Vikas Jha - Alore CRM
Vikas Jha is the Founder & CEO of Alore CRM
Alore CRM is a productivity focused CRM platform
Full Podcast Transcript
Sidney: Welcome to the SalesNative podcast, where tech founders share their most valuable sales lessons. I am Sidney from Sydney, founder of SalesNative, and today's guest is Vikas Jha, founder, and CEO of Alore CRM, based in Singapore with development center in Bangalore. Vikas, welcome to the show.
Vikas: Thanks, Sidney. Great pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.
Sidney: So, Alore is focused on productivity and today we're gonna talk about your CRM platform. But first, I want to know, why did you start this company?
Vikas: Sure, Sidney. Before I start with that, I'll quickly want to give a quick background about me. I used to work in oil and gas industry. Then I started my first company, made an exit out of it, went for my MBA to Europe and then was, working for the VC fund in Amsterdam for five years.
After that, I came back to India, started the parent company here and had two failed products. Somehow we ended up pivoting to become a digital agency. And while we were [inaudible 00:01:14] of the digital agency, we realized that the experience of outbound sales is pretty broken. You end up using six to seven different tools, one to find email address, another to find and verify the email address, to run a drip campaign, to fix calendar meetings, record sales, manage lead, and then report.
And with that, what happened was that you're not getting data in real time and you were spending a lot of time in actually collecting the data than trying to make sense out of it. So that was one problem that we faced. The second thing was monitoring your [inaudible 00:01:50] remained quite difficult for us. Now in that, you would like to see who's calling whom, how many follow-up calls he's making. So that was the second thing that, you know, monitoring sales people is very difficult.
The third thing was, you know, it was tending to be a little expensive for us. We would end up spending $200 to $250 for each seat each month. And since we had a product, we had a tech background for us, we said, "Okay. Why don't we start, you know..." We started making small tools that would help the salespeople in our team and slowly we realized that we could easily productize this and roll out to other people, at least to a digital agency owner, and see how it does. So, that's how Alore CRM ended up being Alore CRM.
Sidney: What I love about this is, often people think about what's the grand idea that they need to go and find. And I'll keep saying, the best ideas are sitting right under your nose, right? It's the personal problems that you encounter. So, as we can see from Vikas's story, it's something that he struggled with. And the other thing was, he started small. He didn't try to build an all-encompassing CRM platform on day one. If you noticed, he talked about we started building little tools that would help us. And then from there, it's expanded into what it is today. So, tell me about Alore CRM. What do you do? Who do you do it for and how are you moving the needle for your target customer?
Vikas: Great. So, like I said, we build tools that help salespeople become more productive and right now Alore actually gives you all the tools that you would need to scale your outbound sales. So you can find email IDs, email addresses of people that would be interesting for you. You can send...verify them, you can send drip campaigns, you have AI-powered calendar that can help you fix a meeting with them. You can also integrate with Twilio and then record calls, get more...you know, we have just interviewed the transcriptions feature. You can make sense out of it, what people are talking.
Of course, the tradition... You can also move leads through different stages and, at the end, you can generate a report for you investors. So, everything that you would need to run your outbound sales, you can do through Alore. For us, the perfect target is early-stage companies who are really just recently funded, kind of setting up their sales process or sales team. They've become a perfect target.
We've been largely, you know, most of our customers are of either agency or [inaudible 00:04:26] tech companies ordering online b2b sales. So they become a really good target. The best part is, we often get emails from them that, they've been, you know, since they've started using Alore, at least their sales have increased three x, they have a better sales process, and they can manage, you know, they can know where is the bottleneck in the sales process pretty...very easily.
Sidney: Brilliant. Clearly, you and I are on the same page because we both believe sales is the oxygen that companies need. So a great product is great, but if there's no customers, there is no point. So, I now want to turn our attention to sales at Alore CRM. Could you tell me about your most interesting sale?
Vikas: Yes, thanks, Sidney. Actually, I would like to point a series of event that just happened, serendipity that happened, and we ended up creating a huge community for us. And through this community, we have been referred a lot of. These people started, you know, they might have started training and then introduced it to a larger team. So, I would like to give the full a story behind it.
So, it started off, you know, in around September last year, September 2017. We launched our product on Product Hunt Ship and from there we got around 300 subscriber. And one of those subscriber actually reached out to me and said that, "Why don't you do a lifetime deal?" Until then lifetime deal was an alien concept for me. Coming from VC background, I don't want to burn money too early and I was really not excited about it, but the person kept on pushing.
I had a quick call with my board and the investors and you somehow we ended up doing a lifetime deal. We just wanted to test the hypothesis that, you know, is this something that people would like to, you know, if they're using multiple different tools, would they be able to migrate or willing to migrate to a completely new tool? So, we did prove that for us, that, you know, we launched that lifetime deal. Within a week's time, we had 500 customers. But with that, what we did is we also ensured that our deck is scalable. We kind of, you know, that that hitch that I had in mind that can be scaled to a large set of people. Yes, we did that.
The second thing was we got quite a good feedback on what improvement we need to make about sales, about Alore CRM, which helped us, you know, getting the next set of customers very easily. We kind of solved pretty much a lot of brain...pain points for them.
And the third was, you know, for me, before this I was looking at customer support as more breakdown maintenance, but here we set up a very efficient and process-oriented customer support, customer happiness. And these guys, these all 500 people, they formed a group, a Facebook group of their own that they started interacting with each other, helping out how to use Alore CRM in the best possible way. And that community is going really strong and that community is the one who actually made us grow from 500 to 1500 pretty fast, within, let's say, a month and a half the time.
So these guys started referring us to new customers, mostly digital agency owners, they started referring us to others, they started using it for themselves, other people around them. And we got a lot of word-of-mouth publicity from them. So, I realized that sometimes, you know, getting out of your, you know, the process that you've thought, you know, experimenting with it works in sales. But at the end, we did one thing that was very [inaudible 00:07:56] We've been really serious about maintaining relationships with all these 500 people. It was at times very tedious for us, very exhausting for me particularly because I wanted to take feedback from all those 500 people. But in the end, you know, we created a very strongly knitted community for us.
Sidney: That's a great story. I'm glad you shared that. I think there's a few key takeaways here. First one is, there are no silver bullets and nothing lasts in sales or marketing. So, what we should be able to do as an organization, especially as an early stage organizations startup, in order to scale up, is first experimentation without emotional bias, right?
So, even though you didn't believe that that was going to do anything for you, looks like it has created, you know, you've changed, right, in terms of your mindset on what is possible. So, this whole concept of the lifetime deal or whatever the hook was that you experimented with, you'd said you're going to do it in a limited way, you're not betting the firm on it and it would be contained, but it brought a number of benefits including scaling the product, getting feedback on the product, but more interestingly, it looks like you've also transitioned the thinking that it's not just customer support but it's customer success or customer happiness, to use your words.
So I think these are really good takeaways for our listeners as they're thinking about. How do you engage with the community that you've gotten onboard? It's much easier to sell to people that are already part of your community or are already a customer rather than acquiring new customers. And the whole concept of them starting their own Facebook group is fascinating. That's brilliant.
Vikas: Yes. And I would also like to add one more point was that, you know, I come from, you know, a product mindset. And, you know, when you get into a sales business, you, of course, you have software, which is a product, but a lot of people forget about the service part of it. And I think what created...what gave us a good push was the service was crazy good. Everyone loved it and that's what ended up giving us more referrals through that.
Sidney: The service was crazy good. I love it. Correct...
Vikas: I would like to...one more example was, one of our users actually ended up saying that, "Hey, you say yes to most of our requests. Can you send us a pizza?" And he lives in Canada, Ramal, and actually ended up sending him pizza. And since then it's become a ritual for us that every Friday we send a pizza. And towards the lean period of Facebook, when people are more busy with the family and not actually on Facebook, we have people posting about pizzas and making videos about it and creating points about it.
And apart from that, there's always, you know, people always writing, commenting that when do I get my pizza? So kind of very different story, but not really in a sales SaaS vertical that you might have heard. But for us, that gave us, you know, towards every weekend we have a huge traffic surge in the Facebook group because of this.
Sidney: That's really interesting. So, A, because these people are receiving their pizza, so they're obviously very delighted customers, but then it's all the other people who are in anticipation and you realize you've gamified this whole thing.
Vikas: Yeah, that's correct.
Sidney: Very good. So, I think the next question is a really good one for you, given that you've been a founder multiple times and you've been on the VC side. So, what should first-time tech founders know when it comes to sales or in other words, what sales advice would you be giving yourself if you were starting over?
Vikas: Yeah. I think when people start doing sales, one thing that they miss out is, you know, creating a process, you know, like setting up a process for it. Only when you set up a process that you will get data. And once you get data you can find bottlenecks easily. Most of the people say like, "Hey, let me reach x number of customers, or y number of page views, or Z numbers of paying candidate that will set it up." But if you have enough data point, you can find out the pain, you know, the pain in your sales process much easily.
And that's what I would recommend to everyone. That, you know, don't wait for, you know, a few number of months to capture data, start capturing data from day one, your dashboard. All of us here, most of you are probably tech founders, creating a dashboard is not that difficult.You know, try to automate it so that, you know, you don't have to get in, you don't need to take a lot of pain in actually figuring out where the data is, but you start making sense out of that data. But that's something that I would recommend to most of the people.
Sidney: So, think of it as a process. If you've got a process, then you understand at what point you're collecting data, and through the data, you'll identify the bottlenecks, and don't wait until you think you have success or you're mature, start data collection from day one. Keep it lights, simple dashboard, but be data-driven in your approach to sales. Is that the right takeaway?
Vikas: Yeah, yeah. You can always run with data.
Sidney: Got it. So to cast sales aside, as a tech founder, what's your biggest struggle and how are you overcoming it?
Vikas: So, my biggest struggle has been, you know, like, hiring and I think that's always... You know, this is my third venture, third product, that we had started. And the biggest challenge has, you know, it's great to get the initial, you know, adoption from different user, but to scale it, to go to the next stage, you need to have a second level of people around you who believe in it as much as you do, who are probably, you know, in terms of culture they are pretty much driven by the same culture that you want to invite other people to. And that's something that I've kind of struggled to build over a period of time.
And I realized that I would be very driven by numbers and the budgets that I made for my investors and would do very, very bad hiring. Now we've changed our hiring process. We have again, brought in a lot of data points that we capture right from, you know, how do you solve a problem to what is the behavior that you have. We believe that, you know, every person has a natural trait. That natural trait should actually match the trait of the job that you're doing and the trait of the company that you're working.
We spend a lot of time in actually meeting person. Whether it's early stage developer, you know, Html developer or his VP sales, I really like to spend my time with them. We use a certain behavioral test to actually figure out their natural traits. And only then when this happens that we tell them to prepare a plan for how they would like to see Alore grow and then we do the hiring.
So, hiring can also be data-driven and process-driven. And apart from that, you know, you gotta be on same page, you know. You can't alone develop everything or scale your sales. You need to have built a strong second level team for you. Only then can you achieve a good numbers or scale to the next level.
Sidney: Thanks for sharing that. I think whatever business you're in, you're in the people business. And certainly, as a founder, you can become the single point of failure for your business. You can't become the single point of success, you can only become the single point of failure. And so hiring this next level of people that align to the values of the company, and align to the mission of the business, and also are a natural fit with the job that they're set to do is important.
And a recommendation is to take, again, a data-driven and process approach to it, recognize that people matter, but you can also break that down and have various approaches such as personality-type testing as well as their other skills type testing to understand, are they fit for the job that they're doing as well as the company that they're in? And I think these are two different things. It's not that just because they're good at the job itself doesn't mean they're going to be a fit within the business. And I think that's an important distinction that you're drawing up.
Vikas: Yeah, like, you know, most of...if you want to hire a sales manager, people think that the easier part is that are they extrovert? Are they extroverted? And can they go into a group and, you know, start a conversation there? But I think more than that, it's also very important that this sales people are very patient and they are a very process-driven. Only when they have all the three combination that they can end up closing deals faster or at least, you know, consistently keep on doing...closing deal. The thing that I missed before and with having a very holistic approach to this, I hope that we are making a better hirings now.
Sidney: Well, Vikas, thanks for being on the show. I wish you and Alore all the best and I look forward to hearing more about your progress.
Vikas: Great. Thanks, Sidney. And I loved your show or your podcast. Thanks so much for having me here.
Sidney: It's been a pleasure. Thank you. There you have it, folks. Valuable insights from my fellow founder. Remember, as a tech founder, to succeed, you need to sell. And sales is not a dirty word, it's a value exchange. Meaning you need to create and capture value.
Here at SalesNative, our calling is to provide sales inspiration, training, and coaching to tech founders, wherever you may be in the world, enabling you to reach your potential, to make your impact, and to leave your legacy. If this is you then I invite you to head over to salesnative.com and sign up for my free talk, the ten sales essentials for first-time tech founders. From one founder to another, I wish you success. And remember you're just one sale away.
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