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How We Landed 20+ Enterprise Deals with Founder-Led Sales?
Episode 50 β€’ 29th November 2023 β€’ B2B SaaS Podcast β€’ Upendra Varma
00:00:00 00:21:51

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Shownotes

Robin Singhvi, Founder of SmartCue, talks how about how they acquired over 30 paying customers ( of 5-6 figure ACV deals ) primarily with founder-led sales. We deep dive into his entrepreneurial journey and learn how his monthly newsletter and enterprise sales expertise are propelling SmartCue's growth! πŸš€

Here’s what we will discuss,

  • πŸš€ Building Credibility: Robin leveraged a decade in enterprise sales, positioning himself as a thought leader to establish trust early on, setting SmartQ apart in a competitive landscape.
  • 🌟 Navigating Enterprise Sales: With a background in million-dollar deals, Robin's diligence, proactivity, and methodical engagement laid the groundwork for successful sales in the enterprise market.
  • πŸ’Ό Founder-led Power: Emphasizing a personal touch, Robin's active involvement in the sales process boosted SmartQ's credibility, building confidence and trust.
  • πŸ“… Monthly Newsletter Magic: Initiating a monthly newsletter since SmartQ's launch in October 2021, it evolved into a valuable tool for lead generation, sharing experiences, and fostering relationships.

πŸ“Š Key Metrics Discussed:

  • πŸ“ˆ Current Customers: 30+ organizations.
  • πŸ’° Revenue Target: Aiming for $1M+ by March 2024.
  • πŸš€ Growth Goal: On track to reach 100 organizations on SmartCue.
  • πŸ› οΈ Sales Approach: Founder-led with plans to build a robust sales engine.
  • πŸ’Έ Funding: Raised capital from an accelerator program and angel investors.
  • πŸ‘₯ Team Size: Core team of 3, augmented with interns and contractors.
  • ⏳ Product Age: SmartCue launched officially in May 2023.

You can also watch this on youtube here,

https://youtu.be/43rQNJnh16c

Transcripts

Robin Sighvi:

so, I mean, especially in early days for any, any, uh, any

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stage company, the credibility is not

of the company, but of the founder.

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I mean, there is actually

no doubt about that.

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So when I, when I go sit to the

table, yes, I represent SmartKey,

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but they're like, okay, what, who are

you for us to be able to trust you?

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What have you done?

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What is your pedigree?

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Right?

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Uh, and, and I think that, that has

held me in good stead, I would say

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Upendra Varma: Hello, everyone.

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Welcome to the B2B SaaS podcast.

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I'm your host, Rupinder.

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And today we have Robin Singh with us.

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Robin here is the founder

of a company called SmartQ.

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Hey, Robin, welcome to the show.

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Robin Sighvi: All right.

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Thank you.

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Thank you for having me.

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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Hi, Robin.

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So let's help us understand, right.

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So what your product does and why

customers are willing to pay you money.

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Robin Sighvi: SmartQ helps teams

create interactive self serve demos

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with the goal of improving the

quality of leads in their funnel.

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We basically turn traditional product

demos into personalized self serve

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journeys that will significantly

boost your lead conversions.

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That's what smartkey does and uh,

the reason people sign up for and pay

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us for the key reason really is that

b2b buying behavior is now starting

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to look a lot more like b2c buying

behavior, which means that People want

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to do their own discovery, do their

own exploration, want to get a touch

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and feel experience of your product

before they click on the book a meeting

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or sign up for a free trial button.

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And you as the seller need to

enable the buyer as much as

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possible to be able to do that.

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Because if you do, then your

sales cycle will be compressed.

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Your lead quality obviously is.

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Uh, is significantly improved and,

uh, that is the, uh, the goal of every

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highly efficient sales team, right?

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So that's the promise that we, we provide.

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And that's why we're able

to sign on customers.

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Upendra Varma: Got it.

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Right.

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So if, if, if I'm a user of

one of your customers, right.

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Who's using you, right.

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So where exactly do I see this

particular automated demo coming to me

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and automated and personalized demo.

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah.

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So if you are the user at,

at, at my customer, right?

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So, so you, you will either

be a marketer, right?

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So either a product marketer or the margin

person, or you might be part of customer

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success teams or product teams, right?

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And, uh, where you would see the

output of what you end up creating

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in smart queue will vary depending

on your function, but it actually

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goes all the way across the funnel.

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So right at the top of the funnel,

when you were trying to embed these

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interactive showcases on your website

or landing pages, or even inside of

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your ads to, uh, if you're a demand gen

person, you are embedding these demos

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inside of your cold outbound emails.

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you're a salesperson, you're

embedding these in your follow up

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or leave behind assets after you've

had a meeting with your customer.

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If you're a customer support person

or a product person are using SmartQ

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to create or augment these nodes,

your onboarding material, your sort of

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customer enablement material as well.

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So it spans the entire funnel.

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Upendra Varma: So, and I'm assuming

a lot of people can use you, right?

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So everybody under the

sun can use you, right?

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To create product demos.

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So I'm, I'm saying that because,

uh, I just want to understand your

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customer base so that I could really

understand who you are trying to sell to.

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It's to help me understand, right?

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Uh, today.

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Right.

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So who are you primarily selling

to and how many customers do you

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have on your platform as of today?

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Robin Sighvi: I mean, so, so that,

that's an interesting question, right?

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So anyone under the sun can

use me, uh, when anyone under

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the sun pay me TBD, right?

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Uh, but, but the folks who do pay me tend

to be, um, uh, it's, it's a spread right

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now in terms of, uh, enterprise customers,

which have, uh, well oiled marketing

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teams to PLG companies or very small lean

startups, which are trying to optimize.

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Their marketing motion so that they're

able to sort of get the best out of their

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existing resources and, and automate

the stuff that they don't need to do.

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So it's kind of spread across the board.

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And of course, when I say my

customers, all of them are sending

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some software of some kind.

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Upendra Varma: got it.

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And then just, just quantify this, right?

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So how many paying customers

are we talking about today?

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Robin Sighvi: So we have, we have about

30 odd paying customers organizations.

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Upendra Varma: then what, how big

are these, you know, deals right now?

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And I don't want the exact number.

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I'm just looking for the range.

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Are these hundred dollar deals, thousand

dollar deals, ten thousand dollar

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deals, hundred thousand dollar deals?

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What are we

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Robin Sighvi: so these, these depend,

these depend on whether it's an enterprise

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or whether it's a smaller customer, and we

have, Uh, if you see on our website, you

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know, we have plans that appeal to younger

companies where we're giving it away for

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400, 500 a year for a couple of users.

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Two, you know, five to six figure

deals for larger enterprises.

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Upendra Varma: Got it.

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Right.

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So it's, it's, it's still the best

is, I think the enterprise deals

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are around 50, 60, 000, right?

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Is that what I'm understanding?

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And you range

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah, I think

it, it, it, it depends.

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Again, it depends, right?

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It depends on the need,

depends on the function.

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It depends on, uh, the number of licenses.

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Uh, it

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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So I know there's going to be a spread

and I'm specifically trying to understand

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this because I want to understand your

go to market motion after this, right?

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So I just want to get a sense of

like how, how many, like how big

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of like how many enterprise deals

you've cracked so far, right?

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So if it's a lot, then maybe we'll

talk about that motion, right?

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Robin Sighvi: I mean, when I,

when I talk about, yeah, it's,

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it's, it's, it's 50, 50 right now.

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Upendra Varma: got it.

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So

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Robin Sighvi: terms of enterprise

versus, uh, versus smaller companies.

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Upendra Varma: got it.

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Right.

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And yeah,

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Robin Sighvi: we also have a long tail

off of sort of individual creators who

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are actually using the product as well.

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So there's like a

significant number of those.

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So, so, uh, GTM actually, you know,

before we get into it, that is the next

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challenge that we are trying to solve

that, you know, which of these people

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do we target, which are those going

to be the most value for our efforts.

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And things like that.

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So those are still things that

we are, uh, in active discussions

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to figure out the right approach.

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Upendra Varma: and then,

uh, how old is your product?

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Like when have you launched it?

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, the product is actually

only about four months old, maybe four

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now, you know, we launched officially

in like May, uh, late May, and so yeah,

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it's just been three to four months now.

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Upendra Varma: And what

did you do at launch?

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, so yeah, when we

say launch, it's, it's basically, you

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know, we launched our product and,

uh, sort of amped up the product,

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uh, tried to, we tried to create

as much buzz around it as possible.

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Uh, used that launch to sort of, you

know, um, get our name out there in

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front of the right customers, uh, using

that, that credibility of not just

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launching on product hunt, but also

being part of the day on product hunt.

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Right?

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So using that, leaning into

that credibility, uh, to

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open a few more doors for us.

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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So, so again, I'll just, I would

just, I just want to touch upon this.

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Right.

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So because a lot of people, right.

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They just want to launch on product and

they want to be the product of the day.

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Right.

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They can't.

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Right.

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So, so what, what has worked for you?

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What did you do there?

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, so, so

interesting enough, we actually

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launched on product hunt twice.

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Um, one was, I think, uh, last.

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September and then this, uh,

this may, uh, April, May launch.

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And the first time around, it was

truly just brute force because it

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was literally just me and a couple

of interns trying to make it happen.

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Uh, this time around, we kind of

just took those learnings, tried to,

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you know, make a playbook of sorts.

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Uh, and then try and execute that even

so, uh, being number one on product

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front is actually a lot of luck.

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Uh, I'll be, I'll be honest and say that,

that, you know, yes, you can put in a

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lot of effort, but if you know, a YC

company or if a well funded company comes

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in the door, the odds are that you're

not going to get the catch up, right.

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It doesn't matter whether

they're number one or not.

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Uh, what matters is if you can get enough

people to know about the fact that you've

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launched and, uh, more people having sort

of affinity or recognition of the brand.

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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So what, what, what

worked for you this time?

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Right.

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So any insight there, right.

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So just one, if you were to pick.

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, there

were quite a few, right?

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So, so this time around, you know,

we had our email list in order.

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We had, uh, you know, our Slack

approaches and all the WhatsApp

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groups and stuff like that in order.

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We also ensured that we, we, uh, gave

people a heads up the last time around.

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We just launched and told people on the

day of launch, whereas this time around

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we had like a month long plan that, Hey,

so first go on the coming soon page,

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create discussions on Product Hunt itself.

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You know, a, a small thing that actually

worked, uh, and I think a lot of

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people should do, is you go on product

hunt, uh, stay, you're coming soon.

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So there's an option to go on there

and say that you're coming soon.

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Then start commenting on a lot of

other top products during that, that

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month because when you do, it shows up.

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You show up as coming soon and

a lot of people go and sort

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of sign up to get notified.

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That actually led to a lot of, uh,

people signing up to get notified

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and that, I think that gave us

a, uh, a bit of a boost as well.

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Which was new for us this time around.

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Yeah,

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Upendra Varma: it.

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And that's wonderful.

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Right.

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So what, what did this

product and bring, right?

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So how many signups did you get

in like as a result of this?

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Robin Sighvi: yeah.

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So, so this is interesting, right?

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Because, uh, one question is how

did you launch in product front?

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But I think the more interesting

question is that what did you get

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out of the product front launch?

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Uh, and, and the of people.

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And for us, it was, it was more of that.

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There is a company that is doing

some very interesting stuff

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in the demo automation space.

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We got a bunch of signups, but

like a lot of other companies.

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Not all of them were good quality

signups, if you will, right?

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Uh, but that kind of gave us impetus

to sort of then go find the right

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communities, find the right people.

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A lot of technical folks or product folks

who hang out on product hunt found us and

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then referred us to their marketing teams.

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Right.

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So in that sense, Product Hunt worked

really well, but I wouldn't like

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necessarily quantify success on Product

Hunt as a number of signups that

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got on Product Hunt, to be honest.

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Like we got thousands of signups,

but that doesn't really matter.

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Upendra Varma: Got it.

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Right.

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So, so over the past four months, right,

after you launched on Product Hunt, right.

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So what have you been doing in

terms of, you know, strictly from

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a top of funnel perspective, right.

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What's been working for you

in terms of lead discovery?

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah.

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So like I said, we're

still very early, right?

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So, so our primary go to market

is still FounderLed, which is me.

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Right.

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Uh, you know, I have a monthly

newsletter that goes out to a few

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hundred people, uh, that actually has

been my biggest lead gen engine, because

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these are people who've been aware

of and been on this journey with me.

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And now that they see that, okay, you

know, we've gotten to a meaningful

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place in terms of product, in terms

of funding, in terms of, you know, uh,

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closer to PMF, I wouldn't say at PMF.

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I've been getting a ton of messages

every time I send out this monthly

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newsletter, just from them, right?

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Uh, which is great because these

are, these are highly qualified leads

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Upendra Varma: talk about

this newsletter, right?

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So when have you been building this?

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Like, when did you start?

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And like, who are these people?

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Who are these audience?

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Robin Sighvi: yeah, so this started

when I launched the company and

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that was back in October 2021.

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And, um, I'm a first time founder.

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I worked in enterprise.

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I've worked across a number of different

startups, but sold to enterprises

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for the past 10, 12 years in the US.

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And so I've been fortunate enough

to have like a small set of trusted

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advisors, friends, you may call them.

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And I figured that, hey, you know what,

this, this is, this newsletter was kind

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of a safe space for me where I would tell

them of all the things that I messed up.

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All the things I had no idea about

and all the things that I was taking

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a shot on the dark end, right?

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And then it, it became a way for a

solo founder like me to have like this

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informal, but very vested group of

advisors, uh, who always kind of supported

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and, and, uh, led me down the right path.

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As I started talking to other

customers, other prospects, uh,

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fellow founders, uh, who I felt,

you know, resonated with me and, and

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really kind of wanted to support me.

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I started to add them to the

newsletter with their permission.

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And now, yeah, like I said, it's

about, you know, a couple hundred

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people, but each of them, I know

personally, you know, I could pick

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up the phone and talk to them, but.

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Especially being a founder,

you just rarely have time.

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And so for me, this is, this is actually

the one thing every month that I have

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to do without fail that, and that

is drafted by me and not like an AI

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or like a ghostwriter or whatever.

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This is the one thing that, that, that,

that I have to do without fail and

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I think it has paid off in schools.

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Upendra Varma: How is it

attributing to this user growth?

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Are they, are they the ones who,

who's trying out your product?

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Are they referring you just

because they wanna help you?

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Like how is that, you know,

funnel getting closed?

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah.

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Yeah.

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So, so it is, while there are a subset

of those folks who've ended up using

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SmartQ at their organizations, uh,

the bigger vote of confidence is that

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they've been referring me to other

companies saying that, Hey, you know what?

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I think this is a really good product.

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Not that, Hey, I know this

guy and he's a good guy.

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So you should talk to him.

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The vote of confidence is for the

problem that I'm solving and the product

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that I've built to solve that problem.

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Right?

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So that's, that's the kind of warm

introductions that are happening.

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Uh, and, and, you know, I'm kind

of glad to say that 90 percent of

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my customers right now are folks

who I never knew before, right?

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It's not that, you know, I knew this guy,

so he used SmartQ and now he's paying me.

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There are a few of

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Upendra Varma: how many of them

can you actually attribute to

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this wonderful effort of yours?

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, yeah.

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I mean, like, uh, you know, out of

the 30, 40 enterprise customers that

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we have, I want to say at least half.

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If not more have come from

this specific channel, right?

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So a lot of my revenue is

actually due to that channel.

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And then the other, I mean,

you're talking about go to market.

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The other thing that's worked for me

is a twofold approach on LinkedIn.

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One is sort of trying to write content

and establish thought leadership on

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LinkedIn, setting myself up as, uh, you

know, someone who is involved and deeply

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ingrained in the sales enablement, buyer

enablement, demo automation space, uh, and

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also You know, on a more tactical level,

like a lot of cold out in general, right?

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So that's, that's the

channel that's worked for me.

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Now, the challenge is that how do I

move from being founder led to having

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a true GTM motion in place, right?

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So those, that's, that's something that

I'm figuring out, figuring out as I

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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And then just help, help us understand

it, the sales cycle so far, right?

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I mean, you might have closed, you know,

10, 10, 10 to 20 of these deals, right?

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So however big they are, right.

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So how have you managed to close this?

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I mean, what happened there?

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Robin Sighvi: So, so like I

said, right, so I've, I've done

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enterprise sales on my life.

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Like that's the, interestingly

enough, a lot of people.

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I've advised me to go the

PLG route for smart queue.

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And while that could potentially work,

I don't know anything about PLG, right?

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What I do know is the

enterprise motion, right?

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And that, that, that, and I'm sure

all the sales are like that, but

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especially enterprise sales are all

about being diligent, being proactive

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and just being very methodical, right?

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It's like when you're following,

you know, when you, when you

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think of a prospect becoming, you

know, going through your funnel.

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It takes a while, right?

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Like there, there are times when, you

know, I spoken to someone about eight

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months ago and I just nurtured him,

nurtured him, nurtured him, nurtured

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him for eight months, as opposed to

when you think of like, you know, a

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lot of cold email sequences, like six,

eight, 10, and you're done right over

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the two months, three month period.

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But in enterprise sales, it's, it's

not that you just have to keep engaging

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them and not with, Hey, can we sell now?

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Can, can you buy now?

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Can you buy now?

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It's just more about

relationship building first.

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Uh, establishing that level of trust

confidence that, you know, Robin

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actually knows what he's talking about

of the problem that he's solving.

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And, and he is, he is knowledgeable

enough to understand my problem, right?

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So once I, once you're able to do

that, then you bring them to the table.

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And then when you bring them

to the table, you know, it's,

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it's a pretty straightforward

sort of, in the, in the sense.

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That, you know, there's processes

that you have to follow to sort

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of get them over the line, right?

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So whether it is following up

consistently, sorry, go ahead,

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Upendra Varma: yeah.

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So Robin, so have you raised

any external funding so far?

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Uh,

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Robin Sighvi: I went through an

accelerator program and I also raised

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a little bit of funding from some

angels from my network back in the US.

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But, but not a whole lot, very small.

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And that

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Upendra Varma: So, so I'm

asking you this question, right?

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Because one of the things that I've

observed a lot of founders do, right?

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So they start a company, right?

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So, and they're going through

this enterprise, enterprise

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sales motion, the top of funnel,

yes, they can handle, right?

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A bunch of cold emails, you know, a

bunch of cold outreach on LinkedIn.

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You can get there, right?

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But everything else after

that, it falls apart, right?

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Because they'll say, okay, you're

not credible enough that I go and

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close a 20, 000 deal with you, right?

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So like, what's working for you?

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Just talk us through that, you

know, process and you know,

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what's really working for you and

what, what are we missing here?

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Robin Sighvi: So, so it's

interesting you say that because my

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challenge is actually the reverse.

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Like I, I, I stay awake at night that

my funnel is not full enough, right?

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Because my confidence in, in

my sort of, in my ability is.

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That if someone comes to the door,

I'll be able to close a deal with them.

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And it's also interesting, you know, what

enterprise deals are for smart Q versus

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what I used to sell, like, you know,

going from million dollar deals to, you

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know, 20, 30, 40, a hundred, 200 K deals.

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These are actually smaller size deals.

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So, so for me, I'm like, man,

this should not be a big deal.

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Uh, but so I have the reverse

problem where I'm like, okay, yes, I

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Upendra Varma: then, but back

then when you were selling

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million dollar deals, right?

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I mean, you must have this

fancy product out there that

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everybody in the world knows that.

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I mean, you, you were dealing

with a different spectrum, right?

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So now you are this solo founder

or you do this founder, you

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just got this new company.

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I mean, it's just brand new, right?

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So there is no credibility or, I mean,

or how are you building that credibility?

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Like, so what's like, that's,

that's what I'm talking about.

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Like, and how are you overcoming those?

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Robin Sighvi: So, I mean, especially

in early days for any, any, uh, any

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stage company, the credibility is not

of the company, but of the founder.

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I mean, there is actually

no doubt about that.

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So when I, when I go sit to the

table, yes, I represent SmartKey,

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but they're like, okay, what, who are

you for us to be able to trust you?

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What have you done?

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What is your pedigree?

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Right?

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Uh, and, and I think that, that has

held me in good stead, I would say.

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Um, so far.

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Um, so, so yeah, I mean, I, I, I

unfortunately don't know the answer

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to the problem that a lot of other

founders face, but I would love to learn

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from them how to fill up my top of the

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Upendra Varma: But I think you

in a way answered it, right?

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So you talked about positioning

yourself as a thought leader in

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that particular space, right?

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So I guess you must have raised a

couple of rounds of funding or, or,

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you know, a couple of known angels that

may be adding credibility over there.

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And you obviously are an expert

at enterprise sales, right?

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So maybe that is helping you out.

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So, but yeah, that's, that's a

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Robin Sighvi: It's the

whole package, right?

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I mean, there's a,

there's a lot of things.

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I think we said it, but it's about, uh,

it's about positioning and the brand that

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you cultivate, even if it's early on.

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Upendra Varma: And Robin, like

how big is the team today?

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Robin Sighvi: A team is very mean

get about three people and then.

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A rotating door of interns

and contractors as well.

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Upendra Varma: Who's building,

who's building the software?

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah, so my CTO and

my other team, which is augmented

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with external folks from time to

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Upendra Varma: Got it, right.

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So what's, what's the next big, you

know, milestone you're targeting

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and how do you intend to get there?

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What's the vision?

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Robin Sighvi: Yeah, yeah.

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And the next big milestone is twofold.

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One is we need to have 100 organizations

on SmartQ by March of:

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Upendra Varma: That's a million dollars

in revenue you're talking about, right?

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So a hundred, a hundred deals around

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Robin Sighvi: Uh, probably more, uh,

probably more, uh, but, uh, but yeah,

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so like, that's, that's the goal that if

we hit a hundred, uh, you know, specific

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sized organizations giving us a specific

revenue, then I will be a very robust

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and healthy, uh, company, uh, which,

which will allow us to, to choose our

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path, you know, which is either raising

more funds on our own terms, hopefully.

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Or being a very, very sort of, uh,

robust and, and, uh, viable, uh, uh, you

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know, business traditional or otherwise.

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Upendra Varma: Yeah.

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And then, and you intend

to do that all by yourself.

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Like in terms of, you know,

selling all of these deals.

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Robin Sighvi: I mean, of

course, we'll have a team.

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We will definitely need a team to do that.

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Uh, you know, a part of, part of

the activities that are happening

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right now is figuring out the motion

that, okay, how do you go from from

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the lead to, uh, a proper, uh, sales

engine or an organization, right?

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:

So what are the processes?

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Like I, I, I spend, I spend a lot of days

and especially weekends going through all

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of the calls that I've done and trying

to find patterns and a process that I

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can document for whoever I bring, like,

like my first SDR, SDR of our, my first.

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So, so that's the, that's the obvious

next step that we need to bring the

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team both on the, on the GTM side of the

house and on the tech side of the house.

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Upendra Varma: got it.

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Alright Robin, thanks for

taking the time to talk to me.

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Hope you scale SmartQ to

much, much greater heights.

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Robin Sighvi: Thank you.

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:

This was great.

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I enjoyed it.

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