Rediscovering America – The SaaS way !

iSPIRT Roundtable Delhi – 12th December2015

ColumbusCenturies ago Columbus took an adventurous sea journey to discover India in search of gold and in the process stumbled upon America. It is ironical that after ages we Indian product entrepreneurs are re-embarking upon the journey to rediscover America in search of gold, just that we no longer trust the sea and prefer to go via the cloud.

So on Saturday, 12th Dec’15, in the Delhi winter fog, a group of iSPIRT SaaS entrepreneurs met for a Round table titled “” where selling to US was a key focus. I drove in my odd numbered car on even numbered date( the Delhi car rule has not yet triggered in) to get my share of gold. The captain of our ship was Samir Palnitkar from Shop Socially. Samir is a known face in the Indian entrepreneur circle, a serial entrepreneur who has done it all. Still when you meet him you’ll see that glitter in his eyes yearning to achieve more. What I like about the iSPIRT round tables is that they are not about endless powerpoint presentations but active discussions about real issues – real solutions. Every time I attend one I’m amazed by the positive energy in discussions there. You meet real achievers who are hungry for more yet humble enough to help those who have started their journeys. The true bond between us entrepreneurs is that of respect. Respect for hardwork , commitment and perseverance because only we know that that there is no easy way to get up there.

While the queen of spain sponsored Columbus’ sea adventure, ours was hosted by Investopad and I must thank them for that. Located centrally in heart of South Delhi , Investopad has a carefree yet professional environment for any startup to bloom. An ideal setup for our round table. Add to it the Vada Pao and Masala tea from Chaayos, and you are rearing to go. As Peter Drucker said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” So here we were getting a sneak peak into our future.

The Round table started with a brief round of introductions from each of the participants. Interestingly, there was no debate on why we were there. Each of us knew that if we have to succeed, we have to go global with a special focus on the US market.

Outbound Vs Inbound Marketing

As the discussion evolved, it centered around one key aspect- Outbound Vs Inbound marketing.

InboundThere is a school of thought which believes inbound marketing using content and blogs gives you good quality low cost leads over time. I personally belong to that group having built SalesPanda, an inbound marketing product. But there is another set of people who feel its better to go target the exact customers you want to bring in via outbound. I must say this round table was dominated more by the latter than the former. Like Sachin from shared the perfect analogy of fishing with a spear and not the net, its yours to choose. In the same room we had two successful startups using both the methodologies successfully. On one side we had Samir our speaker from shop socially who has 70% of leads from outbound email and telecalling and other side we had Sidharth from Wingify(VWO) who have 70% leads from inbound content. Ideally you need to master both and leverage one with the other.

Samir, I must say has mastered the art of selling to global audience via outbound. And it’s not cold calling or randomly hitting on the entire market. It’s a well designed, cured and planned way to segment and target the market. He calls it warm calling to people who show interest to a drip email campaign.

Yes outbound it was, the group agreed and Samir would share his secret recipe to conquer customers globally.

We started the discussion with the fundamental questions

  • How do we find global customers?
  • How do we reach them?
  • Should I build a team abroad?

Marketing-driven Sales

Samir shared the concept of marketing driven sales where the you build a pipeline driven by marketing campaigns both outbound and inbound. Inbound leads are standard SEO and website based leads whereas outbound leads are a mix of email drip marketing and outbound telecalling.

The outbound process starts with a drip email campaign on a carefully built database.

Samir shared his inside sales process as in image below. You have an inside sales team(Qualifiers) to reach out to prospects who either open or respond back to the emails. They pass the leads on to Sales Managers(closers) who demo the product to the clients. There is a customer success team who’s job is to move free trial customers to premium and also upsell and cross sell. For specific hot opportunities a special Pod is created which nurtures these leads to keep hem engaged to close.

Inside Sales Process at Shop Socially

The key question which would come to your mind is that where would the data come from. The team discussed various options and tools to buy data. Here is what Samir shared about their process at shop socially.

  1. Set your target criteria- Industry verticals, Titles, Company Revenue, location etc
  2. Build a list of companies you want to target using tools like Builtwith, Datanyze, Hoovers,
  3. Work with third parties to scrub list – use elance, upwork etc.

InsidesalesOnce the database is ready, import it to a marketing automation tool, in case of sell socially they use Pardot. Create a drip marketing campaign across different offering. Segregate the prospects as R,C,O – People who respond,click or open your mailers. The inside sales team calls out to people who atleast clicked on the email so its never a cold call as atleast the customer has heard about you before. The chart below details the emailing process. The prospects move to a CRM solution where the lead is progressed. Shop socially use Salesforce and Sugarcm but any other good CRM would do. Ajay from Salezshark also shared how their CRM software provided an integrated mobile ready solution. It have built in contact database seamlessly integrated into the solution. Do check out !

Some of the other salient points mentioned by Samir and agreed by the group were

  • The product needs to have the stickiness for people to come back. You can get people to try but there has to genuine stickiness for them to buy.
  • The email content should be concise. Fancy EDMs are a big no as text mails are more acceptable.
  • Calling script is critical. It should be detailed enough for callers to navigate through all possible scenarios.
  • While reaching the prospects on a call, its always better to get them to block the calendars and follow it up with a reminder on the day of the meeting.

Go Prepared !

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― 

We spend so much effort to create databases, send multiple emails and calling the prospects to fix demos. But the important question is how prepared are we to get into the battlefield. Are our sales guys equipped enough to answer customer queries ? Some of the Sales Collaterals you need to build before starting the process are as below

  • Standard Video and company presentation
  • Whitepapers and Case Studies
  • Video Testimonials
  • Webinars
  • Pricing and Value Calculator

Also remember conferences are for sales. When you participate in events and conferences, go prepared. Fix meetings with prospects there well in advance to utilise your time.

Finally, in the last leg of the round table we discussed on people ratios, targets and other infrastucture details. We also debated on hiring tips for key resources including inside sales and career plan for them.

One crucial point the group debated was the need and value of outsourcing some of the processes. As we debated, a concensus evolved on outsourcing top of the funnel activities. We need to focus on closures because as funnels goes down it gets more critical. So you can outsource top of funnel activities like data profiling, appointment setting etc but keep the bottom activites like demo and closure calls with you as every slip can cost you heavily.

Overall it was a great experience for all of us as we came out more clear and confident on reaching global customers. In fact, last few days I myself tested some of the ideas like drip marketing campaigns and reaching out to data profiling team via upwork and I must say it works ! I believe that as years go by, we Indian entrepreneurs would master the art of selling globally via the cloud. Here is the team who attended the round table. Carefully, note down these names coz when decades later your great grand children ask you who rediscovered America via the cloud, you should know J

A big thank you to all who participated in the round table and to iSPIRT for organising. A day well spent. Look forward to the next one !

by Samit Arora, Co-founder,