Sales for Startups : Thinking out loud the approaches that startups can take | For any business, Sales is the department which generates revenue. Even if one offers cutting edge technology to the world, sales help ventures survive.
With the aim of contributing to the startup community, BHIVE along with Lucep came up with the event – Sales for Startups. It was a golden opportunity for people who wanted to learn more about sales from those who have mastered it.
The panellists of the evening were:
- Sumukha Rao, Founder & CEO of Ta3s
- Mangal D Karnad, Co-Founder at FableSquare, Former Head, Marketing Communications at Tally Solutions
- Rakesh Sharma, Business Consultant, Strategist, Idea Hamster & Implementer
- Zal Dastur, Director of Sales and Marketing & Co-Founder of Lucep
Following is the summary of the evening:
Zal: How do you see the relation between sales and marketing? How do they work together, particularly in the context of tech companies and startups?
Mangal: Sales and marketing go hand in hand for building a company. For any business, that wants to grow and expand, sales is the most important function. Marketing helps to communicate the message to the right audience in the right way and at the right time. In brief, marketing is about AIDA:
A: Acquiring customer
Zal: Has the process of complex sales, as in software industry, changed over time?
Sumukha: Definitely the process has evolved with the passage of time. Apart from becoming smaller and more focused, now the need of the hour is reaching right set of people. According to my point of view, it has become more critical.
Customer calls when it pains, a prompt response is the basic building block to build the trust in your company.
Zal: Startups focus on solving the problem, not on sales. When should they start focusing on sales?
Rakesh: Ideally, sales should start the same day you start your venture. There is a misconception that good products will attract sales automatically. But, that too needs some effort.
Also, selling helps product evolve. It helps to refine the product and add features according to demand and need of the customers.
Zal: What can startups do to engage with influencer marketing?
Mangal: Influencer marketing is not new to the market. I would like to give an example of the accounting software Tally. Almost every organisation uses Tally. CAs recommend Tally because it makes their task easier. And we can see its market.
Influencer marketing is more about the ripple effect it brings along with it. It comes along with the social proofs and testimonials. Nowadays, people research before buying anything. Smart sales person understands this, he/she will go on social media and do the needful.
Over the course of time, we may receive some negative feedbacks. But remember, negative feedbacks improve product while positive feedbacks strengthen the product.
Sumukha: According to my experience, majority sales happen because of negative feedback. The problem gets you closer to the customer, understand better and sell higher.
If you deliver a good quality product, word of mouth definitely works. Earlier it was push market but the case is different now, its pull market now.
Zal: What is your experience of selling to different segments of customers?
Sumukha: It depends on the company and the target customer. Also, the thing which makes a difference is the kind of business we want to do.
Mangal: Assessing the customer is important. Reaching out to the correct customer is difficult while selling to SMEs. And the case is more difficult when reaching out to individuals is the primary step . Sales is a long process, but if done in proper way, it definitely yields the results.
Sumukha: Going back to 90s, sales targeted the enterprises but now it targets individuals. Knowing target audience is mandatory and one should not pick everything that comes in the way.
Zal: What is your advice to young entrepreneurs on how to close deals?
Mangal: We have to decide, whether the value of the deal is worth your while. According to me, offering monetary discount puts a bad impact on the reputation of the company. I would rather suggest offering value-adds in place of discounts.
Sumukha: Don’t focus only on one customer. Spread the risk and learn the way. Don’t stop. We have to let go something sometimes to go for bigger and better goals. It definitely takes time, don’t lose patience.
Rakesh: According to me if you are not able to close deals, you are not a good negotiator. I would like to advice:
- Be aware of your best case and worst case. Read your customer’s best case and worst case. Settle for something which is definitely way above your worst case.
- Never fear for not closing a deal. Approaching with confidence makes the task easier.
- Be patient. Re-engage with customers.
Sumukha: Sales is selling to the pain-point or we can say, putting salt on wounds to some extent. It makes the customer understand the value of services or product you provide.
Zal: Share some of the stories, when you did something out of the box or a crazy thing to generate leads.
Rakesh: I was trying to meet a prospective client and the chasing game went for quite a long time. I got to know about his smoking habit and the time he used to go for it. I went down to meet him at that particular time and started chatting while he was smoking. And yeah, it resulted in success.
Another thing that I would like to share is that one should keep a track of routes followed by competitors.
If things are not working well, one should change the approach, but sales should happen at any cost.
Mangal: Not something new, but reference policy has worked for us in the long run. I would like to suggest spreading the word and making your contacts aware of what you are doing.
Also to add, there is no shadow without a tree. Build reputation in the market and let it speak for you.
Sumukha: I was about to close a million dollar deal, the client came back to me to negotiate. Instead of denying I offered him what he was looking for. This act helped us earn the trust of customer and crack bigger deals in future.
I would suggest never lose trust and never lie to your customers.
With the motive of making the session more interactive, the audience were invited to put forward their questions:
Question: What should we ask a customer while closing a deal?
Sumukha: Don’t ask questions, but listen to what your customer is saying. Understand the pain and offer a solution for that. Also, one should understand account mapping before going for business with the customer.
Mangal: You must understand the background of the customer and the problem they are going through. It will help you in coming up with a better customer focused solution.
Rakesh: According to me, the conversation should go on. It is important to generate leads, close deals and to retain a customer.
Question: How important is it to have a well-qualified sales team for startups?
Mangal: It is extremely important. If you are the founder, you are the best person for this job. Being a founder by default makes you the right person for sales at an initial stage of your business.
First, go for a hands-on experience. Understand the process and then go for team expansion.
Sumukha: Sales persons are the ones who translate technical problem to business solution.
Even when you go up on the success ladder, don’t leave your core competencies. Hands-on experience makes the situation easier to understand and helps one to grow.
Zal: According to me, sales team represents the voice of the customer. It is important to have someone in the team who understands customers and is capable of representing your organisation.
Rakesh: Sales team is important but in the context of startups, one should know when to build a sales team.
Question: How do you evaluate the impact of demonetization on sales?
Sumukha: Hopefully, corruption in corporate is soon going to cut down. Accounting will most definitely attract attention in organisations.
The question-answer session concluded with the networking session, with attendees enjoying coffee and company of like-minded people.