Tag Archive for 'start-up mentoring'

Video Interviewing Technology for Start-ups

One of the biggest challenges facing start-ups is getting the right talent. Or rather, in attracting the right talent. There is no dearth of talent in the market, but getting the right people to join your fledgling organization is a problem that most start-ups face. Why? Very few people want to join an ‘unknown’ entity.

One other problem plaguing the technology world is ‘resume fraud’. Candidates hype their resume, a more skilled person writes the test, telephonic interviews are taken by someone else to get a better rating and more often than not the fraud is discovered only when you get to meet the person face-to-face or after the person actually joins. By this time you have spent a lot of time, effort and money in hiring that person. This is something a start-up like yours can ill afford.

There could be a way out of this conundrum. A slow but steady shift is taking place across the globe in the way companies are innovating recruitment processes using the latest technology. Companies are seeking to drive a paradigm shift in the way they acquire talent making it more effective in acquiring the right talent. The new age talent acquisition process is ‘Video Interviewing’.

I am sure you will wonder what is different and innovative about this. Don’t we all use Skype or Webex or Go-to-Meeting for such interactions? Yes. You do. But it is mostly for personal interactions. Have you thought of making it a part of your business process?? Have you thought of making video interactions an integral part of your recruitment process?

There are solutions available for such video interviews on a pay-per-use SaaS model. Is it the same as a Skype interaction? No. It is much more. It helps you to incorporate videos right from the early assessment stage. In any typical recruitment process:

  • Instead of initial telephonic interviews, you can send out a set of standard questions to the short-listed candidates and they can video record their responses in real time and upload the same to the platform. They can do this at their own time and from anywhere, even using their mobile device.
  • You can review these videos at any time convenient to you, which relieves you of spending prime work time on such interviews and thereby making your day more productive.
  • You get to see the candidate in the first round itself, giving you a better feel for and assessment of his or her suitability and baseline the candidate’s attributes.
  • You can also have virtual panel interviews, making it more convenient for all the stakeholders in the organization.
  • The further shortlist is now even more refined and you can now also use the platform for real time one-on-one video interviews.
  • You then invite just 1-2 right candidates for a final face-to-face interview and make an offer to one or even both.

So how does this benefit you as a start-up with your talent acquisition?

  • Reduces cost of hire as it reduces time-to-hire and travel costs.
  • Brings in predictability and reliability to your hiring process. Helps to avoid instances of fraud.
  • Introduces a ‘Wow’ factor that could enhance your reputation with the candidates, making your organization more desirable to join.
  • No upfront investments, as most of these solutions are available on a Monthly Subscription basis.

India too is not far from adopting such means to enhance and enable their hiring process. Such solutions are available in India now. India also has its first video based job portal. So this is the future of talent acquisition and will help young enterprises like yours to better showcase your organization and attract the desired skills.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on Mentoring and Advising start-ups. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .

Lead Nurturing Strategies for Start-ups

This is the most critical and heart-breaking part of acquiring customers. It can sap even the most persistent. But there is no alternative if you want to convert your qualified lead to an invoice. In the first place, consider yourself lucky you have a set of qualified leads. Most start-ups do not enjoy that luxury. Now it’s only about how you grab this opportunity with both hands and push and prod them to a decision.

Having said that let me tell you there is no ‘best’ or ‘sure fire’ way of nurturing leads. You have to feel your way through. But remember, whatever you do be consistent.

What is Lead Nurturing? It is the consistent process of keeping the lead engaged with a series of focused and relevant content that is both informative and educative about your domain and its impact on the prospect’s business.

Please note, this engagement may very well be just one-way. The lead may or may not respond. But you can rest assured that the information you are sharing is being read, assimilated and filed away for future reference. More important, you are in the process establishing high recall for yourself and your company. The idea of lead nurturing is to get you the inside track in a highly competitive environment where there is a surfeit of information and try and evoke a reaction, be it a step towards a decision or start a conversation or just a response, with the kind of content that you present.

What is the kind of information you should share with the prospect? This is something most sales people ask me when we discuss lead nurturing. Having understood the target segment from where the lead has emanated, you need to come up with content that is relevant to the prospect and adds value to the prospects business and decision-making process. The content could be anything like Blogs, Customer Use Cases and Testimonials, New Customer Acquisitions, a New Use Case, White Papers, Company Newsletter, Webinars, new product development or enhancements etc. You could also share links to relevant blogs on other sites which could help to improve the prospect’s knowledge and intellectual property. Share lists of customers in their line of business or located in their part of the woods. This could help as most customers suffer from ‘herd mentality’. If someone from their domain or region or locality has taken that leap of faith with you, then you must be ‘Ok’. So share as many such confidence boosters.

Another innovative way would be to visit their website, understand their business, the processes they could be following and try and build a possible Use Case specific to their business where the benefits from using your product or service could be better highlighted. I find this a very powerful method as nothing will convince the prospect more than transplanting an idea in their environment and making a point.

If you start to think out-of-the-box I am sure you will come up with many more innovative ways of keeping your prospect engaged. Keep ideating and coming up with new ideas of how to keep your prospect engaged. Trust me, pressure of targets brings out the ‘Einstein’ in most sales people.

What is ‘consistent’ engagement? I am often asked how often should one write to the prospect. How consistent is consistent? How often is too often? It all depends on where you had reached in your interactions with the lead. That will help you to judge the level of communication you need to employ with the prospect.

  • If the lead has visited your website and filled a form to download some resource and you have sent a ’Thank you’ and ‘Introduction’ mail to which there has been no response, then in the initial couple of weeks from first contact you should keep sending some information once every week. If there is still no response, then thereafter slow it down to once a month.
  • If the lead has either taken a product walk-through on your site or you have connected and given a product demo and thereafter drops from the radar, then keep pushing a lot of product information and customer use cases. Again keep up the pressure once a week for a month or so and thereafter taper off to once a month. During this time you could also volunteer some special price schemes to elicit some reaction.
  • If the lead disappears after a demo and price discussion then in all probability they are studying competitive products and/or going through the internal process before a decision. This is when you need to share more information on business benefits and ROI. Information that would help the user get the necessary approvals. The follow-up should be intense, probably once every 2-3 days for 3-4 weeks. Follow-up should also include telephone calls.

The above is only to give some directions on the approach you could adopt to take a lead to closure and not necessarily the only way. Your actual interaction with the prospect will determine your line of action.

During all of the above or wherever you may be in the sales process it is important to get the prospect to give some indicative timeline at the very least. Understand his use case and reasons he is even thinking of your product. If you know why he is out shopping, you then have the opportunity to tailor your communication accordingly. All this is part of the lead nurturing process.

But remember, don’t lose wind. Keep up the efforts. Not all will actually close. But such lead nurturing has yielded closure rates as high as 45-60%. That should encourage you to keep pegging away. Results will surely follow.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on helping start-ups to grow. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .

Lead Generation Strategies for Start-ups

Being a young enterprise, you have a product and you have your first set of paying customers. Now the challenge is to take your product to market, generate volumes and gain market share. What are the strategies and plans that you need to adopt to generate a list of prospective customers whom you could pitch your product to? This is where start-ups usually hit a road block. Most new entrepreneurs are unaware of what to do to put in place a robust and scalable lead generation strategy.

Any good go-to-market strategy should have an ‘Inbound’ and ‘Outbound’ lead generation plan.

Inbound is about helping potential customers find you on the net and Outbound is to proactively search for such prospects and inform them about what you have to offer. No go-to-market plan is complete without a good mix of both strategies. A lot of start-ups just follow the ‘Inbound’ route as it costs less. But fail only because they are not consistent with the actions that need to be taken regularly for driving traffic to their site. So a mix of both will help to ensure a steady flow of ‘qualified’ leads.

So, what is a ‘qualified’ lead? A qualified lead is one who has heard about or found your product and has evinced interest, though there may not be an immediate need for it. Such ‘qualified’ leads help to reduce the selling cycle and improve chances of converting the same to a customer. Most leads may not buy immediately which is why you need to also have a strategy in place to nurture the lead till closure.

Briefly detailed below are some typical actions that could be implemented as part of your lead generation strategy:

Website:

Build an informative, interactive and well-designed website, with as many CTA’s (Calls-to-Action) as possible to enhance the visitors experience about your product and help take an informed decision. The navigation should be simple and quick with the prime objective of keeping the visitors engaged as much as possible thereby extending their stay on your site and improving the chances of converting them to prospective buyers.

Content:

This is the most critical component of your marketing strategy. To provide good content on your site you should first be absolutely clear about who your target audience is. All content created and published should be relevant and valuable to that target audience. This is what will attract such visitors to your site and keep them engaged for the maximum time. It will also ensure repeat visits and help to establish mind-share for your product and thought-leadership. Don’t forget, most prospective buyers do a lot of due diligence before buying anything. You should figure in that process. Content includes Blogs, White Papers, Case Studies, Newsletters etc.

Social Media:

Make sure you have a good digital marketing strategy, which includes promoting your product or service in all social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ etc. These platforms are being increasingly used for lead generation, as people search for information and research what they looking for using these platforms.

Direct and Email Marketing:

This is by far the most popular lead generation strategy followed by most. A well created and targeted mail campaign can help you get in front of people quickly and share relevant information that they may otherwise miss while searching the net. To get the desired results, a typical email campaign should follow a clear plan:

  • Create the database of your target segment
  • The campaign should have a Teaser, Main Mail and Follow-up Mail with 3-4 days gap in-between
  • Cold calling and follow-up calls. Both should be well scripted, with a plan to handle FAQs.
  • A good product training program for the tele-callers

Online Ads:

These could be just display or pay-per-click (PPC) ads on other websites, search engines or popular platforms.

Having put in place a good lead generation program, it is also critical to have well defined internal processes for Lead Allocation to sales and Lead Nurturing. Most leads do not decide immediately. But having evinced some interest in your product they will buy one day. Lead nurturing will significantly improve the chances of converting the lead into a customer.

My next post will discuss what goes into building a good Lead Nurturing Process. In the meanwhile, trust the above helps to either build your lead generation plan or reinforce what you have already implemented.

Hang in there and stay the course! Consistency and determination is the key to success!

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on Mentoring and Advising start-ups. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .

 

Cold-calling is a necessity for start-ups. But how do you go about it?

Having worked hard to get that MVP (Minimum Value Product) in place, most start-ups struggle with getting those first set of reference customers that would help them validate their assumptions and scale their business. Most of the first-time entrepreneurs have not done any selling their entire life and are now expected to go out there and find customers. This is easier said than done. Given below is a brief step-by-step ‘How-to-do-it’ that could help you.

Step 1: Building the database

This post presumes that you have identified your target segments. Make a list of about 40 -50 names of companies from your target prospect base. You can achieve this by – (a) paying and availing a database. Many people advertise the same, but beware these are notorious for outdated and defunct data; (b) Use other databases like ‘Just Dial’ to get more accurate, industry-specific names; (c) You could also use LinkedIn to search and build your database. This is probably the most updated and accurate source of information. While building this list of prospects you should also know who your actual customer is – the CFO, the Marketing Head, the CEO or someone else.

Step 2: Validate the database

Make that first call to all the company board numbers to validate accuracy of person name, designation and contact details. You could use one of many reasons to wheedle out this information. One such reason could be “We are going to conduct a seminar and would like to invite (either the person by name or designation) and would appreciate it if you could please give me his/her email id, to send a request”. Try asking for the mobile number, but nine out of ten times you will not get it. But people are willing to share email id if the request appears genuine. That is a start to atleast reach out.

Step 3: Devise a Direct Mail campaign

It may not be advisable to straight away call a stranger and try asking for a meeting. Better to send out a mail first to establish that first contact and create awareness for yourself. Some important tips for building an email campaign:

Introduction Mail:

The idea is to ensure your mail does not get deleted as spam and is read by the person concerned.

  1. Please DO NOT send mails using a generic mail service like ‘Gmail’ or ‘Yahoo’ or some such service. It will get pushed to Spam. Register your domain and send it using your domain name.
  2. Have a subject line that will make the person open the mail. Please let it not be something like ‘A Solution to help you SAVE Money’ or some such corny line, which is a dead giveaway that this is spam. It will straight hit the recycle bin. I have found that a ‘Request for a Meeting’ normally intrigues people to atleast open the mail. To this you may add some specifics like ‘Request a Meeting – To discuss how you could reduce process steps to on-board a new employee’. Such a subject line also talks of possible, quantifiable benefits.
  3. Address the mail to the relevant person. A lot of people send such mails to the CEO, where it is sure to get discarded. Identify the relevant person for whom your product/solution could be of interest and address him by name, ‘Dear Mr. XYZ’, and not ‘Dear Sir’. Brings in a personal touch. I know I may be pointing out the obvious, but trust me I receive a lot of such mails with ‘Dear Sir’.
  4. The first line should definitely touch on the potential pain point, your solution, the benefits it can deliver and all this in not more than two or three lines. This is what will make the person read the rest of the mail. Eg. ‘Typically companies take anything between 6 – 18 hours to successfully on-board a new employee. Our (use your company name) solution, (give solution name) can enable the same in just 45 minutes through process automation’.  If this is addressed to either the HR Head or the CTO, you can rest assured he is going to read the rest of the mail.
  5. Next para should quickly list the key features and benefits.
  6. Thereafter a brief introduction to your company and lastly a Request for Meeting.
  7. MOST IMP: The entire mail should appear in one single window. That means the person should not need to scroll and can view your entire mail and your signature in one single view. The moment the reader feels the need to scroll, chances are the mail may not be read.

Follow-up Mail:

This mail should be sent 3 days after the introduction mail and should be a brief 3-4 liner referring to the earlier mail and a short reintroduction of your product as a reminder. The subject line can remain the same.

Step 4: First Call

This call should be made again 3 days after the follow-up mail. The critical factor here is your introduction pitch. In two sentences or in 30-40 seconds you should be able to introduce yourself, your product, what it does and the benefits that it can deliver. This is not easy and will need some practice. It would help to write this down to ensure the messaging is right. These first 30 – 40 seconds will determine if the person is going to give you another minute and thereafter hopefully a meeting. You screw up this elevator pitch and you may have lost an opportunity.

If you get a meeting on your first call you should be doing back flips. Most often you will be asked to call back and even then you may need to repeat the process a few times before you actually get that meeting. This is the hard part and most of us tend to give up. You may end up feeling frustrated, insulted, angry and disappointed. But don’t get discouraged. Remember the old saying, no pain … no gain. Think of the times when some sales person called you and how you reacted. So, this is absolutely normal. Afterall, you and your company are unknown entities to that person. Why should he entertain you? But, as with everything else in life, perseverance and developing a thick skin will go a long way.

All that I have related are based on my personal experience and I have benefited from the experience. This is a small attempt to share that experience with you and help you to develop that prospect list. Hope this helps.

The author, Srikanth Vasuraj, is a Business Consultant focused on Mentoring and Advising start-ups. He can be reached at +91-98454 78585 or srikanth@nodiva.co.in . For more information please visit www.nodiva.co.in .