Network with people constantly to exponentially increase your reach to your first customer
Vivek Agrawal Co-Founded Liqvid along with Manish Upadhyay. He was in e-learning almost from the beginning of his career. Vivek co-founded egurukool earlier and sold it to NIIT 10 years ago. In e-gurukool, the focus was on Maths and Science but the objective of Liqvid was to impact learning through technology. The focus is on e-learning solutions for customers internationally and sell their English learning software to the businesses in India. The objective is on building a consumer brand for English business.
Vivek recollects that this was more of an idea initially that the technology companies will be the biggest buyers because they need to upgrade their employees skill sets on a constant basis than any other companies did. The hence went after the Learning & Development teams and of late they began focussing on business teams also as they have larger budgets. What he went into the market as MVP has nothing to do with the product that is currently there as the product went through multiple iterations based on the customers needs.
For one of his large customers, he had built a fancy Community Based Learning infrastructure – Learning 2.0 but his customers were more interested in doing more basic stuff like self-study type of materials. He did not sit in with his flow and tried to change the mind-set of his prospects as it would be difficult. Community based learning was new to the market and companies found it a bit difficult to adopt it because they needed ROI on learning. The ROI was evident if they go through one hour of structured learning but is not visible if it learnt through a community.
His sales model was networking initially. Vivek did not know anyone to begin with. He had to get the initial prospects through his own effort. In those days, there was this old fashion school, college and industry network for meeting people. He found reasons to meet them officially or socially and got referrals. He says that no one can get clinical in meeting the right people but he always kept meeting people and someone always helped inspite of many people saying that they cant. He tried a variety of methods like cold calling, emailing and it did not work. He has followed a policy thereafter that they will do only targeted marketing through social media in addition to networking
Vivek says that you cannot have your sales team doing the First Few Customers as it has to be done via the founder only. The sales team can come in once the model gets established. The lack of a sales sales team will be compensated by the founders deep product knowledge, commitment, understanding the customer, passion which will sell more than anything else. The sales objections by his early customers were more towards Liqvids capability to doing this as it was a startup. They solved the problems by offering free trials or prototypes and that has worked for ever.
Vivek’s advice to startup founders. Think hard on your differentiated value proposition, which he says that he could have changed now if he had a chance to go back on time. They did lots of investments and now they think they can differentiate, but those days he says that he could have got more business if he would have spent more time on sharpening his Value Proposition.
Liqvid (http://www.liqvid.com/), currently has around 600000 learners in India for his English learning product. Has 125 people and have raised 2 rounds of VC funding. They won quite a bit of awards. They were part of Delliotte fast 50 for two years and , were a part of British Council for language learning and was also awarded by the Society of Technical Education