‘It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises — but in the end, only performance is reality’ — Harold Geneen
Harold or ‘Hal’ as was his moniker, might not have been a headliner businessman, but given the time (1961–1970) he was CEO of ‘The International Telephone & Telegraph Co.’ in the U.S., he grew this business from $765 million to $17 billion in sales. For that time in business history, the milestones of both tremendously fast growth and timeline cited, are nothing less than phenomenal.
Fast forward to the current decade, and we now have ecommerce firms trying to out do one another in terms of speed to attain massive traction for metrics like GMV, number of sellers and products available to the Indian consumer. This has been a norm for quite some time. Thankfully, investors and markets are now placing the highest priority on business metrics like unit economics, a realistic timeline to break even, and most importantly how lean and frugal you are as an organisation. ‘Do more with less’ — a maxim we all have to imbibe at Fynd, everyday.
From the very beginning, we have been proud of a superior fashion shopping app centered around providing key customer benefits and unique product features via well founded business economics. To compliment our app we then decided to partner with the biggest and best in the fashion retail industry and together create a great retail experience for our customers.
A very small team has been prospecting and chasing brands across multiple cities — showcasing our offerings, and signing them on without the use of unethical sales practices like baseless revenue guarantees, promises of pan india sales in under a quarter and other such empty deal hooks. We onboarded over 140 great brands via two very simple steps — unique business offerings & a seamless process to integrate with their systems and provide customers real time access to the latest in fashion across all their stores nationwide.
What follows is a true account of how we went about achieving this inordinate feat.
Our most common approach — “What do you have to lose?”
Honestly….there isnt! If a professional came upto your retail firm with a proposition that just required your store inventory, product shots and store details, and in return you get more orders and have them delivered to your customers FAST, would you really think twice?
Needless to say that there is a method to our madness as well — via our 3 Core Customer Promises,
- Fastest Discovery
- Fastest Checkout
- Fastest Delivery
I mention these promises here as they are as important to our brand partnerships as they are to our customers.
Any retailer worth his salt, is focused on having the latest in fashion, offering trials for his walk-ins and lastly instant cash and carry. Fynd is a very extension of these very core aspects of their business model, by offering customers access to their latest products in stores, coupled with Fynd-a-Fit,our product trials service and lastly Flashpay — the quickest way to checkout from a product display page (PDP).
While the above definitely forms the foundation for all our efforts, the following sections further details processes involved in onboarding over 100 brands in record time.
Creating the perfect Brand Portfolio
Our constant endeavour is to create and maintain the most desired brand mix for our shoppers. This isn’t a one time process but an ongoing exercise that requires us to constantly review our category offerings and how we can fill in the gaps. To do this, we put together a checklist that we religiously review while scanning the landscape of brands available in a city.
- Gender availability across categories
- Design functionality/aesthetics of products
- Width & Depth of products across category & subcategory
- Price bands that the category caters to
- Ensure Fynd a Fit & Return/Exchange Policies for brands in a category
- Competitive landscape for a category
Moreover, no one individual in the team has autonomy over deciding the kind of brands that make the cut. Instead, each brand suggested goes through an eligibility matrix to see if it qualifies to our base benchmarks and if the brand will add value to the category as a whole.
Another noteworthy point is the top-down approach we took towards signing on brands. In any business and especially the realm of shopping apps, being relevant in the shortest time from inception is paramount. The best way to do this is to have the biggest and the best in fashion retail signed on as your first strategy.
Fynding your way in — Pre Sales efforts
A common myth in any kind of enterprise related sales is that you need to approach your sales efforts from a bottom up approach. This would mean connecting with mid-management folk initially and working your way up to the MD/CEO. I know now that we have successfully debunked this myth… entirely 🙂 !
Time was never a luxury at our end. We had to quickly put together a landscape of brands we wanted to pursue. Doing that made us realise the need for an approach that would take the least time and deliver maximum results. For this, we decided to do away with typical norms and head straight to the key decision maker, right where the buck stops.
This however comes with certain challenges. Most CXO level professionals have no time, very little patience and no tolerance for stupidity. Thus, it’s safe to assume that you have 30 secs at the very least, to achieve the following:
- Create an impression
- Convey your key value propositions
- Ask for a time to meet
- (DON’T SCREW UP)
The last point while seemingly obvious has multiple connotations. If you do screw up, you probably might not get another opportunity till the next quarter. Moreover, you will have to plough your way from the bottom up and that is just not acceptable at Fynd.
Yes this isn’t easy, and there is no perfect solution, but what you need to do is build and foster a team and give them the necessary information, skills and confidence to command a conversation or meeting from their very initial efforts. They should be their own bosses, empowered to take decisions on their own.
“How do I reach the CEO/MD of a company?” — Yes, I know that’s at the top of your mind.
Once again, there is no perfect solution. Do realise, any sales professional operates in the same environment as you — with the same set of resources.
What separates you from the not-so-smart ones is how creatively you use these resources. For e.g. –
- The kind of message you send across to your potential client that doesn’t come across as stalking them but instead inspires a call to action.
- The manner in which you convey uniqueness of proposition, clarity of thought and most importantly, one that contributes mutual benefits.
- What proof you can provide to backup your message/claims.
The last part is what really separates the men from the boys, especially in the case of startupss — you don’t have any real traction, yet you still have to achieve the above. This is where your CVPs will help you get through to your prospective client. Else, if you’re not solving a unique problem, you just get lost in the rhetoric.
A final point to note when going top down in your efforts to close a brand is to keep in mind that only the CXO has a company wide approach to his thinking. The rest of his team would only look after their separate mandates. This is especially true in the case of eCommerce, Marketing, IT and Retail Operations managers. You need to know and speak the language of these respective heads. Disseminate information and request for assistance only to their level of involvement. Trying the opposite would just be overkill and increase your timelines to closure, as not every individual will see value in your offerings.
Pearls of Wisdom
- At any firm, understanding the product is passe. Rather, it is imperative to have a deeper understanding of the processes. This will help you take holistic decisions leading to favourable outcomes.
- Smart Follow ups — We all know to follow up. However, we just don’t take follow ups but instead focus on finding the next efficient step to make onboarding quicker/efficient for a brand.
- Expedite/Parallelize the process — A best practise to get a brand live quickly on our platform is by coordinating every process parallely with the closure of the Fynd — Client agreement (this takes the maximum time to get approved).
- Influencers work well when the decision maker is taking long to close. Always try and look for that one individual on the client side who can help move things forward when your efforts are stuck at a point.
- Be your own boss — If you are in a meeting and you have to make a crucial decision, be a BOSS and take the decision. A corollary that follows — every leader must ensure that his team is empowered with the necessary skills and knowhow to take decisions single handedly and be responsible for them.