Gabriel Paradelo, CEO of Expertizen, sat with us for the 8th episode of Stories That Inpire, to tell us how the need for CRM for an internal operation ended with him building an entire business around the product. Read his story of spreading Zoho's name in Argentina and becoming a Zoho Authorized Partner!
Adhya: Tell us a bit about your background.
Gabriel: I did my master's in computer science and then stepped into entrepreneurship along with a friend of mine, for delicatessen food. But apart from business, I was also inclined to technology and was longing to make my mark in that niche.
Adhya: When did you step into the technical side of the business?
Gabriel: A couple of years in, we made a unanimous decision to move to the IT industry—one that would serve both his passion for business and my passion for technology. So, we started a small company that caters to the software needs of architects and construction companies. From then on, for about 15 years now, I've been tied to a consultant's profile.
Adhya: When did Expertizen come into the picture?
Gabriel: Expertizen started many years after that. My 15 years of industry expertise had helped me build a massive network of people. So, I started out by dialing these people up and visiting them to offer Expertizen's Google services; I was a Google apps partner at the start. Little by little, I built a customer base for my consultancy.
Adhya: How did these 15 years shape your entrepreneurial career?
Gabriel: I'm always passionate about technology, given my major in computer science, but it was only after becoming a consultant that I figured out how technology would fit into a business context. I was able to understand the business areas of a company better, their needs, and how technology can solve their problems and improve the way people do business. My experience tuned me to understand beyond what customers put into words!
Adhya: And when did the partnership with Zoho happen?
Gabriel: As the company began to grow, we needed a CRM to build a structured sales channel. I tried many before narrowing it down to Zoho. After a few months with Zoho CRM, I discovered that Zoho also had many other products in its catalogue; all of them targeted at improving the efficiency of doing business. And, that's when I made my relationship with Zoho official—I became a Zoho CRM Partner in 2014!
Adhya: How would you position Zoho CRM?
Gabriel: We normally ask, "Do you find the use of spreadsheets for data management easy?"
If the answer is "no," and if the customer is in need of something more, that's when we start with a business analysis to position a CRM. A CRM is not just a tool that holds all the sales numbers, but software that can give you knowledge about your customers. It's a tool that every growing company needs in place, and that's how we sell it!
Adhya: How were your first days in business?
Gabriel: Back in 2014, Zoho was not a known brand in the Argentinian market, and it was difficult for us. However, when a potential customer sat through a product demo session, they loved the features! Also, the UI for Zoho products was not attractive, but a couple years later, a major revamp happened and our customers had the complete package with a vibrant interface!
Today, Zoho products have become incredibly powerful, and our sole issue for the moment has been with the documentation's language and that of the local market. However, I am happy to note that the company had already begun its work in this aspect of business!
Adhya: What was your lead generation model then?
Gabriel: At the start, Adwords was my lead generation machine. It was great! We were generating a steady pipeline of leads that we could prospect. But, we never had any organic leads until years later. That was after we revamped our website, started out with email marketing campaigns, and took our events online. Now we've built our lead generation machine, so this time we focus on a more specific clientele who comes in with the knowledge of who we are and what we do.
As the saying goes,
warm leads are better than the cold leads!
Adhya: How has social media impacted your business?
Gabriel: We're constantly active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but I don't really generate leads from social media. However, social media has been effective in letting the market know who we are and what we do as a company!
Adhya: How is the Argentina market adopting SaaS services?
Gabriel: Eight years ago, SaaS was a concept that few people knew. So people were extremely concerned about data security and service availability. A couple of years later, people got used to cloud services as they found these applications reliable. And by the time they came across companies setting up their own data centers, they concluded that SaaS industries are perhaps not handling security that bad after all, especially reputable companies in the market, like Zoho and Google. So, today, people in the Argentina and Latin America markets are pretty open to accepting cloud services.
Adhya: What differentiates Zoho from other SaaS vendors?
Gabriel: Zoho provides great service at an incredible price. And since we've used the product for setting up our business, we've got even greater belief in the solutions we provide!
Adhya: Could you tell us your experiences selling Zoho to the Argentinian market?
Gabriel: We never push our prospects to choose our products. Our approach has always been about avoiding sales speak. So we really try to be open and honest about our strengths and the limitations of our services and products. That way, we end up working with customers who've made an informed decision to choose us, and the products we offer, and are aware of what they can expect from our service.
Adhya: How has your business grown over these 8 years of partnership?
Gabriel: The last five years of business saw us growing from 30% to 50% YOY. But, as we mature, our growth metrics have started to plateau. However, Zoho has been incredible in adding new products and features to enhance existing products. So the company now has many opportunities to increase the bandwidth of our consulting services by selling and integrating with many other third-party applications.
Adhya: What are the measures that Expertizen takes for customer retention?
Gabriel: Every customer of Expertizen is provided with a team that handles their support services. We offer support services to all the products that we sell and combine them with the licensing revenue. Implementation helps us build an initial rapport with the customer. Since we've already built an initial interaction, all our clients trust us to help them when a need arises.
Adhya: Tell us an interesting customization experience you've had in these 8 years of business.
Gabriel: Argentina is a highly regulated market with complex tax ordinances, so we came up with an automated solution using Zoho Books. We started offering Books integration with the electronic invoice system that Argentina uses locally, along with custom reporting features to get the national and state tax reports. It was a perfect customization package for the local market!
Adhya: What are your plans for the year?
Gabriel: Our primary focus for 2019 revolves around adding other LATAM markets to work with.
We're also actively involved in automating sales and service processes, improving the team, and preparing an approach that can expand Expertizen to larger markets. But before going big, we're planning on using this time to fine-tune our business operations.
Adhya: How are the opportunities for upselling and cross-selling with your existing clientele?
Gabriel: Our marketing channels have been continuously pumping new leads into the pipeline. So we ended up spending most of our time acquiring new customers. However, for the past year, we've grown cautious about keeping our existing clientele engaged, and have begun to upsell and cross-sell different products.
Adhya: What is your approach to consulting?
The technology we introduce must be used by the company. It has to be easy for the employees to work with our customized software services.
This is our approach to consulting—to understand the client's business and requirements, and then show them all the available options, giving them the space to make an informed decision rather than using sales speak to push products into their basket. We never make decisions for our customers. We show them the options, and let them try the products and decide what works best for their needs.
Adhya: Tell us a fond memory of your collaboration with Zoho.
Gabriel: I came to Chennai in 2017 for Zoho Inspire. It was a fantastic opportunity for Partners to explore the Zoho headquarters. I had a wonderful conversation with the different teams, their product managers, and the development and support teams who are consistently in touch with us.
That was when I came to learn about Zoho University and how this practice was revolutionizing the Indian education system by favoring local hires. The fact that a company as big as Zoho is concerned about the life of local people, and is taking steps to help them be on par with their urban competitors, is remarkable.
It was nice meeting Zoho people and learning their philosophy of working, and the freedom with which the individual teams within the company work together!
Adhya: Your final thoughts...
Gabriel: The Zoho Partner network extends to many countries around the world. Yet, they ensure that we get a wide market and don't cannibalize the opportunities of other Partners in the region. There has always been a cautious effort in the partners the company collaborates with, as well as the people who interact with us. So, even though we're from all over the world, we all share a common goal!
I love the transparency with which Zoho operates—both with its Partners and its customers.
Check out Expertizen here
Know more about Partners @ Zoho here