Master the Art of Sales and Generate Revenue for Your Business: An Interview with E2E Networks’ CRO Kesava Reddy 

July 21, 2023

For a strong bottom line, you need a strong Chief Revenue Officer. And no one fits the bill better than Mr Kesava Reddy. Dedicated, hardworking, with a penchant for witty one-liners, Mr Reddy heads the sales force at E2E (LinkedIn). 

Here’s what we discussed during a tea break:

Q. Mastering the art of sales requires strategic thinking, effective techniques, and continuous learning. How did you enter the field? When did you join E2E and what has been your role?

It was only when I realized the importance of sales in a business venture that I stepped into the field. I was in Software Programming until 2006. The startup that I was a part of did not have a sales team at that point. Our investors told us of the importance of sales in business and explained how founders needed to focus on sales. Since I had some knowledge of fundraising, I took up this responsibility. This is how I entered sales.  

I started working with E2E in 2018, as the head of their Sales and Marketing department. 

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what E2E’s vision is - about growing and scaling a Swadeshi AI-First Hyperscaler, and your journey through this process? 

E2E’s vision is simple. There was space for an infrastructure company in India, besides the hyperscalers which are all MNCs. We wanted to fill this gap and establish ourselves as a hyperscaler from India - not just nationally but also globally. We are betting on the opportunity to sell the hyperscaler business with open source technology.

Before 2018, we offered contractless computing, and public cloud was not the focus. The self-serving full-fledged public cloud platform started in 2017 and the major push came in 2018. Now we have Compute, Load Balancers, Object Storage, Block Storage, Kubernetes As a Service - all of which were introduced in the span of the last 5-6 years. Our goal is to provide holistic cloud services to any company.

Our journey has been defined by what we learnt from the market. My biggest learning has been that the requirement of customers drives innovation.

Q. How were the first 100 days of sales? What has been your biggest lesson from that time?

When I joined E2E, there wasn't a proper sales process in place. I had to fully dive into it to establish one. 

We focussed on using as much automation as possible. Since we have sales teams in both Delhi and Bangalore, we faced lack of coordination between teams. Everything was scattered and there wasn’t much clarity on which team should target which customers. We also had to make sure that everyone adapted to our CRM. Although it was in use, it wasn’t used regularly at the time. 

Back then, we were selling services as well as cloud. Soon, we realized that it is better to sell our own product instead of products from competitors. 

Q. Sales is the lifeblood of any business. It is the process of persuading, convincing, and ultimately converting potential customers into paying customers. Can you tell us some key strategies, techniques, and tools that can help entrepreneurs become sales masters and generate revenue for their businesses?

It goes without saying that the sales strategy will differ based on products, customers, and location. In any case, the first thing you need to define is the ‘Buyer's Persona’. It is of the utmost importance. Buyers will differ from country to country. The decision-makers will also differ. If we take an example, most people think that the decision-maker in a school is the principal. However, more often than not, it is the chairman or the director who makes the key decisions. This is why it is absolutely essential to conduct in-depth research on the buyer’s persona. 

I am a firm believer that you need to know your buyer in and out. You need to know when they start their day, how they end it, what they like, what they don’t like, how they spend their day. For example, most CTOs don’t like spam mails. But they don’t mind spending on technology. They focus on getting work done. On the other hand, CEOs value growth and sales. To a CTO, you can say that your product will help in reducing engineering time, but the CEO will be interested in cost-cutting. Based on personas, you decide when and how you will get in touch with them.

Q. Sales involve identifying and understanding customer needs, building trust and rapport, addressing objections, and closing the deal. It requires excellent communication skills, product knowledge, and the ability to create value for customers. What has been your number 1 sales strategy?

Like I mentioned, understanding your buyer's persona is incredibly important. When it comes to communication skills, I’d say that it plays a huge role too. When we talk about communication skills, people usually focus on speaking. I’d say the most important part of communicating is listening. You have to make the customer talk so that you can identify their pain points. 

I always say that it is important to have at least 7-8 industry or product-related questions ready when meeting a customer. When you ask questions to the customer, and listen well, you will easily be able to point out their pain points. That is when you go and pitch the product.

Sales is about conversation. These conversations happen through networking and building connections. I always say connections are important. Meaningful conversations are important. It is not just about going and telling the customer the textbook information about your product. Rather, it is through meaningful conversations that you can show your product and domain knowledge. Adding value to a conversation is important. 

Q. Building rapport is essential for establishing trust and developing strong relationships with your customers. What are the special challenges of SaaS sales in a very competitive landscape?

I’d say 80 percent of sales is about getting your foot in the door. There are five Ps that are important. The customer should know you, or the Person, Product, Pricing, Performance, and Possibilities. The decision-maker must know these things. When this information is available to them, they will come to you when they need that particular product or service.

The challenge is getting the eyeballs of the customers. Many people are not aware of E2E. It is my job to make the unaware aware. When the client is aware of everything that we do, we can see what can be offered to them to catch their attention and arouse their interest.

Today, there’s so much information available and so much competition in the market that being at the right place at the right time is a challenge.

Q. E2E is probably the largest swadeshi cloud platform. Tell me, how do you navigate the art of selling to Indian enterprises? How important a part do negotiation skills play here?

Selling to any enterprise includes researching the Personas and figuring out who you can target. This way, you’ll identify the most suitable customers for you. Identifying the suitable customers is 50 per cent of the game. Let’s say I want to target a health-tech company but I don’t have HIPAA compliance, then it wouldn't make sense for me to target them. 

Indian enterprises are very cost-conscious. It is important to make them feel that it is cost effective to buy your product, then they will be interested. Offering free trials is a good way of ensuring this.

Q. What are the 3 biggest challenges of selling from India to international markets? What lessons do you have to offer to younger salespeople starting their careers today?

It is important to understand the buyer's personality and how it differs across regions. For example, North America has a DIY market. They want smooth onboarding, documentation, and demos. For them, the value proposition has to be smooth. Unlike some markets where people don't mind getting mail from unknown people, there are some markets that are unforgiving. You have to make sure to get them through personal connections or through webinars. 

Making the customer interested in your product is the biggest task. Once they’ve signed up for email marketing or another way of seeking information, valuing their time is very important. It is important to have high integrity. Be punctual and don’t make false promises. They don't want you to promise anything - but if you do make a promise you can't keep, they will be unforgiving.

Q. What is your top performance indicator? Is it Revenue, Conversion rate, Deal Size, Sales Cycle Length, or Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)? 

All these indicators are important. The sales team measures revenue - and if it is doing well, then the other performance indicators are taken into account. Once revenue is stable, the focus goes to making sure that customers stay back for longer - that is, recurring revenue. 

Sales-wise, the main focus is how to add high-value customers. When you want to increase the growth rate, you will look at the bottom line and churn, and that's where the CLTV will go up. If the revenue is not going up, we look at the recurring revenue, or repeatability.

It is revenue growth that dictates all other parameters.

All parameters are important. Sales, adoption of products, customer success, the number of referrals from customers, and their reviews - these are all important parameters. 

Q. Can you relate 2-3 key incidents / learning experiences that you remember from your journey at E2E? Pivotal moments that transformed the company, or you as a leader? 

I’m a firm believer that the customer's pain points teach you a lot. There have been times when customers have given us valuable feedback, which has made E2E grow. 

We are currently not MeitY (the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India) Empanelled. IIT Madras is a big project for us. While speaking to them, they pointed out that being MeitY Empanelled was very important to them. We were aware of it, but had not started the process of implementing it. This conversation made us realize its value, which is why we have now applied for it and are in the process of receiving it. 

Another incident that I recall is when I was meeting a customer in Bombay, I asked them about their future plans, to which they said, ‘AI’. The thing is, they were not even aware that we provide Cloud GPUs. This answer made me realize that it is important to educate customers constantly about our services. This is why we make it a point to announce our launches and developments regularly. 

Yet another way in which a customer helped us grow was when they had a compromised server. He pointed out that the documentation on our website was inadequate for him to fix it. Because of this incident, we added more documentation, and realized the importance of a partner ecosystem.

Q. Finally, can you talk a bit about the future of the Indian startup ecosystem, and where you see it headed? 

The future of the Indian ecosystem is very very bright. The middle class and the upper middle class are ready to take risks, if given a little push. 

We can see it from multiple angles. We need resources or people in an ecosystem. Today, there are people, straight out of college, who want to jump into startups instead of looking for traditional jobs.

On the other hand, there are people who are willing to invest in startups - there are a lot of angel investors. People are now ready to take risks because of all the success stories. In terms of products, there’s a growing number of India-centric products which have a huge market. We are at the right place at the right moment for Indian startups. 

Q. Do you agree with Sam Altman’s comment on India’s chances of building a foundational AI company? 

I’d say his comment was misinterpreted by the media and blown out of proportion. He was asked if a startup with 10 million USD can build a foundational model from India, to which he said that it's not possible. He said that in order to build a foundation model, you need huge amounts of money - billions of dollars - which is true. Building an application on top of a foundational model takes less money, but a foundational model will require considerable amounts of capital. Huge amounts of data, human resources, and compute resources are needed to build a foundational model.

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