How Sunil Maulik Goes to Market

I recently interviewed Sunil Maulik, who runs the SunilM1 design thinking consultancy about how he goes to market.

About Sunil

Sunil has over twenty years of experience in Silicon Valley. He was more recently VP at Designit, a global design services firm, and prior to that Director of ICT (Information & Communications Technology) at the Innovation Center Denmark Silicon Valley. He has co-founded three companies: PeoplePower, an energy analytics company, 500Friends, a social e-commerce analytics company, and GeneEd, an eHealth company. Sunil has held senior management positions at Pangea Systems, Tripos, Hoffmann-La Roche, Oxford Molecular and IntelliGenetics. He is a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley and a guest lecturer and jury member of the “Massive Transformation” course at Stanford University’s d-school.

Sunil’s research on mathematical methods for 3-D image reconstruction was published on the cover of the Nature journal. His book “Molecular Biotechnology” (J. Wiley & Sons) sold over 4000 copies and has been used in four university courses. He holds patents in gene pattern-matching, e-learning and e-mail analytics. He was winner (in conjunction with John Teeter and Gene Wang) of a $1.45MM SBIR grant from the DoE (2009), and with Professor Banny Banerjee of the Stanford d-school, a GE “Ecomagination” award (2010).

5.0 Minutes on How Sunil Maulik Goes to Market


Hugh Morgan: I have Sunil Maulik with SunilM1 me. Sunil, welcome. It’s great to chat with you. Sunil was the founder and principal of SunilM1 which provides consulting services to enterprises. First Sunil, I’d like to hear what did you sell, who you sell to and kind of what its value is, what its benefits are.

Sunil Maulik: Sure, absolutely. So SunilM1 provides workshops in design and innovation thinking to help organizations solve problems in their day to day lines of business. So what we found is that there’s been a lot of discussion around design thinking at a very conceptual level the Chief Innovation Officer at a very strategic level, and what we found is a need for managers in the lines of business to have quarterly goals and targets and have issues, challenges, problems facing those and what we do is come in and actually help them using the same design tools and innovation tools to actually solve these problems in a very pragmatic day to day basis.

Hugh Morgan: Tell us how you go to market, how do you sell these services?

Sunil Maulik: So up to now it’s been very much word of mouth selling. I’ve compiled a database from my LinkedIn contacts and did an email blast to that. Got a very good response on that including responses from people who I hadn’t spoken to in years and in some cases decades, which kind of is interesting because it reminds me that you should leave no stone unturned when marketing and find as many channels as you can to market as broadly as possibly. Since then, I’ve signed some channel partners. These are accelerators, innovation centers, universities, who are going to co-markets these workshops to their target market base. I would say primarily it’s still word of mouth and direct marketing and very much reference based selling.

Hugh Morgan: How is that going, how’s that process is working for you? Where is it kind of humming, where does it need a little tuning?

Sunil Maulik: Sure. So the organization only got started at the last quarter of 2013 so it’s early days. I would say that we got a tremendous response from the email, we did open enrollment workshops which were well attended. We used those as a type of paid marketing to then get referrals back into enterprises and we’ve had our first successful enterprise workshops and now we’re looking of course to follow on from that. I would say the challenges are tri-fold. One is, of course, explaining what the benefit of the workshop is before people have actually taken the workshop. Once people take the workshop, they clearly see the benefit and are excited to bring us to their organization and so they become champions but of course we’d like to get the workshops signed up even before we get to do that or go through that process. I think the second is really convincing middle managers to take time out from their busy day or their busy week to get all of the people in the room for a full day workshop and then I think the third is really sort of like the follow up, it’s ensuring that once people take the workshop understand how these tools can help them, see the benefits of it, that they actually go back and implement it. And we’re looking at follow up consulting and follow up webinars and Skype calls and so on to help them in that process.

Hugh Morgan: You’re right. That makes sense to make sure that what you thought them sticks, I’m guessing. And then finally, you’ve been selling it to the enterprise for many years. If you had sort of one takeaway for us, what would you say selling high level complex products or services to an enterprise, what do you say that is? What have you learned?

Sunil Maulik: Right. So I’ve sold both products and services to the enterprise and I would say the one takeaway I’ve had is when you have a product, sell it as if it’s a service and when you have a service, sell it as if it is a product. And so we’re trying to actually productize our services, package them up, create even datasheets talking about the unique features and benefits of our service so when we present this to our internal champion, they can very quickly internalize the key unique benefits that our service provides and then they can sell them internally within the organization. So I would say really thinking about this service as a product with unique features, unique benefits that you can actually qualify and describe and then articulating those to your client is key to getting your service in an organization.

Hugh Morgan: That’s a great insight Sunil, thanks so much.  Sunil Malik with SunilM1. Thanks for taking time with us today.

Sunil Malik: Thank you, Hugh; my pleasure.

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