Sell it, baby! - Pioneers Festival 2015 startup sales talk

Sell it, baby! - Pioneers Festival 2015 startup sales talk

You might have seen Steli’s crash course on sales hacking and deal closing from the Pioneers Festival 2013. In 2014, he laid out the inner game of hustling. This year, he wants everyone to stop fucking around and learn how to sell it!

Here’s the video of his talk from May 28, 2015 in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna.


Can Ertugrul: All right. All right Pioneers, I can see in your faces that you’re as excited as I am. Yes. Wow! Yeah. All right. All right. Yes. So, most of you probably know all about the next speaker who is going to come on stage. For those who don’t, a very simple introduction.

So, he’s the founder and CEO of Close, which he will tell you a little bit more about himself. And he is the guy that is, I would say—by DNA, besides being Greek in origin—by DNA, a hustler. Like the guy that is just out there killing the shit, killing the shit, just never stops, like an Energizer bunny that never stops, he is that person. And that’s why we love him and that’s why he was here already two years in a row before and had a packed room like this and that’s why he was invited again to tell you all about hustling.

And as you may know, we have the sound signature for every single speaker who comes on stage. Some are more obvious to make a connection. Some are less obvious. For example, those who didn’t realize it, when Megan Jones came up talking about science for entrepreneurship, we actually played the song, The Scientist by Coldplay.

And I want to share the story about the songs for this gentleman. So the first time when he came up on this stage, it was this.

[Music Playing]

So yeah, so the second time he came on stage and he came back because people really asked us. They said, “Hey, is Steli going to be back again to the Pioneers Festival?” Well, yeah. And he gladly accepted so we thought there is no place he’d rather be. So we played this song.

[Music Playing]

But today, the song we’re playing has a very, very, very special meaning. And I’ll leave it up to Steli if or when he will disclose the meaning of that song. But there’s only one thing I expect from him when he comes to the stage and I think he will notice.

So please welcome on stage with a very big, big warm of applause, Steli Efti.

[Music Playing]

Who the fuck I am and why you should care

Steli Efti:  I’m a sucker for boy bands. What can I say? All right. Let’s get started. Well first, I truly believe that – well, before I start, people, let’s get everybody into this fucking room. Everybody come to the front. There’s tons of room here. Everybody in the back, don’t get cramped. Come over here. Over here, see all this space? All this space, all this space, people can sit here. Alright, let’s have everybody come to the front. Let’s do this together. There you go.

So, I truly believe that appreciation is a currency you pay the universe with. So, with that being said, I want to thank the Pioneers team for inviting me for the third fucking time. I want to say thank you to all of you guys for showing up to listen to me and I hope that we’re going to have an amazing time together.

All right. Thank you. You guys are awesome. All right. So, who does not know who the fuck I am? Raise your hand and be proud. See? Awesome. See, that’s the level of humble pie I need to get myself motivated and started because otherwise you get all crazy: “I’m the star here.” Nobody fucking knows who I am.

So, let me tell you a little bit about myself. So my name is Steli Efti. I’m originally Greek. I grew up in Germany. And eight years ago, I pissed off to Silicon Valley to start a tech company and they have not thrown me out of the country yet so I still live there.

So, why do I care about entrepreneurship? Because I’ve never done anything else in my life. Why do I care or know something about sales? Well, I ran one company that was basically running sales for some of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley. It was called ElasticSales, and we did sales for over 200 venture-backed startups.

As part of that company, and having that secret sales lab in the heart of Silicon Valley, we learned a thing or two about it and we built an internal tool called Close to help us sell better, to help our salespeople outperform other salespeople. And that tool eventually became so good, we released it. It’s called Close. If you do sales and you want to crush it, you need to check it out.

So, I curse a lot. You’ve been warned. And by now, people come to my talks and they actually keep track of how many times did I say “fuck”, “shit”, “motherfucker”, “asshole”, or whatever. There’s a tracker going. Last time I gave a keynote, there are 36 fucking, 4 assholes, there’s a bunch of shit like that. If somebody here wants to do the tracking and then tweet it to me, I’ll put you in my next slide.

Provide more value to others than just free coffee

All right. So, let me introduce you to Kevin. This was my driver from the hotel. There you go, Kevin. High-five, my man.


All right. Kevin was my driver yesterday when I arrived at the airport in Vienna to my hotel. And Kevin is a hustler. You should get to know him later today.

Here is the thing. A shit ton of people - although you don’t know me, some people know me in Vienna - and a lot of people sent me emails. They wanted to meet. And I fucking want to meet everyone. I want to meet as many people as I can. The problem is, at some point, I run out of day. So I started telling people that I don’t know, just grab me when you see me. So, tons of people were just sending me emails, “Can we coffee? Can we have this? Can we have that?”

Here’s what Kevin did. Kevin sent me an email. Instead of saying, “Can we meet for coffee?” He said, “I’ll drive you to the hotel. I’ll dry clean your socks. I live in Vienna, whatever the fuck you need, I’ll do it for you. And if you need to go to the Embassy for a new passport, I’ll do that for you too.”

Now, when he sent me that message on Facebook, his co-founder told him, “Steli will never reply to that shit.” And then they looked at that message and there’s a little popup that says “Seen”. Don’t you hate that motherfucker that says, “Seen” and then you’re like, “Why are they not replying?”

So I didn’t reply immediately which made his co-founder go, “Ha ha ha. See, I told you Steli would never reply to that message.” To which then I replied and said, “Yes.” Rather than taking a fucking cab to the conference, I’d rather have a bunch of hustlers that drive me and I’m maybe be able to be helpful. There’s a big difference. And by the way, we’re going to write on his Facebook and tell him that he’s sucker, his co-founder.

All right. So, there’s a difference between—what is the difference between those two statements? “Hey, can I have coffee with you?” It’s friendly. It’s nice. But it takes my time. I have to go somewhere and just dedicate all my energy to you and there’s not – how many coffees can I have a day, right? I’m Greek but still.

This guy here offered value! He said, “Hey, you surely need to get from the fucking airport to the fucking hotel room. You can go with a cab or you can go with me.” We almost died because this other guy didn’t know how to drive stick. But it was all good.

The other thing that was awesome about this story is that in the middle driving, they’re like, “Do we have enough gas?” I don’t know. The light is on. I’m like, “Guys, if we now get stuck because you run out of gas, it’s ridiculous. I’ll get a cab and I’ll drive you home.” And that was the end of it.

Don’t judge a hustler by his cover

All right. Here’s another story of a hustler. This is Patrick McKenzie. He’s pretty famous. You might not know him, but he’s a super geek and he has a big audience. And when you – sometimes you think of salespeople are always like me, very outgoing, very Greek, very whatever the fuck you want to asshole this, whatever your stereotype of sales is.

Patrick McKenzie is the geekiest geek you’ve ever seen in your fucking life! He always, always looks like he just woke up and in his clothes, walked out the room. He’s like speaking in lots of conference that I’m a speaker and he’d always walks in the room, his hair is a mess. He looks like he slept in those clothes and like he doesn’t know where the fuck he has to go.

But he is fucking smart. And you know what else? He has learned to embrace his inner hustler. He is better at sales than most salespeople. We have like a secret love relationship. He sent me these emails when he does something cool. He tweets at me, “Just summoned my inner Steli and followed up with a call with somebody that I pinged in December.” Because emails that never get sent close no deals. I fucking love that quote.

The emails you don’t send cannot close any deals. There you go.

I’m going to have rushed through this presentation. I have so much shit to share with you guys. All right. Let’s go to the next. So I don’t just coach hustlers and turn people into hustlers, I also make them. So, these are my two little hustlers. George is my oldest one. He’s going turn three. This is Leonides, my 1-year-old. They fucking crush my life every day. They’re the only people that I’ve ever worked for and I fucking love them. There’s no real meaning to it other than me bragging.

It’s called Close, not

Let’s go on to the next one. All right. There you go. So, here’s another guy I love, Flavio Rump. So, here is a story. Flavio is Swiss. He has been an entrepreneur his whole life. He had a bunch of big successes. He actually sold the company for millions and millions of Euros. One day – we’re good friends.

One day, he is in Silicon Valley. I go to do a sales workshop. He joins me. His background is computer science but he has been running marketing in, like, very big startups in Europe. So, he’s at that talk. And at the end of the talk, he’s like, “Steli, the sales – I’ve never learned sales. I should really learn sales. I should do more in sales.” I’m like, “You should do a hustle sales internship at my company.” He’s like, “You know what? That’s a fucking great idea.”

The next day, he starts at Close as a junior salesperson for 30 days, the most overqualified junior sales development rep ever. And I know Flavio is a really awesome dude. So the first day, I don’t give him any training or anything. I’m like, “Here’s Close. Here are the new leads. Call them and qualify them.” He’s like, “All right man. I got you.” Calls the first lead and I listened to him on the phone and I’m like, “Holy shit! I made a mistake. Holy shit! He’s so bad. Like, how can he be so bad?”

Literally, I just totally over-thought what he would be able to bring to the table. So I’m like, “How the fuck did I get out of this dirty dance internship thing?” I offered him. I took a deep breath and I was like, “You know what? Give him a few days. We’ll see what he does.”

Four days later, he’s on the phone crushing it. Crushing it! I’ve never seen somebody go from so bad to so good so quickly. But Flavio did not give a fuck. He just did whatever you told him to do. He had no ego about it whatsoever.

So here’s a story I want to tell you about. His attitude and something you can all learn, so Flavio, it’s his eighth or sixth day at the company and there’s a lead. There’s a company that signs up not for a free trial of Close. They sign up just to get contact information or something. He calls them. He talks with them for 10 minutes, 15 minutes. They ask all these questions, “Well, how does Close compare to Salesforce? How can you do this integration or that integration? How can you this or that? If we wanted to ever hire the CFO of SAP, could he then integrate with something something?”

And eventually, Flavio was like, “Listen. Dude, listen. There’s a reason it’s called Close and not There’s a reason, my friend. If you want to go out and close deals, our software is the best software. If you want to go out and fuck around, go with Salesforce.”

The guy – so the guy – we hear this at the office. We’re all laughing. It’s company chat. We’re all having a great time about it. The guy on the phone laughs, “Ha ha ha. You guys are so good. All right. All right. I’ll sign up for the trial.” Cool. Hangs up.

Three hours later, Flavio calls him again and goes, “Dude, you’re still not on the fucking trial. What’s going on?” “Well, I talked to my co-founder and this and that. I need to talk with my co-founder in an hour again. Maybe you can jump on another call with us.” All right. Flavio does that. They jump on another call. He answers all of their questions. At the end they go, “Yes, now we’re going to sign up for the trial.”

It’s 8:00 PM. Flavio and I go for dinner. He comes back to work and he’s like, “These motherfuckers are still not signed up for the trial.” He calls them. It’s 9:00 PM California time. He’s like, “Dude, what’s up?” He’s like, “Yeah. Well, I wanted to import some leads. You only give us 14 days free trial. So I did not want to waste any of these days, so I wanted to figure everything out about the data I’m importing.” And Flavio was like, “Dude, you just can’t stop fucking around, can you? Why the fact are we talking about this kind of bullshit! You should be on the phone closing deals. All right. What do we need to do?”

And then I listen to Flavio getting the guy to send the spreadsheet. Flavio does the fucking data import of all the leads into Close. Flavio goes, “All right. Let’s check this out. Is all the data correct?” And if there are some errors, he’s fucking fixing them, going through the whole exercise. At the end he goes, “Let’s check a lead out.” And in Close, once you import a lead, we have all the historic email history appears.

So the guy looks at the lead and then boom, boom, boom. The entire history of communication shows up. The guy is like, “Whoa! That’s so awesome.” Flavio was like, “You think that’s awesome? I’ll show you what’s awesome. Let’s go to the lead page. Here are all the 800 leads you have, right?” “Yeah.” “Cool. Let’s do this in Close. Let’s check out what are the leads that have heard from you longer than two weeks ago that opened your email but never replied to you.” And types that into a search box and then boom, boom, boom. It shows 40 leads.

And Flavio was like, “Do you know what this means?” And the guy goes, “Yes, I need to call them right now.” And Flavio was, “All right. Do you have your credit card ready?” And the guy is like, “Yes.” “All right. Let’s close this deal.” And he closed him the same day. 14-day free trial - the guy bought at the end of the day. Don’t fuck around and don’t let other people fuck around. Very simple.

At the end of the 30 days, I asked Flavio, “What was the most valuable lesson you as a successful entrepreneur learn from your sales internship?” He’s like, “You know what? I thought it would be all about talking and like how to use special mind reading techniques to make people do what you want them to do. But the crazy thing is the two most important lessons I learned was the power of asking questions and the power of asking for help. It’s like it has change my life.”

So I want to share these lessons with you so you don’t have to come and work for me for 30 days for free.

The power of asking questions

All right. Here is the problem with most people in sales. Most people in sales think selling means you are talking. And what they do is they just throw as many darts, darts being value propositions at you and think something is going to hit. So they go, “Our product is cheaper. Our product is better. You’re going to make more money. Your dad is going to like you more, blah, blah, blah. We have this integration with something. We have a cool blog.” And they just throw value propositions at people like there’s no tomorrow and then, they are wondering, “Why are they not buying? I gave them 400 reasons to buy.”

Well, you can give them 400 reasons to buy – let me kick this guy out of here. All right. You can give somebody 400 reasons to buy but you only have to give them one reason not to buy. And if you’re throwing darts in the dark, there’s no science into this.

So here’s the short pitch. And I would encourage all of you to study the art of asking questions, active listening and truly getting to a level of understanding because our whole lives, we learn how to talk and communicate, we never learn how to ask questions. We never truly learn how to listen carefully and understand somebody. All the questions people ask are always surface questions.

I’ll give you an example. You talk to a customer and they go, “Well, can you do bulk email? I need a new tool to send multiple emails to multiple people.” Junior salespeople go, “Well, let me ask.” They hang up and they go, “Can our tool does multiple emails?” And the engineer goes, “For what reason? To whom? Is it a newsletter? Is it a drip email campaign? What exactly? Tell me more about the use case.” The salesperson was, “Oh shit! I didn’t ask any of these questions.” He goes back, “Well, can you tell me a little bit more about the use case?” “Yeah, it’s a newsletter thing.” Cool.

They go back, “It’s a newsletter. Can we do a newsletter?” Well, it depends. “How many people do they want to send a newsletter to? What’s the use case? What’s the frequency? Why are they not using something else? Have they every used something? What’s the setup? Do they want to host it on their own service?” The salesperson goes, “Well, I didn’t ask these fucking questions!”

Here’s what you need to do to be amazing at sales. You keep asking questions until you go from the surface to the bottom of things. Until you truly understand what the needs and the problems and the challenges and the workflow and the situation of the prospect or customer is, and you let them paint you a picture in as many details as possible, not just an outline of a fucking elephant. Everything. Details. Is it an old elephant? Is it a young elephant? Is it a mother? A father? Are there any scars? What’s the fucking life story of the elephant? You let them paint you a perfect picture. And then you look at it and you throw one dart and it hits. And the deal is done. That’s it.

Once they painted the picture, you know either I can help them or I can’t. That’s what we call qualifying. We have this discussion on the drive back where they were saying, “We’re awesome at sales but something sucks about the process. We’re doing something wrong.” And after a few seconds we realized, they’re doing sales wrong.

And the hard part about sales is truly qualifying somebody, getting somebody getting your call. If so, if it’s a prospect, you can pick it up and close the deal. Let’s fucking do that.

So here’s what I want you to do. Never close a bad deal. Always first selflessly qualify. What that means is I’m trying to figure out can I help you. My first mission when we talk is not to sell you, is to figure out can I help you. What’s your situation? Can I truly, and my product, help you? Once I’ve checked off that and I’m convinced, yeah, I can help him then I need to do selfish qualification which means can you help me? Do you have money? Do you have decision-making power? Are you going to make up your mind in a reasonable amount of time? Are you going to give me referrals and references? Can you help me?

If I can help you and you can help me, then and only then, do I sell. Only then. That’s the magic of sales. It’s not that complicated. It’s still pretty hard to do.

Ask for help

Here’s another thing that the guy learned. The second lesson – first was asking more questions. The second one is asking for help. Here’s a simple trick. It’s a simple sentence. It’s magic. It’s called, “Help me out here.”

So what I taught Flavio was that when he is in a difficult situation and he can’t figure out why the prospect is giving him such a hard time and just keep going back and forth and he can’t figure out, “Why can’t I progress in the communication, in the deal, in the relationship? What’s going on here?” You just stop. You take a step back and you go, “Help me out here. Something is going wrong in this call. I feel like I’m doing a really bad job. What is the problem?” And then, magic happens.

The most difficult people you can ever imagine, the biggest assholes ever, they turn into lambs. They go, “No, no, no. It’s not your fault. The problem is that we’ve been burned. We’ve made bad decisions before. And you sound so excited but then it makes me afraid that you might be not fully truthful in the more narrow sense of reality, truth and…” They tell you what the problem is. And when they tell you what the problem is, you can solve it. The relationship turns from something superficial into something real. “You tell me what the problem is and we are talking now. We can do some shit with that.”

Flavio loved that so much. I could not make him stop saying it. He would say, “Hey, well, help me out here.” Before I get started, Flavio is a singer, very attractive, very powerful man. So anyways, so he was going out at night and he was literally going to the other opposite sex that he found attractive and went, “I don’t want to disrupt you guys but help me out here. If I wanted to get to know you and have a great evening, what would I have to say right now?”


He fucking said it all day long, like, all day long. I just did a six weeks sailing trip with a bunch of friends from around the world. Flavio was on that boat. He couldn’t shut up about telling people, “You have to ask people, ‘Help me out here, please,.’ It’s magic. Magic.”

Don’t take the first “no” as a no

All right. So now, this might sound like I’m the great guru and I teach people. I turn like little lambs into fucking wolves and sales magicians. But I struggle with sales myself every single day. There’s a certain emotional side to sales, there’s fear, there’s hesitation, there’s doubt. And that’s going to fuck with you and fuck you up.

So, what you need to do is you need to realize that nobody is perfect. I need to work on my craft every single day. Here is the deal. A few weeks ago in Austria, I’m at a dinner with an amazing group of people. All of them are like CMOs, Chief Marketing Officers of some of the biggest and best companies. I mean Ben Jerry, Starbucks, Stazzle, this, that, everything, amazing group of people, really cool. We’re having dinner.

At some point, I need to make a phone call. So I walk out of the restaurant. The restaurant is closed. It’s a closed event. It’s just. I walk out. I have my call. And I hear somebody playing the guitar. And I look around and I see an open window and I go over there. I’m trying to figure out, is somebody playing live or somebody listening to music? And I play the guitar so I could tell somebody is playing live.

So I’m like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I got the guy to come down with me and I walk in there like totally baller style and have a guitarist with me who is like kicking the door and just fucking play the guitar and have him play for us?” He was playing really beautiful blues music so I was like it would be awesome. It’s such a great story.

So I go. I start shouting. There’s a guy coming out. I’m like, “There’s these great amazing people just around the corner. They are chief marketing officers of all these great companies. We’ll buy you booze. We’ll buy you food. Come play for us.” And the guy literally just was like, “What?!” I’m like, “Yeah, just come. It’s going to be amazing, man.” And he’s like, “No, thanks.” And he just fucks off.

And I shout again, “Hey, hey, hey.” And there’s a woman coming out and I’m doing this for like 10 minutes. There are like ten people I’ve talked to at this point. It’s a whole party going on. And they’re all just like, “What the fuck does this guy want?” And they’re literally like, “This guy must be drunk or something.” So they’re all just telling me no. I get one no after another.

At some point, I’m like, “All right. This isn’t working.” I come back. I sit down and I tell the group about it. I’m like, “Listen. I just heard this guy. I try to convince him to come, blah, blah, blah. They said no. Wouldn’t it have been crazy?” And people are like, “Yeah, it would have been. It would have been amazing, you walking in there with a fucking band.” I’m like, “Yeah. Fuck it. I can’t leave this like this.”

And I left the restaurant again, like, I can’t just leave the story like this. This fucking sucks. I teach people to go beyond the “no”. I teach people to follow up. I teach people to take rejection. And here I am like all whining, “Yeah, they said no and I tried to get them to the restaurant. Wouldn’t it be nice if they came and then everybody say yeah, yeah?” I’m like, “I can’t take this shit. I can’t live with myself.”

So I go back and they are playing. And I’m shouting like an idiot for 5 minutes. They are really loud. I’m like, “Guys! Guys!” At some point, a guy comes out and I’m like, “Listen, dude. You’re breaking my heart here. This is insane. We have beer and we have music with an amazing group of people. You guys are insane. Just come and play for us.” And the guy is just like, “Are you serious?” I go, “I’m fucking serious!” He’s like, “I’m coming down in 10 minutes.” He fucks off.

And I walk in there with a fucking band in the background and we sit down and then play the greatest music ever and everybody is fucking loving themselves. We’re all having an amazing time and I’m just like, “Listen. I almost fucked it up.”

Because when you are – the thing is, the universe will always test your resolve. Whenever you go out there and you’re like, “I’m going to do something cool. I’m going to do something bold. I’m going to do something exciting.” But then the universe goes, “Let me see, little motherfucker, if you’re real, if you have what it takes.” So the universe just pushes you back a little bit. It just gives you a little fucking nudge in the face.

And most of us go and then we fuck off. You have to go beyond the first “no”. You have to go beyond the first time when the universe kicks you.

Again, coming back to Flavio, here’s the whole theory again about the opposite sex and attraction and all that. He’s single so he lives in that world. So he is like, “I call it the extra 20%. Whenever you think something is not working out well, you just give it another 20%. It’s like magic happens.” Magic happens. The universe will deliver magic to your fucking feet if you are just going to go beyond yourself, beyond your doubts and fears and you’re going for it and you don’t take the first “no” as a no.

If you learn nothing else, learn how to follow up

All right. So this is a lesson I give a lot. There’s a lot of shit online at, there’s a ton of content I’ve written about this. This is the single most valuable thing I teach to people. By this time, every day, I get about 20 people emailing me about the shit they got accomplished because they followed up relentlessly.

Here’s my old strategy and there’s more information about them later on because I’m tight on time. When you have a positive interaction with somebody, it’s your responsibility to follow up indefinitely. This means forever. Forever until you get to a result. Yes is good. No is good. Maybe, I don’t know what happened is going to crush you, your company and everyone. That’s why startups fail. They don’t fail because they got too many “no’s”. They don’t fail because they got too many “yes’s” obviously. Most startups fail because they live in the maybe-we have not yet result to figure out why this didn’t move forward world.

And the only reason to live there is because you don’t have the balls - metaphorically speaking, women have much bigger balls metaphorically speaking then men - to go beyond your comfort zone and ask for one more time. I talk about this a lot.

So one day, there’s a guy that sends me an email and he says, “Steli, I’m the biggest follow-up magician you’ve ever seen. I’m so funny in my follow-up, I’m going to blow your fucking mind.” What do I do? Archive that email. I’m like, “Let’s see if he’s really about the follow-up. Is it just a talk or is he really going to do something?” Sends me another email, “Steli, I know that you’re testing me ha ha ha. You cannot fuck with me like that. I’m going to fucking show you.” And I’m like, “Archive. Let’s see if he’s really going to show me.”

So here is what he does next. I don’t know if this is going to work. He sends me this.


It’s a fucking Cookie Monster, waiting. I laugh. I’m like, “Oh, this is really good. Archive. Let’s see what else he got.” After this, he sends me three more funny gifts. I’m like, “All right. This is really good. But the gif thing work but I’m still trying to figure out what else he can do.

Then he sends me this. There’s a video that he made and it’s called Close Funny Follow-up from FunnyBizz. So I started the video and it’s him like going, “Steli, I really want to talk blah, blah, blah. I really tried everything. Let’s make this happen.” And I’m thinking, “All right dude. You made a video but it’s not that impressive.

And then there’s like, I cannot show you but at the middle of the video, there’s a guy in the left and the guy in the right with guitars and they start playing a song, “Oh, it’s the follow-up song.” And they just play there. And I’m like, “Oh, this is funny.” They’ve recorded this generic follow-up thing and at the beginning he just goes, “Well, Steli…” and then, “Well, Bob…” and he just sends these fucking very generic videos. And while I’m thinking that, they’re like, “Oh Steli, oh Close…” and I’m like, “Oh shit! They recorded the whole fucking thing just for me. Awesome. Archive.”


I’m like, “This is so good. Let me see what else he got. I’m never going to reply to this motherfucker. I’m learning so much.” The next email, he writes something like, “Steli, just type a random number of keys and hit reply so I know you’re alive.” I’m like, “Oh, this is also not bad. Archive.”

And then eventually he goes, “Dude, you’re killing me! Please just reply. I don’t have anything anymore.” I’m like, “Cool! I just wanted to see how much you got.”


That’s awesome. I took all that fucking content and I published a blog post about it highlighting his business. He came to our conference afterwards. I highlighted the whole story. He got tons of business. He fucking crushed it. Why? Because he follows up like no tomorrow and he puts a little fun and creativity into it. Even if you don’t, you’re going to crush everyone else if you follow up when everybody else stops.

How I met Hiten Shah and started a podcast with him

All right. Here’s another quick story. So I’m going to tell you about – so a lot of times when people have started something and now they are successful, that’s when they get invited to conferences to speak. That’s cool and nice. But the problem is, I’ve started the company four years ago so how do I relate with you? I’m going to tell you a story of how I started something just a few weeks ago. Here’s the story.

So, I’m a big fan of this guy called Hiten Shah. He is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg. He is on a bunch of really big online shit. His co-founder and best friend is Neil Patel. He was a speaker last year on this stage. These guys are awesome.

So at some point, I met Hiten at a conference. And at first, I think he’s a total asshole because we’re both on that panel. We are both about to speak at the panel. And 5 minutes before the panel starts, he sits next to me and I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to say hi to Hiten Shah and we’re going to become friends.” But he’s just on this fucking phone ignoring me. I’m like this, smiling at him, and he’s like – I’m like, “Dude, you cannot not see me looking at you at this distance.” And it takes actual discipline to not look.

So I’m like, “All right. The guy doesn’t want to talk to me.” We get on the stage. We sit at the panel. First question somebody asks him, Hiten goes, “Well, before Steli says something, I know he’s going to say this and this because he’s awesome. But I think he is a fucking asshole. So this and this.” And then, magic. We started loving each other. I give him shit back. We’re having this great time on the panel. We’re friends. I’m like, “Fuck! We have such great chemistry.”

A few months later, we are on another conference, both invited as speakers and we hang out the entire day and we just fucking riff and raff. We laugh. We’re having an amazing time. I’m like, “Fuck! I want to become better friends with him but there’s no fucking way we’re going to keep meeting each other.” He’s super busy. I’m super busy. It’s just not going to happen.

So I’m thinking, “You know what? We should start a podcast together.” We have such great chemistry and I love talking to the guy. So there’s a real reason if we talk once a week for 30 minutes and then we publish that shit. It’s good. We give value to the world but there’s also a real reason for us to meet.

So, he says, “Let’s grab coffee when I’m in Palo Alto the next time.” I say, “Cool.” We grab coffee together and at some point, I pitched him that idea. I’m like, “Hiten, what do you think about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

And here’s the whole way of how I think. I’m prepared. If he says no, he says no. But I’m prepared for the yes. So I’m like, “If he says yes, we’re going to fucking record a podcast right now.” So I bring my laptop, my microphone, I bring everything in my bag. I’m like, “If he says yes in this coffee shop, we’re recording a fucking podcast.”

So, I tell him. He’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever you want.” Not quite committed, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever you want.” I’m like, “Let’s record a podcast right now then.” He’s like, “Cool. I’m cool with that.” I’m like, “All right. What do we want to talk about? What’s going to be the podcast about?” He’s like, “I don’t know. Maybe this, that.”

We started talking what should be the name, what should be this, what should be that. And he stops and he goes, “Steli, we should record this shit. This should be the first podcast. We should the record the podcast on how we decided to make a podcast and what the podcast is all about and how we made all our decisions.” All right. That’s genius!

So that’s what we did first podcast. And then the motherfucker goes, “How long should it be?” And I’m like, “I’m not prepared for that question. I don’t really know.” He’s like, “You know what we’re going to do? Twenty minutes so we can make three recordings every time we meet. One hour, 20, 20,20, it’s going to be awesome.” I’m like. “All right.”

We did three recordings that afternoon in the coffee shop. And then we go, “What do we do now? What’s the next step? Like let’s not over-think this. Let’s just start releasing it.” So he puts up a page on type form and we tweet about it and we go, “Everybody who wants early access to our podcast, go and sign up.”

And man, people sign up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. And then people start complaining. We’re doing this for a few weeks and people start complaining, “This is not a way to release a podcast. Why are you not on iTunes? Blah, blah, blah, this and that. This is not really professional.”

Dude, it’s all about momentum. All I cared about is one recording of three episodes every fucking week. I’m like, “We’re doing this for one year. We’re going to fucking crush it.” You know what happen afterwards? A week later somebody comes and says, “I have this agency. We make websites. I’ll make you a website.” Cool.

The next guy comes and says, “I do post production for podcast. I’m going to do it for free for you.” We’re like, “Cool!” And now, next week, I’m announcing this early next week, The Startup Chat is going live. If you go to the website, you have the first two episodes that you can listen to and we have, I think, 15 episodes in the backlog. We’ve been recording while I’m traveling in Europe. Every fucking week, three recordings. That’s how you build momentum. Wait for a year and we’ll see what it’s going to turn out after this. But the whole point is to take mini, mini steps and make them immediately.

What it’s like to be hired and fired by me

All right. By the way, who at this point thinks, “This guy is kind of cool. I might want to work for him.” Raise your hands. I fucking love you people. So we are hiring. We are hiring. Send me email, Steli@Close. This is my team. We’re doing a team retreat every three months. We travel somewhere around the world together. A few weeks ago, we were in Berlin. These guys are all amazing and we’re looking for more people. If you are an engineer, if you’re a designer, if you are a videographer, if you are a salesperson or marketer or whatever the fuck, support person, send me an email.

All right. And before I forget it, maybe before you send me an email, you want to come back tomorrow. I’m giving a talk at the arena of how I had to fire half my staff in a past company while dancing to Bye, Bye, Bye of ‘N Sync. That’s why that song was at the beginning of the fucking talk.

So, if you’re wondering, “Do I want to work for this guy?” You might want to come tomorrow to see how will the experience be if he fires me at some point.

The 7 sales commandments

All right. So, let me summarize this real quick. Everything I told you so far sounded like a bunch of cool stories but there’s real ten sales commandments. Let’s go through them together.

  1. First of all, in life, you have to show up. Nothing will ever happen without you showing up. That’s the first step. Showing up means asking a question, going to a conference, picking up the phone and calling somebody, sending an email, tweeting somebody. It’s making a step outside your comfort zone and interacting with somebody in the universe.
  2. The second thing is stop fucking around. Stop being in doubt. “Should I do this? Should I do that?” Just do something. And if it’s wrong, that’s good. That’s information to do something else. Stop fucking around. Well, we need to work on the website before we can record our first podcast.
    Fuck you! I love fucking around. Every one of us loves fucking around. The reason for that is because fucking around is safe. Oh, let’s put together a PowerPoint. Let’s come up with a logo. It feels like work but it is fucking around. It’s not creating any value in the universe.
    You want to go from an idea, to taking action, and creating something real as quickly as fucking possible.
  3. Then remember, when you interact with people, to ask more questions than you talk. You know your story. You know about your business. You know all that shit. Try figure out who the fuck is this person. What are their problems? How can I help? Can I help? Can they help me? Figure out all these things first before you pitch. Ask questions.
  4. And when things are problematic, when things don’t work out, ask for fucking help. Go, “Help me out here. Why is this not working? What am I doing wrong?” When somebody tells you no and you thought they’re going to buy today, pick up the phone and go, “Listen. I totally respect your opinion but let me ask you, ‘What did I do wrong? I feel so horrible. I know we’re the best solution for you.So I clearly need something really bad. What was it?’”
    And then watch people unfold, open up and give you the truth. And once you have the  truth, you can do something about it.
  5. Now, when the universe tests your resolve and gives you a first no, make it a habit to go one more time. All I did when I went back to that band, I didn’t say anything magical. I just said, “You’re breaking my heart, dudes. Come, please.” And the guy was like, “This guy seems to be for real.” That’s all it took, one little extra effort to create a magical night for all of us and a great story that I can share with you.
  6. And then once you started, you showed up, you did it, you attempted to close, you asked the questions, never ever, ever stop following up. It’s your responsibility to make sure that magic happens in the universe. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the deal progresses forward. Take tiny steps but take them a lot and take them immediately.
  7. At the end of the day, you have to get over your fucking self. Over your doubt, over your fears, over your, “But I think they’re…” whatever that voice, that motherfucking voice that’s telling you to not take action, you need to learn to embrace that voice and tell it to shut the fuck up and do it anyways. Just do it anyways.

Get outside your comfort zone

All right. Here’s the last story I want to share, Hazal. She’s awesome. You should follow her on Twitter. She’s going places. A few weeks ago, I’m in a conference and I’m talking all about like being outside your comfort zone and mental alchemy. You have to take your fear and excitement as the same fucking thing as an emotion. It’s just context that changes it. I’m talking about all this like you have to be outside your comfort zone. Only then magic happens, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

At some point, she raises her hand and she asks the first question which is a killer question which was, “What are you uncomfortable about right now, today?” I’m like, “That’s a good question.” And I thought about it and I said, “You know what? It’s funny. It happened just a few days ago.”

So last year at Pioneers, I had released my first book and we did a book signing and it was awesome. It was a lot of fun. People got books. We laughed. We did selfies. Everything was cool. And I was pretty comfortable signing books. There was a bunch of people that came. All good.

But I have books always with me. And give books out and I wasn’t brilliant. And every time I met somebody, a friend, we hired a new person, I’m like, “Oh here, you should read the book.” I never offered to sign it because that would feel like I’m a fucking idiot. Like, “I’m so important. Do you want my signature?” It just feels weird to say that.

So every time, we’re just going to be like, “Here’s the book.” And every fucking time the person would be like, “Oh cool! Cool. Would you sign it?” Every time. At some point, I was like, “It seems like I’m a little – people want it. Why do I not offer it? Because it doesn’t feel humble, it feels a little arrogant. And I told her, I was like, “I’m a little uncomfortable about proactively offering, ‘I’m going to sign your book. I’m so important.’”

She said, “All right. Cool.” And she goes on to ask a bunch more really fucking awesome questions. After me, there were more talks. And she is just fucking killing it. She’s asking questions. All the speakers are like, “This girl is going places, smartest person in the fucking room.” Everybody is loving her, right?

She goes – afterwards, she is invited to some exclusive event, all the speakers become friends with her. She’s fucking rocking the conference.

The last day, in the morning of the hotel bar, I’m a little hangover, and I’m like, “All right. In half an hour, I’m going to be picked up for the airport and I have three books still.” And I’m like, “I’m now debating, ‘Should I sign these and give these to some people or not?’” And my first inclination is like, “I’m not going to deal with this shit now. I just have 30 minutes. Blah, blah, blah, this and that.”

I want to tell myself not to do it. And then I tell myself to shut the fuck up! And I write her. I take a book and I write her what I felt and I signed one book for her and two for other people. And I got a friend to pick it up from the hotel once I left for the airport and deliver it.

She sends me an email the next day and she is like – she sends me this picture. And she’s like, “Steli, your fucking talk changed my life.” I’m not saying to brag this, maybe a little bit but not really. But the whole point is she is like, “Literally, I go to these events all the time. I never ever asked questions. Never. And once you said go outside your comfort zone, I asked myself, ‘What is something I’m uncomfortable with?’ And I said, ‘Asking a question.’ So that’s what I did. And you know what Steli? I asked more questions and more. And all of a sudden, everybody looked at me and they thought I’m awesome. And it felt amazing.”

She is like, “Afterwards, in the breaks, people came up and shake my hands. They’ve never done that before. I’ve never been the center of attention. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had. And I want more. I want more.” Once you feel that, you get addicted. You want more.

I want you guys to think about one thing you’re uncomfortable with and do it. Do it today. Send the email. Make the call. Go for the fucking break. And instead of going to another fucking ten networking things, just go out for 5 minutes. Call somebody. Tell them you love them. Call your parents and tell them you love them. Do something that you’re uncomfortable with. Send the email. Ask the question. Do something. Go up to somebody that you’re like, “Should I?”

I see people all the time, they’d look at me with a little eye contact and I can tell they probably recognize me and they’re debating, “Should I go or should I not go?” And listen, I’m a pretty friendly guy but it’s not my responsibility to make you comfortable. I’m like, “If you want to come, come. If you want to come, come. I’m friendly.”

And then people just walk past me. I’m like, “Oh, it’s so sad. Come and say hi. What’s the worst that could happen? Do something outside your comfort zone, every day.” Tomorrow, I invite all of you. I’m going to give a talk about the ‘N Sync and firing people. And afterwards, I have 100 books that I’m going to give out and I’m going to sign them. And once we run out of books, I have a little card like a fucking whatever like I’m so important. I have autograph cards now. And I’m going to sign that fucking card and on that card is a code to get a free book, to get the digital version once we run out of physical ones. I want to sign a book or card for all of you.


And you know the crazy thing? You know the crazy thing, the fucked up thing? Last year, I did that. And I was a little afraid last year of sitting there with my fucking books like an idiot and nobody is showing up. And it was mayhem. People showed up. And this year, I’m like, “People know me. We have friends.” And I still, I had thoughts, “What if nobody shows up?”

The book has been printed at a little bit too big a font so it’s a massive book but it looks like a children’s book because the font is too big. And I was like, “The books, should we really give the book? This looks like a fucking – I don’t know.” And I tried to – like well, I’m going to increase the book penis size of this by increasing the fucking font. I’m going to look like an idiot.

And then you have to get over yourself. It doesn’t matter how “successful” you are, these doubts, these fears will always be part of you. You can’t get rid of that. But you can learn to kick its ass. And that’s all I can ask you guys to do. And if you do that, we’re going to start growing a hustle nation.

This is the first time that I talked that I brought up all these stories of people that are doing amazing shit and inspiring me to hustle harder every fucking day. And I want to come next year, if they invite me again or invite myself or I just come and work here for free and then get on stage on a break, and I want to be able to tell more stories. Get in touch with me. Tweet me. Send me an email. Tell me what you’re doing. Tell me when you’re struggling. Tell me what your problems are and together, we’re going to learn to kick our inner motherfucker’s ass and to go out there and make shit happen.


Nothing - this is my favorite quote - nothing in the universe happens until something moves. Sells and hustle is the ultimate move and you have to make these moves to progress human kinds and make these technologies that are crazy in reality and to fucking change the world.

Thank you so much.

### Q&A

Can Ertugrul: Give it up for Steli!


Steli Efti:  Thank you.


Steli Efti:  Thank you guys. You’re awesome!


Can Ertugrul: All right. I hate to interrupt this but as I expected, there is like a bunch of questions out there and we have a minute left. So, can we take like a few fast?

Steli Efti:  Next baby launch?

I don’t know.

Did you ever get a rejection that’s still haunting you?

I don’t know. I don’t think so.

When do you know to back off?

It’s tough. I don’t know. It’s a feeling. But one cool thing that you can do, I’ll give you a simple hack, once you follow up too many times, break up with somebody. It’s call the breakup email. I’ve written about it. You basically say, “Goodbye from Steli?”

And then in the body of the email, “I’ve tried to follow up with you 40 times. You haven’t replied. This is the last time you hear from me. Here’s my contact information. Whenever you want, you can get in touch with me.” The email converts like crazy. You take something away from people, they run behind you.

All right. So, is there not a danger to destroy the relationship with too many follow-ups? Who gives a shit! Here’s the deal. In business and in life, it’s not my highest goal to be liked. It’s my highest goal to create value. I’d rather have seven people hate me and three love me than ten people that are equally indifferent about me and where we have not done anything together. So it’s not about being liked or destroying a relationship.

All right.

Are you always able to stick to the philosophy or do sometimes need to recharge?

Yes. I’m not always like this. People are like, “Steli, it’s like every fucking day you’re so intense.” I’m not. I really am not. When I’m home, I’m super quiet. If I go to networking, then I’m not talking to anybody. I’m like I just want to be alone. I’m not always like this. Only when I’m onstage. No. But it’s like it’s an on and off thing.

Do you think personality is more important than product? No. I think that charisma is great to open doors but character is what’s going to keep you in the room. So character is much more important than charisma. And I, for the first half of my life, practiced no character and all charisma, and I’m trying to work with character now.

All right.

Did you learn to get – how did you learn to get over yourself?

I once read this quote. I need to go on stage. You’re going to kick me out? What are they going to do? Are they really going to kick us?

All right. I’m going to do one more quick.

Can Ertugrul: If there’s s last one, that will be great. That will be great.

Steli Efti:  All right. I want to be respectful. So, I heard this quote once and it clicked. I don’t know why. It was that “The difference between the hero and the coward is not that the hero feels no fear and the coward feels afraid, they are both afraid. The difference between the two of them is that the hero acts despite his fear while the coward is being held back by it.”

And that just made something clicked in me and since then every time I feel afraid or I don’t want to do something, I tell myself do it anyways. You’re going to do a shitty job. Do it anyways. Just do it anyways.  Thank you so much.


Can Ertugrul: Give it up for Steli!

[Music Playing]

[End of transcript]

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