A crash course in sales hacking & deal closing

A crash course in sales hacking & deal closing

This is a recent talk from our CEO Steli Efti at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna.

Or listen to the audio version (to download the MP3, click on 'Soundcloud' and download it there):

Steli’s talk has been called “hands down the most useful stuff I’ve seen in year’s” #Pioneers13.

Learn how to close your first customers, drive revenue, and negotiate partnerships for your business. This is going to be an essential talk for any one who is serious about transforming their idea into reality and is willing to hustle hard to make it happen.


Steli Efti: You Gotta Be A Hustler – Pioneers Festival 2013. So my name is Steli Efti. I am Greek in origin born and raised in Germany by a family of factory workers. Immigrants. And when I was 16 or 17 ,I dropped out of high school to start my first business. I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since.

Another way of saying this is I am totally unemployable, I have no credentials, I could never get a job. Like nobody of you would ever hire me.

SO what I would like to accomplish today is help people, help you guys to that have ideas and dreams to start new ventures and new technologies and turn these new technologies and companies into a reality. And the way the vehicle to accomplish that is going to be the hustle. And I am going to talk about that and hopefully I am going to give you everything you need to get there much faster.

Nothing in the universe happens until something moves and today we are going to talk about moving faster and accomplishing these things a lot faster.

Quick background, my company ElasticSales has helped over 100 venture backed technology companies in Silicon Valley to scale their sales rapidly. And in the process we learned a lot about sales and we learned a lot about selling technologies selling new ventures and built our own piece of technology called closed that I owe? That helps people sell more and close more deals and sell more at the end of the day.

As you heard there are 3 people that add value in a start up in a new venture. 1 is the person who know how to design a product, you know how to build a product of you know how to sell a product.

Lets look at the core 7 things you are looking for when you are hiring someone to do sales or to look at in yourself.

Some basics: First of all you need to have a strong focus on results. You need to be the result driven individual. All that matters today is what did I accomplish what have I been able to move forward? What have I accomplished for my organization? What deals have I closed? What money did I raise what awareness did I raise through PR or other things?

You need to have a little bit of shamelessness. And that might seem a bit negative especially in Europe. But what I mean by shameless is you need to feel comfortable asking for things that other people don’t feel comfortable asking for. And where you feel comfortable in. The sphere that is within your comfort zone anything that is worth accomplishing is outside that comfort zone. And the further you go outside your comfort zone, the smaller the competition. Because a lot of people just don’t feel comfortable to ask these questions. So when you ask for favors ask questions go for deals and you are a little bit shameless you are going to accomplish things that other people are just afraid to try

You need to have a strong follow through and follow up and we will talk about this a little bit later.

You also need to have a high tolerance level for pain. Because you hustle if you sell if you pitch, you start up a venture an idea forward you are going to get rejected a lot. And being rejected sucks.

SO you need the emotional stability to be able to deal with rejection and you need to be able to deal with people telling you that your baby your idea sucks. It will not work I don’t want to buy it I don’t have time I don’t like your shoes you know you will have to deal with this every single day. And still wake up with the energy and drive to and the inner happiness to move on.

Then obviously if you are doing something that is worth doing, you need high values. It can’t just be about the money. It needs to be about realizing a dream. Especially this crowd knows what I mean. Nobody is here just purely for the money. People here want to change the world. They want to turn their ideas into reality.

And because you are doing this for something new, the hardest thing to sell is something that doesn’t exist yet or that is brand new and not established you need to be really resourceful. You need to be able to take something little and leverage it to accomplish a lot with it. And then liking people helps.

Trying to understand people helps. When you really care to understand people it helps a lot. So now that we have established the basics, lets talk about the first thing you need to do. Which is to create a minimum viable pitch. And I would argue it comes before the minimum valuable product in many cases.

There is two things I am going to share here quickly. What is the list of the structure that you need to follow to create and effective minimal viable pitch for the idea for your business? And secondly I am going to show you the pitch that we created for ElasticSales 60 minutes after we had the idea. That pitch got us 7 paying customers within 14 days. And I will share with you exactly word for word what we told people and how we closed them. Before having any business or anything else established.

Ok so lets first go through the structure real quick. SO many people esp. if you pioneering a field, what you want to talk about is the vision how you are going to change the world. The problem is if you do that as step no 1 while you are pitching me how your paradigm shifting complete new innovation is going to change the world, I am going to try and figure out what it is you are talking about.

What is it that I have to imagine? So a lot of people are champing ahead. Step no 1 when you are creating a minimum viable pitch is you need to tell me what you do in a simple sentence that I can comprehend and compute. I know it doesn’t sound sexy but it is effective. So you tell me in the case of ElasticSales our idea was to have a sales team on demand for technology companies. So When I would talk to people I wouldn’t say what we are trying to do is a paradigm shift in the way distribution happens for the new innovation technology companies through driving means of lead generation an growth hacking.

O.k. cool but what does that mean. So while I am talking the listener is trying to understand what I am talking about and I will loose their attention. So first you say in as simple terms as you can what do you do. There is no sexiness aloud in that sentence simple lame in terms. Then you explain how that thing that you do will create value to a potential customer. Once you have done that you know what the other person thinks? The potential customer things, yes you tell me this is what you do and you tell me this is what I am going to get but why should I believe you? Are you actually going to be able to deliver on these promise? So now we have to establish some minimum level of credibility. And that is really tuff at the early stage because you are not already a big massive brand so how do you create a little bit of credibility? Well you use whatever you have. So if you have one customer that is it that is the credibility.

What we do is we offer a sales on demand for companies that allows you to both explore all different pass to sales much quicker and also scale your revenue path much faster. And here is company XVZ that has used us for the last 2 months o last 2 weeks or has decided to go with us and here is why they are going to succeed. Use that customer or an investor of yours. If you don’t have customers just tell people about your investors if you don’t have investors just tell people about your mom or somebody that gives you some kind of credibility that you can associate yourself with. Someone you went to school with someone. Tell them something that associates you with something or someone credible, so that it rubs off on you a little bit. And then you need to understand your potential customer. You need to spent some time asking questions to figure out should they really buy my product or my solution. Is this a good fit? Will this really create value if not you are really wasting your and their time, which causes problems afterwards. And then you cannot be surprised that people have subjections. It is the most surprising thing for me when somebody is pitching me and when I have objections they are surprised by that.

People will tell you we don’t have the time we don’t have the money it is not the right timing for us we are looking at a competitor’s product. These things cannot be unexpected. You need to anticipate them you need to prepare for them, so you can manage them. And then what surprises me the most a lot of pitches that I get don’t end with the closing. They are like oh o.k. so ahm cool what do you think? I’m like sounds interesting. Yeah cool I guess I sent you an email and we see what happens. No just ask me do you want to buy? It is not so hard. Most people don’t do it, just ask for the close!

Give me your credit card number. Are you interested All right, here is the pitch that we used we had the idea for ElasticSales because it was something we needed at the end of the presentation I will have my email up and if you want the slides. So this pitch we developed within 60 Minutes after having the idea of ElasticSales. When we developed the idea of ElasticSales, since my cofounder and myself were serious entrepreneurs, we knew that instead of wasting time coming up with a name coming up with a website doing some market research we said lets not waist any time with this idea. What is the fastest way to validate if there is a market?

You know what lets write down with a script. Lets do a list of a few hundred companies that have raised over 4 million $ in venture capital and that we don’t know that we have no connection with. And tomorrow we are going to cold call them for 4 weeks, pitching them with a fake name; we didn’t want them to know that we are trying this idea that we are thinking about it. And if we are getting one customer after 4 weeks without having a website no nothing then it might be an interesting idea. But this pitch got us 7 customers within 2 weeks. 7 customers we didn’t have that many sales people in our sales force. So we had to look and we had to tell people that they could only have one salesperson to begin with. Because that is all we had. So here is the core structure. So first thing that we did the first thing that you need to do when you call somebody is to establish a context on who the f. is this person. If somebody calls you that you don’t know while they are talking you are trying to figure out who the hell is this person? It is not my mum it is not my girlfriend is this somebody important?

What is this all about? During the time where somebody is thinking these things you have to address that. You can’t just start pitching you have to address that. Like telling them here is who I am and here is why you should give me one more minute of your time. So the way we did it we would call people and we would tell them. Listen you know my name is Steve or what ever I am calling companies in the area to find out if they are a potential fit for our beta program that we are running. Now we used that language very carefully. We are calling start-ups in the area applied we are closed to you we might be similar to you tell them that we are looking for a good fit not a customer. It seems that this is in their best interest and it is still very soft. And telling them that we are doing a beta program means that we speak their language. They probably had a beta program with their own products SO there was a little bit of a report going on. So after that sentence almost everybody was saying o.k. They had not decided if they liked it but they had decided, I am going to listen to this, for 20 more seconds to figure out what this is. The next thing you have to do is you have to give them what it is!

No bull shit no fluff just one simple sentence what it is. And when we said that what we do is we offer companies a Sales team on demand. Does that sound in general interesting to you? The secret to that question is, it didn’t matter what people said to that question. If people said yes I would say awesome tell me about your sales process. When they said maybe I said interesting tell me about your sales process. And if they said no I said wow tell me about your sales process. It didn’t really matter what they said. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is not that I didn’t care. Just I didn’t care yet at this point of the conversation, because they had not enough information and I didn’t have enough information, to decide if this is a waste of time or if this was a good investment. So it is not the right time to make a decision but the person on the phone was still thinking about it. If they were thinking no and I didn’t allow them to verbalize that while I continue talking they were thinking how can I get off this call how can I get off this call? And I wouldn’t have their attention. SO after doing that, we are going through a couple of qualifying question to help to decide is this actually a good fit. And do a little Test close and move on and I have blog posts and a lot of stuff that explains this in more detail.

(I AM INCLUDEING THE SLIDE: Hi, my name is__________________ . I’m calling some startups in the area to find out if they are a good fit for our beta program. What we do in a sentence is we provide companies with a sales team on demand. Does that sound generally interesting to you? Qualifying: What is your current sales process? Who are your customers? How do you get leads? What’s the customer life time value? Test Closing: We want to start in 4 week – does this work for you? The beta program is heavily discounted. It’s going to be $ Xper salesperson. We can only offer you 1 salesperson to begin with (that’s going to be me) What is the decision making process in your company? How quickly can we make a decision? SLIDE END

So now we have a minimum viable pitch. So we know what a hustler needs to do we have the minimum value pitch now we need to get the first customer. The toughest customers to get are the first few customers that you are going to get. So what do you do? So you start with low hanging fruits. You start with family friends; investors portfolio companies your neighbors people that you went to school with. Anybody that you have some kind of a connection, you start there. It is easiest because you need that easy entry at the beginning. Here is the single biggest mistake that a lot of startups a lot of you ventures do. When they start a new idea, they don’t charge for it. I talk to people all day long and they tell me we have this cool idea and we just launched our product and we have a few users and I say how many customers do you have? Well technically they are not paying us yet but they have a strong buying intention I can see it in their eyes. No it doesn’t count. Is money in the bank? Do people actually pay you and reward you and show you that they value what you do with money. And there is never a time too early to charge for your product! I’m going to demonstrate that to you. So you might think haha but what if my product is not even ready. They can’t even use it. How do I charge for that? Easily here is what you do. After you pitch somebody you tell them does that sound interesting to you? Would you like to buy this if this existed? The person says yes. You say awesome high five.

O.k. So the product doesn’t exist yet but we are going to launch this product in 3 months. And we figured out it is going to cost 100$ 1000$ a month what ever. But for early beta tester if you put down a deposit today, you get a lifetime discount of pick a number 10, 20 50%. 90% discount lifetime it doesn’t/t really matter. Instead of getting it for 100$ a month you are going to get it for 10$ a month. All you have to do is to put down a deposit of 500 $ now. And you know what to make it completely risk free, it is totally refundable. If in 3 months you decide you don’t need it anymore, you will get your money back. Cool do you want to give me the money? Well you know it is a lot of money the economy the timing is not right. Then you know it is a BS customer they are not really really interested in buying. And now to be fair if you want 10 people to want to buy you will not get all of them to agree to what I am proposing. But you don’t need to.

Just get 10 potential customers that would usually buy or just get 5 of them or 3 but get money for what you do before you are building it. It is going to motivate you it will show you that there is a real market. The same thing applies for features. Many big venture backed start up companies I talk to their founders and they tell me well we have this big customers and they need these 12 features and once we developed these 12 features they will give us all this money so we are going to spent the next 6 months developing these features. No get the money right now in order to be able to afford these features in the next 6 months. And when it comes to pricing the last note. The pricing sweet spot that yo are looking for especially in B to B is where 20% of customers say who that is cheap no problem 20% of your customers say what that is crazy expensive I would never buy this and 60% of your customers say yeah it is kind of on the higher level of price but I am still going to go for it.

hat is the sweet spot you are looking for. You are not looking for 100% for which price is no issue. That would mean you are cheap you are under value. Let’s talk about a technique real quick that I call virtual closing. So a lot of people the issue that they have an initial meeting. Especially if you are doing something innovative something new and creative, people will take meetings from you. And people will tell you that they like you and that they like your idea. Because we all like new innovative people. Especially big organizations you will get a lot of airtime because while they sit they are listening to your pitch, they are earning their salary whilst you are talking. It is a cool new pitch it is much more interesting then the boring meetings that they had beforehand. The problem is that you confuse their interest with real buying intent. So a lot of start-ups are telling me that at the end of their conversation we had all this great energy and they were really excited about us and we kind of don’t know what to do next.

And we have sent them an email and it is kind of unclear what is it going to take for us to make this happen? They spent a lot of time worrying about it alone at home. Not knowing what to do. Here is one of the most effective sales tactics that you can use. To clarify that. At the end of the presentation what you tell them is, dear potential customer what will it take for you to become a customer for this product? What are all the steps that we would need to take? And here is the magic, when they answer you, you continue asking them until you arrive at the virtual close in the future. So when they say I will need to meet with my team and talk to my boss and we need to see how we feel about it.

You don’t just say cool that sounds great. Let me talk to you next week. You go cool how does that usually work? Do you meet once a week? Do you make a simple presentation for us do you need any material? When will that meeting in the future happen? Well on the Monday stand up. Cool awesome. Lets assume you talk to them and they like what you said, what happens next? Well next we would want an other call so all the stakeholders would come together and ask you questions. Cool lets assume that meeting goes well, what usually happens next? Well next we have to go through legal. SO how does that look like? Did you buy something similar to our product in the last 6 months? Tell me how that experience was. What were all the steps? What were all the challenges? Can we do something about that today? Just guide me through that process. Most people will stop asking at some point because they feel uncomfortable and then will just assume and then they will be my customer.

Don’t just ask them. Then we went through legal in the next 6 months now you are surely a customer right? No now you have to go throug our advisory board. And we have a palm reader and whatever the steps are until they say yes and then we would buy. And then you high give them and then you know exactly what it is going to take are there red flags, I don’t want to deal with 6 months of legal. This deal is not worth it it is only a few 1000$. We are not going to do it. Or they haven’t bought anything similar to us in 12 years! How confident am I that we are actually going to close this deal? You need to go through these things step by step and then really have a road map to success. And to be in the right mindset. I am rushing through this a little bit because I am afraid I am going to leave a few slides out because we are running out of time. And it is probably going to be the best slides ever. Oh here this slide has nothing to do with this presentation. This is my baby boy we launched him 15 months ago he yes has all the good looks of his mum Thank you! We are launching our second baby boy in March we are really excited – Thanks and I could just not resist bragging about him in front of a huge audience… Lets move on.

So we know what to do to hustle, we have a minimum valuable pitch we know how to get the first customer and how to charge them money for it what do we do next? Most people would assume well 80 % of the selling and hustling has been done right? Obviously no 20% of your job has been done 80% of selling 80% of actually accomplishing something happens in the follow up. That is it that is where you win, that is where winning happens. In the map of like winning it is the follow up where it actually occurs. Personally I have a simple rule when it comes to follow up. TO me following up is binary when we interact and when we talk to each other and I sent you an email and I ask you for something and you don’t reapply, I follow up until I get a reply. That’s it that’s a simple strategy. And I don’t care about the replies it can be a yes or a no but I will not stop following up until I get a reply. Not to a stranger. But if we had a meeting and I follow up and you go silent which a lot of people do. I will not assume that you don’t like me or that I am ugly or you probably didn’t like this part of my pitch. I am not going to make assumptions. I am just going to keep following up until I get a yes or a no. You will be amazed we have an investor in our company.

SO we got a warm introduction to get a big investor that investors best friend is a person who’s product all of you have used really big guy. He makes an introduction the guy replies sure I want to meet and I sent him o.k. can we meet next week this time or this time? Or what would work for you? Silent. I followed up 48 times. I am not shitting you 48 times until he replied. Fuck thanks for the follow up I was travelling and you know we launched this whatever big rocket and yes tomorrow can you be at my office? And we got him as an investor 48 f… times. Remember shameless there is a thread When it comes to business follow up if somebody signs a form or you don’t have a personal relationship 4-6 times is the minimum follow up that you should follow. And the cool thing is a week ago I talked to a really young entrepreneur first time start up and he told me this follow up thing has changed my live. You know I have been doing this and all this shit happens all these deals close and. I appreciate that but you are probably also really inexperienced.

That same day in the afternoon I go for a meeting with a guy that has sold his company for hundreds of millions and he is like, you know what I sneaked in into one of your webinars and that whole thing about follow up is really clicked for me and I started doing follow ups and all these great things have happened. And I was like really awesome like o.k. everybody seems to be suffering of the disease of I don’t want to inconvenience you. But this is not about business this is very easy it is very easy to say leave me alone. And this is easy and I would totally respect that. I will not follow up when somebody tells me no. But usually people don’t follow up because they get busy it is not all about you. So just follow up to stay on top of their mind. So now well we are going to rush to this one. Most people when they start they sell well I am just one-person one guy how can I accomplish all these things? Well you have to turn everybody you know into your sales team.

Turn cofounders into your sales team your investors into your sales team, your customers. And the way to do that is, you need to do two things. You need to anybody you know for introductions to other people and referrals. You need to eliminate all friction. So when you ask for a referral you don’t just say hey Bob can you sent an email to this guy and spent the next 10 minutes of your life thinking of how to pitch my company to this guy. No you say hey Bob can I get an intro to this guy and below is a template that I wrote for you. You can just copy and past it and sent it to the guy or change it or write it completely different. That is your choice. 99% of people don’t have the time or they don’t care about writing a pitch for your company. Make the work frictionless. The other thing is you want to create back channels. Communication channels it doesn’t matter if you do that for investors or customers or PR or anything. What I mean by that is, when I get a referral by a customer lets say and you meet with that referral and it is a good first meeting. What you want to do when you get back after that meeting you want to ask the person that referred you, you want to ask them hey can you sent that guy an other email?

He already wrote it for you and the email says: Hey Bob, I heard you met with Steli, I just wanted to check how you felt about the presentation. Steli thought that it was a great match but he felt that you were really concerned about security. Well we have been using them for the last 6 months and they are super secure and we love them Create back channels make multiple people talk to the person to influence them and tell them what you want them to think. Use every contact you have to your advantage. This is how we got a big junk of our first investment round. There was a big VC company and they wanted to meet with us. They wanted to do a partner meeting. And they said well the earliest time we have is in 7 weeks. And we wanted to close our round in 3 weeks so we were like. F that that doesn’t work for us. We want to meet now or never. And they were like sorry we can’t do anything about that. So there is this other really important person that is an investor in our company.

So I met with him and I chatted with him and I told him about this VC firm. And he is like oh I know these guys really well and I was like yeah could you sent them an email and tell them how awesome we are? If they miss out on that partner meeting how horrible it is going to be for their whole life? It is going to be like them hating themselves forever? He was sure and I said cool can you do it right now? Here is a laptop. I already logged out of Gmail you just need to login. He says sure o.k. look at it is it cool Steli? Cool 3 minutes later I get an email from the assistant of the partner saying we reshuffled something on Monday we can have a partner meeting and make it happen.

So make everybody that works with or is a part of it make them all your sales team. You have to use everybody and leverage everybody that you can. SO is my favorite part. I am going to tell you some really cool stories. SO now we know what it is all about to be a hustler, with have a minimum viable value pitch we have our first customer we figured out to ask them for money and they paid us some money. And we know that follow up is the way to go. Follow up is the way to win. This is how we make shit happen. What happens if we have a larger company and they want to negotiate with us?

Sometimes they like to do that right. It sucks but they want to like negotiating. Well I am not a negotiator you guys might be like I am a technologist I don’t know anything about this I don’t want to study negotiation I’m not a smooth talker. I am going to teach you the 2 simple rules to kicking almost everybody’s ass in the negotiation phase: Nr 1: Be willing to walk away Nr 2: Learn to Shut the fuck up What I mean by be willing to walk away, is you need to learn, I know that you are not in a position of power this is this huge massive company and you are just small and tiny. And you feel small and tiny and that’s the problem right. SO you need to learn to put your self under the content of this is my business my start-up what eve you do, we are not going to win or loose because of this one big magical unicorn right. There is many unicorns out there is many things we can accomplish. We need to be ready and willing to walk away. We need to know what are terms what are we o.k. with and what are we not o.k. with. An example: Lets say you sell software you are pretty successful so far there is this huge company two months ago huge technology company right.

Great brand name. Approaches us they sign up for our product they go through everything. Are really interested everybody in the company gets excited about that. And then in the final stages we get everything cleared up and everybody is on board. The last second they start like well we would do this but we need these two little things that really don’t take that much time from you but they are really super crucial and we could never use your product without those two little things I mean you cant be serious. DO you know what our reply was? Cool then don’t use us. Like we said in more word, those are great suggestions we had them on our road map, it is not going to happen in the next 6-9 months if this is a deal breaker it is too bad. Here is2 ways to work our this. Here is how we would do it. Accomplishing the same goal with our tool without having these two little features. But if that doesn’t really work for you then go with God and be successful with something else. They came back to us on that day. They didn’t even reply back to that email. They just came back with o.k. lets talk about pricing we really need this massive discount because we are such a huge brand and our logo is going to transform your life. We are like cool o.k. here is the discount we gift to companies that we really love and you are one of them now. This is the discount we are giving you and it was like a 5 th of the discount that they wanted.

And some people in the company got nervous. I am not going to shit you we are not that cool. So some in the company were like oh my god we are going to destroy the relationship with this company. They will talk bad about us. And the entire future is fucked and our children will never get a job in technology. It was this huge thing and we had a big argument for an hour we would go back and forth back and forth. And then there was a clarifying question someone in the team, an engineer you know, He was like I think we need to step back and ask our selves a very fundamental question. Do we really want them as customer? This is really crucial. And the people that were arguing together said at the same time one said yes and the other no. In that moment is was clear that first we should talk about do we really want them as a customer before we argue about the discounts and the future of our children.

So We argued it out and decided that no we don’t give a shit and then we sent them an email that said that is the discount we can do and we love you and surely as we grow together and you take over the world and all your employees actually use the software I am sure at that point our relationship is going to be so deep that we are going to find new ways to benefit both sides. And figure out what the value is tha you create for us and what you should get in return. SO some bullshit email that was basically no in a really nice way, no we are not doing it. And you know what their reply was? They were silent for 5 days and then their credit card got processed into our system. And then they bought a shit ton of seats and we never talked about this again. It was magical we said no and they decided o.k. lets just buy this anyways. I don’t want to say that that would always work – it doesn’t. I am jut giving you the good examples.

The other thing is shutting the fuck up. That is the most powerful negotiation tool ever. It is also the most difficult one to do. All of you think how hard could it be to be silent. It is very very very fucking hard. So one of the most powerful techniques when you interact with somebody is to be silent. And what that is going to do it is going to create the urge out of social awkwardness, for the other person to continue talking. And the awesome thing is because they didn’t premeditate that they would just feel like they need to keep talking so that what they are saying is going to be very close to what they are thinking. They are going to be like oh my god I cant believe I just said that. All you have to do when they do that is keep shutting the fuck up. And see what happens. Sometimes and I will give you a quick example I’m going to really rush here. Here is a sample of shutting the fuck up saved my company. 225,000$.

I am not even kidding you it is not even a made up number. So here is what happened. We had originally; the founding team of elastics sales was doing something completely different. For that different thing we had to buy a technology from someone else. We made a 3 year contract where we would pay them a shit ton of money. But because we thought we are smart we went through the first year of the contract and we paid them almost nothing and the second year a little bit more and the third year we paid them a crazy amount of money. The assumption being if we are not successful in year 3 we are probably done so it doesn’t really matter. Here we are. We changed completely where we are and keep paying them will kill us. SO what did we do we did what we mentioned a bit earlier we made all our investors work in the background for us sending emails to board members of that company calling them demonstrating in front of them what ever we could do to influence the people there hey these people are important and you better be nice to them or bad things will happen. Eventually we got to a really important guy a board member of a company that guy emailed the really tiny accountant executive that was responsible for us and I fel bad for him but sometimes it is hard you have to make choices. It was a shitty day for him but it saved our company. AN account rep he has all this money he had a commission for that or it was part of his quota so taking that away sucks.

But we couldn’t pay 225000$ for something that we didn’t use anymore. So this is what we did. After the board member sent an email to the guy. The guy called me all the time before when I would communicate with him the guy would say no sorry I cant do anything Finance tells me we cant do anything about this. I would love to help you but finance says…So after he gets the email from the board member he calls me. I pick up the phone and he is like Hey Steli this John from bla, is this a good time to chat? Yeah sure lets chat. I knew that he got that email so I was kind of prepared for that call. So he was like so here is the deal you know I told you that you have to pay the full amount and I think that we you know really want to help you I worked with finance and bullshit what I want to offer you is this deal. Instead of 250,000$ that was the full amount, you are just going to have to pay 100,000 and we are all square and fair and live is good. Silent.

Well and Steli it is really important for us that the relationship says healthy and blababla. And you know we are really doing the best we can and you know I talked to everyone and this is really the best offer I can give you and blablblablbla Silent. You know what, the one thing we could do is if you could postpone cancelling the contract until January next year we could probably give you a much better deal you know maybe something between 20-50,000 instead of 100,000. And I am like January 20,000 sounds like good to me. And he is like o.k. then I’m going to sent you the papers and I am so happy that our relationship is still good blabla Cool and I hang up and I thought that turned out much better then I expected. We were actually thinking that we would have to pay 100,000 so we through a small party. We were like holy shit we only paid 20,000 $ right. All I did was to shut the fuck up. I let it play out in front of me. And in 9 out of 10 times it is going to turn out much better then you think. You will be like holy shit that is so surprising it is much better then I thought it would be. Just learned to be silent. If you don’t know anything about negotiation learn to walk away and to move on and learn to be silent.

Just look at the other person if it is in person raise your eyebrows because that is signaling that you should be talking and then the other person will start talking All right if you want more information go to //close.io/free-sales-course there is a 9 emails with much more details about the stuff that I just talked to you about. And I just recently published an article in venturebeat in why you should give your customers and everybody you know free office hours in the market that you are in. You can read that article next which is I am going to bring a start up on stage for 8 minutes and we are going to do a quick sales office hour. This is not just all theory and cool looks Lets see if we can actually help somebody sell more, move faster and succeed with our business. Give it up for that start-up right now. Encourage them to come on stage. Man we were so nervous that you would not show up. Should he sit there can he stand what are we doing? Lets just stand. I am standing it is awkward for him to sit. . Lets be relaxed and lean on here. Can I have a drink? Later yeah. Alessandro tell us what do you do? Is it really unsexy what do you do? What is your start up? It is an application to manage fleets of vehicles or teams for transport and field services.

So an app that allows me to manage my vehicles and stuff. When I am like a transportation company? Eh or a manufacturing when you have to distribute or picking up things or doing maintenance. What is the name? Rowdest .com So what is the current status so do you have customers? Do you have paying customers do you have revenue. Give us a bit of a contents of here we are what ever you are comfortable sharing with this small group of peers. O.k. fine. We started a couple of years ago with consultancy in this field and we are well we went on line a few weeks ago. With a website. So we are changing our business model. In a few weeks we have our first users. So we are having fun with that and we are working on the sales Are you charging them? Are you going to charge them? Not right now. Here you go Because they are using the free trial. So we have 15 days more and then we hope we can start to charge them. How long is the total free trail? 15 days. 15 days O.K. that is a good length. Awesome. So what if we could accomplish just one thing on stage what is that what do we want to talk about in terms of sales challenges or questions and challenges feedback, help, what do you need?

Probably the worst part of the sales process is the first cold call. I mean of course you have your network you start with family and friends. People you know you know but the cold call. O.k. are you sure you need to be doing cold calls? Well in the consultancy yes with the website there might be other marketing that is more appropriate but cold calls might be. But the kind of customers that you are going after are on Facebook and Google searching for solutions to something that they are probably already thinking about. You are making their lives better by using something they haven’t used before so using technology. Right? Yea So what exactly sucks about that first cold call? It is not easy to find the right people to talk with. To speak with. o.k. so you have a company and then you are thinking who in the company is the right guy to call? So you are probably calling the secretary and asking her nicely to route you to the right person. Yeah you have the number of the front office and you start from there O.k. So do you have any users yet that are really loving your product? Ah yes yes we have people using it and saying yeah this is cool. DO you have this feature yes we have it and we are using it like this.

So people are more engaged? Yes. Did you ever ask them if they would pay for your product? Once you start charging? Ah not right now. Start with that. So what you need to do is you need to separate people that are well meaning from people that want to be real customers. So you go cool you really like this this is awesome you are going to buy it right? I am going to give you a discount. And then if they say, well maybe or not then you know maybe they are not that interested. And that is not the issue it is not about converting everybody into a customer what it is about it is about finding the one person it starts with one that really wants to buy. And give that person a bigger portion of your attention. Say o.k. if you really want to buy you are going to get extra discount if you are buying now if you pay and buy now. You will get all our attention. The founder will actually give you . Here is something you can do if you are really small you can be like the president the secretary and the CEO will give you 100% of their attention. Because that is all you right. That happened to us. There you go. And people like that kind of personal care someone really important in the company will so you do that.

So you tell them I am going to give you all my attention. And when you have that ask them for referrals. I am not sure if at the beginning low hanging fruits sales, you want. Cold calling can work what we did with cold calling start ups worked for us but it is calling start ups. It is an audience that we know really well and an audience that is open to new ideas. And we were physically closer it was an easier pitch. If we were to call logistics companies if I were to call them I am not sure that would be my first step. So I would first look for one customer just one customer just treat that person like a king a queen and then be who else do you know who needs that royal treatment from me? And then just go one by one at the beginning and just get you know from one to two from two to four and just slowly grow and just grow really carefully and just spent a lot of time with those customers to really understand them well. Because what you want is. What people do when they do lead generation is they look at what is our audience?

Logistics. They create a list of 1000000 companies and they just cold call them one by one and what happens is you get really unpredictabl results. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. One month is good the other is bad. You do the same activity but it randomizes your result. The problem is it is a too big of a field. You need to narrow it down. You need to talk to your one two three for five customers that you have. And you look at how big are they? Where do they live? You know do they have a Facebook profile who are all the employees? What are the titles of the employees? What other software do they use? They have a Facebook page. You look at every thing you can learn about them and then you just go one tiny step next to their nearest competitor. And you try to sell to them. And you go to really more vertically companies that are very similar and grow that way then just going everybody that does logistics could be a customer.

That is going to be a really hard battle. And when it comes to getting the right person when you do cold calls a quick trick is to start with an email first. And what you do instead of cold emailing the person you want to sell to you go one or two levels above. And you ask for an introduction down. You go: Dear CEO here is the one sentence on how we will improve your company who is the right person that I can talk with for 10 minutes? Can you please introduce me to that person? If you do that email well. The CEO will be like talk to John. And that doesn’t mean John is sold. John is still why the f do I have to talk to this person don’t have time I don’t like it but he will take the call. It is much more efficient instead of going through the whole organization. Just go high up you can find these people's emails ask them really simply for an introduction down the organization. If that makes any sense. Yes it makes sense.

And then how big are the companies that you are usually calling? For the consultancy 10’000 and up but for this new product, we are looking for a small to medium sized companies. SO have you cold called? No So how does it suck? So have you started? No. SO you assume it is going to suck In my experience He is probably right. You are probably right. If you started to do cold calls it is probably going to suck. I would still do them though. I would still do them just for fun maybe it is much easier then you think. I would send emails. At this stage of the company don’t worry too much about perfect results and closing lots of deals and everything working worry more about experimenting and learning what works and what doesn’t. Do emails do cold calls show up in person what ever it is do multiple things and see what happens and if 99% of times it is a failure, it doesn’t really matter.

You just need one success and you build from one to two you know that is a really small step but it is doubling your success. And all you do at the beginning is you make these tiny steps and as you grow you have more credibility more customers more resources more money and you can make bigger steps and grow into that. Thanks you Awesome give it up for him. All right my time is up. If any of you need help with sales send me an email steli@close.io. We set up a Skype session. I have done 100 of these it started really small I didn’t really want to do as many as I am doing now but it is so much fun and it has been so important for the business and there is so much random things going on and happen when I do these sessions. So sent me an email and I try to do my best and we set up a Skype o.k. Take care and enjoy the rest of the day.

[Thanks to Arthur de Conihout and his awesome VA Carmen from Worldwide101 for sharing their transcript!]

Enjoyed this talk?

Check out Steli's "Hustle Hard!" talks at Pioneers 2014 and Pioneers 2015!