In this episode, we deep dive into the exciting developments of Southeast Asia B2B sales tech company Nektar.ai, which recently raised their second seed round, bringing their total seed capital to US$8.1M in one of the largest seed rounds raised from a SaaS in Asia. Their co-founder and CEO Abhijeet Vijayvergiya comes on the […]

Left - Right: Aravind Sulekha, co-founder and CTO of Nektar.ai, and Abhijeet Vijayvergiya, co-founder and CEO of Nektar.ai

S03E19: Next generation B2B sales tech, user-first sales tools, and UI-less UX with Abhijeet Vijayvergiya, Nektar.ai CEO and co-founder

In this episode, we deep dive into the exciting developments of Southeast Asia B2B sales tech company Nektar.ai, which recently raised their second seed round, bringing their total seed capital to US$8.1M in one of the largest seed rounds raised from a SaaS in Asia. Their co-founder and CEO Abhijeet Vijayvergiya comes on the show to share with us the inner workings of a next-generation sales tech coming from Southeast Asia with plans to expand to the US as they launch their product in 2022 In the meantime, they’re in closed beta but you can also sign up for their waitlist here
He’s also an advisor for SaaS startups and a thought leader in the SaaS space in Asia, regularly sharing his thoughts on Linkedin and Clubhouse, so he also shares his thoughts on the evolution of sales tech from the customer, business, and technology standpoints.

Highlights and Timestamps

  1. 00:27 Paulo introduces Abhijeet;
  2. 02:00 How Abhi and Aravind came together to start Nektar.ai to improve sales processes for B2B sales teams; “I shared that idea with Aravind that I’m looking to create something like a Google assistant for B2B sales…If Google had to build a product for B2B sales personnels, how would it look, or if Apple is building a product for B2B salespeople, what should it be in terms of how it should look at data, how should we analyze the data and then guide the sales people?”
  3. 05:06 Why the pandemic was the perfect time to start Nektar; “So one key learning for us was that sales was becoming more and more digital…but what that is resulting in is more and more data silos, more and more disconnected tools across different functions.” 
  4. 08:24 The impact of inefficient and unproductive sales playbooks; “We understood that over 75% of the organizations were not having proper playbooks in place. Even if in some cases they had playbooks, they didn’t know whether any change to this would impact their business or how many reps are adhering to these playbooks.”
  5. 11:57 Building sales tools for the user rather than the buyer; “We just wanted to build from a user first approach rather than a buyer first approach. Obviously our checks will be signed by the buyers (sales leadership), but when they see that their users are more productive and they’re bringing more business or more of their apps are successful, they won’t mind investing in it.”
  6. 14:00 UI-less user experience for more productive execution of playbooks and sales operations; “It’s that kind of an experience which doesn’t disrupt, or it doesn’t get the user to come on to another product. You get a UI-less experience…”
  7. 16:18 Where Nektar’s US$8.1M seed round is going; “The one big opportunity for the company is international growth.”
  8. 18:09 Opportunity in the US B2B SaaS market; “We see a huge market, a fraction of it is taken by certain unicorns and they’re all playing in specific categories. So I mean, we’re not worried about the competition per se and if you build a great product solving an important key need of the customer, product market fit happens naturally.”
  9. 20:19 The Decade of SalesTech; “It’s the right time for a system of data or a system of intelligence on top of that system of record that exists to make people productive.”
  10. 24:55 Abhi’s advice for SaaS companies in Southeast Asia; ​​“I would strongly advise any Southeast Asia and/or Asian SaaS company who is building today or in the works of looking for international expansion, to start thinking about it from day one.”
  11. 26:36 Rapid Fire Round; “Whatever you do in sports can be applied in sales.”

About our guest

Abhijeet Vijayvergiya, co-founder and CEO of B2B sales tech startup Nektar.ai, has more than a decade of experience in the SaaS industry. With venture-backed SaaS company Capillary Technologies, Abhijeet started in customer success, transitioned into account executive, and grew into a sales leader before venturing to set up his own SaaS company to solve the pain points he faced in his work at scale. He’s also an advisor to several B2B SaaS startups in Asia and an angel investor as well.

Transcript

Paulo: Abhi, how are you doing? Great to have you on the show.

Abhijeet: Thank you for having me over Paulo. Great to meet you today and very thankful to Insignia Ventures Partners. They’ve been our backers from our early days. Yinglan is a great friend as well. He knew me from the past too when I was with another startup and he was with another fund, so the association goes long back and it is a privilege to have you guys as part of our journey. I’m really excited to be here on the show and happy to share my learning with your audience. 

Paulo: I think it’s really great that you and Yinglan had already known each other, so I wanted to introduce Nektar first and give listeners a background as to how Nektar came to be in the first place. How did you meet your co-founder Aravind and then come together to start Nektar in 2020 specifically? What was the experience like and what perspective were you bringing into the business, setting it up, especially since you had spent previously more than a decade running SaaS business as well?

Abhijeet: Yeah. Aravind and I have known each other for 18 years now, we met at IIT Kharagpur where we both studied. We spent a lot of time together during college, and then later on, we also were colleagues for a couple of years at Capillary when he was running one of the product modules, and I was part of the initial customer success and product team there. Then Aravind went on to do his MBA. He also did a couple of startups before he joined Zendesk, where he was working on creating a single view of support for users. He was also running a distributed team, sitting in Singapore, he was running teams in Vietnam, Singapore, India, and the US. So his story is quite aligned with how remote teams and productivity gets unlocked largely for product engineering teams.

I was coming from a background where I had spent a lot of time scaling SaaS. I started in customer success then spent a little bit of time on product to give a lot of feedback that we were seeing in terms of customers’ use of the product and the ROI we were generating for the customer. Then the founders in my previous company wanted to hire more salespeople. So they asked me if I would want to give sales a swing. I was hesitant initially, but then I agreed to give it a shot.

Then there was no looking back for the last seven years. I’ve been selling professionally and largely from being one salesperson to hiring the next five to 10. At my peak, I was managing around 52 salespeople and that came with a lot of responsibility. That came with a lot of false decision-making, because we’re going through a hyper-growth phase. So how do you quickly hire salespeople and enable them to invest into sales capacity ahead of time, and then also help make your salespeople be more productive? 

I was also a board member at my previous company. I was invited to the board of directors there at Capillary. We were looking for a predictable and repeatable sales process. That was super hard as well. So all of these problems came by and then I realized these are global problems. Most B2B sales organizations go through problems around sales productivity. It’s amongst the top two or three priorities for any organization. 

I shared that idea with Aravind that I’m looking to create something like a Google assistant for B2B sales. That was the original thought. If Google had to build a product for B2B sales personnel, how would it look, or if Apple is building a product for B2B salespeople, what should it be in terms of how it should look at data, how should we analyze the data and then guide the sales people?

So he quite liked that idea and he was coming from the technology and complexity angle of it that it would be an interesting problem to solve. There was also a comfort in working together. So we both decided to narrow on this effort. We quit our respective companies in February 2020. We started Nektar. So that’s how it was born. 

“I shared that idea with Aravind that I’m looking to create something like a Google assistant for B2B sales…If Google had to build a product for B2B sales personnels, how would it look, or if Apple is building a product for B2B salespeople, what should it be in terms of how it should look at data, how should we analyze the data and then guide the sales people?”

Paulo: That’s pretty interesting how the pain points that you were seeing as you became a sales leader within Capillary Technologies eventually spun out into what Nektar is today. 

Something interesting that I wanted to ask about is the fact that you guys started in the midst of the pandemic. One of the effects of the pandemic has been a lot of acceleration in terms of digital transformation for a lot of businesses and businesses just investing a lot more into their tech stack. Although this trend has been ongoing even before the pandemic, it just sort of sped up. 

So how has this shift impacted the way Nektar got its feet on the ground in terms of working on its initial product and how do you see this shift in digitalization impacting Nektar looking towards your full launch out of beta in the following year?

Abhijeet: I think starting a business during the pandemic was the best thing we could have done. When we started in February and the world was closing down in March we did think a bit, that, okay, what’s going to happen next and we are into this unchartered territory. We decided to stay put and just understand the macro trends and talk to users on what is happening to them because we knew that whatever happens at a global level the businesses will not stop functioning. In order for businesses to survive, they have to sell. So we knew that sales would never stop. We just need to adjust to the new normal, as everybody was doing. 

So one key learning for us was that sales were becoming more and more digital. B2B sales especially started accelerating on their digital transmission side. COVID was the final nail in the coffin where everybody dropped their resistance that was there. Buyers were wanting to move digitally, but sellers were trying to do more of “wining and dining” in terms of sales motion.  But everybody had to move to remote selling. That was phenomenal as a trend for us to observe it unfold in front of us, because most of our competitors in the sales tech landscape have been built pre COVID. So these are like 2019 and before. So they have built a tech stack in a very different way. It’s not designed or supported to offer a remote experience. This just spelled that we had a great shot at building something unique for the current situation.

If you look at Gartner’s study that came out during the COVID times around the overall sentiment across B2B buyers, how the sales interactions are shifting remotely, I think their prediction is that by 2025, more than 80% of sales transactions would be fully digital. These are B2B sales transactions. We do see anyway it’s getting more and more digital, but even B2B, they’re talking about bigger ticket sizes as well. And we saw in COVID a lot of sellers were closing million-dollar deals as well, sitting remotely. 

But what that is resulting in is more and more data silos, more and more disconnected tools across different functions. And you don’t have those eyes and ears that you can have on the ground when you meet a salesperson and you’re able to guide and coach them. You have a lack of visibility into what they are doing, lack of accountability with the revenue process, inconsistency with playbook adoption, and in general, collaboration. There is a lot of collaboration or productivity tools that are coming out for remote work. But again, they are not custom-built for a B2B sales use case. You have to integrate them into your CRM and try to make it work for salespeople.

So I think some of these are very unique insights that we got as we were doing our customer development. And it really helped us put the initial roadmap together. And then we accordingly chose our design partners and we started building a product. 

“So one key learning for us was that sales was becoming more and more digital…but what that is resulting in is more and more data silos, more and more disconnected tools across different functions.” 

Paulo: You pointed out that there were already solutions for sales teams even before the pandemic, but then you guys came in and made solutions that actually fit the current situation and how the situation will evolve moving forward. 

And so zooming into that one of the key features that you talk about often when it comes to Nektar are these playbooks, right? Can you explain to our listeners how exactly these playbooks work specifically towards increasing productivity and how do they translate into gains for sales teams, especially within this context that businesses operate in now?

Abhijeet: If you look at any sales organization or any business organization, there is a particular playbook that they follow. What I mean by that is it’s a set of documentation of process structure which is typically organized, officially or unofficially, it could be documented or undocumented, but there is a playbook that everybody follows, whether it’s a founder or it’s the first sales hire, or it’s the VP of Sales or it’s the next set of salespeople, everybody is expected to follow.

Now, what does this book consist of? It basically consists of things that you need to effectively sell your product or services. To give you some examples of it, product positioning, how do you position your product into a sales meeting? How do you align your product solution to your customer needs, so aka the use cases? Or what are the typical different talk tracks you can use during a particular type of conversation, whether it’s a discovery call, a demo call, or a negotiation meeting? Then there are battle cards against the named competitors. There are specifically named competitors coming out during a sales conversation or a meeting. How do you handle those battle cards? So you can handle that question or objection around, let’s say data security, implementation, post-sales experience. A lot of these objections come out during the conversations as buyers and sellers interact deeper into the sales process.

The oral sales process in itself, what do you operationalize into your CRM? Whether you use four stages, four-step sales process, or use eight to ten steps. There are different stages from a discovery demo, qualification proposal, negotiation documents, and signing. There are different steps that are involved in a B2B sales process. It is quite complex. They’re like 20 other sales processes they’re out there. So these are like different examples of playbooks.

Half of these are never documented. If documented, most of it is reinvented by different people and everybody uses a different flavor of their own. And then if you want your sales team to follow a particular process or methodology, while you can implement it in CRM, you don’t know exactly who all are following it because people don’t update CRM on time. Half of the CRM data is not updated and whatever is updated decays, by 20 to 25% every year. As a result, what ends up happening is there is very poor operationalization of playbooks. Second, even if something is operationalized, there’s no intelligence or visibility around it.

So we saw it as a big opportunity to make salespeople productive. And it also resulted from a personal experience where I have run B2B sales teams and we tried to run very structured playbooks, in order to scale. The key one that we used to track was how do you make salespeople close the first deal within the first quarter of joining the company? And how do you get the average cohort of sales teams and performers to contribute as well as the best performing sales folks? 

So what’s the secret sauce which is like basically this playbook that you would want to operationalize? So we saw that there’s a big opportunity that we could leverage here. We spoke to a lot of sales or managers too, over 150 during our customer development. Thanks to COVID, a lot of salespeople were not traveling so we could get access to a lot of people for interviews. And we understood that over 75% of the organizations were not having proper playbooks in place. Even if in some cases they had playbooks, they didn’t know whether any change to this would impact their business or how many reps are adhering to these playbooks. 

We just figured out that, “Okay, we can get started with providing an incredible playbook intelligence to our early customers.” And that was a big success. And we could positively impact their win rates and sales cycles and ramp time of their salespeople. 

“We understood that over 75% of the organizations were not having proper playbooks in place. Even if in some cases they had playbooks, they didn’t know whether any change to this would impact their business or how many reps are adhering to these playbooks.”

Paulo: So you also mentioned in your first press release back in November last year, that you know, most sales tools today, work for the organization and make the user work for the tools rather than the tools actually working for the user. Can you explain how this applies into the context of Nektar being a new solution for revenue teams and perhaps shares a specific scenario?

Abhijeet: Definitely. If you look at most of the conventional sales tools that exist today, that are built with the buyer in mind, which is the VP of Sales or the Chief Revenue Officer or the CEO of the company, their needs are very different. They would like the dashboard, they would like to look at the summary. 

Whereas when you’re looking at your users, they are generally overlooked. And in sales tools, they are mostly overlooked because the deal is done with the buyer. Then you (the user) just have to deal with the product as is, and it may not fit into their workflow. It might be too clunky, too complex. That UI is not friendly. A lot of time goes wasted, which happens with most of the existing tools today, which is where we also want to take a differentiated approach — thinking about the account executive or the frontline manager was working with his account manager and rolling up their sleeves, trying to win that quarter, trying to win that critical deal in that quarter that’s really important, how we can help them? 

Because if we look at VP of sales or sales leadership, they have a lot of accessibility to resources, not just tools and dashboards, but also resources will manually extract data like business operations, team sales, operations team, which churn out a lot of data points for them on the fly. The same thing is not available to a manager or an account executive, because they also need some of these insights and data points, but they are overlooked and underserved. 

We just wanted to build from a user-first approach rather than a buyer-first approach. Obviously, our checks will be signed by the buyers, but when they see that their users are more productive and they’re bringing more business or more of their apps are successful, they won’t mind investing in it. And I’m sure they don’t hate their salespeople that they want them to use bad tools or bad UIs. 

This whole trend is also pointing towards that where new-age tools are focused on the users from day one, rather than just helping the buyer. So we definitely are looking at that scenario as well.

“We just wanted to build from a user-first approach rather than a buyer first approach. Obviously, our checks will be signed by the buyers, but when they see that their users are more productive and they’re bringing more business or more of their apps are successful, they won’t mind investing in it.”

Paulo: Do you have a specific example of the gains or the cost savings that you’re able to give to customers because of that differentiation and focus really on the front line, so to speak, of these different organizations?

Abhijeet: Definitely. There are two examples I’ll give. One is on playbooks. And then the second is around the data enrichment side of it. 

If I look at the playbooks in general, we’ve been able to think of playbooks as keeping your salespeople in particular guard rails — what they need to follow as a process and the best practices. Nektar is able to show these playbook violations of playbook alerts to the users, not just into the system where you go and log in into a dashboard, but it’s a UI- less thing. So it points the user into their workflow. So if I’m using Salesforce something pops up or I get a WhatsApp message or I get a slack message or I get an email.

It’s the whole Google Assistant experience, where you get a popup or you book a Go-Jek or Grab and then you get a pop-up after like your ride where you can give a quick star rating. It’s that kind of an experience that doesn’t disrupt, or it doesn’t get the user to come on to another product. You get a UI-less experience, which is pretty interesting but these are very intelligent insights and contextual playbook alerts that we give. So as a result of that, more and more salespeople adopt these because they are into their workflow and they are relevant, so they follow it. So we have seen like 15% improvement in sales cycles, faster deal movement, and close to 12% improvement in win rates. more deals being won. So that’s on the playbook side of it. 

When I look at a data enrichment side of it, because we have an AI tool and this tool connects with different data sources, we are able to bring in data from a lot of first-party data sources, like email, calendar, Zoom, and some of the other tools that the organization is using and the buyer-seller interaction data, we’re able to intelligently connect it back to CRM, and we update it into CRM for them. So that also improves their CRM data. Users do not need to spend so much time updating Salesforce. They can continue to do their work. And this is again a UI-less experience where the data is getting updated for them on their behalf, without even them lifting a finger. We give around 20 to 25% of their time back to the users, which can be used for selling. So that’s another use case that we have seen which really comes out strongly. 

“It’s that kind of an experience which doesn’t disrupt, or it doesn’t get the user to come on to another product. You get a UI-less experience…”

Paulo: Just the small things like having to repeatedly checkout for contacts or having to check out notifications — things like that can actually result in huge gains for the entire organization. 

It’s pretty clear that you guys have really tapped into a huge market. And clearly, the investment interest has sort of reflected that as well. So Once again, congratulations on closing your seed round, now at US$8.1 million, one of the biggest seed rounds for SAS in the region and also led by B Capital, traditionally a later-stage investor, but they’ve really gone in early with you. 

What does this mean for Nectar’s growth trajectory for the rest of the year now that you’ve obviously seen product-market fit now you’re seeing the investor response as well. And how does this affect your growth moving forward?

Abhijeet: First of all, thank you, Paulo. We are quite excited as well with the recent announcement we made. We’re quite excited to partner with growth investors like B capital. I think we are a bit of an unconventional check for them. They generally do growth rounds, so they came in seed because they were quite excited with the opportunity and they really saw a big market and a great founding team with a strong experience, and they’re very excited with the product roadmap. So very excited to have them on board and lead the round along with 314 capital, who are also very founder-friendly investors, and understand SaaS pretty well. And we have had Nexus Venture Partners from day one. Just like Insignia, Nexus also was there with the company from day one and Nexus participated in this round as well to double down on their investment. It really just helped us to create a good team together on the investor side of it.

It just gives us a lot of ammunition for doing more research and development, expanding the product and engineering team, and also building a go-to-market team, which we can use to focus on launching the product in the US market. The one big opportunity for the company is international growth. While we have a lot of target customers in Asia, well, Asia is a little laggard with respect to new technology adoption, whereas the US is a bit more of an early adopter [market]. So we really wanted to go after the US opportunity. So having some of these marquee investors and the additional capital in the bank helps us to hit that initial traction in the US.

“The one big opportunity for the company is international growth.”

Paulo: You talk about Asia sort of being laggard, but then on the other hand, what is the draw for an actor being in the US market? What are your thoughts on being in more mature markets where potentially there are a lot more competitors while there are a lot more customers as well?

Abhijeet: The market is massive, right. While there are some names lately, I think sales tech, if you look at it, has largely seen traction in the last four or five years. Otherwise, it was all about the martech era. We’ve seen a lot of marketing technology companies until 2015, 2016. That’s when I think we started seeing some sales tech companies and some of them are now unicorns. To take a few names, Zoominfo, Gong, Outreach, SalesLoft, Seismic, HighSpot, Clari. I think there are some of these unicorns which are there in sales tech, but if you look at all of their customers put together, the six, seven of them would be a fraction of the customers of what Salesforce has. Salesforce has more than 200,000 customers globally. Their dominant market share is in the US. 

So when you look at that and compare the CRM market versus the larger — I’ll put all of these tools into sales enablement — there’s a system of record and there is a system of enablement on top of it. It should be as big a market as CRM, and it could be an even bigger market as businesses continue to grow and more and more B2B businesses adopt technology because CRM is still seeing massive adoption.

If you look at it globally, it continues to grow. Salesforce grows at 22% year on year, even at their current scale. So we see a huge market, a fraction of it is taken by certain unicorns and they’re all playing in specific categories. So I mean, we’re not worried about the competition per se and if you build a great product solving an important key need of the customer, product-market fit happens naturally. So we’re quite confident there. 

The thing that we don’t want to miss out on is a delayed launch, because the US would be a market to lose. Asia would probably be still in the air for the taking. Three to four years down the line, we could still when, Asia and it’s not like we’re not having customers in Asia are not going to focus on it, but in terms of our GTM investments and outbound efforts are going to be largely focused towards the US market to win that opportunity. 

And just one more thing, multiple players can exist in B2B SaaS, unlike B2C, where it’s a winner takes all business. B2B SaaS is about multiple businesses coexisting in a particular sector. 

“We see a huge market, a fraction of it is taken by certain unicorns and they’re all playing in specific categories. So I mean, we’re not worried about the competition per se and if you build a great product solving an important key need of the customer, product-market fit happens naturally.”

Paulo: I wanted you to talk a little bit more about that whole progression and how you see it moving forward. In one of your LinkedIn posts, you mentioned that until 2000, the world saw ERP and then until 2010 CRM and then 2020 is MarTech. And then you were sort of asking the question of whether or not the next decade will be the decade of sales stack. Perhaps you can share with our listeners your view of the world and how this has influenced Nektar’s approach to growing its business?

Abhijeet: I definitely feel the next decade is going to be the decade for B2B sales technology. I think we are right at that juncture where this needs to be disrupted. If you look at the history of B2B selling, it started from a technology sales standpoint, started from Oracle in the 1960s, there’s the Oracle technology sales process, which is what got implemented in Salesforce. The pilot founders from Salesforce are mostly Oracle guys. 

They started in 1998 and in 2003 or 2004 Salesforce IPO’ed, so there was so much demand to digitize the customer records and do it faster — than a solution on the cloud, we just did this in terms of capturing records was a big hit, because cloud itself was a disruption there, not the work nor the use case of recording the contacts digitally, which is what Salesforce did and they just accelerated the GTM motion and brought it to the world and you could implement it very quickly. You can try a small user base, you can pay as you grow. So it became very easy for the world to adopt CRM; Salesforce just democratized it for the world. But the thing is they grew so fast and they’ve then acquired so many companies and so many products and they’ve gotten into adjacent categories as well. 

Then HubSpot came in 2005 and they brought in a big revolution around marketing tech. There are so many big players in martech that came out and it became a big thing, how you could generate demand by reaching out to customers. Outbound is still big and important, but inbound is equally big now. And it’s increasingly becoming popular in markets like Asia as well. I think the overall B2B sales where the process is very complex was always thought of as art rather than being scientific, or structured or process-driven, where technology can come in and help the salesperson be better at their job. I think that was overlooked, and which is what has started gaining traction now. 

I’m very bullish about the future of sales technologies; it’s the right timing as well. It’s the right time for a system of data or a system of intelligence on top of that system of record that exists to make people productive. The AI use cases have also matured. I think building an AI solution is becoming easier because you have more tech available, more learning and experience out there.

A couple of trends I see there as one is I think consolidation, I believe that is going to be there. A lot of alpha products. I think Gartner published the 39 Rules of Salestech Mayhem, it’s a recent report which you should read; it just came out a few days back. It’s a similar prediction there where I think consolidation is the name of the game, where there are Alpha products which are probably going to acquire a lot of other adjacent products or their competitors, which is happening as we see with Zoominfo acquiring Chorus and a few other startups as well.

The second I believe is the movement from point solutions to platform solutions. So what happened from 2005 to 2015 was everybody was going after a point solution opportunity because it was easier to do. You’ll probably quickly build a point solution and build a US$10, 15, or 20 million business. There are a bunch of these point solutions that exist in the market for one or two use cases, but as a result, they use around two dozen tools in their sales tech, which is not possible. It’s something that’s just counterproductive. 

We basically are seeing a consolidation of tools as well in terms of feature set capabilities. The focus would be to move from point solutions to platform solutions. And to do more out of the existing stack. I think that would also be another theme that I foresee, which are really dominant, as buyers evaluate the next generation of tools because they would want their sales team to stay more focused, use a few tools to do the job better and in a holistic manner, versus multiple point solutions stitched together with a band-aid. 

Paulo: It’s definitely the rebundling of all of these different solutions and the platformization to really scale the capabilities of sales teams as opposed to just enabling them, right? You’re not just solving their pain points, but actually giving them solutions to actually do these things more effectively at scale. Which is definitely good news for a lot of businesses. 

Abhijeet: Connected experience, that’s what we are looking at Nektar that we are building this multi-channel go-to-market data platform. That’s connecting different tools and datasets across the revenue teams. And bringing it together with a strong intelligence layer, and a value proposition there is very compelling as we talked to the market. 

“It’s the right time for a system of data or a system of intelligence on top of that system of record that exists to make people productive.”

Paulo: Even from earlier parts of our conversation, you’ve already mentioned that you’ve really talked to these different businesses and you did find that customers are demanding this kind of solution. And they do have those pain points that you guys are meeting. What is your advice for SaaS companies, especially here in Southeast Asia, that are looking to go global, for example?

Abhijeet: I would recommend having the global first approach and that mindset from the early days is very important. Because once you have that mindset, then you’ll start thinking about the users in that market, and you’ll start talking to those users. You’ll start understanding their problems, their workflows, which are very different from what we see here in Asia.

That’s important because that defines your roadmap, that defines your solution, that defines your positioning, that defines your go-to-market strategy.  The longer you delay the worse it gets for you. It’s a harder climb later on. You have a lot of companies thinking, “Let’s build a four, five million ARR business in the first three, four years here. And then we go after the US market or other international markets for that matter.” 

I think then you have to reinvent the wheel, and we realized that the existing product and solutions don’t directly fit into that market in terms of your distribution or even product use cases and all. So I would strongly advise any Southeast Asia and/or Asian SaaS company that is building today or in the works of looking for international expansion, to start thinking about it from day one.

Second, I would say, focus on the problem. Once you identify the users in this market, identify the problem that these users care about. So spend a lot of time with users before you build anything, talk to them, understand what is missing, and then build for that rather than thinking what you believe is missing and build, and then try to force it. 

Paulo: And of course, once you guys have built out your sales organization and have begun going full force on your enterprise sales, then maybe consider Nektar as well. 

Abhijeet: Definitely. We are there to help the ecosystem, not just in Asia, but any B2B sales organization who wants to be more productive. 

“I would strongly advise any Southeast Asia and/or Asian SaaS company who is building today or in the works of looking for international expansion, to start thinking about it from day one.”

Rapid Fire Round

If you could be in the shoes of a VC or founder for a day who would it be? 

Abhijeet: I think it would be Marc Benioff from Salesforce. I like to be in his shoes largely because I’ve heard that he runs his business without using it. I think it’s about this, one application uses on his mobile phone where he’s able to manage the entire $25 billion business. So I’m quite curious to see how that can be run. So I’d like to be him plus he’s basically the godfather of sales tech, I would say. 

What’s the biggest misconception people have about sales tools? 

Abhijeet: A lot of teams think that if you throw money at the tools, it will solve all your problems. Money can’t solve all problems, right? Tools that you spend money on won’t solve all the problems of the company. Investing in the right culture, in people, helping them with a positive mindset and mental health — I think these are very important aspects, especially for sales professionals, because they undergo a lot of stress in order to chase their quarters. It’s important to create a positive culture, and then also have a very high-performance culture. So that generally is not taken that seriously compared to investment in tools. 

We’ve all been students once (and always are arguably) — most memorable class you’ve been in? 

Abhijeet: So I did my first CrossFit class, some six or seven years ago. I was not in the best of health. I lost a lot of weight in the last couple of years, and have been trying to balance out my fitness and health along with the work. But even back then, I really struggled. I was overweight too. So I think the first CrossFit class was not exactly fun. It was memorable, but not in a fun way.

Speaking of which, you also wrote an interesting article on LinkedIn, linking how playbooks for revenue teams can also be applied in terms of exercise so maybe you could talk a little bit more about that.

Abhijeet: Yep. I see a lot of similarities between sales and sports. Whatever you do in sports can be applied in sales. Look at professional sports, you need a high-performing athlete who trains with a coach, who practices, who iterates, follows a certain playbook, during the match, before the match, then they follow a particular rhythm.

Then they have coaches who are training and coaching them. I think the same is true for salespeople as well. High-performers really are on top of their game. They practice, they iterate, they improvise during the game. They also follow the right coaching and advice from the sales manager.

Personally speaking, I’ve been using a few running apps. When I’m running, I’ve started using some of these new apps. They will guide you in terms of your first five kilometers, first ten kilometers, and everything, and improve your pace. So just follow it day by day. And it just improves you. And I saw that. So that was also an inspiration for me that if AI or the guided training can be applied to running, and I personally experienced it, or any kind of sports, it definitely can be done in B2B sales as well. 

Anything else to share with our audience? 

Abhijeet: We’re just keeping our waitlist open until the end of this year, so anybody who’s interested in joining our waitlist program can still go ahead and register on our website. And if folks are interested in joining the company as well, we are hiring across all functions, so they can just reach out to us on our website or just ping me or Aravind on Linkedin with why they want to join us and how they can help the company. And we’ll be happy to consider that. 

“Whatever you do in sports can be applied in sales.”

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