Seasoned tech executive Ani Sanyal was recently appointed Joveo’s Chief Revenue Officer. We sat down with him to understand a little bit about his journey and his vision for scaling Joveo’s revenue like never before.
Q. It’s great to have you onboard, Ani! Tell us about your role and your career path that led you here.
Ani: Oh, my role has been that of a CRO for some time, at IBM and its different businesses worldwide, with a focus on North America. I’ve worked at a couple of startups before this – one was AllyO, an HR tech company that was acquired by HireVue, and then there was Datameer, a data analytics company aligned with my IBM heritage. Both these companies were in the tech space and based out of North America, but with global operations. And here I am now with Joveo, a company that shares a similar gene pool!
Q. Given your experience working with large companies, in your opinion, what are some of the challenges (and opportunities!) of working with a startup like Joveo, that’s working at a global scale?
Ani: Let’s start with the opportunities. The opportunity is obviously to build a sales organization that can follow clear-cut processes and deliver results. The challenge, on the other hand, is to retain the agility of a startup, while adhering to said processes – because without that, things can go south very quickly. For me, that’s what’s exciting. I love the challenges as much as I love the opportunities.
Q. How does this compare with your experience at other startups?
Ani: Wow, that’s a great question! Actually, they compare very well, because we faced similar dynamics there too. We’d hire quickly, build out a sales team, get the processes in place, get revenue going, and deliver results for our clients, investors and the board. So in many ways, it’s very, very similar, but obviously the markets are different. The products and solutions are different. So approaches, sales cycles, and the people you talk to are different.
At an overall level, the process remains the same, but the nitty gritty changes, and that’s what I have to adapt to. I have to change my approach depending on what I’m trying to sell. Each new product is different, and accordingly, the learning curve is different. It takes time to figure out what value you deliver.
Q. At a general level, how does your approach change in a large company versus a startup?
Ani: In a large company, most of the processes are already drawn out – which means that you have very little leeway in terms of what you want to do, versus what the processes are designed to do. In a small company, you have the advantage of setting out those processes and changing or adapting them to fit the need. That’s the biggest difference you see when shifting from a large company to a smaller-scale one. Large companies are highly regulated and tend to be set and rigid in their ways, but on the other hand, startups can gain a lot from structuring and streamlining their operations, too. While it’s exciting and fun to work in the flexible, agile environment of a startup, setting down processes is also necessary to lay down a strong foundation for continued growth.
Q. Given the diverse and geographically dispersed nature of Joveo and its employees, how would you say you work toward building revenue for the company, and also getting everybody on board with that vision?
Ani: Selling does not change, no matter the market. It’s the ability to deliver business value to our prospects and our customers wherever they are. My goal is to deliver a win-win. Unless we deliver a win for our customers and prospects, as well as Joveo (in terms of revenue and profits), the sales process will never work. It can never be a win-lose or a lose-win. And that holds true anywhere in the world. That’s the principle of successful sales.
Q. Now that you have been working at Joveo for a little while, what are the next steps? How do you move forward from here?
Ani: You know, if I go back to the days when I lived in South Africa, my kids would probably give you this answer… Let me ask you – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! That’s how. So that’s always been my policy, too. You can try and have grandiose plans, but unless you put one foot in front of the other with your objective in mind, you’ll never get to where you’re headed. In my case, I put my revenue goals in front, and that helps me focus on what matters.
Perhaps a more structured approach is the Eisenhower matrix. This helps you view every task from the perspective of how urgent and/or important it is. Generally in life, you’ll find that a lot of the time, whether in your personal or professional life, you spend your time trying to fix urgent, but unimportant things. For example, someone IMs you and asks you for something, and you go down a rabbit hole trying to get it done. I try to avoid that by focusing on what’s important, rather than urgent. That’s how you avoid fires, or all-hands-on-deck situations.
Of course, in today’s market, everything feels, or tends to be urgent. Everything is a function of time. And then there are cases where the urgency just makes something important. It may not be important in the long term, but if it’s on fire, it needs to be put out, right? And that’s exactly the problem. Let’s turn to another example. If you get health checkups once a year, and your doctor says that your cholesterol is high, and your weight is verging toward a place where you don’t need to be, what do you do? You now need to focus on a few other things about your health, or you’ll have a heart attack, or a stroke. At that point, things would be urgent, requiring a rush to the hospital and other steps. On the other hand, if you take the doctor’s input and start changing your habits, such as switching to intermittent fasting, you can lose weight and at the same time reduce your chances of heart disease and stroke. As a result, you’re in better shape to handle more important things – and that too, better than you did before.
In essence, everything can be slotted into the urgent-important matrix, and you’ll find that most of the time, when things become urgent, they are triggered because you did not focus on what was important at an earlier time.
Q. That’s a terrific philosophy. To wrap up, is there anything that you can think of to share with us about your experience at Joveo, about stepping into your role here?
Ani: One of the things that I started focusing on straight off the bat was setting thresholds for the team and for the business, to keep efforts focused on where we make more money.
The aim is to stay focused on the net revenue, versus trying to close deals, regardless of whether or not they make adequate money. And when we are in a position to deliver the results that our customers want, we naturally make more money from a margin perspective. That’s a win from the customer’s perspective, and it’s a win for us. My favorite win-win formula, for the win!
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