When I was new to Presales, my mentor Mr.Sridhar Iyengar shared a secret sauce for successful sales – Identify and build Customer Champions.
Power of Champions
Your champions have the ability to connect you with key stakeholders like decision-makers including the person responsible for procurement. In a few cases, they have the power to influence decisions and move the needle towards your product or service.
Building these customer champions not only helped me win sales. They helped Customer Success to retain the accounts and become their advocates.
Let’s look at how these champions helped during the sales process by sharing the following details
1. Evaluation criteria
The moment they trust you, they will start divulge details on the key features expected by the management. This had helped me to give a “Wow” demo. During POC, I was able to work build the solution as per their standards and create an impression.
2. Decision Making Process
The champions knew why the organization is looking to buy a new product or service, why it is important for them, and what they expect from the vendor to buy the product. Hence, they know the critical factors involved in the procurement process.
The champions never divulge details about the competitor’s name. Since they believe in you they share the number of competitors involved and whether we have an edge over them or not. In a few cases, they keep the competition at bay and vouch for your service.
4. Influence in decision making
This is not something the champions share. But, it is an action taken by them.
They get into the minds of the decision-makers and influence the decision on why they have to choose our service. They present why your product or service has a competitive edge and the ROI benefit.
The champions handle objections on your behalf. Help the sales by closing the account for you.
The champions do these because they strongly believe in your product or service. So, sales should be careful with their treatment and make them a winner.
Customer Champions don’t stop only with closing the sales. They want to make the product or service a success. By doing so, champions would like to demonstrate the value they bring to the organizations.
Be it implementation or onboarding, they gather and bring the right stakeholders to the table. This is done to ensure that the product goes live without many hiccups. They handle any friction during this phase.
The champions ensure that the product usage increases by the respective team and by doing so they can show the ROI as quick as possible.
6. Alerts or concerns
When there are any alerts during the implementation or concerns related to the product, they give a headsup and ensure that you have the time to fix it.
It doesnt stop here, when there are too many issues after productions or when the satisfaction level dips, they raise the red flag.
Once the implementation is complete and successful, they will be happy to refer your product or services to their network. They will be willing to give testimonials and endorse to other prospects whom you forward.
Customer Champions are your allies. They are influencers during your sales process. Post-sales they are your advocates. So, find one as early as possible and develop a great and healthy relationship with them.
The other day, I was watching “The adventures of Sherlock Holmes(BBC)” and I came across this scene in one of the episodes. What a way to introduce yourself?
That was simple, powerful and impressive. Right?
And, this made me think why Self-Introduction is important and the reason to switch from boring to one that simply stands out.
We introduce ourselves to many people in our life. But, we don’t make an impact with our introduction. As a result, not many remember you or have difficulty to recollect your name or work.
Job-seekers or Sales executives or Sales engineer knows the importance of a powerful introduction. So, why is it important? Because the first impression you create sets the tone for the rest of your meeting.
It’s your credential
A good first introduction can be the difference between your name and credentials being remembered or forgotten. So, give a proper self-introduction that’s engaging and remarkable in a way that the other party remembers who you are the next time you come across. It helps in making the right impression.
Your introduction should be like an elevator pitch. But, consider to include the suggestion below while perfecting your introduction.
Talk about who you are and what you do.
Go beyond your title
Make it relevant
Explain your achievements
Don’t be boring.
A few example
I have shared a couple of sample introductions.
Before a presentation
“Good Morning. I’m Ramesh from DoyenThoughts heading the Sales Engineering division. I am a Customer Enthusiast person always looking for opportunities to delight my customers with the best experience by aligning technology and product with their business operations. Today, I am here to present a new, AI-Based helpdesk system that will help cut costs, save time and improve operational efficiency. Based on our recent survey with our existing customer base, I’m happy to say that the customer satisfaction rate increased by 10% and cut by 15%. Are you ready to know more?“
In an interview
“Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity and considering my profile for the Customer Support Executive Role in DoyenThoughts.
I am a proactive, enthusiastic Customer Service agent with 3 years of experience never hesitant to take up challenges from handling a dissatisfied client to irate customers. I have developed and utilized skills necessary for handling customers with different personas. I have won several awards because of my exceptional performance in handling customer problems and was responsible for a 25% increase in retention sales YoY.
Though I love my current company, I believe it is time for me to take a more challenging role that focuses on customer experience. And, this position at DoyenThought looks like an exact match. So, here I am.“
Perfect your introduction
If you look carefully the example comprises the name, the title, achievements. It shows what the person is passionate about and why they should be motivated to listen to you.
You know who you are and what you have achieved so far. So, you are the best person to introduce yourself.
To summarize a sound introduction goes a long way in ensuring that you will be considered solidly and can help you succeed. If you don’t have any solid introduction, get prepared for one. Be it professional or networking or for a job interview.
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And, please feel free to add corrections to the sample or share your best by dropping the details in the comment section.
You are all set to present the features of the product to the prospect with whom you have been working for some time. The stage is set. When the screen lifts, you are taken by surprise when you see many audiences in the show including his/her boss like CEO or VP or CFO. You know your script is not suited for such a global audience.
Panic sets in. Irrespective of the chillness you profuse sweat. You stammer and may not put in the best show. You will have to tailor the demo on the fly. With decision-makers in the call, it is either a make or break deal now.
During the early stage of my career, I have been in this situation a few times and failed to deliver the knock which costed the deal and my time. It caused embarrassment to the person who recommended us and spoilt the relations.
This is not an ideal situation, and you should work to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Why does it happen?
Communication is the key. Sales engineers are sometimes focused too much on technicality and features, they forgot about to whom they are presenting. The next time, before a demo, make sure to communicate thoroughly and clearly with the prospect of sales to find out who will be joining the demo.
Why it matters?
A CFO’s expectation would be completely different from the Manager who attends the presentation. Their expectations are completely different because CFO would be focussed on the cost while managers would be worried on the ease of operations. In simple, every persona will think differently.
Will it save time? Cost? Or, the life of the professionals who will be using it?
These are some questions that pop up in their mind during the demo or presentation. So, it is important to understand the buyer’s perspective before you walk to the stage.
Prepare before the demo.
To deliver an effective demo, know your audience. Communicate with the prospect with whom you interact, and get the details. Many times, your sales would have done the homework for you. Also, do your homework too and find out all you can about your prospects.
I rely on professional platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter to understand more about their roles, specialization, and area of interest. This has helped me to not only connect with the users but most importantly tailor the presentation to them.
This preparation will help show how your product can help each person individually in their role. You can make them visualize the value of your product.
Your script should not be feature-based.
Every product has many features to boast. But, don’t get carried away with features. Prepare your script focussing on 3 or 4 key aspects.
The products is not only for the individuals. It is for the entire business. So, be ready to talk about the ROI. You should show how the business would be benefitted when they chose your product.
Think of the bigger picture and the long term relationship.
Focus on key feature, emphasize on ROI, look at the end goal and long term picture while performing your research on the personas. By doing so, you will be able to nail your demo. Closing the deal will be a cake walk.
Sanjeev is a Product Manager at Superops.ai. He started his career as a customer support at Capgemini, then laid hands on Sales during his stint at Make A Difference, then started evangelizing and marketing Freshservice when he was with Freshworks. Now, took the Product Manager seat at Superops.ai
To put exactly In his words, “I started selling when I was in support, started speaking at conferences when I was in sales and started building products when I was in marketing. The transition was natural“
We wanted to capture his story exclusively because it was something, we also observed, so naturally happened to him. In this convo, he shares how his career transitioned from Support to Product Management, his point of realization that he could be the one, things to have to be the one, the tools he uses everyday in his Product Management seat. So, here the conversation goes.
1) Sanjeev, we know you started your career as a product support specialist. How did it happen? Was it something you picked or it came in your hands?
I had no say in this. My first job was right out of college and they landed me in a support role. Thinking back, it’s one of the best things to have happened. Because, starting your career in support means you immediately understand what the business does.And Product Management is just the intersection of product, business and customers.
2) That’s correct. What’s the most wanted quality that a product support person should have?
Zooming out of the product and looking at the customers’ business problem. A support rep isn’t a product expert, their product knowledge is not worth much if they can’t solve the customers problem. So, a support rep shouldn’t limit themselves to just knowing their product.
3) Hmm.. It’s beyond that. Got it got it.. So, you were then into Product Consulting right? How’s it? What’s the difference?
Yes!! To me, the difference was the storytelling part. For example, as a product consultant my job was to get prospects excited about our solution. And I had to paint a lot of pictures in their heads about how their future would be if they went with our solution. In a nutshell, in support, you’re working with facts. In consulting, you’re working with a lot of what-ifs.
4) And finally, what caused the interest to take up product management role?
Ever since I learnt what product managers do, I’ve always wanted to be a product manager. I like the ambiguous nature of the role. Got to figure out everything from scratch and every day there are many micro decisions to be made. And product managers get to impact people at scale. Versus a customer facing role where the impact is 1:1. But, I do miss the instant gratification of talking to customers.
5) Yes, that would always be fun to look back. Were there any instances you thought you could become a product manager during your stint as Product Consultant?
Yes! Whenever I faced a customer problem, I would start imagining solutions in my head. I would keep thinking, “If I were to solve this, I would’ve done it like this”. I also enjoyed solutioning conversation with product managers and that’s when I realized, I’d like to be a PM
6) How they helped you realize the same?
My time as a product consultant helped me understand customer problems much better. Because we deal with prospects, we talk more about their problems than our product. This meant that I got immersed in customer environments.And I started thinking for them. And that’s when I started thinking that I could sculpt the hero, the product, to solve the problem.
7) So much energy. So, this is something we wanted to clarify. To become a product manager or to be in a product management side, do you think, you should have technical knowledge?
It’s not a pre requisite but any kind of knowledge helps. For example, I like dabbling in code but that doesn’t help me directly in my job. But, that helps me empathize better with engineers. Sometimes, it’s also a curse. It’s better for PMs to be one level away from execution, so that they can keep the focus on the vision.
8) Haha.. Empathy stays on top. How’s the role? What are the responsibilities you have now?
The role is amazing. Especially, at a startup, when you get to build the product from scratch. Currently, my job is to figure out what problems we need to solve for our target segment.
9) Give us a sneak peek of your day as a product manager?
Haha, it’s a bunch of different things. I usually start my day reading about updates from the industry and catching up on industry forums. Then, I identify areas where devs or designers might be blocked and my top priority is to unblock them. Then, I spend time in conversations where we have to iron out the solutions. Towards the end, I spend time watching/reading educational content about the domain or product management or SaaS in general.
10) What are the tools you use everyday?
Notion for organizing work and documenting requirements. Roam Research for personal note taking. Things 3 for task management. Loom for recording videos an sharing.
11) Finally, before we let you go, who was your inspiration to pick this careerup?
I don’t have a single inspiration because I got into it very early. Now, I follow Shreyas Doshi and John Cutler on Twitter who share interesting perspectives on product management.
Software demo run by sales and presales, sometimes by product managers, decide whether the prospect will continue the journey with us or drop the ball.
When presales give a generic pitch and run the product feature by feature,the game is lost.
Why you need a kickass demo?
In the current market, most of your competing softwares will look the same to the market. At the end of the demo, your presentation will look stale and you will end up being another boring vendor with nothing new to offer.
So, it is important that you got connected with your audience and showed the value they expected at the end of the meeting.
Key ingredients for a successful demo
Your prospects are not connected to your demo’s when it is not scripted and customized. For a demos to be successful, the prospects need to visualize how the product will be used and its effectiveness when put to operations.
In simple, they want to see how the solution would help to solve their challenges.
Discover and Identify the customer expectation
Discovery is fundamental to sales. It helps the team gain insights about the prospects and their challenges.
When discovery is done right, you get to know about the company’s profile, prospect’s role, challenges faced and the implications if not resolved.
Discovery sets the platform to map their journey and present the demo proving it solves the challenges faced by them.
Map out their journey to customize the demo
Many end up doing a common scripted demos or a featured based demo even after the discovery is done. That is a big crime.
The demo is an opportunity for the prospect to see themselves the possible solution. The most effective way to achieve this is to customize the demo as fully as possible.
Show how solutions solve their problem
It is show time. Resist the urge to show them all features. You have taken the effort to customize the demo and let it not go in vain.
Talk about their challenges and drive the demo in such a way that they could see their la-la land. Present the product from their perspective. It should tell the customer’s story.
Show them what the product can accomplish. In simple, they should see the value.
Make it interactive
The average human’s attention span is less than 10 mins and that too only if it is interesting. The further you go into the presentations without getting them involved the less they would pay attention.
So, don’t let your prospect’s to be just the audience. You are talking about their challenges and wishes. Get them involved in the demo.
Make it a two-way interaction. Make sure they experience how it would be they used it.
Get feedback and talk about the next step.
At the end of demo, a sale doesnt happen immediately. That is fine. At the same time,don’t let them slip into the zone “I will get back ”. Be in control.
Ask the prospects about the impression about your product. Check whether the demo helped them to make the next step with you?
Explain the next steps and when you can reconnect(if needed). Set the platform that will help sales in closing.
The best demos are driven by goal. When presented right, it would have convinced that your product is the best and should sign up the same day.
Demos make a difference in the sales cycle as it has a greater impact. it is a powerful playbook for sales.
Prospecting is key for successful sales.But, most sales professionals dread prospecting.
A lot of salespeople dread prospecting because they fear reaching out to strangers and pitch the product or service. Ultimately, fearing that they may get rejected.
When prospecting is done right, you get the opportunity to connect with buyers and sell the product/service.
So, what is prospecting?
It means contacting new leads, establish a connection and fix an appointment. The sales happen later.
Many sales professionals associate prospecting with cold calls. Hence, they hate prospecting.
The truth is you can’t wait for the customer to reach you in this competitive world. Be proactive. Get ready for prospecting.
Customers are caught off-guard because they didn’t expect your call even though they have shown interest in your product or services. They just want to get off the call and don’t want to be interrupted.
In the real world, your prospects have too many things and going on in their mind. To make them interested in your service or product, break their attention and raise the curiosity.
The Boring Pitch
“Hi! I’m Ram from ACME Corp, and I sell CRM implementation service from DoyenThoughts. I’d like to introduce my services. Is this a good time?”
That isn’t interesting to anyone and it certainly doesn’t make them curious to want to find out more.
Tweak The Pitch
Instead, here is a different pitch(courtesy: pipedrive)
“We, at DoyenThoughts, help SaaS companies like yours move away from the old quota-driven way of selling and empower salespeople to get better results with activity-based selling. Using our CRM system, we’ve seen our clients generate 80% more revenue using this activity-based selling approach.
I’d love to share more about this during a quick call sometime over the next week or so. Is this of interest?”
Now, I have the prospect’s attention. I have tried to create a vision of what will happen if they buy my service or products. I have sowed the seed of interest.
In order to increase your success rate, it is absolutely critical that you gain your prospect’s undivided attention.
Prospect effectively. Get ready to “Sell their dream“
2020 has been a hard year for us all. The pandemic changed our lives in countless ways and disrupted the status quo. It would go down as one of the worst for many.
But, I see a lot of positives that came out of 2020.
I believe last year taught a great lesson to humankind.
Though technology brought people across the world closer, we were miles apart from our friends and families who were closer to us. It made us spend more time and be connected with them.
Our lifestyle was pathetic in recent years. It revealed to us how weak we are when the virus attacked us. We were forced to embrace a healthy lifestyle and people have realized the importance of it.
The majority of people stayed indoors to stay safe from the pandemic. It caused a decrease in pollution across the globe. People living in north India claimed that they were able to see the Himalayas from Jalandhar( not sure whether it was real) but I heard sparrow chirping near my home after many years. Nature breathed.
Best minds across the globe connected to find a solution for this pandemic. We have started hearing news of vaccines for this Covid-19 in a short time frame. It wouldn’t have been possible without people lending their hands.
2020 taught us humanity. It has taught us the meaning of life and its purpose; reminded us what we are. It brought the best character out of us.
So, why blame 2020. It did its job. To reset and start fresh. So, be grateful to 2020
And, I am moving forward to 2021 with more optimism. Are you?
Use more analogies in demo and presentation. Why? A well-crafted analogy will help convey the value of the solution with ease. It helps the audience remember the ideas that were presented during the demonstration/presentation.
It is vital for a Solution Engineer to resonate with their customer’s requirements and pitch their solution with the help of a story or an analogy.
What is an Analogy?
An analogy is a form of comparison to provide a better explanation for a point. A common analogy everyone recognizes is “Mary had a little lamb. Her fleece was white as snow.”
Why use an Analogy?
During presentations, I havecome across many solution engineers explaining features which the potential customers were never able to relate to. They leave confused after listening to the presentation.
Some Engineers improvise by sharing statistics. However, customers tend to forget these stats once the presentation is done. They don’t carry anything useful.
Hence, analogies during a presentation helps your customer remember a story which in this case is the story of your product. The key idea is to present an analogy that fits your story, which the customer understands.
A Few Analogies
Here are a few analogies that I have used based on my current experience in presales.
1.“Forums are like Facebook: Customers canshare their views or voice their opinionsas a post and viewers can reply to the post as comments. So it is one to many communication channels.”
Everybody knows Facebook. So, it becomes easier and memorable.
2. Channels which users can use to reach support to help solve their queries are like Transport: It facilitates movement from point A to point B via different media. Here the transportation media could be Facebook, Email, Twitter, etc..but the information (issue) should reach you (support staff).
3. Audit logs – The word “audit” means “to hear”, logs means “record of the event”. The audit logs are like the history of events that happen in a day/month/year.
4. SLA – The SLA is like an “alarm clock”, where you can set the deadline. If the time hits, then it will ring so loud.
5. Automators – The automators are like “automatic cars” when you put the key and start the car and the gear is in the drive mode, the car automatically moves. Here, “starting the car with the key” and “having the gear on the drive mode” are rules, which automatically leads onto the car movement.
Since there isn’t a single analogy to fit every situation, the key is to adapt our analogies to fit the scenario in question. And, it’s important to change analogies over time as well.
In our last blog, we discussed the three reasons why SaaS will dominate the future. With no time wasted, let’s look at the 3 vital steps build a SaaS product.
Market research plays an important role when we want our idea to be executed in a seamless manner and for a long run benefit. Performing a market research will give deep insights about the market, reviews of the competitors’ products, what the customers need from the present vendor and what they are not giving to customers. Insights like these will definitely help decide whether to take the idea forward for execution or not.
Market research helps you identify what your customers want over what you have.
Defining and developing.
Once the market research is done. Once the report from the market research is positive, we need to define a clear plan for the SaaS product we are going to build. This plan should contain the programming language, tools, framework, and last but not least UI. While we met the technical aspect now, we should make sure what exact buyer persona (which market research would have denoted).
This targeted buyer persona will help us understand the problems they are facing. The more big and clear the problem is, the more chance for us to give accurate solutions.
After defining comes the development part. We can either have an in-house development team to build the product or collaborate with an external agency that can do it. Just keep in mind the plan meticulously explained to the development team and they keep that in mind.
Remember, neither YOU nor I can save the product if the UI is bad.
MVP or EVP Strategy.
During the build of the product, we should choose which strategy we are going to adopt. MVP or EVP. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. EVP stands for Exceptional Viable Product. The difference between MVP and EVP is that in MVP strategy, we will be developing the product at minimal costs. It is not exactly a full-fledged product but nevertheless, not less than that. It’s playing the game safely keeping the costs minimal in development, test the viability, get feedback from closed group (this group can be your target persona)
In EVP strategy, we will have the product developed completely to go live in the real market. The risk factor is high as the customers may turn down the product’s arrival in the market. If the welcome turns bad, then the huge amount invested is burned in no time. If we’re very confident about the product, or if our product is a new entrant in the market that tries to solve a big problem, then we may opt for it.
It’s all about identifying a sweet spot. Whichever suits our business, our financial capability we may go with that.
One thing we should keep in mind is, there is always a room for innovation. In this era, everything is invented. The real entrepreneur would always identify pain points of the customers using or consuming a product and try to bring that new element along with all existing elements. In SaaS business too, we should look at what we can innovate that would give superior customer experience as well as customer satisfaction.
In this era, customer satisfaction is just normal. Customer experience is the norm
According to a BCC study done in 2018, “the global software as a service (SaaS) market for business applications should total $94.9 billion by 2022 from $44.4 billion in 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.4% from 2017 to 2022”.
Interestingly with no surprise, the recent study done by Gartner said, “Software as a service (SaaS) remains the largest market segment and is forecast to grow to $104.7 billion in 2020”.
The forecast ratio keeps increasing as the SaaS businesses are witnessing phenomenal growth amidst the pandemic. Or due to pandemic?! Maybe, yes.
The SaaS market is growing and we can definitely be sure of the fact that it is the future. Advent of cloud computing is treading the increasing demand of the sector and Gartner has estimated that the market will attain around 140 billion dollars by 2022.
Handpicks – 3 Reasons For The SaaS Business to become predominant in future.
Technology innovations can be more efficient when they are cloud dependent. And, to achieve that these cloud products and services need the internet connection to perform the activities.
4G and 5G. Internet.
The whole world is on the internet now. Then why don’t the businesses take that path? Advent of faster networks and connectivity is a major boon for the SaaS products to penetrate, proliferate and dominate the business environment. With internet connectivity around and a SaaS mobile application on the phone, not only we can like and comment on social media but also send out invoices to our customers (Accounting/billing mobile applications), record our customers’ data (CRM, Marketing mobile applications) , manage office projects (Project management applications) and many more.
With the internet’s omnipresent feature, the SaaS software and mobile applications can be fully potential with no barriers. Both tech and non tech companies can make use of these SaaS applications according to their business requirements. From an IT company to a dairy industry, from a supply chain company to a retailer shop, everyone who has the internet can do business functionalities using these SaaS applications.
This combination of internet connectivity and SaaS software will enrich the productivity, capacity of the businesses.
Now, having a smart phone in hand is working a smart business.
Collaboration and productivity.
The Covid19 pandemic has come as a testament to people’s adaptability to changes. There was not much necessity for us to invent (except for the vaccine) or discover something new to withstand the situation. Only thing we were required to do was adapt to the changes happening. Similarly, in business context, businesses didn’t have to worry much about the absence of any platform, feature to withstand the pandemic. They were and are required to just adapt to changes. From on-premise to cloud-software adoption. Because, they witnessed that their teams working remotely lacked collaboration and productivity as they can’t sit together to discuss and work together.
SaaS software tools have the capacity to engage all the employees and extract their full potential in working. This increased demand for collaboration and productivity boosts the demand for SaaS products and services in high lines. Just with the internet connectivity, anyone can access the software (which means they can access their work) from any part of the world. Companies from small to large have realized the fact. And so they are starting to adopt the cloud in every possible department/team of their businesses.
Usage of SaaS in business enables employees to work together despite not sitting together.
The last reason but not the least. SaaS model is going to be predominant and prevalent in future owing to its capability to get integrated with each other. One software can be integrated with another to perform an activity or action.
Normally, the different departments in a company, using other software models, find it hard to bring the collaboration to the work context. The water-cooler conversations are for sharing random stuff and not for sharing business related things. With this integration benefit, businesses can enable the contextual connection between different departments in it. Teams can collaborate, get the software connected and do the workflows, and bring results to the table.
SaaS can bring harmony in your business processes and workflows as well.
Bonus Point– In addition to these aforesaid reasons, we would like to comment on the deciding factor. Yes, money. The SaaS software model doesn’t require the customers to invest in maintenance, software development and so on. Also, its subscription model enables them to own their investment. If they want they can subscribe to it and leverage. If not, they can cancel the subscription anytime.
Closing for now to opening a next topic later in this SaaS series
Having seen the three reasons for SaaS businesses to rule the industry in future, we will be covering what are the three important steps to follow to building a successful SaaS product. Stay close. Block your time then for us.