hire a salesperson in the US?

This question continues to create varied views in the minds of SaaS entrepreneurs who find the US market attractive for their product. The right answer is it depends.

If you are able to close the deal through online and telephone interactions, it’s good and some big deals might also happen. But it’s not a scalable model. A salesperson in the proximity of the customer at times becomes necessary to go after big-ticket size deals and close them. Customers feel confident about having a support person near them. It also involves cultural and mind-set issues and the customers become comfortable with the organization present in the same country as them. It would be better if you would hire a person after you are sure that big ticket size deals would happen. The salesperson should be capable of going after big deals and closing them. One note of caution: Make sure your sales person is working full-time for you and not moonlighting. What is the final word? Again, it depends. The best option is to hire a full-time sales person in the US for closing big-ticket deals. Beware of the cost of the sales guy and the difficulty of getting sales out of them. There have been bad experiences for some. Maybe learning about that helps and also get tips on how to hire the sales guy in the US. There is no one strategy that works and it’s largely your own learning curve. But some pointers from people who already have a sales team or a sales organization in the US helps.

Identifying the right sales people

Sales people are either hunters or farmers. Hunter sales people hunt for new customers and go after new domains aggressively. Farmers have the ability to nurture the existing customers. It’s important to identify a person’s skill and decide where they fit in the sales organization. Read Jason Lemkin’s interview on

Retargeting customers can be done through Google mail. Don’t overdo mass mailers. You run the risk of Google labelling you a spammer. Write personalized mails.

Remember, a closure of sales that results in a recurring revenue (for example, through subscriptions) converts into a higher revenue over a period of time, without the need to add new customers for an increase in the revenue.

What is the role of marketing in a SaaS business?

The marketing team should generate qualified leads, which the sales function also should do. Both of this converts to good sales.

Once you identify your target, make sure you gather a valid e-mail address and a valid phone number. There are ways to do it. Learn them.

Social media helps a great deal in lead generation. Customer acquisition happens. If you are looking at competitor social media feeds, you at times spot an unhappy customer, who wants a specific feature or has a need, which your product fulfills. Instant connectivity on Twitter facilitates this connect. Trap them and convert them into your customer.

A step-wise filter for tracking leads works wonders. Right from a prospective customer approaching your product through your website, keep track of the customer to see what is he interested in the product. If he shows more than a mere curiosity interest, track him to see the various levels at which he interacts with the product. Sometimes, customer might return after sometime. Help the customer in whatever ways possible to convert him into a buyer of your product.

How free should be the free trial?

Various strategies work. The free-trial period varies between 6 and 11 days. Look for an optimum number. Any amount of free trials is not going to hurt your business. Think of a longer horizon of the free trial. Say 30 days. This is a feel-good or hygienic factor that keeps the goodwill of your business with the customer. Provide support during free trial and try to educate the customer in what he doesn’t know. You will earn respect and convert a doubter into a customer.

Be disciplined to knock off “parasitic” customers. Keep track of customers on free trial nearing their free trial period. If your plan is to close their account, send a polite mail announcing that their account will be inactive after x amount of days. Make it as if it’s your company’s policy to delete accounts that are dormant for a period of time. Sometimes surprises spring up. The customer might sign up. Periodically getting rid of customers who don’t bring any value to your business is a good idea.

The sales strategy and expanding into new geographies

If you want to expand into a new geography, do your homework thoroughly. Study the terrain in depth before setting your foot in. You must know where you are getting in and what segments you are targeting. Understanding the culture and business practices in that geography works immensely. For example, Australians want you to call them, whereas the English wouldn’t encourage that.

Acquiring a big customer at the beginning is thrilling. But weigh your options clearly before signing on the dotted line. If your sales and support would not be able to cater to the needs of the large enterprise customer, you are better off saying “no” rather than change your business model and focus your energies on one customer. You may not be able to scale instantly on demand. Never significantly or drastically alter your business model for one customer or for one big breakthrough. It would eventually hurt.

Seal the lower end. But the lower end is always going to be cannabalized. Beware of competition and remember you can’t be cheaper than free.

Onboarding the customer

Normally, there is a problem of customers falling off after, say, a couple of months. So it is better to have a customer onboarding team to track sign-up. Live tutorials can handhold the customer for the initial period of using the product. Videos are helpful for non-tech customers.

Don’t disturb the core tech team for small technical glitches. Customer Action Response Team (CART), which fixes small bugs, is a great strategy. Focus on fulfilling customer expectations. Remember, when you solve a customer problem, you earn a happy customer.

To take a cue from Jeff Bezos, hire people who are not able to say “no” in customer development and hire people who say “no” in business development. Empathy is a great trait. Empathize with the customer and their problems and see how best you can solve them.

It’s always best to “farm” the first top 100 customers or key customers who bring 80% of your business. Remember, 20% of the customers bring 80% of your revenue. Focus on them.

With everyone in the room taking away valuable lessons with them, the roundtable wound up on a happy note.



Telling stories to establish credibility [template]

In today’s world, there are a few realities that every sales professional is acutely aware of. The first is that there are many alternatives available for every prospect you have. Not only are there alternatives that are competitive to your solution, but you are often fighting for capital to even have your solution on the purchasing agenda in the first place. The second reality is that in most cases, our prospects are beginning their “buying process” without us. They are searching the web for alternatives and researching viable options without a sales person getting involved.

This poses a challenge for many sales professionals: How do we establish our credibility online?

unnamed-5Effective sales professionals have always been effective communicators. One way to communicate is through storytelling. We use well-crafted stories that build our credibility with prospects, and we capture not only their interest, but also their belief in our capabilities and our ability to relate to their world. Telling stories is a valuable way to connect with prospects and illustrate how our products or services can positively impact their business. We want to share stories that communicate our credibility and expertise in the field, whether they are in the form of an email, social media post, or webpage. Today, we not only need to be able to tell our stories in a conversation, we also need to be able to tell our stories online to capture the interest of our prospects.

Let’s dig into the best practices for telling stories that establish credibility.

1.     It’s not about us. It’s not about our products, our services, or our company. It’s about the prospects’ world, their challenges, and their business challenges. Our stories should start and end by focusing on the prospects’ situation, with our solutions playing a supporting role to them. What are the prospects’ current situations? What business objectives or imperatives can we contribute to? How will things be better when we’ve helped them fix their problems? Putting prospects in the starring role of our stories helps them see how our solutions can make a difference in their unique situation.

2.     Reasons to do business. The best stories we can tell are ones that resonate with prospects and show them how we can solve their business issues. By knowing our prospects and their needs, we can adapt our stories from working with past clients to highlight similar circumstances in the present situation: what business issues did we solve in the past that the current prospect is facing now? What led the past client to select us? We need to work these reasons into the story.

3.     Core components. What turns good stories great is delivering key story elements that resonate with prospects and establish credibility every step of the way. Remember that we need to change what stories we share with what prospects, depending on their situation and needs. To ensure we’re telling great stories, we need to ask ourselves:

    • High level of emotion: Do our stories capture prospects’ attention with a high level of detail and rich description?  Does our story not only have a business message, but also resonate at an emotional level? Examples of these emotions can include fear, anxiety, doubt, frustration, or excitement.
    • Summary of challenges: Have we effectively summarized the business issues our prospects face in this story?  What changed in the customer’s business as a result of partnering with us?  Keep in mind that if we expect a prospect to agree that our solution is the right one, we should first gain an agreement on the problems that our solution will address. We need to use the story to surface the likely problems we can solve.
    • Uniqueness: What sets this story apart from other stories our prospects are hearing? Our stories should highlight our differentiation from other products and services on the market.  Why you and you alone are the best alternative.
    • Measurable impact: Can we prove the impact that we have had?  Numbers resonate, and big numbers get a business professional’s attention.  What was the measurable impact, the result, the bottom line? Why is your story so impressive?

We need to include all of these components and best practices to take our stories from good to great – from clicked-away to credible. In this social-selling world, credibility trumps flashy every time, and credibility will ultimately seal the deal.

To gain people’s interest, we must be interesting!  Where can you tell your story today to attract a potential buyer?  Does your online profile and footprint demonstrate the value you can bring to your potential prospects? Now is a great time to fine-tune your personal message online.

Competition – Research and Share

As we build (software) products, the competition is something that we need to stay ahead of, but how?



Especially building products for different markets, you always have others building similar products for probably same or different markets. There are already established products that you have to compete with, there are other products that are getting built as you build your product, there are new technologies that throw up new opportunities or challenges that will help new products to build that could surpass yours.

How it’s different from services ?

In services business, you just have a few competitors that you are competing for “a customer”.  You know what this one customer is looking for and its often not very difficult to create a competitive strategy. But in case of products, it’s a huge challenge to identify first of all who could be your competitor and if you are lucky to identify all of them, how your products stand out in the market, not just a customer.

So what you need to know to stay ahead of competition ?  I try to share couple of key elements that I have focused on in this area, as part of building software products : Research and Communication

Competitive Research:



As software product leaders or product managers, one of the key activities that we need to be focusing on is Competitive Research.  This cannot be optional and has to be mandatory task with clear deliverables. If you are lucky, especially working with larger enterprises, there are focused research colleagues who track and share insights about competition. If not there are external agencies that you can engage who can research a bit and share insights about competition. But personally I feel that as the product owners, its best for product leaders or product managers to be closely doing their own research as the expertise that you carry or the interest to get your products successful lies with you.

Tools, Tips and Techniques for Competitive Research:

  1. Don’t cross legal boundaries – while researching your competition, one of the most critical and important aspect of what you can find out should be based on publically available information and within the legal boundaries of access. This is super critical, while it’s a no brainer, its best to understand legal guidelines laid out by company and if you are startup, better to get some legal advise or attend a course to understand the Dos and Don’t
  2. Competitors website  – Thanks to internet, there is already enormous information available about the competition, especially if you are looking at existing established products.  Checking the websites of the competition helps a bit, taking at their value proposition and what customers are talking about the products are very important.
  3. Social media – This is an interesting channel in last few years where we get lot of information about the competition. From youtube, linkedin, twitter, we can follow and understand what the competitors are doing, what leadership in the competition are doing as well as some of the key stakeholders involved with the competition are saying. From whom they are hiring, which location they are talking from and tit bits are very valueable information you can know about the product
  4. Community and Blogs – Another great channel to understand competitors is through communities and blogs written by users, partners and employees about the competitive products. There are forums where products are discussed and there are blogs that are written that helps get an informal view of the products
  5. Analyst – IT industry analyst are a great source of information to understand competitors and their strengths and weakness. Its always better to understand different perspectives of the industry analyst. Your product may still not be in the overall review in the space, but you may want to analyze the market potential through whats being said about the analyst reports.
  6. Partners website – partners or implementors of software website is key source of information for research. This helps us to understand products better as partners are typically very close to the products and often share some details. Typically a demo of the product posted by partner is often more detailed and really very helpful
  7. Knowing and following competitor key people – one of the opportunity we have with internet is to know the people better. From a competitive research perspective, one of the important aspect would be to know and follow the key people who are involved in the competition. It could be the CEO of that company, few of the key technology folks there who are involved in the solution area. This gives a great perspective on what they are trying to do and help understand whats in store
  8. Involving in sales cycles – One of the best way, especially if your product is already out, is to involve in sales cycles. Talking to sales /presales as well as customers. You definitely get insights on how your competitor products is addressing the problems. This can also be done by listening to sales calls as well as just being part of some of the meetings or conference calls. Sometimes customers give you direct feedback on how your products fare and at other times you may get indirect inferences. Participating and contributing in some of the win loss analysis can help take back some of this information.

Having done the research, what do we do with this information to use this effectively as you build your products. While you can have a structure way to incorporate this information into your knowledge base, the important aspect of sharing and communicating this information. Often I have noticed that we share one set of information for different stakeholders, which may be not a good approach.

Prepare and Share

1. Sharing with Sales and Field : Sales organization in your company would like to know exactly how your products are better from your competitors products. What is the key value propositions and some differentiations. This could be addressed at different levels, at the overall product strategy level, on product feature /functionality and the fit with respect to solving key business problem in a better way, and based on customer usage.  How competitive fud can be resolved with a capability that exists or likely to addressed in the road map.

The communication here needs to be very broad based, especially if you are selling to different markets or user base. Some                   information of the regional competitors may also be very useful

2. Sharing with Development : Product Development including product managers are very emotional and close to their products and its often difficult for them to digest to hear that the competitive products are better than your products.  But here the communication and comparisons should focus on where the products are weaker then competition, don’t have to be highlighting the strengths but focus on where differentiations can be fulfilled, or how products can catch up with competition. Even an equally good product could be very successful due to other considerations such as price, market and geography focus, as well as mere ability of sales people. So its important to compare and highlight lagging product areas, and get to focus on competitive catch ups or differentiations. Some of the information collected from Analyst could be very useful as it could lead to good insights of competitive products.  All of this information also helps in prioritizing backlogs.

3. Sharing with Top Management: Assuming you are not the founder, its important that competitive insights are regularly shared with top management in order for them to get a feel of specifics that competitors are doing in this area. This will help getting the attention for investment into those areas, potential acquisitions as well as help them engage better in their customer/investor interactions.

Competitive Research and Sharing is a key activity that needs good time investment to stay ahead in the race as make Software Products.

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