19 Sep #SalesTalk with Venkat Kolli, CEO of Tachyon Technologies
We recently had a chance to have a chat with Venkat Kolli, CEO of Tachyon Technologies. Under his leadership, Tachyon has grown at a CAGR of 195% over the past 5 years and has been ranked 552 in 2015 Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing company in the US.
With numerous years of experience in business and technology, Venkat Kolli has been instrumental in leading, mentoring, and building teams at Tachyon. Before Tachyon, Venkat has experience working at Big 4 consulting and smaller consulting services firms. His deep technical expertise within SAP and vast implementation experience have been instrumental in growing the SAP practice.
He spoke to us about enabling sales teams with innovations in technology to drive sales productivity.
Roshan Cariappa: How have you seen sales evolve from the time you’ve started? What are the opportunities and challenges you see right now?
Venkat Kolli: I’ve worked with a lot of sales and marketing tools over the years and evaluated different tools in different areas. When we started out, we used some free CRM tools. Setting it up and getting it going was easy, but one of the most common challenges with CRM systems is adoptability. Most of the time, what I’ve seen is that when we ask salespeople to update the information, they say “Do you want me to sell, or would you rather I update the information?’.
I haven’t seen a lot of innovation so far in the 10 years or so that I’ve been using CRM’s. They’ve always remained standard CRM’s. The main innovations I’ve seen are greater integration capabilities, like the integration of products with marketing tools, but major innovations are still lacking.
Roshan Cariappa: Typically, what we’ve noticed when we go out and sell is that the decision makers are very different from the end users of the product. The end users may have a different priority as compared to the decision makers. What would you advise as a way of collapsing that strategic divide? Do you think it’s possible at all?
Venkat Kolli: It is possible if you ask me. For example, let’s assume that I’m a sales executive who is always on the field. I need certain features which will enable me to be successful. And if I’m an inside sales representative who picks up the phone and makes calls, there will be certain features that I look for that should enable me. And again, if it’s a CEO or a sales manager/director, they have certain things that they are looking for. So if a role-based approach can be adopted for improving productivity, that would be very helpful in my opinion.
Roshan Cariappa: You mentioned adoption. How do you plan on increasing the adoption of any sales technology? We can all agree that salespeople hate CRM’s and sales automation systems. They view it with suspicion; they feel like it doesn’t help their cause. So how would you increase adoption when this is the status quo?
Venkat Kolli: The main question is ‘Is adoption really necessary?’. The system shouldn’t just be something that people have to adopt. It should help the customer or sales representative be more successful. The system should be intelligent enough to tell the sales representative things to do that will help increase his/her productivity. Or, the system must identify the best action to take and send reminders.
Typically, adoption cycles are long. Different ways to speed up the process are training users frequently, monitoring user activity and proactively reaching out to them at different phases.
Roshan Cariappa: We see a lot of disruptions concerning AI, AI infused applications and so on. How do you see AI impacting sales and marketing software?
Venkat Kolli: I think AI is going to affect all markets. Not just CRM and ERP solutions. There are a lot of manual activities that can be automated. Automation is going to be really helpful for improving sales productivity, in many different areas. It could be as simple as having a conversational AI app. With AI, the idea is to make things easier for users, so it’s very important for any tool to reduce the work, and not increase the work required.
Roshan Cariappa: As a sales leader, what are 2-3 metrics that you measure actively and think that you should constantly optimize for?
Venkat Kolli: I think the main thing to measure is the number of sales made. That’s what customers or anybody in a senior role would look for. But on a serious note, it’s not just that. It’s also about the pipeline. How much you have, and how much you can bring in. There are different ways you can do that. It’s very important that goals are aligned. Metric wise, we look into a lot of things like the number of meetings due, number of calls made, number of appointments, pipeline opportunities and the probability of closing. It all depends on the lead and where we are.
Roshan Cariappa: What are the best pieces of advice that you have gotten from anybody across your career? And based on that, what is some advice that you would like to pass on to somebody starting at a sales position right now?
Venkat Kolli: I think the best advice I’ve received so far is ‘If you’re trying to sell, ask questions.’ As a sales person, asking questions lets you know your buyer, and what they want. Relationship-based selling is the best approach, rather than cold calling or e-mail. When you’re trying to sell, try to sell based on the pain and problems faced by the customer rather than based on features and benefits.
Roshan Cariappa: On a parting note, what are a few hacks you would suggest to stay productive and #domore?
Venkat Kolli: The most important thing is that this is a very competitive environment. You have to be ahead of the game. You need to understand the problems that the customer faces. Try to address that. Especially in sales, it is very important to form trust. You can sell to a customer based solely on trust. Trust sells.
Being innovative is also very important. Not just in the technology department, but the way you’re selling as well. You have to challenge yourself and try to provide customers with more solutions to improve their productivity.