There is sales and then there is B2B sales! That too, when you are working at a startup! From attending skype calls while travelling, to trusting the Mumbai locals for their punctuality, I wish I could say that I have seen it all. But then musing to myself as I listen to music on my way back from a 2 hour meeting, I guess I can safely say that it has just started.Prior to joining Reculta, the only sales experience I had, was with the FMCG sector, where processes are as abundant as seagulls on the pier. Managing sales used to be about handling a pre-defined territory with diligently planned route maps and engaging with retailers who respected the brand you represented. All that was required of you was to nurture the relationships built by your employer over the past many years (or even decades in some cases). The game changed and how once I joined Reculta, a startup that was barely a year old in a completely new domain, namely B2B SAAS.
For the sake of structure, which has been drilled into my brain during the course of the two years at a b-school, I shall break down my varied experiences by the types of clients I have had the pleasure of interacting with.
a) The ‘Everything is Urgent’ Clients:
I had met a potential client in Mumbai who I had decently impressed with our offering. Also I was able to establish a personal connect with my central point of contact, owing to our similar roots . The week following our meeting, was planned for engaging with potential leads in Ahmedabad, considering the long sales cycles in the B2B space. But no! This client would not have it at all. No sooner had I reached Ahmedabad, than an email popped up on my screen. It had the sweetest content that we all love to read – “Himanshu, we love the product that you are offering us, can we meet tomorrow at 9 AM with the senior management and close the deal as soon as possible?”
Well damn! That was fast! I booked my return ticket to Mumbai at the Ahmedabad station within 30 minutes of my arrival, and was back in Mumbai the next morning. What I got in return was a deal closure worth a couple of lakhs, an apology for making me rush back to Mumbai and a feeling of achievement that lingered on for many days thereafter. Amen to the Almighty! May He keep blessing me with such restless clients.
b) The “I Have all the Time in the World” Clients:
This was another client from the beautiful city of Mumbai. I remember that it was my second meeting with him within a span of 2 weeks. The first meeting had been fairly smooth, with him more insistent on getting me as a guest faculty at his institute, rather than listening to the product features. This second meeting was the one where I hoped to egg him on slowly to subscribe to our product. But no, Sirjee had other priorities, that were in fact diametrically opposite to mine. Five minutes into the product discussion, bang comes the first question – “Is this your first time in Mumbai?”
Me: “Well for professional reasons, yes this is the first one sir.”
Sirjee: “Young lad, then we have other priorities to address than the product you are offering me! Have you ever been to Alibaug?”
Me: “Not yet sir, but I do plan to go there once I get a long weekend”
Sirjee: “Long weekends are for losers my friend, let’s go there tomorrow itself. We will take the ferry in the morning, chill the whole day and come back at night.”
Me: “Err, sir I love spontaneous plans, but my cofounder will literally kill me if I take a trip to Alibaug on a Monday.”
Sirjee: “I will talk to him. Business is always going to be there, live your life young man!”
Me: “Well sir, I would love to do that but tomorrow I have other commitments which I need to take care of. Let’s park this excursion for the coming weekend.”
Sirjee: “You should not be a spoilsport this way lad. But anyways, I understand your viewpoint. But we are going out for drinks and dinner definitely tonight.”
Running out of excuses, I had to accede to this request finally. What followed was a four hour long drinks plus dinner session, with everything discussed under the sun. What was not discussed was obviously the business at hand. I came back home wiser that day, planning to keep a ready-made list of excuses for such bizarre requests coming my way in the future. The deal is yet to come through, but I have had the pleasure of having home cooked dinner at Sirjee’s place twice since then!
c) The “I am the Gyaani” Clients:
Honest confession – these fellows are the most fun to talk to. I have had the pleasure of meeting multiple such clients. They couldn’t care less about your product, but they still would like to see you as the next unicorn they can boast of having mentored. Product? Naaah! They tell me where we could find the most talented team members, how we could raise funding while giving out the least amount of equity, and hitherto such strategic advice star consultants would have trouble brewing up. No offence to these kind hearted and altruistic souls, they are the perfect sounding boards to noob test our product idea.
These are just some of the stories that have been a result of my experiences in the last 6 months at Reculta. Crazy and entertaining as they might be, they sure lend your day with enough food for thought. Each day on the field comes as a new learning experience to be absorbed, inculcated and explored. As I keep meeting new people, I hope I that I continue to learn about the quirks of human psychology. ‘To Sell is Human’, and to understand your buyer definitely is the stepping stone to master it.