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The SaaS Podcast

SaaS Sales Lessons from a First Time Founder – with Sonny Patel [271]

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SaaS Sales Lessons from a First Time Founder

Sonny Patel is the founder and CEO of Insurmi, a SaaS platform that helps insurance carriers generate leads, streamline claims and deliver customer service through an AI-driven assistant.

During his Freshman year of college, Sonny got a job at an insurance agency in Arizona. He was surprised to see how the insurance industry was still operating with outdated technology. He wondered why it wasn't easier and faster for consumers to buy insurance online.

A couple of years later, that question was still bugging him so he eventually decided to start Insurmi out of his dorm room.

But Sonny didn't know how to code and needed help to get his idea off the ground. He eventually found an accelerator in Arizona that worked with him to develop his MVP for a B2C comparison website where you could shop for insurance.

He spent the next year and a half trying to get his idea off the ground. But he soon realized that it was a crowded space and he'd need a lot of money to build a successful consumer product.

Around that time, he also started talking to execs at insurance carriers. They were intrigued by what he was building and asked if they could license the software. That's when he realized that pivoting to a B2B product was a more interesting opportunity.

In this interview we talk about:

  • The pros and cons of working with a startup accelerator
  • How to have better customer conversations by learning to speak their language
  • How to develop a sales playbook to shorten sales cycles and close 6-figure deals
  • How to get better at identifying and overcoming objections your prospects may have

As a founder, it's important that you can become your company's first salesperson. Eventually, you can hire your own sales team or VP of Sales, but in the early days, no one is going to be able to sell your product better than you.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Transcript

Read Full Transcript

Omer: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I took to Sonny Patel, the founder and CEO CEO of insure me a SaaS platform that helps insurance carriers generate leads, streamline claims, and deliver customer service through an AI driven assistance.

During his freshman year of college, Sonny got a job at an insurance agency in Arizona. He was surprised to see how the insurance industry was still operating with outdated technology and he wanted why it wasn't easier and faster for consumers to buy insurance online. A couple of years later, that question was still bugging him.

So he eventually decided to start insure me out of his dorm room, but Sonny didn't know how to code and needed help to get his idea off the ground. He eventually found an accelerator in Arizona that worked with him to develop his MVP for a B to C comparison website. Where you could shop for insurance.

He spent the next year and a half trying to get his idea off the ground, but he soon realized that it was a crowded space and he'd need a lot of money to build a successful consumer product. Around that time, he also started talking to execs at insurance carriers. They seemed intrigued by what he was building and asked if they could license the software.

And that's when he realized that pivoting to a B2B product. Was a more interesting opportunity in this interview, we talk about the pros and cons of working with a startup accelerator, how to have better customer conversations by learning to speak their language, how to develop a sales playbook, to shorten your sales cycles and close six figure deals and how to get better at identifying.

And overcoming objections. Your prospects may have as a founder, it's important that you can become your company's first salesperson. Eventually you can hire your own sales team and VP of sales and so on, but in the early days, no one is going to be able to sell your product better than you. So there's some good insights in this interview, and I hope you enjoy it.

Sunny, welcome to the show.

Sonny: [00:02:37] Thanks for having me.

Omer: [00:02:39] Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you or gets you out of bed that you can share with us?

Sonny: [00:02:44] Uh, yeah, a couple of them. I mean, I think the one that always think about is be the change you want to see in the world. I think that's a quote by Mahatma Gandhi.

Omer: [00:02:54] Yeah. I love that one. So for people who aren't familiar with, uh, insure me, can you tell us what does the. Product do who is it for? And what's the main problem that you're helping to solve?

Sonny: [00:03:08] Yeah. So we have built an AI assistant named violet and ensure me that automates sales claims and customer service for insurance providers.

So that's your insurance carriers, agencies, brokers. And TPS, we are solving for the big problem of digital customer engagement. It's an industry that has done business primarily offline or through people for hundreds of years. And now there's a, a great shift that's happened where, you know, the customer expectations.

As it relates to the, you know, digital experiences are, you know, are at the levels of like what Amazon offers or Netflix, Apple, Google, and insurance companies offer a experience that is just really behind the curve. So a huge, big disconnect between. The customer expectations of today and the customer experience that insurance providers deliver, but we've built violet to bridge that gap,

Omer: [00:04:05] help us understand sort of where you are in terms of size of business.

How, because the team, how many customers do you have?

Sonny: [00:04:11] Yes, sir. We have 12 employees here out of Phoenix, Arizona. We're a post seed company. And we've currently worked with multiple carers here around the United States, um, ranging from regional carriers to the fortune one.

Omer: [00:04:25] And you've raised just over a million dollars so far, right?

Sonny: [00:04:29] Yes. So we have, uh, in terms of outside capital, we raised 1.1 mil.

Omer: [00:04:34] So, how did you come up with the idea for this business?

Sonny: [00:04:37] My freshman year of college, which I was working, I got a job at an insurance agency here in Arizona and, uh, uh, was working there and saw the real need for a solution like violet. I could see how outdated the industry was operating and how we as an agency were selling our solutions.

So I thought to myself that, Hey, you know what, like in a and again, in an Amazon world where you can buy anything online, You should be able to buy your insurance in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. And looking at the market, especially the U S market. Um, most companies didn't have that ability. So I left that agency, uh, in my junior year, after about two and a half years and found it insure me in 2016 out of my dorm.

Omer: [00:05:22] So tell me a little bit more about the opportunity or the gap in the market. Because when I first came across, insure me.

Sonny: [00:05:29] You

Omer: [00:05:30] know, I was trying to sort of figure out where does this fit in? And you talked about the industry being kind of behind the curve, but then, you know, on. TV. We were sort of seeing, you know, ads for Geico and in 15 minutes online, you can do whatever you want.

So where, where does insure me fit in? And is there a specific segment of the market that you're sort of focused on?

Sonny: [00:05:56] So yeah, we have built violet for the legacy industry. So these are companies that were built 200 years ago. They are still operating through, you know, human agents, big call centers. To service their customers or sell their policies.

And with now, with violet, they're able to essentially market their solutions online, direct to consumer help process customer claims through a beautiful, conversational experience without, you know, a very large call center or providing 24 seven self-service tool to their policy holders. They are newer players in the market.

Like. Lemonade that offer, you know, really great digital experiences, but the majority of the market is, would be, you know, classified as this, you know, legacy segment that really don't have many digital solutions for their policy holders. So a very fragmented customer experience ends up being delivered and.

We built violet to essentially enable these legacy providers to take this new approach to customer engagement.

Omer: [00:07:00] Okay. So you, you see this opportunity on your, during your internship for this type of.

Sonny: [00:07:08] Product.

Omer: [00:07:09] How did you get started? Did you sort of go out and start talking to more potential customers? Did you validate this idea?

Did you get started on building a product right away? What happened next once, once this spark of an idea?

Sonny: [00:07:26] Yeah, so I actually was the director of sales at the agency, so I could see. You know, the challenges firsthand, uh, our agents would have trying to market our solutions, uh, in person or through some of the traditional methods that we had.

And, um, so I saw it firsthand. I traveled to a couple of different industry conferences and I was able to hear, you know, what the kind of executives are talking about, you know, as it relates to how they see the industry transforming over the next 10, 20 years. And everyone was saying. Customer experience, customer experience, and it just made perfect sense to me.

But once the light bulb really went off, I partnered with an accelerator here in Phoenix named Cole Plex, and we essentially work together to build out our first MVP. Which was a, the first MVP for in Germany was actually a company there's insight. And it was a direct to consumer B2C comparison site where you could go online and shop for insurance and buy a policy online any time without having to go through someone.

So that was our initial idea. And as we started to speak with more customers and. Get into another accelerator, the global insurance accelerator in Iowa, we have the ability to really have deeper conversations with insurance carriers and their executive teams. And we saw that what we had built was really intriguing for them, but they just wanted to license the software.

They, you know, when they're like, Oh, you know, this comparison site is cool, but can we just use what you've built? So we. Found that pivoting into a B2B offering and licensing out our software to insurance carriers was kind of a Greenfield and that's kind of the path we ended up going down for the longterm.

Omer: [00:09:12] So w what type of accelerators are these? Because these don't sound like you're you're YC or Techstars or something like that. Like, where are these w why were these insurance companies involved in these? What was the, the main purpose of these accelerators? Yeah.

Sonny: [00:09:27] So for Coplex they, their whole thesis is that they essentially partner with industry experts that are trying to build software companies.

So they bring the technology expertise to the table and then the founders. Or the founding team brings the industry expertise. So they essentially help you take an idea for a software company that has great potential to transform a, usually a legacy industry. And they work with you on bringing that idea to life.

So working with you through building out the MVP, hiring your initial. Team members, tech leaders, things like that. And the global insurance accelerator, which we were part of in 2018, they are an industry specific accelerator. So vertical, specific, they are all about insurance. They have 14 different, large insurance carrier investors that are, have, have invested into the global insurance accelerator.

And provide mentorship to the startups. A ton of update also invest in the startups and then they act as their initial customers as well. So helping the startups kind of validate that MVP and refine their approach to product market fit.

Omer: [00:10:39] So are you a developer, do you code?

Sonny: [00:10:41] I do not. I don't know how to write a single line of

Omer: [00:10:43] code that's okay.

So who built the first version or, um, w was that through the accelerator or was that. Like, did you, did you find somebody yourself to help you start building the product?

Sonny: [00:10:55] Yeah. So the team at Copeland's, I did, um, an amazing dev team that helped us build out our first MVP, um, for insure me. And once we had raised our round last year, we brought on our.

Full-time in-house team that now leads a whole technology roadmap for our company.

Omer: [00:11:14] And so you said you started off with this sort of B2C product, and it was really about helping people to do basically comparison shopping and find the best insurance. How long did you go down that B to C road until you decided to pivot and focus on a B2B solution?

Sonny: [00:11:37] It was about a year and a half, actually. So the first year of insurance, I would say summer of 2016 to summer of 2017 was just. I dating, you know, I was still in college at the time. So it was a, you know, a weekend type of, Oh, this idea let's see where it goes, type of thing. Um, but I only really started running with, uh, with the company after I graduated in 2017, we spent that first full year, I'd say of full-time work, really trying to validate if we had something there in terms of the B2C comparison site.

But we found that, you know, it's a crowded space and. It's a, a type of business model that you need to raise a lot of money for, to even make a dent in the market. And it wasn't a space that we thought we could really be number one in. So that's why we had applied to the global insurance accelerator to join that program and see, well, okay, well, here's what we have and we know where to solving a big enough problem, but maybe we're solving it for the.

Wrong stakeholder, if you will. Right. But we, once we joined that accelerator, it was just a matter of months until we figured out that, okay, we have to make the, make that pivot to a B2B offering if we wanted to build a market leading company.

Omer: [00:12:51] So what did that mean for the product? Did you have to spend a lot of effort in terms of rebuilding or rehauling the products?

I mean, if, if you've been working on this for the last year and a half focused on consumers, What did that mean when you pivoted? So yeah,

Sonny: [00:13:07] we had to do some obviously, uh, re customization to make it work for an individual insurer, but we had built a solution that essentially could market a insurance product online, you know, so walk a customer through a needs analysis, quoting application and binding, obviously that was built initially to.

Do that for a bunch of different companies, right. In the form of a comparison site. But we essentially adapted it to a point where we could just white label it out to one company so they could offer their individual products on that platform. So there was some, you know, dev time there to reconfigure everything, but it wasn't too much of a pivot from what the core system could do.

Omer: [00:13:51] So you've got this B to B product now. And tell me a little bit about what the, the sales cycle looks like. Firstly, in terms of where, where most of you lead. So where have they mostly come from so far? And then typically what's the process you go through to sell to one of these customers.

Sonny: [00:14:16] Yeah. So we have leveraged these accelerators pretty heavily.

Um, we've gone through the global insurance accelerator that brings 14 big companies to the table. We've gone through plugin plays, Silicon Valley and Singapore in short tech specific accelerators. In 2019 that bring, it's almost over a hundred different companies across the world. And then we're now actually part of the InsureTech New York, uh, accelerator.

That is another BizDev focused accelerator. That brings another 20 odd. Insurance companies. So how we have kind of approached the market and really gotten the word out on violet, which is our solution now, um, we've kind of personified her into a relatable, you know, name that people can understand that.

Okay. Insure me offer is violet. She's an AI assistant that can be customized for all these different things. It's made it much easier for us to one market the solution, because before it was a little confusing, when you go in and say, Oh, well we have a conversational AI platform for this and that, it kind of just goes over people's head.

So that from a marketing standpoint, we've made that change this year, but really just leverage these accelerators. I mean, they are. And again, it's a little bit different from your like YC that will invest in the company. And then, you know, take a percentage. These are all primarily biz-dev focused, uh, accelerator.

So there is no exchange in, uh, cash or equity, but they essentially will vet out the top InsureTechs there that they want to connect with or connect to some of the leading insurance providers that are out there. Beyond that we've also leveraged conferences when they were happening. Obviously now we're in a COVID 19 world, but, uh, we've done, uh, had a very strong presence at, uh, most of the bigger InsureTech conferences that are out there.

So the ones in Asia, Europe, and here in America, we do a lot of thought leadership. So, uh, content marketing online, uh, sharing what our technology can do or just conversational AI. In general, but, uh, that technology can do for this industry. Sit on a lot of, you know, innovation panels and things like that with other thought leaders in our space and really just done it that way.

You know, this is an old industry and, uh, they do things a little bit different, right? It's not, um, The buyer is not going to be scrolling through Instagram. And I'm like, Oh, I need that at my company. It's a, it's a very complex sale and it's done through traditional means. But now in a COVID 19 world, we are looking at more digital avenues to market violet.

So we are running digital ads on LinkedIn currently, and then we're going to be starting video ads and things like that on some of the other social networks.

Omer: [00:17:10] Okay. So I want to talk a little bit about the accelerators because. There seem to be a lot of benefits and, and you joining these accelerators has definitely helped you to, you know, accelerate, get momentum, figure out some of these problems make connections.

So it sounds like a lot of upside what's the downside of an accelerator. So you're not giving away equity in the business, but. W what are you, are you, is it sort of like a rev share type thing? And are there any other downsides? So if somebody is thinking about an accelerator, what, what are some of the pros and cons for these types of organizations that you've worked with?

Sonny: [00:17:53] Yeah. So there, you know, for the ones that are. Primarily visitor focus like plug-in play and InsureTech New York. They, you know, for the most part, there's not much downside because if you can get a, it's hard to get into it in the first place, because they have hundreds of applicants and they'll only select 10 or 20 companies per year, but if you can get into it, there's not much downside.

You just have to. Make the time commitment, obviously be a part of the deal flow sessions, be receptive to feedback from mentors and potential customers, but for the accelerators that will make that, you know, it would do take an equity stake in your business for, uh, uh, you know, A cash investment or something else.

I would say you just gotta be a little wary there because you, some of the, sometimes the deal terms won't be favorable, uh, or founder friendly. You just gotta be aware of what you're signing there. But in our experience, you know, there is not. Too much of a downside. One of the things is that when you are a part of these accelerators, you do tend to meet a lot of people very quickly.

And that also comes with, you know, you, you gotta be able to take feedback in the right way and also know how to filter out feedback as well, because you're going to get, uh, so many different opinions, um, from all sorts of people. So it, it can sometimes lead you. Uh, straight, if you really aren't focused on what you're trying to do,

Omer: [00:19:24] I want to go back to something you said earlier about marketing and how to position the AI assistant in a way that was

Sonny: [00:19:36] easier for your

Omer: [00:19:37] target market to understand.

And part of the challenge here, as I understand it is that you're dealing with. A legacy industry in, in many different ways. And you've got people who, you know, maybe aren't the most tech savvy and don't necessarily understand a lot of these terms when you start talking about, you know, AI or, or, or whatever.

So talk a little bit about, about that, because I think that's, that's a challenge that I see quite often. Where it's, it's easy for a team to start talking about terms that make sense. To themselves, right. You know, Hey AI platform, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But from a

Sonny: [00:20:27] customer's perspective,

Omer: [00:20:30] that might mean something completely different, or it just is like for these guys, it could just be gobbledygook.

So what have you learned from that experience and what are some things that we could take away on, on how to do a better job to sort of articulate what your product is all about?

Sonny: [00:20:47] Yeah. So we, you know, cause at the end of the day, like what we offer is a fairly complex solution. If you really ordered dig into it.

But the challenge has always been, you know, how do you simplify it enough where anyone can understand what we do. Right? So we have stayed away from the buzzwords, right? AI and machine learning, but you know, all, all the usual stuff that most tech people would understand, but we are selling at the end of the day too, usually a business unit leader or an executive, right.

That may not know too much about, you know, these next gen types of technologies. So we always keep, you know, most of our marketing materials and the way we even sell the solution business oriented. So we talk more about like the business outcomes that the solution can drive for the company. We utilize a lot of their terminology instead of ours.

So. Um, we have done extensive customer interviews to really understand, you know, how do they view the world and how do they view technology and how it can impact them. And we kind of. Did a heavy amount of research into to really understand how they operate. And then we kind of took that and then just kind of threw it right back at them, you know?

So the same words that they would use and how they would lay things out and just really try to understand this specific customer profile, because it is different. And as you mentioned, like we're dealing with not only. You know, legacy systems, you know, which are very old outdated systems at lot of these companies use, but it's, we're dealing with legacy processes as well.

So the way they do things as can sometimes feel a little outdated, but we, we we've tried to understand why they do the way they do things and then legacy people. So it's. Uh, insurance has an in general is an industry that has people that are in the older age categories. And we're a younger team. It's a newer type of technology that addresses a newer, uh, more younger customer segments.

So it's been a challenge, but. You know, you really have to understand how to speak their love language. And that, that varies. That language varies. Whether you're speaking to a customer and investor, a team member, you know, you just gotta be adaptable.

Omer: [00:23:04] Yeah. I think that's a great, great insight. And every.

Industry basically has their own language. And it's super important, especially if you're not from that industry to understand what those terms are and make sure that you're using their terms, not your terms. If you really want one to connect with that target market. So how does the product get sold? So once you get leads through what happens is this, does it go to a demo and then eventually a proof of concept?

Like, what are the different stages you go through here in terms of sales?

Sonny: [00:23:43] For the most part, we always do a proof of concept. So, you know, our customer. Segment insurance companies. They always want to, you know, try and test a solution in a beta environment or on a smaller scale before they would adopt it at scale.

So we will, you know, get that lead in. We'll have a couple of calls with them, you know, share what our solution can do. We identify what kind of the, the main low-hanging use cases that we can apply violet to. So we identify that use case with them. And then work with them on generating an ROI analysis as well, because if they won't bring anything in, unless it can clearly, you know, generate more money or, or save them money in some way, shape or form.

So we work with them hand-in-hand to create that ROI analysis. And then we move into actually going through that POC. We worked with them on figuring out, you know, if we had met the success criteria that we had laid out and then hopefully we, we do during that POC and then move that into a longer term commercial agreement.

So it can get a little complicated, but we've tried to simplify it by building out and ensure me playbook. So if a company comes to us saying, Oh, well we want violet to automate home insurance claims. Then there is a. Playbook on how to do that and which stakeholders need to be necessary, what budget they need to have in order for this POC to happen, as well as, you know, discretionary funds ongoing so they can afford the licensing costs.

And so we just make it, we've made it very simple, you know, almost like an Ikea manual, like a experience where you just go step by step and. You're on your way.

Omer: [00:25:23] Okay. So how long does a typical sales cycle take from the point where you get the lead to closing a sale?

Sonny: [00:25:33] So for us, it's about six to eight months.

It's a fairly long sales cycle in this industry. Simply because of the complexity of the sale and the number of stakeholders that need to be a part of making that, you know, that sale happen. We have tried to shorten that sales cycle by being the leaders throughout the process. And so, hence why I've mentioned, we have the ensure me playbook, where it makes it super easy.

Once they have made that decision that they want the solution to go through all the other steps that include contracting security review. Customization and so forth. So we have, you know, w w we're aiming to shorten that sales cycle down to hopefully three months or less, but it's just the way this industry operates.

Omer: [00:26:19] And, and what's the, the sort of the typical average contract value.

Sonny: [00:26:25] For one of these deals. Yeah. So for us it ranges between 102 hundred and 50 K ARR for each deal. And then we do POC for between 30 and 50,000.

Omer: [00:26:37] Okay. I'm curious on a couple of things, first of all, you said you, you sort of go through and help them figure out the ROI or the return on investment.

How do you come up with that? Because on the one hand, the cost part is, or the investment part is straightforward. It's like, Hey, you're going to pay this much for our products, but how do you calculate the upside will show them the benefits and how do you turn that into something measurable?

Sonny: [00:27:06] Yeah. So we work with usually the business unit within the, within the company.

So if we're working, if the application is violet for claims and we'll work with the claims team to understand what their current processes look like. So we will do a full review of every single channel and how somebody can file a claim. And we estimate what the time would be to obviously file that claim.

How many people need to touch that claim and quantify that into. A financial metric. And then we compare that to what we think we can do with violet. So how much time can we save? Out of that experience, are we able to, you know, essentially shorten that claim cycle and reduce the overall cost of claim and then benchmark it, you know, side-by-side to show essentially, well, okay, these are your current channels, and this is a way you currently do things.

And this is probably what you're spending from a cost standpoint. And sometimes they'll live to know that some companies don't and you have to be a little bit more hands-on, but we then compare that to what we think violet can do for them. So, whether that be for the POC or at a full commercial at full commercial scale, we give them those estimates.

So then they can see, well, okay. You know, we spend a dollar 50 per claim going through the call center, but with violet, it's going to be 30 cents on average. Um, we're saving, you know, a dollar 20 on each claim and then compare that to a million claims a year. It's quite a bit.

Omer: [00:28:36] Got it. Okay. So. What I'm hearing is that the way you show them the upside is number one by saying, you know, you're spending a hundred person hours on this.

Every month. And with violet, you could save 90 hours, which at whatever typical hourly rate works out to this much of a cost saving. And then the other upside you're showing them is from getting to a, to Z to process a claim. For example, it currently takes this much time. And by using violet, we would reduce that.

And you would be able to respond to a customer in 10% or, you know, whatever that, whatever that metric is is, is faster than they're doing currently.

Sonny: [00:29:28] Yeah. And so the KPIs vary, right? So for each use case they're different and they will touch both the enterprise as well as the customer. So if you know, again, going through the call center may be a little bit more expensive.

But it's also a more frustrating experience for the, for the customer. So we are showing upside even on a higher net promoter score and better, you know, customer satisfaction, uh, as well as, uh, cost savings. So it there's multiple fronts, um, when it comes to the benefits of the product.

Omer: [00:29:59] So you talked about the playbook and it sounds like you have a fairly established process now in terms of how to.

Go through a proof of concept or, you know, in a sale. And I think that's something is probably a great idea for every company to be thinking about doing. But in the earlier days, when you were going out and doing demos, I'm curious, what was some of the objections? That you were hearing that sort of repeated that you were coming up and what did you do to go and solve them?

Sonny: [00:30:40] Yeah. So, uh, I mean, there's always objections, right? So I'd say the top ones are, can this integrate with what we're currently using? Right. So ed mentioned legacy systems is, is one of the big challenges that every InsureTech deals with because we're, you know, we all offer newer solutions that are work off of API APIs, and then some of these.

Customers don't even have core systems that have API access. So the objections were always around, you know, can, can this integrate with what we currently use? Another one has always been, uh, you know, we have tried chat before and it didn't work or how is this different from it? You know, any other chat solution that's out there.

And, you know, we, we have differentiated ourselves in a whole variety of ways. So. Now we don't really get that objection, but

Omer: [00:31:33] give me, give me one example of, of how you've differentiated there, because I was curious about that as well.

Sonny: [00:31:37] Yeah. So we have in a couple of different ways. So we have pre-built integrations into some of the leading core system providers that are out there.

So really understanding that we can. Deliver a faster time to benefit for the customers because we already have a lot of these things built out where vertical, specific vendors as well. So we have a deep understanding of the insurance vertical and the applicable use cases. We're not just a general chat provider again.

So it's a, the product just generally works better and it's trained on. Insurance specific inquiries. And then we have, because we, you know, our, every interaction is around the insurance use case. We've built in a custom UX UI enhancements that are specific for walking a customer through a, a life insurance sale or an auto insurance claim.

So just a better overall user experience than our general chat providers.

Omer: [00:32:31] Okay. And any other objections, notable ones, we don't need to go through the whole list, but,

Sonny: [00:32:38] well, this is another objection. I think that, uh, most other early stage InsureTechs get is that, are you going to be around, you know, 20 years from now?

And because when you like integrate so deeply into some of these larger enterprises, Businesses. They want to make sure that there is business continuity and you're not just going to run out of money tomorrow. And go out of business because that puts them at a very xAPI space. So always, you know, like, are you big enough?

And, uh, will you be big enough to support the scale that we would need you on?

Omer: [00:33:15] How do you address that? Objection today?

Sonny: [00:33:18] So we, you know, the, what we say is that it's part of the risk, right? I mean, companies that expect us to be an IBM before they want to work with us, they're not our potential customer. We are targeting people that understand that the new innovative ideas are going to come from smaller teams.

We have. Uh, venture funding behind us. Right? So we're in a, from a financial standpoint where it's not like an idea or anything like that, right. We're not going to go out of business tomorrow. And we have a fairly good backing in terms of investors and current customer base that can support us. So usually the social proof that we can offer combats that, that anxiety.

Omer: [00:33:58] The other thing I was kind of curious about was 24, 25,

Sonny: [00:34:05] 25. Yeah.

Omer: [00:34:06] 25. Yeah. And you're dealing with an industry cause we've talked about a legacy industry and probably a lot of people that are quite a bit older than you. What have been some of the, the challenges there on a, on a. Personal level, just that, you know, getting in front of these people and, and, and sort of building credibility

Sonny: [00:34:29] for me personally, I won't lie.

Like it's been a, it's been a great time. Like, uh, they have all kind of embraced the vision and ever since I started the company, never really. Came across people that were arrogant or anything like that, but just because they were older than me, people for the most part have been receptive in the overall vision.

And I think they could see that somebody, you know, cause we're solving like the millennial or next gen customer engagement problem. Right. And so who better to solve that then? The person in that like group. So I think they realize that on day one, it's been hard because it is a little intimidating, right.

But here they're just straight out of school and then you have to go and talk in front of hundreds of people and it's like, you almost have that imposter syndrome, you know, and I still do today, but, uh, It's almost like, again, I felt like I've got thrown into the deep end, you know, and, but you learn how to swim really good if you are thrown into the deep end.

Omer: [00:35:26] Yeah. I mean, it's, it's something that I've, I've sort of heard before as was of, of founders who sort of going into, I don't want to use the word. But, you know what I mean? It's just like, you know, sort of like some of the older or industries, whether it's like, you know, banking or investment and, and, and some of the challenges that they've had to face in terms of people saying, well, you know, you're, you're just kind of getting into this.

Like, how can you possibly kind of, you know, Tell me what to do. I've been doing this for 20, 30 years and yeah, I mean, what I really like, what I'm hearing with you is, is sort of, again, going kind of going back to this playbook and also having these, you know, you get to a point, I think once you've had enough conversations with customers that you really start to see.

What are those objections that you hearing repeatedly and you start to get better at addressing them and having better answers.

Sonny: [00:36:22] Yeah. And I think one, one more point to add to that. And like, you know, we've always positioned ourselves and even myself, like as a, as a partner to this industry. So I never used the word.

You know, disruption and this and that and, Oh, it, it, it sucks. But you know, even though you may be thinking it, but like you have to, you know, I, I see the value in the work that, you know, all of these people have done for hundreds of years, and it's almost just a, you know, a mutual respect, I think that's been built.

So that's why I, I've never felt like I was dealing with a group of people that were, you know, not receptive to what we were trying to do in the market.

Omer: [00:37:00] Yeah, I like that. And it is kind of a, you know, a disruption might be cool if you're, if you're kind of talking to tech people, but going into an industry and like that, and, and, and saying, you know, I'm here to, you know, to disrupt everything.

It's probably not the,

Sonny: [00:37:15] yeah. We're there to improve. I mean, that's just myopic even say disruption, but. They, yeah. Especially for insurance. I mean, these are companies that are, do billions of dollars of business a year. So, you know, they do know something about something.

Omer: [00:37:33] Yeah, totally. So I, you know, I, I sort of asked you this before we started recording, but, um, you know, kind of just want to kind of cover that again.

Is there anything you sort of look back over the last. You know, four years or so, and we should've done differently.

Sonny: [00:37:48] Uh, yes, yes and no, because, you know, I, I value the journey and, and, and even, you know, some of the mistakes I've made cause it's, it's given me the opportunity to learn. So I think if you do everything perfectly the first time, then what are you really learning?

Right. But yeah, hindsight is 2020. And, uh, I think. If I had to do this again. Yeah. I don't know. I would make, I would make the same mistakes. Cause I've learned the same lessons, you know, and these lessons have been valuable, but if I were to pick any, then it would be maybe really, maybe speaking to more.

Users right of the product. So like not, not just the, the actual buyer, cause we've done a lot of that, but the actual end user of violet we would have done, I think, uh, some more UX UI studies, things like that to make sure that the end user is having a delightful experience chatting with violet also on the company side of things, I would say we maybe could have hired our sales leaders a little bit earlier on instead of trying to.

You know, get, get some of the early customers on our own without that. So sales has been, uh, like, uh, uh, was at least a gap on our team up until this past summer, which we now have a great VP of sales Lindsay. But before that I'd say I probably would have hired somebody like her a little bit sooner.

Omer: [00:39:14] Okay, let's wrap up and move on to the lightning round.

So I'm going to ask you a seven quickfire questions. Just try to answer them as quickly as you can. Okay. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Sonny: [00:39:27] It would be enjoy the journey. Actually.

Omer: [00:39:33] What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Sonny: [00:39:36] Entrepreneurial leadership by Joel Peterson, because it's a book that brings in, you know, a plethora of views from various types of leaders, right?

So business leaders, political leaders, uh, military leaders, uh, it's, it's just a really overall great book too. To read. Um, if you are building something while trying to be a leader, building that thing, that makes sense.

Omer: [00:40:04] Yeah, definitely. What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder.

Sonny: [00:40:09] Empathy, I think is one thing that, uh, most of the successful people in general in the world usually have. What's your favorite

Omer: [00:40:18] personal productivity tool or habits?

Sonny: [00:40:21] For me, it would be super human. It's an email client that I think you can like get it for 30 bucks a month, but it's just, it's really great.

You can blow through your inbox every day. Then it has like so many cool features that, you know, the, the general like Gmail, uh, email suite does not have.

Omer: [00:40:38] I mean that just on a side note, I think, you know, superhero has done such a great job in terms of honing in on the target market. Of people who are happy to pay $30 a month for an email client and would be extremely disappointed if they didn't have it where they're sort of ignored the people who are like what's 30 bucks a month for email.

Yeah. Great lessons there. I think, you know, that that on its own is, is a great case study.

Sonny: [00:41:04] Yeah. They know their, they know their customer.

Omer: [00:41:06] Yeah. What's the new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time.

Sonny: [00:41:11] I would, I don't know. Probably I like, I travel a lot, so I have a lot of like travel related ideas, but I'd probably like, if I, again, it, it gives asking me like a crazy idea.

It was maybe start like, uh, an airline, but not in the United States and in a emergency.

Omer: [00:41:27] What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know.

Sonny: [00:41:31] I went to high school in Zambia. I'm in Africa. I travel extensively around the world, like all the time, but they, most people that know me know that.

Omer: [00:41:42] And what's one of your most important passions outside of your work

Sonny: [00:41:45] traveling? I think that, that, that, that's the big one. Fortunately now, like my life has worked out in a way that I can travel a lot for work and then make it into a holiday, but I travel a lot just in general. So it's, it's a lot of on the go.

A movement around the world.

Omer: [00:42:02] Awesome. Cool. Well, thank you for joining me. It's uh, it's been a pleasure chatting if people want to find out more about insure me and go to insure me.com and it's spelled I N S U R. M i.com and we'll include a link in the, in the show notes as well. And if people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that.

Sonny: [00:42:22] Uh, the best way would be LinkedIn. So it's just Sonny Patel on LinkedIn. I think it's anybody on 94 and then, um, uh, or Instagram sunny, that's outstanding for 94. Those are the two main things that I use.

Omer: [00:42:36] All right, go right. Thank you so much for joining me and I wish you all the best with, uh, insure me.

Sonny: [00:42:43] Thanks for having me.

 

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The Show Notes

Omer Khan

Hi, I'm Omer, the founder of SaaS Club and host of The SaaS Podcast. I help early-stage founders and entrepreneurs to build, launch and grow successful SaaS businesses. Join me on this journey.