Master Class

CEO of $200 million tech company: Why everyone on your team should learn to sell

Not everyone is going to work in sales, but everyone should have to try it at least once.

That's according to Bobby Bose, a co-founder and the CEO of Ezetap, a Bangalore, India-headquartered digital payments processing platform valued at $200 million.

"Sales teaches you everything," says Bose, speaking to CNBC Make It in Los Angeles in May. "Most importantly it teaches you to really listen to the customer and it teaches you to articulate the [value] of your product. That actually is critical to ... continue to evolve your product."

As Ezetap grew, the fintech start-up encouraged all employees to go out in the field and sell.

"It wasn't in year [one] when we were all sitting in the same room. It was in year three when we had gotten a bit bigger and silos [among teams] were starting to form. We wanted to cut that down quickly," explains Bose.

Selling was even tied to a bonus, he says. "We didn't tie the metric to closing the sale, which isn't everyone's natural skill. The key was to simply to do your best [product] demo for anyone — your local store, barber, etc."

For employees who don't typically work in sales, being forced to speak with customers to explain the product was often scary at first, but ultimately inspirational, Bose says.

Bobby Bose, co-founder and the CEO of Ezetap
Bobby Bose, co-founder and the CEO of Ezetap

"The look of fear of nonsales people on day [one] was across the board, but as people started doing it, the feedback was great," Bose tells CNBC Make It.

"We got a stream of new feature ideas," says Bose, which engineers then implemented. "These are gaps they only saw first hand when they had to actually use the product they built in front of a potential customer!"

Selling the software also gave employees who didn't typically interact with customers a more comprehensive understanding of what they were building.

"People got comfortable pitching it. They saw customers reacting to it. So engineers who were coding would say, 'Hey! OK, I understand what I'm doing and people are loving it.' Or they would come back and say, 'Hey, this didn't work, that didn't.' And you know what happened? The energy level went up," says Bose.

"Not everybody is a natural sales [person], people self-select different professions for a reason, but every once in a while it's good to get people into the field," he says.

Bose also uses sales as a way to spend face time with his employees. "I tell everybody ... if you really want to spend quality time with me, come on the road, come see a customer, whether it's a sales call or whether it's kind of going back and seeing why they're happy or unhappy," he says.

Having just passed its seventh birthday, Ezetap still encourages all employees to try their hand at selling.

"We still do the demo program. We usually pick one quarter per year ... in which bonus payouts are linked. Over the course of the year, demos are still pushed by the team managers from a cultural point of view," Bose tells CNBC Make It.

Ezetap sells proprietary software allows businesses to accept payment via credit card, wallet app or QR code (among others) on any computer, mobile phone or kiosk. In addition to streamlining the payments that customers can pay with, Ezetap software provides financial insights and reports, e-forms and other services.

The company has customers in India, Malaysia, the Middle East and Kenya, including Amazon India, Bangalore-based online supermarket Big Basket, and the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited, which provides agricultural services to rural India. With Ezetap, IFFCO e-bazaar, for example, can generate a bill for a farmer, accept digital payments and give sellers a real time view of all their transactions.

Ezetap focuses on "emerging markets where traditional companies have difficulty or are yet to venture," Bose tells CNBC Make It. There are currently no operations in the United States, Ezetap says. However, "because the cloud-based platform can plug-in easily with banks and go-live anywhere, I could see Ezetap coming to the US or Europe in 2019 if we find the right partner," says Bose.

Ezetap co-founder Bose, 45, is from the United States. He was born outside of Washington, D.C., though his parents emigrated from India in the 1950s. After he graduated from Harvard Business School in 2000, Bose moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and joined Siebel Systems, a customer relationship management software company. In August 2005, Bose moved to India with Siebel. Siebel Systems was acquired by Oracle in 2006 and Bose left Oracle to join NGPay, one of the early mobile payment start-ups in India. From there, he worked at Intuit in Bangalore for two years. In 2011, Bose launched Ezetap.

Today, Ezetap has 193 employees working full time and 15 employees working as interns, contractors and consultants. The company has raised $51 million at a $200 million valuation. It declines to disclose revenue, but says it has transactions worth $2 billion being processed with the software annually.

Companies pay between $3 and $10 per month to use Ezetap. Most payment software companies charge a percentage of the transaction value, says Ezetap, so its flat-rate charge sets the company apart, an Ezetap spokesperson says.

As Ezetap has grown, the focus on the importance of sales has remained. And it can give potential new employees a leg up against their competition.

"While it's not a criteria for nonsales or nonproduct people, when we see people who can ... talk about what makes a customer buy or be satisfied with a product, we generally hire those people over similarly qualified candidates," Bose tells CNBC Make It.

— Video by Andrea Kramar

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