Never follow up with your customers.
These are the notes from my conversation over a zoom conference call with Suresh, CEO founder of MacApp studio, Chennai.
From extremely humble backgrounds, hailing from the interior part of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Suresh now runs a multi-million dollar IT services company in Chennai
Why I interviewed him
It was extremely gracious of him to immediately agree to come and speak to me and my team on sales strategies during COVID.
The interview scheduled for 45 minutes turned out to be 90 minutes long and left us with wisdom that no blog or B-schools would give.
The 10 commandments
Suresh posted this on LinkedIn last week and the audacity shocked me.
The 1st line reads — in order to do business with them, a minimum of 10K USD is required.
This made me wonder if it was pure arrogance or sheer confidence that they want to filter out tire kickers and window shoppers.
Now read, commandment # 5: they needn’t be schooled on technology. Why not?
We don’t tell lawyers, brain surgeons, or the army, what to do — why should it be different for an IT services company — they ought to be treated as specialists.
They have no sales or marketing team
Two school friends, Suresh and George in typical rags to riches Bollywood Ish style narration, come to Chennai, do odd jobs, get an idea, get working on it and after 8 years hit the $5mn mark !
In fact, there was a particular disdain in Suresh’s body language towards salespeople and their way of acquiring business. He had had a sales team but was fired shortly.
He sarcastically asked what “prospecting”, “inbound and outbound marketing” actually meant.
They don’t have a sales and marketing team to source new business, generate leads and propagate news on social media platforms.
It’s the company website, Suresh and LinkedIn. That’s all!
PS: I don’t know the hack but whatever Suresh writes or posts on LinkedIn, it just goes viral.
Suresh’s LinkedIn profile here
They are completely bootstrapped
They haven’t raised a single dollar yet, — this $5mn journey is straight from the fairy tales.
The growth, scale, and a number of jobs created by this small IT company is worth emulating.
It can’t be only hard work.
It’s a combination of clever scarcity marketing, brilliant workmanship, and tough negotiation tactics that are making this company not only stick but grow.
Major value bombs dropped during the conversation which reveals the secret behind this duo’s work ethics, and hyper-scale growth.
#1. Establish yourself as a premium product
If you are the best, deliver the best, there is no reason customers won’t make a beeline to have you.
You are the prize!
Suresh made sure from the very beginning that they wanted to have the best customers who can afford them, for which he hired the best developers and designers in his team.
Ironically, they don’t have a 30 or 60 day notice period because they believe, if an employee doesn’t want to work, they should part ways at the very moment and not wait for weeks.
To be the best, he suggests that all businesses should love their customers genuinely and be invested in their business with all candor.
He goes on to say —
“During sales meetings, you should be the rockstar in the table”.
Dictate your terms with the customers and not the other way round.
If you are Maruti, you will invite Maruti customers. Be the BMW — then customers will never bargain.
This can’t be taught in MBA schools — the value of listening to a customer deeply, and over-delivering on their requirements.
He closes big deals himself with strategies like “we will save you the trouble of going through 2 years of back and forth if you were to work with another IT services company”
“We will get you revenue realized faster because we will make the apps launch faster and get it right the very first time:”
#2 Never be desperate. Walk off the table instead
He isn’t bothered about losing small-ticket deals that don’t serve their company’s brand value or culture.
They are like instant gratifications — the more you can restrain yourself from them, the more money you can earn at a later date.
Desperation is a sure sign of failure, he says, which will reflect in your emails, body language, and tone.
No wonder, post a discussion they wait for the customer to revert to them instead of sending frantic follow-up emails to them.
With my 2 decades of selling experience, we are taught to follow up as there is gold in it. So much for old school tactics.
But when you have arrived at what Suresh’s league, why not make the customer knock your doors?
He further adds —
The one who can walk off the negotiation table is the winner.
The one who wants the least in a negotiation is the winner.
The desire to want the outcome in your favor makes you weak.
He refuses to work with customers who give him advice on technology, pricing, and standard terms.
Despite having an aggressive stand on closing deals, he advocates active listening and empathy during client meetings because that brings out the human side of your business.
#3. Never pitch. Tell stories instead
No one remembers the PowerPoint document, the pdf proposals, or the lengthy demo sessions.
But people remember stories.
With no MBA degree or exposure in sales and marketing, he has learned it on the streets, that people connect with emotions.
If he can pitch his services with the customer as the central protagonist, the customer will remember the story and the storyteller forever.
Just like the story of the tortoise and hare, which is getting passed onto generations.
We might not remember what it stands for, but we remember the story rather well.
Sales pitches are hated because they are unidirectional, selfish, and self-centered.
It will appeal to junior managers but not visionary business leaders.
Leaders like to hear a good story of impact, transformation, and belief.
# 4 The best business is a referred business
The majority of mac app studio revenues come from referrals.
That shows the power of commitment, quality, work ethics, and personal attention they give to their clients.
Almost all of their big-ticket clients have referred more business to them which has helped them multiply their revenues and scale rapidly.
A referral is the cheapest marketing tool ever where you need no strategy.
In order to be referral-worthy, the service has to be world-class, people of high integrity, and tremendous value has to be demonstrated for the price the customer has already paid for.
A referral then becomes a natural aftereffect of an exceptional service received by the customer, Suresh says.
#5. To be billionaire, you have to do it all over again
Suresh is cognizant of mortality, the fragility of life, and legacy.
He has studied the wealthy and the powerful and he knows that what took him to be a millionaire, he would have to hit the reset button to start from zero to become a billionaire.
One can’t be a billionaire, just compounding himself from a millionaire.
He needs to come back to zero, learn new lessons, and then eventually hit the billion-dollar mark.
He quoted the example of Jack Ma, Elon Musk, and many others who had to face severe failures in their journeys hit the reset button and kept going until they arrived at the billion-dollar mark.
The most beautiful thing ever is a human baby and it is born at the most painful moment a human being can ever experience.
To produce something extraordinary, great pain has to be endured.
Rock bottom is good.
Some other value bombs
There were some more value bombs dropped beyond the 5 narrated above.
He talks of the discipline of sowing the seeds every day. Some would fall on fertile grounds and some wouldn’t. That should not stop you from sowing.
When I asked him what would he and George do if their business crashed today. He says knowledge can’t be stolen, wealth can be.
With his knowledge and grit, he would start again and keep going on building something he loves.
All companies must invest a certain part of their budgets towards innovation and R&D — that is their insurance against recession and market slowdowns.
To wrap up
Suresh is an aggressive guy but he has his bearings in the right places.
He knows what moves the needle and what will make his customers back and “knock his doors”.
- Be a premium product
- Never be desperate
- Never pitch
- Get referral business
- Hit the reset button to zero
The zoom interview is also uploaded on Youtube. You may watch it here.