No matter how great your product is, it will be considered great only if it has a happy customer and customer is one who has paid for your product. How much did you sell? What is the profit margin? How many new customers did you acquire? These numbers indicate the performance of your start-up and determine if they are good enough to attract and convince investors on the viability of your enterprise.

During my years of interaction with entrepreneurs, I have found that most of them struggle with sales and growing their customer base. They seek my advice on what kind of sales skills are required to understand buyer behaviour, sales cycles and closing strategies.

One thing that I clearly tell them is that the customer will buy your product only if it is doing something for him. It could be solving a problem or help achieve some aspiration or improve some process leading to significant business benefits. It is important therefore to position the product more from the customer’s perspective and not for the technology or features. Therefore, product positioning and a good understanding of the sales cycle is critical for establishing a predictable customer acquisition process.

In order to enable such entrepreneurs overcome these challenges, I conducted sales training sessions across different regions of India. The primary focus of the sessions was on product positioning and making it more relevant to create value for customers.

During the workshop, my main aim was to guide the participating entrepreneurs through the following aspects of sales:

• Clearly identify the problem that the product is trying to solve. Ensure that the customer also views it as a problem.
• Understand what the product does to solve the problem and the resultant benefits.
• Measure the benefits, wherever possible.
• Identify how the product needs to be positioned, to quickly get customer buy-in.
• Articulate the positioning and the value proposition in every communication with the customer.

We also went through the entire sales cycle and the techniques and strategies that one could follow:

• Lead Generation: Create a healthy list of qualified leads.
• Cold Calling: Reaching out to an organization or person and creating affinity.
• Understanding customer needs: What are the buyers’ desires, needs, fears & aspirations.
• Product Presentation & Demo: Mapping features to needs & creating value.
• Pricing: Derive pricing from value creation.
• Lead Nurturing: How to convert ‘interest to invoice’.
• Objection handling: How to pre-empt and overcome.
• Negotiations: Make the customer focus on Value rather than on Price.
• Creating a customer-centric sales process: Map sales actions to customer’s decision-making process.
• Getting the right people: Don’t hire people; sell your dream.

Key Takeaways

At the end of the workshop, I asked the participants to recap their learning. Their key takeaways were:

  • Know your customer needs.
  • Identify the ‘real’ problem’.
  • Position your product based on ‘need’ or ‘problem’.
  • Create a Go-To-Market strategy that is built around this ‘need’ or ‘problem’.
  • Put in place processes and practices that proactively address and enable the customer’s decision making process.
  • To get the right people – Don’t ‘Offer’ a job; Sell your company.

The session was immensely appreciated by the audience, as can be seen from the following feedback:

Sriram Sekhar, Founder – my-healthconnect Hyderabad, had this to say about the session, “Some of the examples on why sales did not happen though the product was a great one and was very insightful. It provokes one to think from very varied perspectives.”

And, Vasu Naman from Vyrazu Labs , Kolkata while expressing his gratitude said, “I am glad that after getting selected in the virtual program, we are getting so many opportunities for learning new things. I would be glad if we can be part of the warehouse program so that we can get a chance to be there in NASSCOM 10,000 Startups every day and work with the new startups to explore more opportunities.”

About the Author – Srikanth Vasuraj is a well-known sales trainer, sales management consultant and GTM & growth strategist. He has a long-standing experience of 40 years across diverse industry and functional expertise, of which the last 15 years have been with startups, helping them with their product, go-to-market and growth strategies. He imparts sales training on the entire sales cycle, from lead generation to lead nurturing to negotiations and closure, especially for product companies in the B2C B2B market, employing large sales teams. He is closely associated with NASSCOM 10000 Startups Warehouse across India for providing business mentoring and sales training to their in-house startup ventures. Srikanth can be reached at +91-9845-478-585 and [email protected]

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