Hunting elephants, not rabbits to drive next level of growth for IT services SMEs [Sponsored]

I enjoyed the interaction with the Pune open coffee club members. We spent a lot of time on IT services industry as a whole and on your next phase of growth and…

I enjoyed the interaction with the Pune open coffee club members. We spent a lot of time on IT services industry as a whole and on your next phase of growth and how you can achieve it.  I am happy to continue the dialog and take our conversation offline. Already have received emails from some of you.

I would have liked to spend some more time on just large customer acquisition. These are really large accounts – F1000 companies usually and are critical to business building. Here are some thoughts on that:

India has had this old adage – “Shaadi barabar walon mei hi hoti hai”, – “Marriage happens between people of similar backgrounds”. Granted that love marriagies continue to change this equation in personal lives, but love is alien to businesses and hence they stick to rationality and process. A $1B business wants to do business with other $1B companies and not with $1M companies! The way out is a large dowry – an investment from the smaller company to make it happen. 3 things you can do:

1.     Develop an unfair relationship advantage: Getting a relationship going at a senior level is the commonest and easiest way in.  Its not easy but has been a way from time immemorial to get into companies. There are many ways companies do this – lets look at some.

a.     Be onsite: These things just can’t be done on email, phone. Face time is critical. One has to “show” ones face many times. If you are hanging about in the right places, chances of serendipity happening are much higher. New York, London, San Fran, you get the picture. Not Noida, Gurgaon and Bengaluru.

b.     Network, Network, Network: Look up your college alumni network, your wife’s college alumni network, all your past personal and professional acquaintances, reach out to people, attend some not-so-useful events, pro-actively reach out – bottom line – make things happen. Its not going to happen automatically. Remember – kiss a lot of frogs!

c.      Hire Sales: Many companies try to engage with middlemen and I just haven’t seen it working. Hiring a sales person in the US is a $200K punt, but sometimes there is no other way. If you don’t have the ability to develop your own networks, you have buy networks. The right sales people come with at least some relationships that can be developed and can get you in the door. More appropriate for companies that can make this investment.

The end result of all these exercises is that you have a senior enough “sponsor” in this company, an insider who wants you to win.

2.     Develop a thin wedge: Assuming you have gotten inside the premises and developed a sponsor, chances are that you are unlikely to beat Infosys at their own sales game. You don’t want to pitch against them. You need a “thin” wedge, something specialized that you can do better than others. Answers typically lie in lifecycle specialization (testing, maintenance, UI, R&D etc.) or domain specialization – the founders come from a domain and know it very well. The thin wedge helps you win the first pilot and helps your sponsor position you well. You can always mine the account later for other things.

3.     Be patient willing to invest $$$: Elephant hunting is a slow and patient process. Sometimes breaking into a large customer with a pilot can take 12-18 months and you are $300K-$400K down by that time. Hence, you also need to have multiple balls in the air. If you can get 3-4 to a pilot stage in 12-18 months and keep turning that flywheel, your chances of success are high. Many companies give up too soon. This does not require full time of a person but require management mind share and resolve.

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Sunstone ( is a Premier Management Program for working IT/ITES professionals in Delhi, Pune & Bangalore. Sunstone admits high quality students ( from technology background and help them transition into senior business roles.

Sunstone also runs Massive open online courses (MOOCs) in management

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——-By Rajul Garg– Director Sunstone Business School———–

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