Get Early Referral Customers
I have had the fortune of being a serial entrepreneur and this only meant that I never give up on hopes, ability to make a difference and aptitude to learn. Founded Netlabs in 1995, co-founded Servion Global Solutions in 1998 and am into my third start-up, Green Quotient Systems (www.gquotient.com) since 2009. Groomed with professional skills for 14 years, with the final element of guts and gumption egging me, I ventured on my own in 1995. It has been a fascinating journey, never short of dull moment, but a life that I am still not fully equipped to balance risk and rewards. In my professional career, I have been exposed to selling to OEM Clients and Channel Partners and not so much to enterprise customers.
One of the first things that I learnt is the value of trust relationship one builds with a customer over time. My years of experience with companies that I worked for, helped me immensely and the only variable was the product or technology itself. Selling to customers in India and abroad complicates this further. Being part of a start-up that has passion and commitment in abundance, the credibility is usually built on the experience with an anchor client. For Netlabs, it was India’s largest Engineering Consultants based, in Delhi. The sales cycles started with a chance event when the IT head was complaining about the siloed approach of vendors in revamping their network in an industry event. Networks were “designed” by suppliers of equipment for “free.” When I called on him to present our design capabilities, he was skeptical and was reluctant firstly, to engage us and also having to pay for services.
We had the strength of principal association like Cisco, Microsoft, Novell and Sun Microsystems to convince the customer that we have network design and implementation capabilities. After the first presentation (I did on Louts Freelance Graphics and not on MS Power point), we were given a chance to make a proposal that had penalties and extended payment terms for a princely sum of 6.00 lacs on 1995. Naturally, we were elated that we had the first customer for our design competence and I had extracted a promise from the IT manager to act as referral.
When we spotted another opportunity to do similar work for a software company setting-up a campus wide network near Chennai, we pinged our customer to recommend our work. That started well, but the prospective customer wanted us to design as well as program manage the implementation. We put all that we had in terms of resources, rolling-up our sleeves to deliver this project on time after all this order was 5 times larger!
Both of them turned out to be our Clients for a year after the project, when the engineers from the respective vendors were sent for technical training on network support. With incremental sales efforts we were able to build a pipeline of revenue stream in the early days of our company.