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Consulting Club Issue #3

Vikrant Duggal
Vikrant Duggal
• 12 min read

Today I will give you a sneak peak into my interview with Shreesh Naik, a sales/revenue consultant to tech CEOs going from 0 to $1 million. He's based in California. We recorded 30 minutes of amazing discussion on all things consulting. The full interview is available to Launch Pad participants. Click here to apply today.

Shreesh was a student of Mark Roberge at HBS. Shreesh reminded me during this interview that I met him (in person in Seattle) when I had just hit $40k/month and I told him I was shocked and that it might not last. Well, 6 months later Shreesh reminded me I hit $80k. This was a fun interview and Shreesh goes deep into much of the psychology and mindset that is important as a consultant. Here we go.


The Shreesh Naik Interview

How did you get into consulting?

My first job out of college was consulting. I was an analyst at a life science consulting firm. I'd say the first time I got around to independently consulting was during business school where I had just launched a new agency's last service called book my sales call, where I essentially was working with startups and helping them get meetings on their calendars with their prospective clients as a service.

I'd only get paid every time I set up a meeting and while pitching that service I had a few clients approach me and ask me if, instead of me doing the work for them I would just be comfortable guiding them on. So be a coach and then hold them accountable. And I think that probably my first foray into kind of independent consulting or acting as a guide.

Where were you in life when you were doing this?

So the first gig, I just graduated from MIT. This is my first job out of college. And then the second gig I was completing my MBA at Harvard business school. That's when I started book my sales call as a service.

So after I finished a year of consulting after my first job, I jumped into the world of startups without really having a real plan or knowing what exactly I was doing. I learned a couple things. One, starting any company is oftentimes a matter of a lot of experimentation in terms of how can a bunch of customers my hypothesis on whether something's a good fit for them. That process takes time and money.

Typically the method is you know the problem ahead of time because you've worked for a long period or you raise capital in which gets your, again, put on a timeline to execute and move with whatever idea comes your way or you kind of spend your own money doing it.

I started understanding that I enjoyed building companies and wanted to do as part of my career. I wanted to find a more flexible way to be able to fund my own ideas and have an entity and model that opened up a lot of my time also gave me a very healthy cashflow that I could invest into my own mini lab, where I could just experiment and tinker until I found something that was a lot more scalable and promising without having to rely on raising VC money from the get-go or you know, working several years in specific industry to learn problems of it. So I think that was one thing.

And then the other thingm I also realized how essential and almost like pervasive sales is in every aspect of life. It got me on the track of, okay. How do I figure out some sort of cashflow situation that, that would open up a lot of my time and to me, flexibility.

How do you describe your consulting offering to people who've never heard of you?

I support founders of B2B startups to build their first $1 million in annual revenue. Essentially I serve as a fractional CRO or a head of growth for them.

How much of this was already ready to go for you? It sounds like you have this down. How did independent consulting thing start really working for you?

Not at all. It was several iterations and honestly, still an iteration. I got in by saying I want to do Lead gen. It was lead gen for everybody and anybody. I didn't specify the type of company. What stage, what industry, what type of products I'd be comfortable selling what kind of lead gen I was going to do and so on and so forth.

And when I put that offer out there, I started realizing, Oh, wait a second I'm getting all sorts of leads. And so when I get on these sales calls, I'm able to effectively. Close or attract the client to say, Oh, you know what? I think Shreesh knows exactly what he's talking about. This is a really good fit there wasn't that, almost that connection that I was hoping to see in the, my sales calls.

And so then I was like, okay, well, I think part of the reason that is happening is I'm going too broad. So let me narrow it down a little bit. And so then I said, okay, I'm going to be the outbound guy, right? If you want to build outbound strategies, let me do that for you.

And then when I started doing that, it worked better because obviously now I knew what I was talking about, but there was still the question of like, at what stage would this actually help. When I work with companies that were 5 million AR and above the kind of problems that they were experiencing were very different.

There were more along hiring and people related problems in terms of how do you hire the right person? How do you coordinate a team? How do you manage them and coach them to get. The job done. Whereas when you talk about a super early stage company, that's kind of doing 50 to 200 K in ARR and wants to go to one millionaire.

It's more about, you know, kind of training the founder and helping them kind of make that first, you know, sales rep or digital marketing manager hire. And almost kind of working with them more closely at a strategic level, thinking through even their product. And I not only found that work more interesting. I also found it more aligned with kind of my personal experiences. Having worked at one startup where I was at the CRO and helped scale that one. And I did that again, where I helped scale another startup to a million dollars in annual revenue. I just felt like that story made way more sense. So now then I said, okay, you know what. I do go a little beyond just outbound. I do help my founders do better sales call. They do help them think through their product strategies.

So let me kind of pitch myself as a more, you know, kind of fractional CRO someone who thinks across the entire revenue lifecycle, but restrict it to just the zero to $1 million revenue range, because that's very much in line with my experience.

And that's where, what I offer really aligns with what the clients need. So it took two iterations and, you know, I still get leads that want outbound support that are above a million dollars in revenue and they haven't even thought about outbound and it is something I consider, but I, I'm kind of like being a little bit more cautious and a little bit more thoughtful on how do I build out that service and kind of almost thinking of it as like a separate offer, a separate package from this initial thing that I just told you about.

When you went through Consulting Club Launch Pad program, did you already have like an existing prospect list and audience and a set of relationships?

No, I did not. When I started off, I was having a really hard time coming up with even 10 to 20 names that I could reach out to and say, Hey, here's my offer. Here's what I do. What, why was that? Why was that?

Part of it is self-confidence. I think consulting unlike other product businesses or just other businesses that I've worked in the past this was the first time I was doing this alone. In the past I had a team mates always felt that there was someone else like brainstorm and not just accountability, but psychological, emotional support going through that journey.

Consulting is such a personal thing. You're essentially putting yourself out there and whether it's as the product for judgment versus with other products, I mean, it's an idea that kind of feels a little bit more removed from you.

And I think it was a little harder to kind of say I'm offering my services, but even the services is an entity that's separate from me. So I think part of it that was hard. But I also think that I didn't really think through how random the referrals could be and how many random connections one could actually like, you know, put you like put you in touch with like your perspective customers.

When I started I was having a hard time finding out what they have in 10 to 20 names. But now that I've gone through a few cycles of sending out referral emails and I've figured out different ways to approach people, which I think is important, like, you know, approaching a mentor of mine, Is very different and kind of the things I would say that ask that it would have, at least for me personally, I've found that approaching that would be very different from approaching a friend, which is a lot easier and can be more casual, via text or messenger to say, Hey, can I just chat with you? I need some help, which is different from someone who like, you've talked to a few times in the past, but connect with them less frequently, but they could to help you. So how do you frame what it is that you do and kind of your asked to them.

Once I bring out those different ways and also started realizing most importantly, that people were very receptive to me. I think that now my referral list is close to 200 because I was able to say, Oh, you know what? I feel comfortable reaching out to this person. I feel a little bit more comfortable with my offer. I think. I have a way of at least putting this in front of them and saying, Hey, do you know somebody who can help me? I think that that motion getting comfortable with that emotion was probably the hardest thing about, about the whole referral.

Break it down to three things that you did that got your first client and then your second and your third in in your new motion.

I put up a website and I created an offer. That was step one.And then the second part was the act and those of who do I say it too, which was like the referral email that come up.

And it initially was just 20 people. That's it, it wasn't that many after that I started getting, got on the calls. I think the other thing I had to prepare was like, how am I going to navigate these calls? Like, what questions am I going to ask? How do I make it? You know, the same stuff that I tell my to kind of like, apply that playbook for myself. How do you ask the right qualification question? How do you make sure that you've focused on qualifying whether a client is a good fit or not. And then I think that was pretty much it.

I think after that it was, it was really just kind of a proposal putting out a proposal and a statement of work with a contract as the final step.

And I think from the time I actually sent out the referral emails to getting my first client, it was just a one month process to go through that at attire.

Were you surprised by how quickly that happened? Like 30 days?

Yeah, I was, I was very surprised at how quickly it happened. I think I also surprised that I was able to get so many conversation.

I got pretty much everyone who I emailed or at least acknowledged my email pretty much like 90% of them did, which was a very humbling and just kind of showed me that, you know, like people care and people are willing to help and you just kinda have to put yourself out there a little bit.

What are now, like what are some tactics or strategies you're using to build and grow the client base?

Referrals.

What makes it like effective or special in your view?

I'd say three things. One is flexibility, not just in my lifestyle, in terms of, you know, having the flexibility of. Workday, you know, doing things that I have to do, like household related stuff in the middle of the day. If I had to, you know, if it comes up or kind of moving my schedule around, I think I really, really prefer that. And I think that's been awesome. But more than that, it also gives me the flexibility of time, which is, which is so critical to try and figure out. Okay. You know, what else could I be doing? Where else, you know, what other activities, whether it's hobbies or other work projects that I want to take on. How do I start spending some of the time where it's that's I think that's one, two's optionality more from like the Workfront and what I mean by that is right now I can pitch myself as anybody. Right? Cause like I'm, I'm not, I'm not tied to a specific product. I'm I'm just. Myself, but technically I could be 10 different products that I can test out simultaneously, which I think is pretty awesome. Especially since I'm in the stage right now, where I'm trying to say, okay, well I have this consulting thing that's working, obviously I'm gonna grow it and, you know, get better at it. But you know what, the other time, like, you know, what am I building towards beyond consulting if you know? And so it allows me to present myself as, you know, just. A person researching or focusing on different things. So I really liked that part about the the consulting business as well. I think just the simplicity of it all, you know, I, I mean, you kind like seen this for me as well, but even, you know, from the day I started, I had all these tools at a website and everything and. And like, you know, I thought I had to be super fancy. I'm just paring everything down and it's just like mentally so much easier. The simpler, the process, it's such a simple process, or it can be such a simple process that it's actually like, you know, from a pure process stand 0.1 of the easier businesses to run. Yeah. Yeah, totally. I mean, I think about like how scope creep can occur, which you have found ways to mitigate those, but also tool creep can occur. There's just so many tools out there these days that can help you with so many things. And fundamentally, we only need a handful to actually run our businesses the right way. So it's, it's nice that way.

Let's switch gears. We are very honest about the process here. If you had to argue for the downside of consulting, what would it be?

So it's a lonely road. I think that's number one. I think number two, and this is something that I found tricky for myself is just kind of finding the line between consulting and contracting, because I think it's very easy when you're an independent person to, to start doing again. Or you mentioned scope creep a little earlier, you know, start actually doing some of the tasks and activities, which is fine.

I think what I did like some quick math, if I just do an aggregate basis, the number of referral emails I sent relative to the number of conversations I've had is almost one-to-one. Not because every single person's like referred me one time. It's because some of them are super referred and some of them are not.

Or not referring at all, but just the fact that it's a one-to-one means that it's a very much a volume game. So if I want 20 leads each month or 20 conversation, I should be putting out 20 emails every month. So until I do that, I can't really put that as a downside of consulting just yet, but doing it, but doing it as hard, right.

If you had to reflect on the last 12 to 18 months, what's the most important decision you've made or taken?

Making the decision to consult. I think the consulting journey for me has not just been about the lifestyle and the cashflow and just the flexibility and all the advantages that I shared.

But I think it's also given me a lot of opportunity to self-reflect on what it is that I want to do, right, career wise, what I care about. I've never stopped to think about the day-to-day life I wanted to live, what success means, and specifically to me.

With consulting it's like every day it's like, Invariably, I have to ask myself, could I have that time as like what's important.

The decision to even jump into this and give myself the time and space to answer questions beyond just like work has been very, very gratifying.

How do people reach you on the internet? How do they find you?

You can find me on LinkedIn. You can reach me by email at shreeshnaik@gmail.com.

Past Issues

Issue #2 - The Trent Waskey Interview

Issue #1 - The Prakash Chandran Interview

Consulting