At Salesforce, Nichola Palmer works with customers to bring their stories of innovation and transformation to life. In this blog series featuring Trailblazers, Nichola introduces Vishal Salunkhe, Vice President & Regional Head of Sales Strategy & Operations at Carousell Group. Vishal has spent his career helping companies create intuitive customer experiences that put the magic back in the sales process.
Vishal Salunkhe has been fascinated by technology for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Bombay, he was an early adopter from childhood, and remembers his desire to be the first in his class to own a mobile phone.
“I saved my pocket money for six months, and I’m sure I skipped meals to get that phone,” he laughs. “Whether it was arcade games, or new apps or even MySpace, I was always very technologically curious.”
Vishal puts his childhood fascination with technology down to the magic of user experience. Understanding the mechanics of that experience has been a theme that has run through his career.
“In my early adulthood, I began to understand that technology is all about solving user problems in a meaningful way,” he says. “That’s the most attractive part of technology for me. There’s an ‘a-ha’ moment that comes when you see how technology is used to solve a problem that you didn’t even know you had.”
Building a strong foundation
As a student, Vishal was interested in economics. He attended the Indian Institute of Planning and Management for his postgraduate studies, and completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the International Management Institute.
“I was lucky to join a business school that had one of the most intensive and diverse economics curriculum,” he says. “We studied everything from behavioural economics to business economics, and I still see that play out in the foundation of a lot of things I do today.”
Vishal also developed an interest in philosophy. He was particularly attracted to objectivism and the work of Ayn Rand.
“Objectivism essentially frames achieving our own happiness as the moral purpose of our lives, and productive achievement as our noblest activity,” he explains. “I feel these ideas are the foundation of my life and work philosophy.”
Putting philosophy to work
It’s no surprise that Vishal excelled in his first professional role as a Sales Operations Analyst at one of the top-five tech companies in India. His grounding in technology, economics and philosophy proved to be an ideal formula for the budding young sales professional.
“I realised that I could only become a good salesperson by solving customers’ problems versus the hard sell,” he says. “Selling becomes very easy because when you are just trying to solve a problem for the customer it’s not really a sale. It becomes a partnership, and the sale is just the output of a successful partnership.”
Vishal wanted to work across a spectrum of different big-tech software companies, and that journey led him to sales operations and service improvement roles at IBM, A.P. Moller – Maersk, and Red Hat. Today, as Vice President & Regional Head of Sales Strategy & Operations at Carousell Group, Vishal has shifted his focus to the consumer space.
“Carousell was a pivotal shift in my career,” he says. “I felt that I had achieved everything I could in sales operations at an enterprise level, and Carousell was an opportunity for me to switch focus from the B2B enterprise space to B2C.”
Solving user problems
Vishal’s transition to Carousell also came with a move to Singapore, and the opportunity to set up the company’s sales enablement and CRM processes. The role aligned with his core passion for the problem-solving magic of good user experience.
“Accepting the role was a no-brainer for me,” he says. “It is an opportunity for me to create, rebuild and polish our solutions to deliver that magic user experience in ways that solve user needs, and are successful for the business.”
But Vishal knows you need the right tools for the job. He says the pandemic taught him about the need for collaboration — and the importance of having the tools that make organisation-wide collaboration possible.
“I joined Carousell in March 2020, and within one week half the world was locked down,” he says. “There was so much behind-the-scenes strategy and go-to-market collaboration that needed to happen to get to a point where we could be meaningfully solving user problems.”
Finding the magic
Vishal says Salesforce has been instrumental in fostering this kind of organisation-wide collaboration. Customer 360 has replaced disparate sources of data to align employees around a single view of the customer, and streamlined the workflows that deliver magic user experiences.
Vishal’s first experience with Salesforce was during his time at A.P. Moller – Maersk where he helped migrate a legacy CRM into Salesforce. He was hooked on the ease of working with the platform and with the insights it provided.
“Salesforce is a breath of fresh air in terms of its user experience. The dashboard interface is so intuitive, and it’s so fast to build processes for our sales leaders. You need those kinds of tools in order to deliver the magic moments to your customers. In fact, some of my career choices have been led by whether my potential employer uses Salesforce.”
Salesforce’s user experience, says Vishal, is an example of the intuitiveness Carousell is building into the company’s own user interface.
“That’s the other piece of the puzzle,” he concludes. “You can build a very beautiful product that meaningfully solves customer problems. But if the user doesn’t intuitively understand how to use it, then it’s worthless. The user should be able to intuitively use 70 percent of your product in a matter of seconds, without training. That’s where the magic lies.”