Microconf 2016 Q&A with Steli Efti & Hiten Shah
If you're an entrepreneur running a self-funded startup, here's a Q&A session with Hiten Shah & Steli Efti at Microconf 2016.
Some of the things they cover in this session are:
- How to sell, even if you hate it, are introverted, or technical
- How to find a market for your product, if you have no idea where to begin
- Why you shouldn't outsource sales, especially if you've never done it before
- And more!
Follow along with the transcript below.
How to onboard customers
Speaker 1: So, to start off with as I said, we've got a bunch of questions to go through. The first one comes from Ryan and he says, "After a customer has started a trial, it's our job to help them become successful with our product. This effort will lead to a long-term customer with a big lifetime value. What suggestions do you have for engaging and nurturing the onboarding process given that we know what milestones the customer will need to reach in order to become successful?"
Steli: I mean, it depends heavily who your customer is, what kind of company you run, what kind of culture you have, what you're good or bad at. But in very generic terms, if you're early in the process, I would do anything and everything possible and I wouldn't worry if it's profitable or scalable. So, you might want to drive to their office and spend an afternoon with them, get to know them, set them up. If you can't do that, you'll want to definitely call them, talk to them,figure out why did they sign up, how did they find out about you, what are their needs, what are other things they've looked in to. Build a relationship and help them succeed with whatever it takes. Then you can just go up the differentsteps of things that scale more, but are less personal. So they'll lack some context and they will lack some crucial insights because the crucial thing here is, whatever it is that you think you know that your new trial users need to do to be successful, probably you're wrong about a bunch of stuff. The only way to get real insights into what they truly need to be successful, you'll want to spend as much time as possible trying to get to these insights. Spending time with them in person, on the phone, is gonna be a lot more insightful than just sending them a survey or just automating drip emails. But there's thousands of tactics, webinars, drip emails, tons of stuff that you can do to help people onboard. But I would say, spend more time trying to understand truly what it takes for somebody to be successful,and don't be that fast in thinking you know what it is because you have a bunch of assumptions that are probably wrong.
Speaker 1: So it's more about making sure that you go through that learning process. Just because you think something like say for example, they need to sign up and set up their account and they need to acts in order to make the product work, for example. Don't just assume that, "Oh, throwing a video out there is going to do it." Like you actually have call them and talk to them, walk them through that and see what it is that kind of motivates them to actually do that.
Steli: That's one thing, but you might even be wrong about ... You think, "Well everybody that sets up their email account on our system, will be more active and more successful," and that might be true, but it might not, right?
Speaker 1: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Steli: You really need to make sure that you're not jumping to conclusions too quickly. Also, even once you've figured out what makes somebody really successful on the onboarding process, your job is not done forever because people change, businesses change, your product changes, the market changes. So you want make sure that with some level of frequency you go and revisit and test your assumptions again and go, "We always knew that this is makingpeople successful, is this still true today?"
Speaker 1: Right and that kind of goes back to what I think Des said this morning about having people go through your sign up process, for example, that's kind of what you're getting at.
Hiten: I do want to mention one thing before the next question about this, that sums up kind of some of it. Is the person that did the Concierge Onboarding Course here somewhere? Because there was a Concierge Onboarding Course, I think it was an attendee ... But basically the tactic is called, Concierge Onboarding and there's a bunch of e-booksand stuff like that out there about it. I think what people jump to is the product sort of marketing and the drip emails and instead, doing something where you're hand holding a lot more so you can learn as much smarter and there's aname for it, Concierge Onboarding, so look that up. I think that'll give you an idea of how that sort of process would work.
Incorporating 3rd party integrations into your product strategy
Speaker 1: Very cool. So, the next question comes to us from Peter and he says, "Have you seen patterns around third party service integrations that are an important part of a product strategy and when it would be most useful? For example, when are they the most strategic and helpful or for acquisition turn, revenue expansion, etc?"
Hiten: Yeah, I like the last part of it better than the other parts of it because it starts with like, what you're trying to improve. So any of those integrations ... Like usually you're trying to improve a metric ... Just as a quick tip, unless it's like a Shopify app store type thing, a lot of the integrations won't help help you with acquisition. So you might want to think about these integrations for retention or engagement. For example, if you integrate with Slack, with your product because I know that's becoming a really popular thing. You want to look at doing that if you think that getting that information data engagement in Slack would increase your retention or increase your engagement. So, I would just say, that like it really depends on what the problems are in your business and whether an integration's gonna help solve them. Also whether your trying to attract new customers from it ... If your existing customers didn't need that integration. So again, just back to, what's your business problem and how are integrations gonna help solve it? Is the approach I would take.
Speaker 1: Are there situations where you can see that those integrations are generally predictable as being an ultra good thing for your business? Like are there certain market verticals that those types of integrations work better for or is it very, very largely dependent on like, the audience that your product serves?
Hiten: Every single thing I've seen is dependent on audience and also dependent on what's popular right now. So you're seeing so many Slack integrations, if you see other companies be successful with it or something to really try to figure out why they're being successful because I actually think the opposite, I think it's risky to integrate without understanding how it's gonna impact your user base and your own metrics.
Speaker 1: And why is that?
Hiten: I think it's one of the themes of the conference so far that I've seen, which is like you could waste a lot of effort on it and it might not be the one most important thing or the thing you should focus on. So, you could spend all this time doing a Slack integration for your finance app when they don't use Slack, or they don't want the finance numbers pushed to Slack and stuff like that.
How to sell, even if you're a techie or introverted
Speaker 1: Okay. So our next question comes from Lester Buck and he says, "We can always practice by selling our own products and services, but that doubles the tension because it's our product and we can't be sure whether it's the product or us having us having no sale skills when we're having troubles. What are some strategies for introverts, techies, and geeks to learn to sell by selling other peoples products? One guru once suggested telemarketing for a weekend, but from Craigslist ads, they ask for a years experience and during the week. Is something like Sandler's sales training worth trying?"
Steli: Hiten. (laugh)
Hiten: This is not for me.
Steli: This is clearly not directed to me. So, there's so much in that question. So lets say, you don't have a lot of sales experience, you would classify yourself as a more technical person and you're like ... You know, when we fail selling our product we don't know, is it me or is it the product, right? Should we go and try doing telemarketing or taking courses. All that can be great but the question is just, what is the optimal use of your time? If you had all the time in the world I would tell you take all classes, read all the books, do everything, right? But if you already have a product, might as well invest the effort in trying to sell that. If you're uncomfortable about it, what I would tell you to do is ... Like, sales is something that happens everyday, you just have to think about it that way. So instead of selling the product to a customer, maybe what you need to do first is, selling people on giving you feedback about the problem, right? How about your goal everyday, "I'm gonna have ten conversations with people," and if you don't know where to find people, just go into a Starbucks or something and buy people coffee and then say, "I have three questions." Learn toask good questions and dig really deep and try to understand their issues or their challenges around the problem that you're trying to solve with you're product, right? You can sell so many things, it's yourself asking people for time or feedback, and improve and iterate on that without being ... A lot of people think to be good at sales you have to be incredibly charismatic and you don't at all. Like you just need to understand how to ask some really good questions to understand what the problem is from the other side, and then indicate it, or come to a conclusion if your product solves that. Then tell me that in succinct way with the next action item. "Hey, now that I heard these ten things about you, I really think the product that I built can solve your issues, here's how it's going to do it and why it's good and here's what I want you to do." You know, "Put your hand in your pocket, bring out the one with the credit card and let'sget started with a trial," or something. You have to face the moment of truth of asking for something, and then having the rejection as a response. Where people go, "Well I don't want to do that," and that's where most people go, "Oh, Ifailed." If you just stop doing that and you go, "Oh, now we can learn something. Hey, do want to sign up for my product?" "No." "Cool, why?" "What is missing, was it me, like did I do a bad job, am I talking too much, too little, did I ask the wrong questions?" "Can I buy you coffee and ask you for feedback?" "I'm trying to improve, I'm trying to do better. What is it, is the product really not doing what you want it to do, why?" If you think about it more as a learning experience versus a failure or success, I'm good or bad at sales, you're gonna improve and get better and better at it. There's talks out there and if anybody in the audience, with this specific person want to know a lot more, you can just shoot me an email at . I'll send you some resources and talks on like, how to systematically get better at sales if you're not a sales dude or gal. But, it's just the way of ... The attitude and approach is much more important than learning how to do sales or selling for somebody else.
Speaker 1: It seems to me like there's an underlying theme with this question about being comfortable doing sales and being comfortable facing that rejection time and time again. I've heard different strategies to essentially overcome those fears one of which, is you're not trying to make three sales for example per day, you're trying to just make ten calls or 15 or 20, or something like that. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because I mean, it seems to me like it's more of a psychological fear than it is about actually meeting sales numbers or getting a certain number of ... Meeting a specific metric that is actually outside of your control, like you can control whether you make ten calls or not, but you can't control whether or not three people actually purchase anything.
Steli: Yeah, I would even take that idea further and go, instead of focusing on ... You don't want to focus on success and sales which is like, "Let's get three closed deals today." You can focus on activity which is, "I'm gonna make ten calls." But even a level higher than that is to focus on failure. So to say, You know what? If I make ten calls on average, three are gonna be good. Which is not gonna be the case but just for easy math. So, "I'm gonna have to be rejected seven times to get to success. So my goal everyday is to get rejected seven times." So if you get lucky or unlucky and you made ten calls and you didn't reach anybody your job is not done, right? Also, if somebody rejects you, that is now something that you can check off a list that is actually a little bit of something that brings you closer to your ultimate goal, a little bit of playing mind games with your own head. But at the end of the day, sales just like entrepreneurship, it's not about being comfortable, that is not the name of the game. Asking somebody ... Nobody likes rejection, neither do I ... So asking somebody for like, "Hey, do you want to do this, do you want to sign up, do you want to give me money?" Is an uncomfortable moment. All you have to do is train that muscle, train to be more comfortable with doing uncomfortable things because there's no way around it, I have no better way of doing it. I think that this is a good add on question because all kinds of people ... Because they feel so uncomfortable, they try to avoid that and then they go, "Can I read a book that's gonna make this easier?" Or like, "Can I watch a talk or can I do something else." You can do all these things but it's not gonna make it more comfortable. You have to get comfortable with the idea that your gonna have to feel a certain level of discomfort consistently, if you want to accomplish the dreams and goals you have for your business. So, the sooner you accept that reality, the easier your life's gonna be.
Dealing with burnout
Speaker 1: Excellent, great. Our next question comes from Jack Jones and he says, "What are some strategies you've seen work for repairing burnout?"
Hiten: Yeah, I'm assuming this more like, "I started the business and I'm burnt out."
Speaker 1: Or you've like just overworked, you've put in 50, 80 hours-
Speaker 1: Above and beyond maybe what your full-time is.
Hiten: This ends up going into like lots of sort of contextual like, "Why are you burned out, are you not making enough progress?" And a whole bunch of areas like that, that end up being very personal, is kind of what I have noticed. So overall, if you feel burnt out and you've been starting your business, it's probably because you haven't been making progress fast enough. The first thing to do when you feel that burnout is like, step back and think to yourself like, "Why am I actually burnt out?" And "Is it something that I continuously do that I should stop doing, is it something that I'm not doing that I need to start doing?" So it's just an evaluation of the things you're doing, and are they helping you make progress or not? Oftentimes, especially if you're an engineer or even a marketer, you're gonna default to doing the things ... Again, even related to the last question ... Things that are very comfortable for you, which you can keep doing, maybe you feel like you can keep doing them. Like, you can keep writing code but if nobody's coming andusing your product, at some point you realize that, "If I keep writing code, I'm gonna run out of money or I'm gonna run out of time." Right? So is it burn out because you've been writing all that code or is it burn out because you haven't been making the progress? So, I'd try to quantify it, not necessarily as, "I'm burnt out because I'm working too hard or I'm burnt out because I've worked 100 a week." Because I've seen people working 100 a week, that would never say their burnt out and I've seen people working 100 a week that say they're burnt out. The difference between those two groups is deceptively simple which is, the folks that are working 100 hours a week and are motivated to keep doing that, are making progress and they know that the things they're working on are really important to get what they want, their hopes and dreams as put it. If you're sort of working the 100 hours a week and you feel burnt out, there's probably an underlying root cause that's less to do with the 100 hours a week and more to do with progress, more to do with growth, and a lot of other things like that.
Speaker 1: So are there specific questions that you can ask yourself or like a framework that somebody could use to try and help pinpoint the specifics of what the underlying cause it?
Hiten: Yeah I mean, it's usually because you are ... Your frame work is, you might not have one, right? It's a framework for making sort of progress which again, deceptively simple. "Am I working on the most important thing right now?" So if you don't have a product then you probably need to work on getting a product, getting a product means finding a problem people have. It's likely, if you're burnt out and you're an engineer, you've been working too much in the land of making the product instead of figuring out what's important in the product. So I'll give you the ultimate framework for me on a business which is, there's two things that matter, product and distribution, everything else is sort of related to one of those two. So anytime I hear someone say they're burnt out, I try to just give them the framework, "Well, is it that you have a product and you can't market it, or is that you've got all this marketing or all these users or something, and for some reason that product's not working?" Right? Which might almost sound like the same problem, but if you're burnt out, it's one of those two things that's just not working and you might be doing the wrong thing. You might be trying to get all these customers, and your product sucks or you might have very few customers and you don't know if your product sucks because you don't have enough customers. So the framework I would just give you is, step back and think about, "Where is my problem in my business that's preventing me from making progress and causing me to feel burnt out?" You're probably just working on the wrong things.
The best time to do cold outreach
Speaker 1: Excellent. Our next question comes from Kurt and this is, I believe specifically aimed at Hiten, so Hiten, you're gonna have to answer this one.
Hiten: So Steli's gonna answer it.
Steli: Yeah, I'm gonna answer it.
Speaker 1: No, you're not gonna answer this one.
Hiten: Steli's gonna answer it.
Steli: Try to stop me.
Speaker 1: No, he can't.
Steli: What are you gonna do?
Speaker 1: The goon squad down here will make you.
Steli: What are you gonna do, he's on the-
Speaker 1: Okay, Jayden's gonna answer it, how about that? All right, how is Steli's hair so perfect? You sure you want to answer this one, Steli?
Hiten: That's a Steli answer, I don't look at his hair.
Steli: Let's go to the next question, .
Speaker 1: So I guess at this point, we'll take questions from the audience. I will be wandering around here, where's the first question? Right here.
Speaker 2: Okay, so this is a sales question. Is there a particular time of day that's best to do cold outreach? I ask that because I've got like on outbound drip campaign, but I've also done, just pick up the phone and call. I have noticed that like, on Tuesday afternoon probably like a little bit after lunch I get a pretty good response rate when I'm following up with people ... Well that's on follow ups. So as far as like, outbound, is there a particular good time of day, does it depend on the industry, etc?
Steli: It totally depends on who you're trying to reach. Who is that person, what is their life look like, how do they organize their day? So in some cases it might be very early, even earlier than you think. It might be very late, it might be on the weekend. It might be at odd hours or at times where you would not expect that it's a good time to try to get in touchwith somebody. So the only answer there is to experiment. There's the typical truths like Mondays and Fridays, very broadly speaking, are busier days in a corporate setting, so people tend to be potentially less responsive. But breaking that rule can be very profitable if you have the type of customer that doesn't have stressful Mondays or Fridays or maybe a customer that gets a lot of important calls on Monday so they are in the habit of picking up the phone when they get a call on Monday. So no, there's no universal truth, you should experiment a lot and then see what gives you an return. Maybe there isn't, but a lot of times there is a day and a time that works better than others and it's not the same for everybody.
Hiten: I'm gonna give you a quick hack which is, if you have any kind of like, analytics on some website where know it's that audience because you probably have a website, just go look at the hours, time of day, day of week, and things like that, that people are visiting your website. At least you'll know they're online. Now that doesn't mean you want to send it when they're doing that, that's more of a judgment call, but it can inform you on what time of day and day of week to test at least.
Steli: Adding one little thing to that, if you have a website that people can sign up on or a landing page, something people do that you then try to reach out to them and communicate with them. Afterwards, trying to call people within five minutes of them taking that action online is gonna have significant returns on your because people are still at their computer, they just looked at your stuff, they're probably not in a meeting or somewhere else, in the gym or something. So, there's even studies about that the huge. So if you ever try to call people after they took an inbound action like signing up for something, test out what the results are if you call them really quickly after they took the action versus calling them an hour or a day later.
How to find your market
Speaker 1: Next question. Next question over here.
Speaker 3: Thank you. So I have a question about, I need to find my market and I'll give you the context. I'm building a database application builder and it's being built for over a decade. I have seen competitors companies, judging by the number of employees they have, I know they are making revenue, but where I'm getting stuck is, who are they selling it to, how are they approaching them? I'm kind of stuck, I don't know where to ... I need to find some strategies I could use to identify my competitors and customers and try to do something similar to reach and talk to people in that space.
Hiten: Yeah, oftentimes just looking at competitors businesses or websites, it's very hard to determine how they're getting customers. I think you're hitting this problem and I've seen it quite a bit. So the approach that you should take is, go talk to people that could either use your product or go talk to people that are using those competitive products, people meaning customers and actually go figure out how they've discovered the product-
Steli: Just keep on going.
Hiten: And what they think about it. He's just saying that to me because I get distracted.
Hiten: Anyways, so everything starts with the customer so, do whatever you can to go have enough conversations with potential customers and a a lot of these questions will start getting sort of ... You'll have a lot more clarity, you might not get the definitive answer, but you'll know things like, "Oh, in this market people are ... It looks like most of those customers found out about these companies from a conference or they found out on line through some ads." Right? But they'll tell you, the customer will actually tell you. So, if you're already competitor focused, one of the best things todo is is get customer focused by talking to their customers and figuring out who they are, where they are, etc. And just trying to get a hold of them. Another option would be ... It was one thing that kind of was mentioned earlier in the day about, "Sell the situation." So, there's probably a situation people are in when they should be using your product and if you think about it that way and hypothesize that, you can go reach them or try to think up, "How can I reach them when they're in this situation." But the biggest piece of advice I can give you is, go find customers or potential customers and just go talk to them and your Go To Market and those kind of things become a lot more clearer.
Steli: I totally agree with him, Hiten, you have to like come closer, you're totally in the dark, which I appreciate and I'm like, getting all the light, but some people want-
Hiten: Is that better?
Steli: Yes, much better. I just want to add on, typically we'd have a longer conversation with you on like, why you've built and you're so focused on the competitors, but just to throw out this hack because I know sales people and most people here don't as well ... You can always sign up for your competitors site to get a demo or trial or something. Some sales person, typically a more junior one is gonna get in touch with you and that person's going to be more than willing to give you all the information you want if you just ask the question. So you go, "Oh, how many people are you guys?" "Huh, I found you this way, how are most people finding you?" "Hum, I wonder, what is your ideal customer sojust so I know that I'm the ideal customer." You just get all the ... You will get, if you ask three questions, they'll keep talking for another hour and telling you things you haven't thought about asking. So, just as a little hack on top of that.
Speaker 1: So you guys are past like 22 minutes at this point, you good, you all right? That's not the-
Steli: We're not gonna tell you.
Speaker 1: Okay.
Steli: We see it, but your gonna know. We're good on time.
Hiten: We're way good.
Should you outsource cold calling?
Speaker 4: So I have another cold calling question. It turns out in Canada, we can't send cold emails anymore. So I'm turning to cold calling and I'm just wondering if it makes sense to hire a VA to setup my demos for VPs and IT leadership for my B2B product So my concern is that the resources might not have the subject matter expertise to be able to engage the technical leadership in order to setup these demos or set up these appointments.
Steli: Yeah, I would agree and I mean, I don't know. The answer is, I don't know. You could just try it for a week and then you'd know, but if I had to guess, I would guess that you don't want to outsource something you haven't done and you don't understand yourself well, right? With sales it's the same thing as with product development, right? So, a lot of times people ask me, "Hey Steli, we're ready to start selling, can you recommend us an outsource sales firm?" Because I was running one and my answer is, "No, I can't recommend any one." But answer's like, "How can we answer this outsource this sales thing?" I always tell them, "Have you done sale at all yourselves in any kind of capacity?" The answer is, "No." It's kind of like me saying, you know what? "Hiten, I want to build a social app that's gonna be as big as Snapchat and I need a web development firm." Then Hiten asks me, "Well, what's the app, what's the idea about it?" I'm like, "Oh, I don't have an idea, I just want-
Hiten: Don't hire a firm.
Steli: Here's gonna be my ask for that web development firm, it needs to be social and mobile and we want to reach a million people." Well, if they knew that they'd build it themselves, right? It's not that, how good of an idea does thatsound to you guys? It's the exact same to my ears when somebody's like, "I've never done sales, we know nothing about sales, but we're gonna outsource the sales problem."
Steli: Yeah, or hire a PA, but is the question like, somebody without domain expertise, can they set up calls? They need to have cold calling expertise, right? They need to be able to talk in a way on a cold call to capture somebody's attention, get their trust, and then get them to buy into the minimum amount of value prop to jump on another call. If their really well trained on that, they're gonna be able to do it without understanding the industry at all, but if they havenot done cold calling, they're not really like ninjas on that, then no, it's not as easy as just getting them on the phone. You can always try and see if this is a different case, but the chances of success are low.
Hiten: I throw one in which is, why cold calling? But don't answer that. Like, you might want to try alternatives to email and phone.
How to run marketing experiments
Speaker 5: So I have a question about controlling the success of your marketing. So say you have a product, you want to grow it very slowly. You want to make sure you can provide support, you want to make sure your infrastructure handles it, but you also want to experiment with some wider reach marketing like email campaigns or Google ad words. How do you kinda compromise controlled growth with starting to look at larger scale marketing?
Hiten: Yeah, you're basically talking about marketing channels, right? You have ones that are working ... I mean this is everybody, like if you have some scale, it sounds like you do ... So you have ones that are working, you have ones you might've tried before that are not gonna work for you or at least you believe that. Then you have this third bucket which you might not have yet, which is always have some percentage of your resources on marketing dedicated to channel discovery. So, it's just experimenting with new channels so for example, spend $500 for reddit. The number's actually $5,000 now on a very high scale on most experiments when you're really trying to find new channels. But you can spend $500 and get a good idea if you want to spend more money on most channels. Although, all channels are generally getting expensive when it's paid marketing, but if you're trying to find like organic channels that are not paid, it's the same process. "How do I figure out how to spend the least amount of effort to see if this things gonna work for me?" Right? Most marketing boils down to basically, get traffic, convert the traffic. So that's a framework there that I would use against all the different channels you have and figure out if you can get traffic from the channel and then figure out ... Not necessarily in this order ... And then figure out if you can convert. Now, there's a lot of waysto figure that out, like you go do some analysis. If it's Google ad words, you do a bunch of analysis on who's advertising and whether you think they're getting traffic based on the keywords they're advertising for. When you look at their site, are they converting it and if that looks good, then it's something you might want to try yourself. So there's a lot of different tactics due to experimentation, but most folks tend to not do that third bucket which is experimentation because otherwise you're never really discover what's next. Whatever you're already doing is foundational probably, and it's already getting you some base level of growth, but to get more growth you probably are gonna need more channels.
Steli: One thing to add to this, don't worry about future success so much, right? Because that's a worry that a lot of times is wasted, "Oh, we would like to do this, but then how are we handling the millions of customers that have come to us?" You can always tell people, no, you can always stop things, stop running a marketing channel. You can always create like, limitation, "We're running this marketing thing that's gonna drive millions of people, but we see we only have ten spots open." Like you could always do things to limit it, but worrying too much about what to do ... Because if it's too successful, it's gonna be a lot of work, usually, is not the best way to spend worry, so ...
Speaker 6: Steli, I've heard you speak at another conference about how you partnered with someone at to help you with a content marketing, all the videos, the blog posts, the e-books, everything that you've created. I'm really curious about that person that you work with, if that's still the case. Like, is it a marketing person, is it a writer? I'm in a similar situation, I'd like to find someone to help take what I say to customers and create some long lasting sort of materials like that. I'm curious about that relationship.
Steli: So this is somebody that I've been friends with for 15 years, he lived in my apartment for two years when I was back in Europe. So, if you know somebody for that amount of time and you've lived with them, maybe you should think about them in a marketing role. So, this friend of mine was doing ...
Speaker 6: My wife doesn't want to write down what I said.
Steli: Okay, we're fair, mine neither, so that's why I looked at friends as an option. So, he was doing a lot of marketing, but he had very little experience about SAAS stuff and we just started working together. It was a long and slow process and it took a long time until we found our groove and found like, a really good machinery. We have an episode on like, How to do Scalable Content Marketing, and I actually like, breakdown the formula on how we do it. But yeah, thebasic thing is that, the fastest way for me to generate content is to create video. Then we take that video today and it's like our raw material in the content fabrication and we push it through a process now where multiple people work on this. They'll take the video and they'll turn it in to a blog post, we take the blog post and we turn them in to books, take the books and turn them in to ... And we just repurpose and remix a lot ... But the raw material at the beginning of it is just a video because that's a medium I can create somewhat of a good quality, but very high quantity content.
Hiten: Let me give a quick tip because that's what we do right? If you have the budget, you can just hire people, like not a lot of them, but like four or five of them to actually do the thing you want them to do. So it could be that you record a call and you say, "I want to turn this in to marketing material. Take my call, turn it in to marketing material." Give that to four or five people, spend 50 to 250 bucks each and just keep doing that until you find the people ... Maybe one maybe more ... That can actually work with you on that. So when you have a task like, you came at it with a deliberate task, "I have calls and I want to turn that in to something else." So just hire people and it's really inexpensive. We've gotten lucky when we take processes like that, where you just take a process and hire multiple people to do it and see who you like.
Speaker 7: What time do we have to tell you something .
Hiten: Like ten minutes.
Steli: Yeah, we got time.
Speaker 7: All right we're good.
Developing the right sales mindset
Speaker 8: So as an engineer I kind of have an implicit bias against interruption marketing, but I find myself in a situation where I really want to start using cold calling as a technique. So I've been trying that, but my bad implicit bias is coming across over the phone in terms of, like, lack of confidence or lack of confidence in the product. How do you kind of get over that, I guess?
Hiten: I'm gonna start and then Steli will take over the sales part. I want to point out one thing though ... And this could be just semantics ... But I wouldn't consider it outbound marketing, I'd consider it purely sales. The reason is that tacticsuse aren't marketing tactics, they're sales tactics because you're trying to get a conversation. So just want to clarify it in my mind as a marketer, I wouldn't want outbound to be thought of as a marketing thing. Although, I get why, because it's meant to acquire customers, but it acquires customers straight into the sales process so you generallyneed more sales tactics and less marketing tactics.
Steli: So first, I think you're identifying a really important point which is, if you're not sold you can't sell, right? I think this is an overlooked truth because it's so obvious and so simple, But if you're not really sold on what you do, you're gonna struggle selling me on it. But this translates to many parts of the sales cycle, if you are incredibly cheap in the way you make buying decisions, you're probably gonna struggle selling a high premium product, right? Like whatever you're trying to get other people to do, ask yourself, "When was the last time I did this, right?" "When was the last time I signed up for a trial with my credit card before even looking at the product?" "When was the last time I did whatever I'm asking other people to do." If you're like , "This is the way the world works and this is the way I act," your gonna be authentic and that's gonna translate in to you assuming that the other person's gonna agree with you versus what you're doing which is, you're assuming, "I'm gonna annoy this person, I'm gonna interrupt their day, I'm going to destroy their productivity, potentially their life-
Steli: This call is gonna make the world a worse place." All right, "Let me make the next call." Right? If that's foundationally the way you think about this, this is gonna be really hard, right? This is gonna be harder than it needs to be. So I mean, this specific case, I'd have to ask you a million questions. Do you really need to do cold calls? Before coaching you to do it well, I'd be like, "Do we really need to do this, is this really the only thing that's left as an option for you?" But assuming that was the case, there's some truth that forces you to it, you have to ask yourself ... You have to make a hard choice, either you're going to find a way to love it and to make your cold calls the best interruption of somebody's day. Make that call packed with value, stand above anything that anybody could expect and make this really special. Make that your benchmark that you're trying to live up to or find a new business way on your way of doing things. But currently you're kind of stuck in this hell of struggling and you're right, you're never gonna get anything done or anything accomplished that way. We can chat about this later on if you want.
How to run marketing experiments (cont.)
Speaker: This question's for Hiten.
Hiten: I'm next anyways.
Speaker: Oh, good.
Hiten: We're alternating, if you've noticed.
Hiten: Or we'll talk over each other.
Speaker: Yeah. So, I actually lean more towards like a background in direct sales, but I'm doing more in a marketing and measuring analytics and doing all that stuff, but I find that I struggle with going up the tree, making changes, coming down, and leaving it alone. So do you have a strategy around how you stay productive when you're measuring a lot of things and what's kind of like you're calendar or plan for making changes and then coming back to them and being productive in that way?
Hiten: Yeah, use your calendar. Like just literally, like this is like the ultimate marketers hack, right? You're in this really messed up sort of process where you have to go make a bunch of bets and then you have to wait some amount of time to see if they work. That's essentially the problem I think you're describing. Well, if you're an engineer or designer, you write code or you design something and literally in minutes you know whether it worked. If you're an engineer, you deploy it, you see it. If you're a designer you can literally see it in front of you, this is what I drew, this is what I coded, it worked. As a marketer, I would say that you're addiction is traffic. You can ask the bald guy in frontright here, he's addicted to traffic, that's my co-founder, he does all the marketing. So my advice is calendar it, right? Like, it's calendared to the point where it's like, create new campaigns on Monday, look at the campaigns on Wednesday, right? Then go figure out what to do for next week on Friday because you know you're going to have to create new campaigns on Monday. So whatever you're schedule is, just put a regimen in a schedule, that way you know when to look at it. One of the worse things for me even still to this day, is setting up and starting an AB test and then just biting my nails as I watch it happen. So this hack of like getting distracted in the middle of those check-ins has been really useful to me. So maybe you could write code in the middle, right? Then, so like it's like, "Monday is marketing day, I create campaigns. Tuesday is engineering day, I'm gonna go write some code. Wednesday is marketing day again, I'm gonna check out how things worked and tweak them, turn them off, whatever." So just set a cadence, set a schedule and honestly, stick to it because marketing is pretty trial and error compared to a lot of other things.
Scaling your business to thousands of customers
Speaker 9: So this is a question for Steli and Hiten it seems, huh? So-
Hiten: No, no, no, stick to Steli, that's fine.
Steli: He had his question.
Hiten: I did.
Speaker 9: So this question's more specific, how do you grow from ... When you're operating in the vertical ... So I'm selling ... I'm in the financial services industry and we're selling to financial advisors, we have product that works, people are getting value from it and how do grow it, it's from a team of three people to ... And to of 100 customers to a thousand customers in a specific vertical. So if you can some tips and advice on that, it would be awesome.
Steli: Well Hiten, you should answer that.
Hiten: We have rules Steli.
Steli: Yeah and I like to break them just to see that face because you're like, "Why is he breaking the rule now." All right so, heres my two cents on this, so to summarize the question. You have a bunch of customers, in a very specific vertical and you're like, "How do I get more of them?"
Speaker 9: Yep.
Steli: All right. Well, how did you get the first ones?
Hiten: That's why you wanted me to answer it?
Hiten: It's my question. (laugh)
Speaker 9: Cold email initially, right? So we started with cold email reaching out to associations. We recently started with Facebook advertising, which scales a little bit better than just reaching one to one to people. But, I want to basically attract and generate more leads at scale, right? So I don't want to generate one or two leads a day, but maybe like, 20 a week for example, right? Things like that.
Steli: Yeah well, I don't know. So, there's no universal like, "This is the thing you do once you have this and then that will be the result." Otherwise, why would there a need for a conference like this, right? We'd just all follow that formula, but typically what you'd do is ... It's not so much ... So you acquired some customers and you've done it in a very like, labor intense high touch way and you're like, "This is not what I want to do for the rest of my life and this is not gonna allow us to grow as much as our ambition wants us to. So what are the things we haven't done yet that will allow us to get faster, better, more results?" The best way to get there that I know, is to spend more time with the customers you've acquired, to really get to know them a lot better beyond just getting their money and them to buy. You want figure out, where do they spend most of their time, what was the last thing they bought? Are they always buying the way that you sold to them or what are other ways they are buying?" You really, really want to get to customer insights because these insights again, will point you in to channels and approaches and ways to grow your company. If you don't spend any of your time once you acquired a customer to get to know them a lot better, then the problem isyou're as smart as you were one customer ago once you're at ten customers or 40 customers ... So you're like, "Now we have 50 customers, we used to have one customer and we still don't know how to get to 10,000 customers. So my advice to you would be, spend a lot more time with those customers to learn, ask them that question, "Hey, I'm so glad that you bought, this is amazing, one question to a founder to the VP of blah, blah, blah ..." Basically what you'resaying, "Well, one important person to another important person, I need advice from you. If you were running my business, and if you're were running this company and you had the ambition to go from x to y, how would you do it as an expert in the industry?" Just ask them that question, more so than any other sales or marketing expert that are more generic because these people are gonna give you the right answers.
Hiten: I've got a tip. So, Steli has a blog post and probably videos on getting referrals from your customers, especially if you're like high touch, which I think you are. I don't know if it'll get you 20 customers a week, but it's probably a channel that you should use if you're not using it because apparently his tips work.
Steli: Google it.
How to do enterprise sales
Speaker 11: What advice do guys have on doing enterprise deals and avoiding getting crushed on price?
Hiten: What do you mean, crushed on price?
Speaker 11: Just that, just caving to excessive discounts and demands.
Hiten: Oh, oh, well Steli's gonna tell you not to do that, so don't cave and he's actually gonna tell you the opposite ... Well, there's a sticker that's running around that Scott made that says, "Charge more." Perceive value and enterprise, as the price goes up the perceived value goes up in enterprise more than other markets. I'm gonna deffer to Steli in a moment, but like in these kinda things that I've seen, they're not looking for a discount. They might not find your product valuable at all if they're the ones pushing you to it and on your end, the mistake you might make is, "I just want to close a deal, so I'll do discounts or I'll lower the price for some reason and make up a reason why." But like, it's a hack. Like, it's more of a value misalignment that I've found like, when you're trying to discount so hard.
Steli: Yeah so, when dealing with the enterprise there's two scenarios. One is, they are pushing you on price because they think they can and then you allow them to, in that scenario, just don't. Nobody's pointing a gun at your head, you don't have to sell to them. It's surprising how many times customers have told me, "If you don't do x, we will not be able to buy," and I said, "Okay, I'm not gonna do x." Then they just went and bought anyways. All right? Some sales peoplewould say, "Buyers are liars." But I think think that they ... Well first of all, a lot of times they don't really know what they will or will not do in the future, they're just humans, right? They're just emotional or they're just bad negotiators and they think the best way to negotiate is to tell you some consequence they think you're afraid of. So you don't have to say, yes just because somebody tells you they're not gonna buy if you don't do that. The other scenario is, in some cases depending on who buys your products, sometimes you have to go through procurement at some point or something along those lines. The discount is part of the sales process because somebody in that buying process, the whole reason they exist is to get a discount. So in those cases you just price your product in a way that takes that in to account and you just realize, "I can't say there's not gonna be a discount." Because if somebody that's not gonna approve this because this persons job and livelihood depends on saying, "I brought us this amount of sayings." So they'll just apply this to every situation. If you're that type of enterprise sale, you just increase your product by 40% in price, give yourself a little raise for the hard work, that you have to sell one more person or one more stage and givethem the 30% discount of that stage. But just because they ask you ... Just because they are big and you are small, doesn't mean you have to do what they tell you to do. Here's my number one advice when you deal with really large customers, there's a reason why they're at the table with you and it's not that you're so worthless that it's not worth they're time. There's a reason that they're talking to you, right? So act like it.
Hiten: Hey Mike, this thing says eight.
Speaker 12: So I'm developing a ARP app for Coffee Roasters, it's a very small vertical and I'm just trying to figure out if the value metric hasn't been defined ... It's something that they don't have a solution right now, how do we basically figure outhow to price when they are using Excel and ?
Hiten: Are you doing sales, like inside sales to them, like talking to them and stuff?
Speaker 12: Yeah-
Speaker 12: I mean, I'm from the industry and when I sell I can sell, but it's-
Speaker 12: Right now I'm saying, "Hey, I'll give you a cheap discount," because I just want to get you on board and I get a couple customers, but then what's next after that when I don't have enough history to define it.
Hiten: Right. What was the original question again? I'm trying to get the nuance, so ...
Speaker 12: So, if you create a solution that there's not a comparable value metric for, how do you define the price?
Hiten: So, at the end of the day, there ... I can't imagine you're in a scenario where they're not doing the thing that you make easier for them to do. So they might not have a solution for it ... I mean, this is classic B2B SAS in my mind, which is the equivalent of, "Oh, they're using Excel today." Right? Like people were using Excel in stuff like that to do project management and then things like Base Camp came along and all that. So the way you could have this conversation is, if you understand what they're doing, what the ... I'm getting very detailed, but like this is really useful even internally, even if you don't speak to them like this ... But understand what they're doing today, what the costs are,hourly cost by team members, the cost of a certain tool, time even wasted is a cost, waiting time is a cost, and quantify all the costs. Then you can have some reasonable justification to say something like ... And this is the ultimate in a model like this ... But you would say like, "From all the customers that we've talked to that are just like you, this is how much time, effort, money," whatever the metric is, "it takes for them to do things currently before they use our tool. Then once they start using our tool, this is the savings we provide, this is how much more money we can make you." Blah, blah, blah. So you're almost presenting a scenario of, "Here's where you are, with our solution, here's where you're gonna get to."
Hiten: Make it up because like it's software, software automates, right? Or speeds things up, make it up.
Creating a marketing strategy
Mike: We have about time for one more question. Who wants to be last?
Steli: Make it a good one. No pressure.
Hiten: Like, really good.
Steli: Yeah, fantastic.
Hiten: There might be room for two, the the thing says five.
Speaker 5: Oh, well he's a good one.
Speaker 13: Oh, so I've heard a lot of questions from other attendees at the conference so far about, how do you come up with kind of like a comprehensive marketing strategy. Not like specifics, but like knowing what you know of kind of you've got 15 or 20 customers, how do you kinda think about scaling or marketing strategy get to like 100 or 200 customers? I know you guys have kind of talked around it a little bit, but how do you think about like, coming up with a plan, not really the specifics, but ...?
Hiten: It's for Steli.
Steli: God damn you.
Hiten: I faked him out right there.
Steli: This is by the way, this gentleman makes podcasts go from my dropbox folder to the magical place of iTunes and then to the people that are listening here. So if you want to do a podcast, this is the man to talk to, Podcast Motor, big shout out. So is the question, how do you go from like 10 to 100, 100 to 1,000 or how do you put together some strategy in your marketing because in the early days, you might not have any?
Speaker 13: Yeah, .
Hiten: Yeah, do more free work.
Hiten: That's what got him here I guess, I don't know.
Steli: For us that's how the ... The marketing plan was to give these two people ... To help them with their podcast ... So one day they go to a conference and then you're in the first row and you ask them a question and then one of those guys gives you a big shout out.
Hiten: Yeah, repeat that.
Steli: Just keep doing that, just with everyone.
Steli: So the answer is, I don't know. Like, I don't know ... I think that, just like with everything else, as you move forward and you progress, you'll learn things, you'll gain insights about what works and what doesn't. You'll learn more about yourself and your team, "Where are we really good at, where can we do exceptionally well?" Versus things that might be great things to do, but we're just not as good at. Based on these learnings you ask yourself, "All right, what kind of the next step that we can take?" My experience is that in the early days, you want to be hyper focused on the day. Like you want to be hyper focused on super short-term, you want to violently execute a mediocre plan today. Too many people fail in the early days because they think too far ahead. But then once you get to a significant scale, once you got from like one customer to ten, to 100, to 1,000, once you get to a point where your business makes significant revenue, then you start shifting from something that's like 100% of your effort and energy is just spent like on short-term, short-term, short-term, to starting to spread out more and spending 70% of your time on short-term things, then spending 30% of your time, a little bit of time mid-term and long term. Eventually that ratio changes and hopefully at some point your business is so successful and so big that you spent almost all your time on really long-term things. I think that's where like strategy plays a bigger part because then you start thinking really about the next five years and the big trends and the big initiatives. But I think that people start to worry about that stuff, they tend to worry about that stuff way too early. "Oh, we got three customers, how can we now put a strategy plan together, hire VP of marketing?" It's like, "Just chill out." Right? I know we all really want to get there really fast, but usually people get there too early. We've made the opposite mistake in our business, we were so good at the executing of the here and now, we were crushing it until the business got so big that that wasn't working anymore, but it was very habitual.So we're now in the process of starting to implement more longer-term thinking, more longer-term strategy because the business is just way too big for the way we were operating it in the early days. So we made the opposite mistake, but yeah, don't worry about it so much.
Mike: So we have time for one more question, we do have a little time between.
How to price SAAS
Speaker 14: I'm curious what strategies you recommend for identifying pricing tiers for a software as a service app if you already have a collection of features and you understand the benefit they're providing to a customer. How do you break down what you should be charging, does it come down to customer interviews, something else?
Hiten: We're gonna walk off stage and the next person that walks on is gonna answer that question and if he does not, then ask him the question.
Steli: Usually any pricing relates question we get, Hiten is just referring to that person anyways, he's like, "Ah, I don't have to answer, let's go to this person."
Hiten: So you can meet the person right now.
Steli: There you go.
Mike: Thank you very much Steli and Hiten
Steli: Thank you.
Hiten: Thank you.
Mike: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
Hiten: What do we got?
Mike: So, after the conference this evening, both Steli and Hiten will be in the next room over, right after ... Where it's probably around 5 ... Somewhere between 5:45 and 6:00 is when they'll get started, but they're basically gonna be doing office hours. So if anyone has any specific direct questions you want to ask of them, if you didn't want to ask them now you can do that then.
Steli: Yeah and also, even if you asked a question and you're like, "I'd like to ask ten follow up questions and really get super specific and concrete and off record, meet us where lunch was right after this event is over and we're gonna spend an hour there and chit chat with you. Thanks.
Want more Hiten and Steli? Grab your free copy of their book, From 0 to 1000 Customers & Beyond. They break down the strategies and tactics they used to grow their respective businesses to thousands of customers.
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