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DNA of Scale # 6 | Achieving Success with SaaS Enterprise Sales in the United States for Make-in-India Companies

DNA of Scale # 6 | Achieving Success with SaaS Enterprise Sales in the United States for Make-in-India Companies

Edition 6 l 23rd September 2022


The US has always been the promised land for tech entrepreneurs from India since it has the biggest share of a booming SaaS market. Success in the highly competitive US market is a must for any startup that hopes to achieve great heights, accelerate growth, and establish itself as a segment leader.

But desi entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when they enter the US market.

Getting to the first 10 paying customers is a huge challenge. For homegrown entrepreneurs taking their product abroad, there’s the disadvantage of playing on foreign turf.

There are a few important steps before entrepreneurs can get to firing up their demand gen engine in the US. This involves scoping the market, defining (and refining) your value proposition and pitch, acquiring the right ‘logo customers’, and getting the pricing right.

These are the issues that you have to refine until you have the first dozen or so customers onboard.

So let’s begin.


Define your sandbox.

Defining the space (sandbox) that you are entering is important for two reasons. One, it gives you greater clarity about the value that you are bringing to the marketplace. If you are playing in an existing sandbox, be very clear about why you are better than anyone else already present there. Of course it is best if you are able to define your very own category/sandbox where you stand alone.

Two, the sandbox will help in identifying potential competitors and this gives you a better sense of how to differentiate yourself.


Get a sales champion aboard.

Whether it is a new category or a better product in an existing category, it is hard to get the messaging right in the first go. A good sales leader will be both an earnest pitch person and an excellent listener. The customer feedback can be used to fine tune the messaging of your product. Do not be afraid to try different options to see what resonates with the customer.

  • Feet-on-the-ground: Hiring an on-site sales leader in the US can make all the difference. A good sales leader is able to venture out into the unknown and generate leads via existing contacts and some amount of cold calling.
  • Local knowledge: A good salesperson helps you navigate the intricacies of the particular market, and take into account local considerations.

For instance, employee productivity software, with its feature of time tracking, might have a good response in India. In the US, the phrase had ‘big brother’ connotations and drew on attendant fears of surveillance and monitoring.

A sales leader can help you navigate these intricacies early on. Here s some reasons why it is important.

While going to the market with your product, you need short feedback cycles, and the ability to think on your feet and get your positioning right. A good sales leader is able to accelerate this process.

  • Traits of a successful sales leader: But how do you go about hiring a good sales leader? In India, the pedigree of education and relevant work experience are all ready markers for measuring someone’s skill. The same yard stick won’t work for the US.

For instance, look for someone with a sports background or experience in the armed forces. Even as a general advice for hiring, this can seem counterintuitive, but here’s why it works.

An enterprise sales cycle, especially in the initial stage, is long. Rejections abound. You need someone who can take repeat rejections and bounce back. People with the armed forces training or sports background tend to have that winning spirit that counts above all else.


Chase the whale.

Entering the US market as an outsider, you aren’t chasing 100 people. The struggle is still to get 10 paying customers. Getting a big customer is important for the logo slide of testimonials. Brand recall is also important here.

So a strategic approach to onboarding customers, with a focus on some recognisable brand names becomes important.


Pricing.

Getting the pricing right is a bit tricky. Relatively speaking, US customers aren’t as price sensitive as customers in India. But the pricing is very closely based on value proposition, with products or services that solve pain points or are in mission critical roles (like those providing data security) getting a higher premium.

Pricing can also be determined if there is a clear ROI that can be articulated to the customer. A web-based ROI that both customers and the salesperson can experiment with can be a game changer.

  • Keep list prices handy: Unlike India, VPs and line managers are the key decision-makers for most deals. Those at management expect to know the price range upfront, irrespective of the sector involved.

Pricing is an art. In the US, getting the value
proposition right is a balancing act.

One way to go is to offer the product with enterprise grade support and service (architecture and deployment, response under 15 minutes, dedicated support staff etc.) and price it at a premium. The other way is to offer better and more value for the same competitive price. So the key here is to nail down your market segment and gauge the pricing of your potential competitors, even if there isn’t an exact product overlap.

These are some first steps for Indian SaaS entrepreneurs to take before you enter the US market. Once you have the traction, case studies, and reference that come from having a dozen or so customers, you can turn your focus on demand generation.

In that phase, the focus shifts to reduce the friction and pain points in the sales pipeline, and moving to close deals swiftly.

That’s Part 2 of the Enterprise Sales Cycle in the US.

Until next time,
The Pentathlon Team

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