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How to adapt in the new virtual selling reality

Traditional demos don’t work in the new Virtual Selling reality | Robin Singhvi - CEO SmartCue

About SmartCue

Robin: SmartCue is a sales effectiveness platform for enterprise sales teams. We help sales reps move away from vanilla cookie-cutter product demos for their prospects to personalize product demos so that they can accelerate their sales cycles. With SmartCue, sales leaders can bring consistency to their demo pitches. They can improve their conversion rates and gain insights on continually refining their sales demo process.

What biggest problem SmartCue solves?

Robin: The biggest problem we solved is helping sales reps avoid very boring feature vomit type of product demos when they’re doing demos to their prospects by personalizing them. We help these sales reps quickly take their prospects to the “aha” moment. So it’s a win-win for both the prospect, who quickly gets to see how the sales rep really solves their problem, and for the sales rep, the opportunity is qualified faster and moves faster through the sales funnel.

It’s about cutting out unnecessary things – the simple 80/20 principle. If Cristian is a prospect of mine and comes to me, he is probably dealing with a problem he wants to solve. The first and most critical thing I need to show Cristian as a sales rep is how my product can solve that problem. Everything else is just gravy; it’s like – okay, Cristian doesn’t really care that my product has AI, intelligence, and analytics. All he cares about is does it solve the problem. That’s what we are trying to enable sales teams to be able to do with SmartCue.

What are the top features of SmartCue?

Robin: So the first one for us is simplicity. And I say that because sales reps and many sales engineering teams can create their demos lightning-fast with SmartCue right now. Instead of spending hours and tons of resources for every custom demo request that comes to them from a prospect or the sales team. That is a huge problem currently in any enterprise sales team.

I think SmartCue has the simplest learning curve. Our north star for the product has always been how we can add value to a sales team. To do that by fitting into their existing workflow rather than forcing them to learn a new tool and spend hours on training, onboarding, and integrations. That has been our north star right from day one.

And if you ask me for another feature, I will say insights. All these years, when you think about it, sales leaders have always known how many meetings has my sales rep do in a given week, but what they did not have is an insight into how much time did the reps spend giving a demo versus on the slide deck, versus chit-chatting. More importantly, when your sales rep gives a demo, how do you know that your sales rep is following the playbook you and the team created? This is how we should showcase our product. Which module and feature does the sales rep spend most of their time on that resonates with the client versus not? Those are the kind of insights that SmartCue can provide, which are invaluable to any sales team.

How can teams use SmartCue?

Robin: Our obvious and primary use case is for sales teams so that you can deliver contextual and relevant demos to your target audience. Now the same framework can be used internally by product teams. When you think of a new joined, a new employee that’s coming in. How is the traditional onboarding done? They’re like – okay, here you can watch a video. Check out this PowerPoint. Someone from the product team may give you a demo. Right now, the problem is through all of this. The new employee has not ever used the product, the actual product that you want to sell.

With SmartCue, you can do that, but you can take it a step forward and allow every individual, every employee, to understand the product’s value proposition, a particular module, or a specific feature and how that actually resonates with different audiences. So the training and onboarding become very, very contextual and very powerful. Now, when a new employee goes in front of a customer, they not only know how the product works, but they also know what value it provides for this prospect. Especially in enterprise companies, it takes about four to five months for a sales rep to quote-unquote and be market ready. With SmartCue, you can actually shorten that to a few weeks. I think that’s a very powerful second use case.

And finally, if you want to take it a step forward, we’ve had some of our customers sort of use SmartCue as a trainer platform. We, as company X, have sold our product to company Y. How do we ensure that company Y is fully trained and onboarded on our product? How do we create a training module that ensures they get full value from our product? And so they’ve used SmartCue to build training modules for their companies. So those are some of the early signs of multiple problems that we can potentially solve.

What is the pricing for SmartCue?

Robin: We do so. We offer a fully featured two-week trial for anyone who wants to experience the product. Then, if you’re a solopreneur, a creator, or a very small team, we have a very affordable creator plan. Also, for our fellow startup founders, we have a startup plan – we know your pains, and we would love to work with all of my fellow founders who are growing and scaling their businesses. And, of course, we have enterprise plans for some of our large enterprise customers.

What are the SmartCue integrations?

Robin: Early days for us, but as a sales effectiveness platform is a no-brainer for us to integrate with CRM tools because every sales team wants to be able to track and link back every sales activity back into their CRM. To be able to run analysis on them and determine the value and effectiveness of not just every tool they have in their arsenal but also the performance of their individual sales reps.

That is an integration that we have. We’re actually coming up with a ton more, including integrations like Loom, so you will soon be able to export out a lot of your demos or demo libraries into PowerPoints or PDFs or just dynamic URLs. So that you can share it with your prospects, even post your call or leave it behind, and things like that. We’re looking to integrate with tools like LinkedIn and many sales intelligence tools out in the market. We’re discussing with large LMS providers to partner up and integrate into their products, but a lot is happening – it’s the early days.

When did you start the company, and how did you develop this idea?

Robin: That is an interesting question. The company essentially started in October of 2021. Still, the idea’s genesis started about ten years ago. As background, I have spent most of my professional career as a solutions consultant or solutions architect in many enterprise software companies. I was always part of sales functions, and my team was responsible for what was back then called sales training. But nowadays has transformed into this buzzy term of sales enablement.

Back then, it was just sales training or readiness. But even then, I watched sales reps struggle to do justice to the products we sell because they were doing vanilla cookie-cutter demos. We implemented several different solutions, like LMS solutions or even product walk-through tools, but none of them really worked in ensuring that we had standardized product demos right. So the big “aha” moment for me was during one of these sales off-sites where we were supposed to enable or train all of the sales folks, and one of the sales reps came up to me. She said – hey Robin, this fancy efficiency tool that you’re trying to deploy is only trying to improve the efficiency of my boss, but for me and all the rest of it only added friction to my workflow. That was a big light bulb moment.

And fast forward to 2020, I’d moved back to India because the pandemic hit, and virtual selling is now much more commonplace. And now, a side effect of virtual selling is that sales reps can no longer just wind and dine or schmooze their prospects to a deal. Instead, you now have a short 30-minute Zoom call to convince your prospect that – hey, you know, your solution or product really solves their pain points. And because of that, your product now has to shine product demos that were critical back then and are even more critical in the sales process.

That really it’s a long waited story. But that essentially was the perfect storm for me to try and solve this problem of personalizing product demos. I tried to learn from some of the mistakes that we made and some of the observations that I saw. The key thing that came out for me was that if I build any sales effectiveness product for sales teams, the bedrock has to be – how I reduce or eliminate friction and fit it into a sales rep’s existing workflow and build something that is sales rep habit. Because if I don’t, the adoption odds will drop drastically. Because now, I’m forcing a salesperson to learn a new tool, and if you know the industry or the space, there are always new tools out.

What’s your vision for SmartCue?

Robin: We really want to be the second brain for the sales rep. Think of Jarvis for Iron Man. Whenever sales rep has anything they need to do, like moving their deal forward, they interact with SmartCue in some form or the other. In the long run, we hope that SmartCue can become a verb like Salesforce or, more recently, Loom. Anytime you’re trying to demo basic training and onboarding, we want sales teams to just SmartCueing.

What’s your company’s tool stack?

Robin: We have Zoho as our CRM, and then we use ClickUp for everything related to the product. Obviously, we use Slack like every other company out there for communication. ClickUp is great, I love ClickUp, and I think the other tool I use is called Motion, not Notion. It’s basically a Calendly or a calendar management product, and I love it. I started using it a few months back, and it has become my smarter system, like my Jarvis.

What is your story, Robin?

Robin: I have a computer science degree from here in India, and then I got an MBA from a university in the US. I spent ten-plus years with startups of various sizes, all in the B2B SaaS space selling to enterprise clients, mostly in the US. As I said, my role at these companies was always at the intersection of sales and product, so I was a solution consultant and solution architect, and that’s my journey.

The one thing that I’d say is that it’s a little bit unconventional because I was never a great student. Especially when you live in India. If you want to be the ideal son, you either become an engineer, a doctor, or a chartered accountant. I picked the easiest of the three but was never great at it. I kept thinking that I always had an entrepreneurial event of mine. My background is from an entrepreneurial family. My father always had his own business and things like that. And I was like – man, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to spend my life in a room just coding. I like people. And I think I have a way with people.

One piece of advice  for someone who wants to get started in sales

Robin: The biggest or best quality you could have is persistence and being okay with no. Because as blame glamorous as a sales role sounds, it is a hundred no’s before one yes, right? The key to being a good salesperson is filtering out the negativity and noise. And then really focusing on the big picture and the outcome. You have to be a people person. You have to like people to be a good salesperson, to be able to relate to them. Breaking into sales or being a salesperson is not hard, but being a great salesperson is damn hard.

Why it’s better to have a co-founder

Robin: As I said, I am a solo founder, which comes with its own challenges. And while I’ve been lucky to have a great support system, I now definitely realize the value of having a co-founder. Or at least a good second-in-command on this wild ride with you. Having to deal with the ups and downs as a solo founder is fine, but I know what I will not ever do with my next startup is go solo again. So I think that’s one thing I will leave you with – if you have a co-founder, go for it.

I can have a co-founder now. I absolutely can. But it’s not the same as starting from zero. When the two or three or four of you have the germ of an idea together, you grow with it together. So it’s very different from having an idea and then finding someone to buy into it.

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