In a freewheeling discussion with the students and faculty of SOIL Institute, our CEO, Paramdeep Singh spoke about how FieldAssist was a pioneer in Sales Automation in India, and how today, we are the ‘preferred technology partner’ for our customers. Here are some excerpts from that webinar:
Q1: How did the idea of developing sales automation solutions come to be?
A1: The idea actually came through a customer when we approached him for selling a different product. So it is very important to listen to the market. That’s how you’ll know what it needs. We realized it was a very interesting problem to solve so we amplified it to build not just one product but a whole suite of products.
Q2: How difficult was it to crack the 1st account in an industry where people did not understand cloud technology or Sales Automation?
A2: We had to really think out of the box to get customers to explore using our products. I remember, with our first client, Anmol biscuits, we did small pilot runs, because the company was very apprehensive about how many salespeople would genuinely use our app on their handsets. Since the frontline sales team wasn’t even conversant with basic mobile usage, we gave them in-depth training on how to operate an android mobile handset, because if they knew how to use the handset, they would start getting comfortable using our app. That’s the hallmark of FA! We invest in our customer’s success because only when they succeed, do we succeed.
Q3: What is the problem statement that your products address?
A3: The FMCG industry is a highly competitive market. Thousands of salespeople who make up their field force need to visit 40-50 outlets per day. For FMCG/CPG companies, it becomes difficult for the top management to keep a track of how they are performing on the field. Salespeople are the biggest source of data as they are the only ones who form a bridge between the company and the distribution system namely -distributors, wholesalers, super stockists, and retailers. Traditionally, information like current stock, active schemes, retailer feedback, surveys, competition information, order booking, etc everything was recorded manually, which was extremely tedious and error-prone.
As a B2B SaaS platform, we help FMCG/CPG companies to automate their sales supply processes with solutions like SFA, DMS, FA Analytics, etc. so that they can have a larger market share. By digitizing their sales ops we help them to be present at the right retailer with the right stock and at the right time.
Q4: How does FieldAssist stand out in the sales automation industry?
A4: We are problem solvers at heart. For FieldAssist, our work principles and ethics are extremely important to us and that helps us stand out in the industry. Customers choose FA because we care for our customers even at the cost of losing revenue, which happened during the pandemic. Our approach is very simple- we want to be a long-term growth partner, but we will never compromise our integrity. This attitude is difficult to carry when your people don’t share the same values. Fortunately, we are blessed with a fantastic team, we encourage a culture where our ethos is practiced.
I’m also proud that we are enabling the bottom of the pyramid by improving the lives of the on-field salesmen. Using our Sales force automation solutions, they are able to earn a better livelihood because they can now reach their targets more frequently, they are able to educate their children better and uplift their families. With digitization, we are able to make an impact on the way of living of one of the biggest frontline sales fleets in the world.
Q5: SFA has emerged as a strong industry with many players. How do you deal with competition?
A5: We do face competition from all sorts of companies – funded companies with deep pockets, companies that are hedging their success on the price wars, etc. But FieldAssist’s brand positioning is based on our differentiators. From that aspect, we do not have much competition because there aren’t many companies today that offer end-to-end sales supply chain and sales automation solutions. We are not just one product, we are a complete platform offering a suite of products. Another important part of who we are is our obsession with customer success. We become partners in our customer’s journey, proactively understanding their needs and developing solutions that they might require tomorrow, today itself.
So even if we lose out to competition, we know, if not today, the customer will be back tomorrow. Having said that, it is important to be sensitive to competition and their business strategies. We may not have all the resources available, but we know we are already on the right path. And what keeps us going is the faith and trust our customers have in us.
Competition inspires me to be better, and so I’m thankful to those companies for keeping me on my toes.
Q6: What are the learnings for your current role and your previous entrepreneurial venture?
A6: In my previous role, I was looking after manufacturing as well as distribution. At that time, I realized that one of the most important skills to have in your business is Sales Skills. I was a young boy with an engineering background, who was making good products, had a high-quality manufacturing plant, etc, but I still needed sales skills. Selling something is basically boldly interacting and solving problems of people in exchange for monetary consideration.
I’ve had plenty of failures in this role as well as my current one. Right now, I have a beautiful blend of FMCG as well as technology experience. A CEO’s role requires dealing with a lot of people, possessing sales skills, understanding the market behavior, decoding my consumers, etc. . Failures and frustrations are part and parcel of a CEO’s life, but what was surprising was this- More than what I learned I had to unlearn.
As an entrepreneur, I was a one-man- show, but at FieldAssist, it is a team game with a really young team. I realized very quickly that I would have to leave my ego behind to truly imbibe the culture and to become an empathetic leader. So every day at FA is a day of learning and unlearning.