Front End your Core Team to get your early customers
Poornima Shetty Founder & CEO of Latitude Edutech comes from an Economics and Management graduate. She has been in the B2B services background all along. She began working in Advertising & MR space. She began her entrepreneurial stint with a head hunting business which she sold to a venture fund. She then moved on to set up NASSCOM in the South and worked with Manipal Group for a while heading strategy and before becoming thePresident of India Semiconductor Association. She founded Latitude in 2011. The idea was to get into the content creation space as there was a lot of scope for quality content in training & development. The team began creating content for online learning.
e-learning as an industry was strategic in nature and she figured out that she needed to stay invested for a long time and not expect short term results. She took some key people on board and began pitching for seed funding as the business is working capital intensive.
Initial Days Sales Reachout
Since e-learning is a strategic initiative for all companies, Poornima realized that the best path to entry will be through a reference/ referral point. She avoided cold calling, cold emailing, marketing etc.as it rarely works in theB2B space.
Early Customers Acquisition
To allay customer concerns and the need for information, Poornima put together a pre -sales team that included both business and delivery heads. They got their first deal because the prospect understood the power of the team that is going to do this work and got convinced to give them the go ahead. She found the formula working and she continues to use it today too.
She does the door opening and then involves her pre sales team as part of the consultative selling process. Poornima also worked on building credibility – having an office and a stable address, strong team and processes. Having senior people in the team makes a lot of sense because the buyers in the client organization are decision makers.
Area of Improvement
Poornima recalls that for a long time she did not bother about qualifying her prospects and kept spending time with everyone who showed interest. This created a big gap between what she perceived as business vs. what came in as business. She says that she gauges the interest in the first meeting and finds the intent to in the second meeting; then parts as friends if the intent is not there. Every meeting will end with “what next and when next” questions which is her way of qualifying. This is helping them to have a predictable process.
Poornima’s Advice to entrepreneurs
Have resilience. Business will not pour on day one. Successful companies have changed models and pivoted in their early stages and have become what they are today. Entrepreneurs should understand how and when they will get their money . Overnight success is never just so…it is “years” in the making.