“The human touch still holds the ground and is an imperative pillar of sales transactions”
1. Tell us about your role in Denave?
As the Global Chief Executive Officer of Denave my primary role is to build the future roadmap of the company while creating shareholder, customer and employee value. I emphasise on leveraging operational excellence and innovation to drive expansion and profitability. In my initial years at Denave, I established the process led services delivery model and remote services model to enable us to cut across market, industry and geographical boundaries. I have been lucky to get the support of a great team.
I view my role as a catalyst to inspire the vision of the company and connect people with resources to execute that vision. It requires me to challenge the assumptions at the outside while in the inside, to help connect the dots between innovation, strategy and vision.
Prior to my stint as a Co-Founder/Global CEO at Denave, I have also worked with multi nationals like Wipro and Microsoft in multiple sales and marketing capacities which contributed in building the foundation of my beliefs and work culture that I leverage in my present role.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
Sales happened to me by Choice. I was meant to be a software engineer, at least my qualification (as an MCA) was supposed to make me one.
My first job as a Product Support Executive, lasted all of three months and again for no fault of mine. At my first workplace, right after my induction program (which happened post 3 months of on-job PSE training) the Marketing head felt I had a knack for Sales and would serve the company more as a sales person and offered me a lucrative role in the world of sales and marketing. A job change within 3 months and that too on a platter from the senior management (I was taken out for a one on one lunch and sold the job), I would be the last person to decline such importance shown.
So, I moved.
This probably was the incident that sowed the seeds of my entrepreneurial journey in sales and led to co-founding Denave – a global sales-tech enablement company. It’s been almost two decades now, and the journey has been full of challenges and enlightening lessons. As cliched as it may sound, one of my biggest learning in all these years has been that there is always a silver lining behind a cloud, as long as you focus on the job at hand diligently and smartly. It is only a matter of pushing for the bad phase to end and constantly evaluating better options to ride through the bad phase, rather than running away from it.
If I could just go back and imagine myself in my previously chosen profession of an engineer, I would have been probably spending more time solving problems through well designed algorithms, spending my 9 to 5 routine diligently, however, life may never have been this exciting. The dream that I am living today took shape in 1999, as they say on a shoestring budget, with lots of passion, hard work and ideas as key investments.
3. How do you think technology is upgrading marketing and sales Sector?
Today, the divide between sales and marketing is continuously being bridged due to the rapid evolution of customer behaviour fuelled by adoption of technology. Customers making informed purchase decision is the norm.
Another thing to note is the way lines are blurring between how these functions performed differently for B2B and B2C landscapes. Technology that was earlier only being leveraged in a B2C environment is now finding a hot seat even in a B2B environment. Evolving technologies like data analytics, AI, NLP, Smart Data are effectuating new-age sales tools. CRM systems and processes are mostly owned by Marketing teams but with the sales funnel becoming more streamlined, customer touch-points’ becoming varied – the communication content is becoming synced with target customers. Organisations are gradually understanding the role of technology in making this alignment possible, and hence more funds are being ear-marked for development and adoption of new technology tools and platforms.
the human touch still holds the ground and is an imperative pillar of sales transactions.
4. How has digital marketing contributed in better customer acquisition?
Digital marketing is mainly building an influencer network that facilitates brand visibility and customer engagement and builds brand equity in the market. This coincides with Lead generation tact and with good marketing strategy, it becomes easy to focus upon specific tools and channels that a business can use to add new customers.
Social Media advertising, content marketing, SEOs etc offer incredible solutions facilitating businesses to target desired customers. Reaching and converting new customers is essential to any business, and digital marketing strategies helps improve customer acquisition strategy and building customer empathy too.
5. How does intelligent database management and sales analytics help in improving sales?
The growing trend of big data or analytics is hugely dependent on the richness of the database and the insights driven out of them. Informed decision making is the backbone of every successful organization. How an organization derives and deploys actionable insights from its data reservoir makes a world of difference when it comes to net new customer acquisition, customer or even revenue maximization. Any customer acquisition activity will be a non-starter if the DB of the target segment is unclean. Intelligent database management enables the process of cleaning up DB and making it contactable – a key success parameter for any campaign or sales strategy to reach its desired goal.
A methodology-driven Sales Analytics engine has the potential to impact an organization’s processes, products, services and even enhance & enrich existing business models, not to mention it is the key to sellers’ success. In order to increase the sales effectiveness and productivity, sales analytics helps to identify, understand and predict sales trends and helps in finding the improvement points. It determines the success of previous sales drive and forecast the future. It helps in tracking down metrics such as sales growth, sales target, product performance, and Lead conversion rates etc. It’s offerings are not just a stand-alone service but are a strategic part of every sales Enablement portfolio, helping us drive sales processes that generate conversions, enhance revenue generation, enable strategic cost reductions, boost process efficiency and generate overall better output.
6. How do you differentiate your sales automation platform from those of your competitors?
Across industries, where players are focusing on buyer’s journey to make sales impact, we design our services and product portfolio to empower The Seller’s Journey. This is premise of our business model that enables clients to expand their customer reach, boost sales strategies with crucial insights pertaining to market and their target customers delivering incremental revenue impact
There are five broad steps towards methodical selling that witness a play of people, process, innovation & technology:
• Identifying the next new customer – Going beyond database, entering whitespace to explore incremental contactable database access. The existing database which is being continually mined is good for sustaining business momentum, however for finding new customers and achieving an accelerated growth it is imperative to dive into the untapped segment of database called ‘Whitespace’. Whitespace discovery bring forth more suspects which through Intelligent Database Management can be used to yield ‘prospects’
• Drilling down to buying probability of a suspect/prospect – Prioritising probable buyers based on purchase history/ buying pattern/ techno-graph of look-alike organizations. Automated pattern matching, and Predictive analytics has started playing pivotal role at this stage. Once the priority list is in place, the gaps in the existing set-up (competition’s play with the prospect) and matching of the products/services that suit the prospects’ needs happens.
• Ascertaining who is likely to buy – Identify purchase propensity of probable buyers. This information is ascertained when the duo team of sales and marketing work in tandem to cultivate those qualified prospects via credible communication out-reach. Pure play of tools like Marketing Process Automation channelling communication across relevant digital platforms along with integration with a smart CRM helps greatly at this stage.
• Improving the sales motion by driving higher productivity and quicker impact – Generate sales qualified leads for profitable growth. Leveraging smart CRMs with an ability to automate lead quality validation, Smart Assistant within the CRM enabling the sales force to walk through during a customer conversation and speech recognition reducing the data entry effort of the sales person, the sales motion can be optimized by more than 20%-25%. Intuitive design of the screens allows the user/sales person to walk through the sales process with minimal wastage of time. The evolving trends in AI, Augmented Reality, IoT, Data Analytics etc. have also left no page unturned in a complete optimization of the sales process.
• Last mile visibility for quick sales closure – Close the sales loop with the ecosystem. This stage involves seamless integration of the CRM with the sales ecosystem that is driving the sales closure. It entails capturing all the relevant real time data points to give crucial insights into the sales elements like total time taken, reasons for the loss of sales, customer’s expectation, real time view on market dynamics making it possible to react quickly and aptly.
As mentioned earlier, in each of these steps of Sellers journey, the most available sales force technology solutions in the industry today are often incomplete to answer the final impact received on the sales process. Our technological solutions solve that problem by driving end-to-end implementation, increased productivity, standardised data output, market feedback, implementation of real-time corrective measures along with quick implementation and faster returns.
Our continuous endeavour has been to adapt to an evolving landscape and leverage the prevailing technological trends for sustainable growth. Our technology solutions are focused on developing intelligent sales platforms through sales process automation fused with latest technology trends. Few of our flagship solutions include
• Our Whitespace Discovery model that improves account contact-ability leveraging state of the art technology,
• DenSales, a Sales force management platform that enables investment v/s impact tracking by connecting the dots across Sales and Marketing engines
• DenTrack – A platform which enables your trade marketing strategy execution and tracks its effectiveness
• DenRex – Our Innovative Retail hygiene management solution that offers deep market intelligence of the retail ecosystem.
• Our Retail Analytics Solution that identifies the gap in the merchandising process and thus enhances effectiveness.
7. What automation tools do your Sales teams use?
We have range of Sales Process Automation Tools used by our sales team to cater to every stage of the seller’s journey to various sectors, namely DenSales, DenTrack, DenRex, DenCRM & Merchandising Retail Analytics Solution.
DenSales: It help addressing numerous business challenges while implementing and executing a robust field force strategy. It is a complete solution for planning, managing and executing the field force program, offering end-to-end visibility to all the stakeholders in the sales ecosystem.
DenCRM: It is a Tele lead generation tool developed through best practices to manage customer relationships for achieving desired business growth. It comprises of fully customisable and an intuitive dashboard providing 360-view of the buyer’s journey. It maintains the accuracy of data entry and integrates seamlessly with the database optimizing the sales motion by more than 20%-25%.
DenReX: It is a comprehensive retail excellence solution offering deep market intelligence of the entire retail ecosystem. It provides a complete package facilitating retail hygiene management and providing comprehensive compliance management mechanisms, it is available on web-interface as well as user-friendly mobile app.
DenTrack: It provides end-to-end solution to plan and execute Trade marketing activities, track & manage on-ground team performance, hence offering complete visibility to all stakeholders on Sales, Funds, Coverage and Brand advocacy of channel ecosystem. It is primarily designed to address business challenges encountered while planning and executing Trade promotional activities. It is available on Web-Interface as well as user-friendly mobile app. Briefly, it acts as a robust end-to-end solution offering 360-degree real time and interactive view of all the trade marketing activities.
Retail Merchandising Solution: It identifies the gaps in processes, training, data acquisition and data integration through intelligent data assessment techniques. It integrates data from multiple geos (countries, cities etc.), entities (distributors, integrators, retailers) and functions (sales, distribution, merchandising) to provide one common view. Overall, it is focused on driving optimization and compliance, in visibility and availability, in retail stores, leading to insights, corrective measures and creating opportunities for prevention of revenue leakage.
Lastly, Sales Process Automation tools also being used to provide crucial insights into sales elements like total time taken, reasons for the loss of sales or lead conversion, customer’s expectation, real-time view on market dynamics making it possible to react quickly and aptly.
8. What advice would you like to give to the technology Start-ups?
Firstly, I believe being an Entrepreneur is a social responsibility. Entrepreneurship can be a tough and long journey. Some get lucky and succeed the first time. However, as cliched as it may sound, I totally believe that there is always a silver lining behind a cloud, as long as you focus on the job at hand diligently and smartly. Keep pushing for the bad phase to end and constantly evaluate better options to ride through it, rather than running away from it.
Support and trust from the people around you is imperative to help you successfully thrive the journey, be it in a good or a bad phase. Hence the importance of team and leading by example. Leadership means imparting the vision, providing direction, and allowing the team enough freedom to figure out a way to achieve their objectives. Show your team you trust them (which starts with trusting yourself) and let them develop into key players in your organization. While I am no Guru, there have been several learning over the last 20 years, sharing them below for the benefit of the young and passionate minds in their entrepreneurial journey
• Dirty your hands – 30000 feet view will only take you as far as some numbers on the spreadsheet
• Attracting talent as a start-up is difficult – put together a dedicated team (not necessarily a talented team) and use your talent to guide them through
• Pick partners who share same values and principles – Trust goes a long way in building a successful company
• If you have a clear vision, the best person to sell it is you – Don’t delegate work to a sales team that does not believe or understand your vision.
• Have faith and confidence in your idea – Prove to yourself that the business idea you have is workable, before you look for investors to back you up.
• The best way to scale a proven idea is to look for intelligent money – either in the form of paying customers or investors that can help you scale
• 100% of 0 is still zero – don’t hold your idea too close to your heart. You will always need help to scale – get help (read intelligent money)
• Don’t fall in love with your idea – there might be changes required, based on market feedback or indicators.
• Don’t look only for people who adore you and your idea – search for the nay-sayers, it will help you understand different perspectives and the strength/weakness of your idea.
• Persistence. Persistence. Persistence – there is no better way to succeed
9. What is the Digital innovation in sales technology according to you that will mark 2019?
ML led sales analytics will become more prevalent in 2019 – Sales tech platforms today work more towards automating the sales processes and thereby end up collecting huge amount of last mile data which does not get connected to the sales outcome. With the usage of ML in sales analytics, ability to predict, project and qualify will take major strides.
The next area which has already started showing impact are the Marketing Technology platforms which are able to follow the complete journey / footprint of the potential buyer in the digital eco-system. For marketeers it is helping in filtering relevancy and ensuring consistency through the entire marketing process with more control. Working as a partner throughout the customer life cycle it is helping in strategically enhancing customer experience at all the junctions of a sales motion – hence more collaboration between sellers & marketeers. For sellers, it is leading to better propensity of purchase checks and boosting productivity.
10. How do you prepare for a Technology-Centric world?
We are living in a technology centric world and preparing for the next phase. While technology is ever evolving, the focal point of all technology disruption is we, the people. Hence, at all the levels of technology evolution and increasingly technology-centric world the focus should continue to be on the human angle rather than technology per say.
A leverage focus on sustained look-out for the smartest way to complete a job, an analytical approach that delves into the insights and derive measurable results from the information at hand and an ever curious outlook that drives innovation and out-of-the-box results are prime elements for adapting to the tech-driven world. This further transcends into problem solving orientation and an ability to go through the encompassing cycle of un-learn and re-learn. In this era of leading minds, ideas that flood the skies, technology truly acts like a catalyst. It speeds up the reaction of our information and implementation.
11. What are the major developments you are planning, in recent time?
My vision for Denave is, it to be known as a holistic global sales catalyst providing seamlessly integrated sales enablement services and technology products impacting every stage of seller’s journey with the aim of measurable revenue acceleration for at least next 100 years. Towards this, we are focussing upon:
• We are in the process of expanding our reach across the length and breadth of the globe by setting up three more delivery centres to cater to the local markets of Poland, Australia & U.S. the underlying thought is to establish Denave as a true-blue global brand and decentralize our management capabilities to build a scalable model.
• R&D set-up to solve hurdles in the sales ecosystem, improve efficiencies at all the levels of sales motion and drive efficacy in achieving measurable outcomes.
• Investments in Data Science and Digital Marketing to boost efficiencies around our services and products.
12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I believe teams are pivotal to the business growth. My role is to visualise, it is my team who understand and identify with that vision, collaborate holistically and put together an implementable strategy. They bring together the domain experts and resources to achieve the desired business outcome and close the vision-action loop. This entire circle requires a purpose-driven team synergy and commitment towards goal from each of my executive members. I believe I have a great team and a large part of the success of this company is attributable to their untiring efforts and focus.
13. Which is the Movie that inspires you the most?
I take inspiration from different movies and books at different times and right now it has to be ‘The Founder’ directed by John Lee Hancock. Based on the book ‘Behind The Arches’ the movie trails the real life story of Ray Croc (the man associated with building the McDonalds brand and making it a Global conglomerate) who with his grit, determination and inherent knack of understanding the underlying opportunity made a fledgling business scalable at 51 years of age! If you delve deeper, the movie teaches a lot about brand building, selecting right team and continuous watch out for next level of innovation are crucial for business success.
Being a budding entrepreneur once upon a time myself, I do identify with the plot of the movie and conform to the idea that embracing change, exploring unchartered territories are strategic elements to sustain business.
14. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
Our HR initiatives in terms of People Engagement policies at the broader level aims at bringing culturally diverse groups together by imbibing local elements, at granular level it is designed to ensure work-life balance.
So while we have random weekly Zumba sessions on the floor, Darting competitions, Soccer and art & culture competitions with nearby office’s teams, Rangoli and bay décor initiatives executed via dedicated but voluntary employee engagement clubs- Fitloop, Fundoo and Arth, we also have ‘Kids at Workplace’ programme. It infuses unlimiting energy and positive vibes at the workplace. Employees bring their kids to office at any working day to be able to take care of their kids and simultaneously perform their assigned roles.
15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
My interest areas and basic information requirements pertaining to weather, commuting etc as a frequent travelling professional reflects in the kind of apps I use. So, I have apps like BookMyShow, iTunes, video streaming apps (Netflix, Amazon Prime) Tube Map (London underground tube), Metrack (tracking realtime bus and train information in Chicago), Google Maps, weather app, ticketing app, hire cab apps (Uber, Lyft, GOJEK) and order in apps (Swiggy, Zomato).
Besides, these I have a scanner app, banking apps (of all my banks and other NBFCs like Paytm and BHIM), my son’s school bus tracker app and truecaller.