Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of TiE Hyderabad on Master Class about “Organising Sales” by Kiran Deshpande of Tech Mahendra on 13th December 2022 at TGS 2022 in Hyderabad.

When the voice is soothing, delivery is slow and study, content is well structured, super simple and well focused, messages are laden with real time examples from one’s own experience, a Masterclass truly flourishes. This is what exactly Mr. Kiran Deshpande, former CEO of TechM, did at TiE Global Summit 2022. He made the audience glued to the talk for the entire 90 minutes. Everyone got something for themselves. He juggled nicely between the asks of the audience and the objective of master class.

Kiran Deshpande

Customer is the one who gives you the Purchase Order. Sales is a process that converts defined opportunity into a PO. Maximum attention is 30 seconds.

We are in wellness solution. What do you mean by wellness? Instead o saying you make the best broom in the world, if you say you are into cleaning business, it won’t help.

What do you do? Whom do you serve? Where do you your business?

SAP is both product and service company. Their Service bundle is larger than the product. It is B2B, Product and Service. KPIT is service business. AWS is services. Byjus ans Bata are B2C. What if Bata makes shoes for Indian army? Businesses can be multi-faceted.

Pharma business is B2B4C. In B2B2C and B2B4C the user is consumer.

Natural silk as a protein for breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients and bone reconstruction. A surgeon who performs breast recon uses this material and this is B2B4C.

Market: A market with potential customers with similar requirement.

First customers are always family and friends or a reference. There is no lead generation for that.

We sell a product or service to a market which is potential customers (B2B, B2C, B2B2C, B2B4C) with similar requirement. Founders have to create that similarity. Here is what I have a black colour toy car that we sell across. We can’t get stuff Ande unique to each customer easily.

20 companies existed in India with a Captial or venture in their name. We raised 10 million round and we went to a law firm that did the due diligence. They gave us a check order from a law office. They gave it and we showed it to Texas Instruments to get their business. A reference helps.

What is GTM?

If a VP of sales talks clinically about where the good use of a product lies. Software can be open source and you can choose to make money initially and then make it open source tool and get some brownie points. An investor asked me value of this planner product and we said it would be only 2% of potential revenues. We know it would be the base so we gave it away by discontinuing it but making it an open source.

Think go to market strategy also as what you are going to discontinue. You can’t be a CEO forever and what if you are not there a CEO in next five years? GTM is not only technical. Think about it in larger scheme or things.

Thank you very much. Send me more info.

“Send me more info and come to me” excites us but we can’t celebrate. “Show me what you have” excites us further and we are getting closer but does it mean we have a defined opportunity? Our job is to convert a nebulous opportunity to a defined opportunity. Your target should go internally and push his or her supervisor to get the budget sanctioned.

Sales personnel sell. Founders make the customers buy! Our job is to get our offering out of the door and defined opportunity means there has to be a qualified lead. What is qualified means having the client with budget. If you sell in Europe, they say “we like it and we will do it in next year budget”. In India it is chaotic but money commitment could happen.

In service, we don’t have enough talented resources. Products has some other problem.

Your sisters friend shortlisted an ear ring and a necklace but she is debating about a bracelet to buy. Your one of the considered vendors. Is that a celebration? You are selected vendor. Yet it is not done yet. OK. Purchase Order came. Is that a celebration? No. Your legal and finance has to accept it. Early stage startups don’t have legal.

After the PO from a customer, someone in my procurement wants to makes his presence felt and he refuses the contract!

There is always one doubting Thomas in your company that something won’t work. If you have grown your customer base by 15x, the doubting Thomas starts believing in your story now.

Reputable large companies have the timelines for which PO gets into which quester. Create the trust among your stakeholders

In early stage startups, strategy, market, marketing and sales are intermixed!

Should I offer my offering freely?

Have you made it worth for someone to pay? Saying no to someone who is not ready to pay versus still continue with that customer is a judgement call.

How do you open a conversation with a potential customer?

Your sister friend comes to you for buying the jewellery. This is due to leaf of faith. We do left brain driven analytical thinking. When you go for your first B2B meeting, how do you start the conversation? We talk about the customer’s pain point. We read about your customer and their company as much as you can. I figure whether they are risk averse and risk friendly. Talk about themselves. We don’t try to talk about the USP of our product right off the bat.

When do you seriously story tell? When does a good narrative gels well?

If you have a product or idea and it’s time hasn’t come and you have an MVP. Then what do you do? What will you do? Now your idea of storytelling makes sense. For example, we built wifi security when wifi wasn’t even there. When we transition from Ethernet to wifi, security will be a nightmare. So we could sell that story! Some early adapters bought it.

We sat in the investors office and hacked their traffic. We showed them that their communication with other founders and term sheets. They are in the air and next day they gave us the term sheet.

Lead to Customer: Stages in B2C Sales

All founders need to know enough about most of the other businesses within my domain to be relevant. In B2C, demand generation is more important and in B2B lead generation is very important. In B2C, CRM and Analytics are extremely important as we deal with volume.

What is CRM for B2C?

I am a big fan of Excel with macros and all. I challenge my team with Salesforce team! CRM means consumer insights. My son is a founder of Bombay Shaving. He gave some insights. It was for men first and now he made for women. Men shave in the basin and women shave in the shower. Women are fine for a sachet and she can use it before going to a party. This is consumer insight. People who buy men’s grooming are women. This is another insight. We also have customer use cases is that which is different from consumer insight. Understanding the depth helps you give good narrative to the market. Indigo Paints founder is my neighbour. He said “people India now do refurbishing of homes. This is happening more often. They call the painter who sells indigo new paints for those repeat customers. In B2B, w also have a technical expert at access to the CXO. Influencers are the key for your sales.

Here is a ladder and not a funnel.

My sons business is for consumers but 20% come from B2B. When you become successful.

Service business is mostly done though direct sales.

Once I got a call from Vodafone Egypt. They are interested in security. I told him I never did any business in Egypt and I asked him to connect me with their partner who knows how business runs in Egypt. I got insights that I shall deliver x+3. Similarly, a story from Nairobi. The caller asked “if your product is so good how come I don’t know you”. I said “do you know CISCO in 1990?”. Partners play an important role in far off territories. Global business means you need a distributor who brings you lots of business. Distributor to reseller to consumers is a three tier! 20% of the channel partners give you 80% of the business. But you have to built many partners first before being choosy.

If you sell online, do you need a distributor? May be when you go physical later.

Which investor to choose?

Strategic investment (not VC but a corporate invests in you) has different goals than a real financial investor. No investor wants the founders to be short changed on equity. Smart investor wants to dilute later in the interest of the founder. Strategic can be good or bad. Bring balance to the board with independent director as a well known personality in the industry.

How to constitute the board?

When I was brought in, Tech Mahendra was growing very fast. This guy asked me for dinner in London. This is what he said “on your board have people who have walked your path so they guide you but they don’t become jealous of you outrun them”. There will be one who would eye your job. You may not realise until it becomes obvious. Founders get wedged out and as a founder you have to handle it.

Outsmarting your competition?

CISCO is like Bhishma and we have to aim him in ear. Build you business and drive out your competition or reduce the perimeter of the competition. Indian SIs are extremely agile and have tremendous technical depth so it is very difficult for us to compete. Shrining the perimeter of the rivals must come into your sales conversations. Coach your sales rep with this.

If your government tender is templated, you are the de facto. Even large fortune companies know you. Coexist with your larger rival and only hit the Bhishma Pitamaha only when you are ready. Play the Sivaji chord when you fight the battle when you know you will win.

Three kinds: Early adopter| High top line | High bottom line

Find the early adopter of technology as your customer. If you are in prosthetics, you must be the one selling the hand. Make it like that. Krishna has Sudarshan Chakra and no one else has it. Can you have a product as obvious as that one. You may miss a bone arrow but can you have a chakra as your differentiator. Get to that point. The moment you drop the price, it is not considered top line and you may lose further. Go hard on it.

Some times walking away from a deal gives a positive message to the market. I had an unfair advantage and customer bought from us. Fifer years later CFO changed. He was a bean counter. My competition figured out how I sell and what I sell. They brought the price by a crore right away. I ended up discounting but couldn’t beat the competition. I walked out. My client watched for a while. At the time of closing the deal, he went to the CFO and convinced him to bring us back. Then I have another 5% goodwill discount to the CFO. I didn’t want to fight and want the CFO also to feel he is a winner. Discover your Sudarsan Chakra.

Customer of a startup makes the decision very early and it is yours to screw it up. Hungarian railways recommended something and the CIO was scared for his job. I told him to wait for two years when adoption is more and I did it. Volume leads to lower pricing. I played the reverse. I said I can’t give discount at volume. I have to import and I have to fund for the import. I asked them to import for me and I gave discount. The whole hardware price dropped but I retained software margin.

How to drive sales around IP?

Customer doesn’t care. IP is for you to fight the competition. You use it when the customer asks you why they should buy from you and not your competition. In case of violation by competition, I wouldn’t say past is past. There are competitors devices out there. That is lost business. Be open to go legal.

Is India after quality of cost?

There is good portion of India that is after quality. I grew up in Indore. I notice Rs. 40,000 bill for the glasses. This optician is an ace seller who knows eyes, glass and optics so well. I ended up buying not only my glasses but I got sold on the goggles that I never used in my life till that date. His elder brother is masters in physics and hence he assured all the optics knowledge. This so the ability of you or the sales people you bring. You can get customers to pay.

What would it take for the business to scale?

How do I scale from 7km a day to full marathon? 42km? October 1st I did 45km. It is a mind exercise and I have to tell myself I can do it. I did 45km in 7.5 hours in 2019. What would it take to achieve your scaled goal must be visualised first. Imagine that future and work towered removing those constraints. I like shopping with the women and the ir negotiation skills are lessons to learn. They know to walk away. The next year I did 50km in 9 hours. The last three kms are a nightmare.

The only constraint yo your goal is your mind. Journeys could be different but success is common.

Taco Bell wants us to give them wifi and they want to attract Starbucks customers and compete with Starbucks. We upgraded our devices for them.

Write 30 words about your business new and make it eventually 5 words. That process gives you clarity.

When you become large, product market fit will be figured out. You don’t see it until you get there

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