Hustle Hard: Pioneers 2014 startup sales talk

Hustle Hard: Pioneers 2014 startup sales talk

Pioneers Festival is one of the most exciting and fun events on entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe, and it was great to speak there again the second year in a row.

When I left Europe in 2007 in pursuit of my dream to build a startup, it was also because I felt that there simply wasn't a good entrepreneurial ecosystem. Seeing all the awesome people at Pioneers, I'm thrilled to see how much has changed for the better in recent years.

In this talk, I'll share some never before shared tactics and stories, and if you want to get some insights into the inner game of hustling, grab a bag of popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. ;-)

Here are the slides for Steli's talk:

Prefer to listen?

Here's the audio-only version of this video (although you should really WATCH this ;)


Hey guys, all right. I’m going to talk about hustling today. But before I do that I wanted to share a story. Just a few days ago I was actually in Zurich. Something dramatically horrific happened in Zurich. I know this sounds strange because it’s a quiet, nice and really wealthy place. I got robbed in Zurich. I’m not kidding you. It was in the morning in front of a church. Godless people robbed me. I put my bag in the trunk. I locked the trunk. I went to a coffee. I walked back, I opened the trunk. You know those moments where you’re like, “I know that there’s no bag but there should be a bag.” There was a piece of paper. I looked below that. Where is my bag? In my bag, my laptop, my phone, my wallet, my kindle, my everything and most importantly my Greek passport with my U.S. visa in it. I was supposed to fly in here yesterday and I was supposed to fly back to San Francisco on Sunday because next week I have big talks.

I was the entire month in Europe. I live in Silicon Valley and now I’m fucked. Two days ago I was chatting with a friend of mine, Ramin. I explained to him the horrible situation I’m in. I was looking for answers and support or suggestions. The suggestion he had was this [shows slide that says: “You should ride on a donkey across the Alps: Like a real pioneer.”]. Sounds reasonable.

There’s a great donkey shortage in south of Germany, and because of the great donkey shortage I actually had to find a friend of mine, Lefti, who’s also in the audience today, I love you from the awesome Startup Smoope to drive with me here from Germany. We arrived at 3:00am in the morning all just to be here with you guys. I’m so excited and so honored to be here, thanks. I truly believe that appreciation is the currency you pay the universe with. With that, I want to actually thank all the amazing people on Facebook, on Twitter, on email. Everybody jumped in trying to help me once they heard what was going on. It’s awesome to be part of this community.

Let’s talk a little bit about my background first. Who am I? My name is Steli Efti. I’m Greek by origin but I grew up in Germany. I hated school, hated it. I didn’t read a book till I was 16. When I was 18, I dropped out to start my first business. I did a few businesses after that. About eight years ago, I had this big idea I thought would change the world. I sold everything I had. I bought a one-way ticket and I flew to San Francisco, to Silicon Valley to start my entrepreneurial journey there. Two years ago we started a company called Elastic Sales. With Elastic, what we did is we helped startups in the B2B space that were venture backed to scale their sales efforts. We worked with over 200 venture backed startups in Silicon Valley alone, but also with startups around the world, helping them through the sales exploration phase, all the way to the sales execution phase, making them successful.

In the process, we learned a thing or two about sales and hustling. In the process we built an internal piece of software we called our secret sauce, Close. That software helped our sales people outperform others. It helped our sales people close more deals, make more sales, drive revenue growth. Eventually the sales software became so popular that last year in January we launched the software. Just 10 months after, the software was so much more successful than the services business with just a tiny team that we decided to full focus on that. We’re profitable, we’re growing in dramatic numbers. There’s thousands of companies around the world that are using our software to close more deals and make more sales.

I deeply care about entrepreneurs. I deeply care about startups. I deeply care about the hustle.

One more thing, this year’s talk is all going to be about my formula to hustling and to crushing it when you hustle. There’s a book that I wrote and we made a special pioneers edition. It’s less than 100 pages. You can read it in 30 minutes. Even you could read it in a day, maybe in an hour even. In that book there’s a lot of tactical stuff. How to write emails, how to do cold calls, templates, strategies, how to sell things that don’t exist yet, how to drive revenue and negotiate on pricing, all that stuff. We’re going to have 200 of those startup sales guides today for you for free after the talk. If you want you can come, pick one up and I’ll sign it with you. We’ll take some selfies. Whatever you want to do, we’re going to have some of these books later on with some tactical knowledge if you’re inspired after this talk.

Let’s talk about startups. There’s really three entrepreneurial super powers you can have to make a difference in a startup. Number one is you design products. Number is two is you hack them, you build them and number three is you hustle them. You go out and you make shit happen. You close deals. You get customers. You raise funding. You get press, you hire people. You go and you hustle. That’s my entrepreneurial super power. I want to talk about that with you today. At the end of today I want all of you to hustle harder every single day. I’ll try to make that happen.

What's the right sales style for startup sales?

A lot of times, people actually ask me, “Hey, when you do startup sales, what kind of a personality should I be? Should I be like the Wolf of Wall Street, like a shark out there trying to kill all the customers? Out there for myself selfishly trying to make more and more money or should I be more like a lamb, more like a poetry teacher or something.” Somebody that’s just offering information, he’s really hands off, he doesn’t want to inconvenience anybody, doesn’t want to rattle the cage. He doesn’t want to do anything that could be perceived negatively. What’s the right model to actually do sales in a startup?” Here is the model that I want to teach you to use in the way I want you to think.

When you’re doing startup sales, you can’t be a wolf, you can’t be unfriendly and strong. Unfriendly and strong means you’re out there for yourself. You’re unfriendly, you want to kill people. You want to take things away from them but you’re strong, so people do what you tell them to do. That doesn’t work because you’re destroying your reputation. You’re destroying value and that’s not what you should be in it for. But you can also not be friendly and weak. The crazy thing is you would think friendly, weak people get the best customers, they’re loved because they’re so friendly and weak but actually we abuse friendly and weak people, we all do. In human psychology, the moment somebody is all apologetic and all afraid and all, we start acting more like an asshole. We take advantage of it. We can’t help it.

The model that you need to think about is friendly and strong. You need to be out there to help people, to create value, to make things happen, to help them. Only close customers that should really actually buy your product and solution but you need to be strong. Here is the best model that I can think of when it comes to friendly strength. Think of a good parent. I’m a dad, so that’s the way I explain everything to everyone. You need to be like a good father in my book. A good father or a good mother, a good parent, when you interact with your children, children especially when they are hungry and when they are tired, they get emotionally crazy. They explode. They go nuts. A lot of that is what happens at night, they haven’t eaten yet. It’s over their past time. You go and now it’s night time, so you need to actually feed them and put them to bed. They go nuts, “I hate you!” they throw things. They go all nuts on you. They push every little button.

You can’t get emotionally involved with that. You can’t go, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know what I’ve done for you? All these sacrifices, I hate you too.” Nobody would ever think of doing that. You don’t get emotionally sucked into that dynamic because you’re aware it’s a child. Here is what a good parent does. The child goes, “I hate you!” you go, “All right, listen I know you’re upset. I know you’re hungry and I know you’re tired, but here’s what we’re going to do next buddy. We’re going to put you in those pajamas. We’re going to read the story, pick up your teddy bear and then you’re going to sleep.” You pick up the baby and eventually the baby just goes, “I guess the guy knows what he’s doing,” and take off the shirt. “All right, you’re okay dad.” He just relaxes and is okay with it. Why, because I was strong. I wasn’t asking him, “Hey, do you want to go to sleep? Please stop screaming at me!” I wasn’t weak. I was strong but I was friendly. It was coming from a place of love. That’s how you win when you do startup sales.

You need to tell your customers what to do, because you know better than them. Once you’ve actually qualified them and you know they should buy your solution, you’re an expert in what you’re doing. They’re not experts. You need to tell them what to do. That’s as easy as possible. Once you know, you’re going to tell them, “Listen.” Sometimes you have customers that are really crazy. They’re like, “This is outrageous, your pricing and you’re just a startup of two people.” They go all crazy. Don’t get emotionally involved. Just say, “I understand you. I hear you. Here is what we’re going to do next. We’re going to put you in your pajamas. We’re going to pick up a book and then we’re going to read you a story and then you’re going to be happy.”

No, what you tell them is, you tell them, “Listen, I totally get that. I hear that. My last 30 customers told me the exact same thing at this exact same moment. Hence why I know this is going to work out between us. Here is what’s going to happen next. I’m going to tell you why our pricing is the way it is. I’m going to tell you why you’re going to win with it. I’m going to create more value than what the cost is. Does that sound fair enough?” Usually, the worst people go, “Oh okay.” You just need to tell them what to do.

What makes great sales people?

Here is the hardest thing about somebody that’s awesome at sales. I get asked every single day by CEOs and founders, “How can I spot somebody who’s amazing at sales? What interview question should I ask? How should I train them? How can I figure out who’s great at sales?” my answer is always, “You can’t,” because what makes people awesome at sales is consistency, not charisma.

You think, “Oh my God, this guy is so awesome or this girl. This one she knows how to talk. She’s all charismatic, awesome! She says all these cool things.” That’s not what sales is all about. That’s not what sales is all about. That’s awesome because you perform once in a while but she can bring it every single day? Sales is just like a sport. Think of Michael Jordan at his prime, when he was the best at what he was doing in the universe. Five years of winning every championship, being the guy. When he went on the game floor, the scorecard was reading zero. It didn’t say, plus 50 bonus points for Jordan. He had to perform that night again and the next time again every single time. “But today I had a fight with my wife.” Who gives a shit, perform? “Well but today I don’t feel like it? Who gives a fuck, perform? “But I’ve already had four rings,” who gives a fuck, perform now? That’s what’s really hard about the hustle.

That’s why I was a shitty hustler when I first started out my entrepreneurial career. I was all like, one week I was killing it. I was amazing. I was like incredible, closing these big deals. The next week I was like, “I don’t feel like anything, does my life have any meaning? Let’s cancel all my meetings.” I was just up and down, up and down, hence why I didn’t get anywhere. If you want to crush it at the hustle and at sales, you need to master consistency. If you want to know who’s going to be amazing at sales you need to give it some time. Just because somebody closes a big deal doesn’t make them awesome at sales. See if they show up the next day after they’ve closed a huge deal. See if they show up the next day after they lost this amazing deal. Do they show up again and bring it every single day? That’s how you actually crush it at sales and hustle harder.

Steli's simple sales success formula

There’s a simple formula when it comes to the hustle and I’m going to teach it to you today.

  1. You need to show up.
  2. You need to follow up.
  3. You need to go for the close.

That’s it, it isn’t rocket science. Showing up is only 10% of winning. Everybody thinks, if I show up that’s half the winning. No, it’s not it’s just 10%, but it’s the 10% that matters most at first because it’s the foundation of winning. Showing up doesn’t just mean coming to a conference like that. Showing up means coming to my booth to get my book or showing up can meaning sending me an email, picking up the phone and calling somebody. Showing up, going out there and making things happening. Once you’ve showed up, you actually have to follow up and follow through. I’m going to tell you why most of you can dramatically increase your follow up hustle. At the end of the day you have to go for the close. That’s the last 10% but it’s the only 10% that counts at the end of the day because if you can’t close, you can’t do shit.

Let’s talk about showing up. Eight years ago I’m an entrepreneur in Germany. Everything I’ve done is like old tech, small bootstrap business. I want to go to Silicon Valley. I sell everything I had, buy a one-way ticket to San Francisco and fly to San Francisco. At the airport I ask somebody, “How can I get to Silicon Valley?” For people who have been there, it’s a geographic area. It’s not a town. The person looked at me and went, “Palo Alto, Stanford?” I’m like, “Stanford,” I’ve heard of that, “Yeah,” and he put me on a train. Go on a train to Palo Alto and there’s two stations in Palo Alto. There’s California Avenue and then there’s University Avenue. If you know what you’re doing, you know you’re in Varsity Avenue, there’s Palo Alto downtown. If you don’t, you go for the first station that says Palo Alto which was the California Avenue.

I jump out of the California Ave. I walk down the Ave. I see a hotel that says, Hotel California. I’m like, “I’ve heard that song, that’s my hotel.” I go into the hotel, thank you. See, you just have to be ignorant and shit happens. I go into the hotel and here is what happened. I thought to myself, take it easy Steli, it’s your first day. Put your T-Shirts up, set up your office, my laptop with a coffee, Starbucks coffee. It’s my office. Just take it easy, today just stay here. It’s safe, nothing bad can happen to you here. Let’s just take it easy. Then thankfully, I heard this other voice that said, “Shut up, are you crazy? You just came to Silicon Valley. You’re going to stay in the hotel all day long. Go out there and meet somebody, do something.” I go online and I look up at Meet Up and I see there’s a gig thing in San Francisco.

I go there, I sit down. I talk to a few people. Eventually, I sit next to Robert Scoble who is a huge blogger. I tell him my story. My first day in Silicon Valley and I don’t know anybody. He’s like, “Cool, call me tomorrow.” Next day I call him, he’s like, “Which hotel are you in?” “Hotel California,” “Cool, I’m picking you up in 10 minutes. I’m like, “All right what are we doing?” he picks me up. We go to a coffee shop. He sits down, sets up this massive camera and goes, “I’m going to interview you,” play,  he hits the record button and starts asking me questions, “Who are you?” that interview is out there. You have to really have great Google search skills I’ve made sure of that, to find it. But if you find it, that video is the most painful thing in my life. When I watch that video, I go like this, “Play, pause.” You have that shower of shame and then I go, “Play, pause.” First time I saw it and it’s 40 minutes, it took me six hours to watch it.

Once a year I watch that video because it’s very humbling. It tells me, and I looked like an idiot. I didn’t know how to speak. My English was horrible, everything was bad about that. But at the end of the end of the interview, and Robert I’ll love you this, he asks me “Hey, what are your plans for the rest of the day?” I say, “Hey dude, I don’t have plans for the rest of the year.” He’s like, “Come with me. I speak at an event in San Francisco.” We go to that event. He speaks, three other people speak. At the end of the event, they have the 30 seconds soap box. Everybody can get the mic and say, “We’re raising money, we’re hiring people, we want to do something.” Again my voice goes, “You don’t have to pitch anything. Just sit here comfortably and watch these people do their thing.” Then the other voice says, “Step up and do something.”

I go pick up the mic and I go, “Hey, this is my first day in San Francisco. I have no friends. If you want a Greek friend, come and say hi.” The crowd goes nuts. At the end of the talk there’s the three speakers surrounded by people and me surrounded by a massive amount of people, 250 business cards.  Everybody is like, “I’m going to hang out with you. You, just take my card, call me.” For the first three weeks I was just meeting people every single day, just show up!

From intern to co-founder through the power of hustle

I’m going to tell you another quick story. When I started that business, there was this user. It was a guy in Germany. He was a student. He was stalking me. He wanted to know more about it. Eventually, we jumped on a Skype call and he was giving me all these ideas. At the end of the Skype call, I didn’t even think about it too much. He goes, “Hey Steli, are you really busy?” I go, “Yeah, sure I’m busy.” He’s like, “Cool,” hangs up.

Three weeks later I get an email. I open the email and it says, “Hey Steli, since you’re so busy I decided to drop out of university. My flight to S.F.O is arriving tomorrow at 11:00am. I would appreciate a pick-up but I can also find my own way to your office. I’m going to do an internship with you unpaid, don’t worry?” I’m like, “This guy just hired himself.” I guess if he has the metaphorical balls, because women can have balls too. If he has the guts to just show up, I’m going to pick him up. I pick him up and that guy hustles every single day. He hustles like crazy. He makes me feel bad. His hustle is so tough. Everywhere he goes, he’s the biggest evangelist of this thing. He never asked me for a salary, never for a raise, never for a title, never for nothing. I have all these other people in my team. Everyday they’re like, “If you only gave me the caller phoner title, then I could act totally differently and I would have the permission to be amazing, but you’re restricting my abilities. Can I get more this, can I get more that?”

I always say, “No,” that guy does not give a shit, just hustles, hustles. Makes me feel bad, “Hey dude, do you need some money?” “I’m just going to drink water and sleep on couches. I don’t care.” He does it so long that I go to events and people ask me, “What is the company you’re working with?” I’m like, “I’m with Super Cool School.” He’s like, “Cool, I met your co-founder and C.E.O.” I know for a fact that he didn’t introduce himself that way. People just assumed. The guy is so nuts, so passionate. He must be the founder. Eventually he became the co-founder of that company. He hustled his way. He never asked for permission because only suckers do. He took what he wanted. He didn’t fuck around for it. Bjoern, I love you. Today he’s a really successful C.E.O. of Compass, great startup in San Francisco, an amazing guy.

Thai fruit vendor lady

Now we showed up. Now that we showed up we actually have to follow up and follow through. I want to tell you a story about a Thai fruit seller lady. This happened about 13 years ago. I’m in Thailand. I’m with a group of 15 master hypnotists. I studied hypnosis for a while. Don’t worry we’re not doing that today. We want to go to this remote Island called Koh Lipe. It needs a boat ride for four hours. We show up at the shore, the master hypnotist goes into a building to find the guy with the boat. There’s 15 people standing around waiting in the sun. We’re all waiting after lunch. There’s a Thai lady with a bike and behind the bike there’s fruit. She sees us, she spots us so she bikes over to us, positions the bike and the fruit right in front of us. Jumps down and goes, “Fruit, fruit.” We go, “Yes, we see fruit but sorry it looks great but we’re so full. We just ate lunch, no thank you.” She’s like, “Fruit, fruit.”

Master hypnotist comes down and says, “This is the wrong building. I need to go to that building, come with me.” He goes over to that building. We all walk past him, stand around to that building. Thai food lady goes back on her bike, bikes over to us, positions the fruit right in front of us, goes down and goes, “Fruit, fruit.” We go, “Yes, we know, we see it. It’s the same fruit as over there. We really appreciate it but no thank you.” She goes, “Fruit, fruit.” Then the master hypnotist comes down and says, “I talked to the guy. That’s his boat. Let’s stand around that boat. He’s going to be here in 10 minutes.” We all go over to that boat. That fruit Thai lady goes back on her bike, bikes over to us right in front of the group, goes down and goes, “Fruit, fruit, fruit.” Eventually, one guy goes, “All right I’m going to have some fruit.” The other guy goes, “It’s a four-hour boat ride let’s get some fruit.” Everybody buys fruit, all of a sudden.

Two hours later we’re on our little shaky boat. We all go, “Mm… fruit, fruit, fruit.” Master hypnotists, masters of language and persuasion and basing people, she out-hustled us! She showed up and she followed up and she did not give a fuck. She did not. She had more clarity than we did and that’s why she won. That’s how you always win. You need to know what you want more than the other person. If it’s good for them, you need to outhustle them.

Last year I talked about the follow up hustle. I shared the story of how we got a billionaire investor after 48 follow-up emails from me. I’m not going to share that story, go and watch that video. But I have a simple philosophy when it comes to following up. You never, ever stop following up. If you have a positive interaction with somebody, a call, a meeting an email, they respond positively. Then you try to get to another outcome, a meeting, something and they go silent, you never stop following up, if you want to know why and how, watch that video.

Go for the close

The last piece of the hustle, you show up, you follow up, then you have to close, it’s closing. People confuse talking for selling and selling for closing. Those are three distinct things. When you talk, you communicate aimlessly. Something might fall from the trees but you don’t have any purpose or direction. When you sell, you communicate hopefully in a way that has direction that it’s trying to persuade somebody to move towards a decision. When you’re closing, you’re actually making a decision happen in the here and now. Here is why most startups suck at closing and most entrepreneurs. It’s because it’s the moment of truth and a lot of times we don’t want to hear the truth. We’d rather come back to our team and say, “They totally loved it. They said it’s amazing.” “All right what’s happening next?” “I don’t know, they have to look at it but they’re totally going to buy it. I’m so positive.

Let’s spend two hours talking about how amazing it’s going to be. They’d rather do that than come back and say, “They said, no.” You don’t want to hear it so you’re not asking for it. If you want to master the close, you have to ask early and ask often. You have to expect the yes and embrace the no, that’s how you master the close. It’s not rocket science kids, it’s easy. What do I mean by that? Somebody comes to a presentation, to your meeting. You say hi, “Hey guys, I’m really excited that you guys are here, sit down. Before I start with the demo, let me ask you, are you ready to buy?” when they go, “We haven’t seen the demo yet.” You go, “Cool, I just wanted to give you an opportunity. You seem like smart, fast people. I don’t want to waste your time. No worries, I’m going to get back to the demo. We’re going to come back to that question later today.” I expected the yes. You need to ask, expecting the yes. Then when they say no, which they will do, most people will say no to you. You have to embrace it. You can’t be like, “Oh my God, again somebody who said know.”

No, you have to tell them, “The best customers tell me fuck off at this very moment.” I’m so glad you did that because this is going to be an amazing partnership.” That’s it, it isn’t rocket science. Ask for it, ask early, ask often. A close is not a one-time event. You can ask multiple times. “Hey do you want to buy?” “No.” “Why, what’s missing? What do we need to do to get you to buy?” “You don’t have X, Y and Z.” “Cool, if I get you X, Y and Z are we in business?” “Yeah.”

Feeling too inhibited to hustle hard?

Now you have a plan. Now you know what’s going on. Ask for the close. The formula, it’s very simple. You show up, you follow up, you go for the close. If you do that you’re going to crush it. You’re going to crush it but here’s the problem. A lot of times people tell me, “Steli, you are such a hustler. You’re born with it. You just walk in every room and you just kick in the door. You just go, “Everybody buy my shit.” You’re always, nothing bothers you and you’re just this amazing guy.” I’m not like that, that’s what they tell me.

I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m not like that either. It’s hard to believe, but I really am not like that. I do have shame and I do feel it once in a while. I’m not kidding you, I do have shame. I do have fears. I do have an ego, “Will this look cool? Will I look like an authority or like I’m great or successful if I do this?” I do have the same feelings and emotions. Now you know everything you need to know about the hustle from a philosophical point. If you get the book you’re going to know the tactics. The thing that’s going to fuck you though, are your emotions. Your emotions are going to fuck your hustle. Here is why, because you’re going to be afraid. You’re going to be afraid. You’re going to be shameful. You’re going to make up stories in your head, why you can or cannot do this. Oh my god, if I did this, he wouldn’t think that. Then he would think this and she would say that and that would be a really bad thing so I better not do anything.

We all do that, we all, me included. We’re all the same. We all have these emotions. You need to learn to work with them and overcome them. I hated school. I really hated it. The worst teacher I ever had was in fifth grade, it’s a German teacher. He was also the Principal of the school. The first day he came in that class he came to me and looked at my handwriting. I don’t know how old I am in fifth grade, 12th, 11th, something. He’s like, “You don’t belong here. You should just leave.” When you’re a kid and an authority figure tells you, you won’t amount to anything, you’re nothing. There’s two reactions you can have to that. Either you believe it and he fucks up your life or you rebel against it. Thankfully and luckily I rebelled against that. But he taught me one thing [clapping], I love you thank you. He taught me one thing and that one thing, once was we had to read a poem. He said these words. I will never forget them, “All right kids, if you come up here to read the poem, you’re going to feel something. That feeling is going to be nervousness.” When you feel that, that energy inside you, let it out. Just let it out by speaking louder, being more animated. Just let the energy out and you’re going to be fine.”

I remember sitting there and thinking, “Uh huh! That sounds amazing.” I went up there with my shitty poem. He was like, “This kid really listened to what I said. How inconvenient, I guess I’ll have to give him a good…” No, but that triggered something. It made me realize that the difference between the feeling of fear and the feeling of excitement is context. That’s what it is, it the same feeling. It’s just how you think about it that makes it different. When you’re terrified or when you’re excited it’s the same feeling. It feels exactly the same. The only difference it has is the way you think about it. The other thing that changed my life is when I heard this sentence, a quote somewhere. I don’t even know from whom that said, “The difference between the hero and the coward is not that the hero feels no fear and the coward has all these fears hence why the hero steps in and does shit and the coward doesn’t when danger arises or when things happen. They both feel fear.

The hero as well as the coward they’re both afraid. The difference between the two of them is that the hero acts despite his fear. He goes for it despite being afraid. That’s the difference between the hero and the coward. That’s the difference between the hustler and the metaphorical, a little bitch. That’s the difference between winning and losing in life. We all are afraid. Today when I feel afraid, do you know what I tell myself, “Get over yourself.” When I don’t feel like doing something. I’m like, “Huh, today I don’t feel like doing this.” I tell myself, “Shut up and do it anyways.” You don’t have to feel like it. When I feel shameful and I ask myself, “Oh my God, will people think I’m an idiot, I go, “Do it anyways.” It has opened amazing doors in my life. Places where I would stop beforehand, I now go through. It’s really easy. I just tell myself, “You don’t have to feel like it, just do it anyways.”

Somebody the other day asked me, “Steli, when you’re really down what do you do?” I told them, “It’s very easy. I tell myself, shut up and get over yourself,” do it anyways.” I don’t feel that excited. I’m not going to give a good speech today. Let’s not show up.” Who gives a shit? Just do it anyways or I’m not in a great mood, I’m a little sick and I had this argument. Let me not call this customer.” “Let me call that customer anyways, who gives a fuck?” Let’s have a bad day today but let’s go out there and get it and do it. That’s all it takes, emotional alchemy. You need to learn to manage your emotions, because your emotions and your fears are going to stop you from amazing things. You have to learn to deal with those emotions, so they don’t track you down to a very, very small and narrow path.

How I got myself invited to speak at Pioneers

I’m actually going to reveal something to you that nobody knows, maybe not even Jürgen and some other people from the Pioneers’ team. Last year when I was invited to the pioneers’ festival, I actually invited myself. It’s not my most glorious moment but that’s what happened. Here is what happened, my intern Bjoern, the intern that hired himself, that turned himself into a co-founder. He connected me with Jurgen and team. They were in Silicon Valley meeting speakers and trying to talk to people. The way I read the email was, I thought, oh they want to meet potential speakers, me. I go out for a coffee with them. I figure all those guys are really cool, like Steli can you connect us with this guy, that guy, that girl, that woman, that amazing entrepreneur, that amazing person. Like sure, I’m going to connect you. I’m going to help you. You guys are awesome. I’m like all right, now they’re going to ask, “Do you also want to come?” They’re “All right, cool really awesome we’re going to follow up with an email, see you later.” They leave.

I got a little hurt, I was a little hurt, but whatever. I’m like, “I’ll go back to the office,” maybe when they send me the email. Maybe they were not courageous enough to ask me in person. Maybe they’re going to – in the email say, “Hey, do you want to come as a speaker?” I go back. I sit down. I get the email. It’s a huge list of people. “Here’s all the people we want. Please spend the next day introducing us to those people, thank you.” That’s what I did. I send entry emails to all these people, one week goes, two weeks go we follow up. I help them. I try as good as possible to really be supportive because I love what they wanted to do. They never asked. Eventually it dawned on me. They’re these people who don’t give a fuck about you, you’re not that important. I’m like, it hurts a little.

Then here is what I did. I looked at all the speakers they wanted and I started sending them an email. That email basically read, “Hey guys, I looked at your whole lineup. They’re all amazing people. They all talk about innovation and ideas and this and that, but all those that isn’t shit if you don’t know how to hustle and make things happen. You’re definitely missing that component in your conference. I don’t want your audience to lack an essential component of success, totally self-serving, selfish pitch, totally obvious. As I was writing it, I was deleting it again, because I was a little metaphorical bitch. I was like, “Who tries to pitch himself. They’re going to totally see through and say, “No Steli, you’re not important enough. We don’t give a fuck about you. Just send entry emails and shut up.”

I was afraid of that. I didn’t want to be rejected. I went back and forth. I deleted it. I wrote it, deleted it and wrote it. Eventually, I said, “Get over yourself and just send the email.” I sent the email and two hours later Jürgen sends me a reply and goes, “I have an amazing idea. Why don’t you come and speak at the conference this year.” I went, “Oh my god, this is such a surprise – if you insist I will come. If it’s so important to you.” I got invited and that talk has made a tremendous difference lots. For the past 12 months, every single week I got at least one email from somebody that watched that video thanking me. Today I had somebody come over to me and go like, “You saved my company. Your talk last year was amazing.” I’m not saying that to brag, maybe a little bit but what I’m actually trying to say is that the only reason why it happened last year, the only reason why we got customers from the conference, friendships, I got invited to all the conferences. We were together able to make a difference in people’s companies and lives. The only reason was that I got over myself. I told myself, “If they say no because you aren’t shit, then you’re going to eat it up like a big boy and live with that and that’s fine.

The same thing is true for the book thing by the way. I wrote this book. We sold a ton of it, it’s a big success. Then when I got invited this year I thought, “Hey, why don’t Pioneers Festival buy a ton of these books and give them away for free?” That could be awesome for the audience, awesome for me, awesome for pioneers, awesome for everybody, everybody wins. I started writing the email, selling them on the idea that they should actually get the book and actually promote it. Again I stopped. I give these talks about being shamelessness and being awesome and I stopped like a little, insecure teenager. I went, “Oh my God, but what if they say no,” because I have still a little shame in me and I try to kill it but it comes back. I don’t want to be rejected. I don’t love being rejected. I’m not immune to that, it hurts.

I went back and forth, wrote, stopped, wrote, stopped, deleted and eventually I went, “Who gives a shit if they say no who cares? Get over yourself.” I sent the email and they said, “Yeah, cool let’s do it,” that book, we shortened it. It’s like a 30, 40 minute read. It is everything you need. If you’re motivated after this talk to crush it, to go out there and really kill it, you read the book. It has all the tactics, the templates, the emails, the calls, everything. I’m telling you, I’m also afraid going over to that booth and sitting there by myself like a retard and nobody gave a shit. What if nobody shows up? I had this dialogue today when I saw the booth. I had a little shower of shame. I’m like, “It’s going to be really a healthy, humble pie to eat if I stand there and nobody wants to get that shit.”

You stand there, “I’m going to do a book signing,” and nobody comes. That’s really humiliating. Then I told myself to shut up and eat it up. That’s not what life is about. It’s not about me being amazing, my ego being great, me seeming to be this important authority. It’s about making things happen, helping people, crushing it, creating value. If I need to look stupid in the name of progress, in the name of making that happen, so be it. I need to eat that up and own up to that. Last year I showed this picture. This is my son. We launched him about two years ago. When I showed that picture last time I said … thank you. He does have the good looks of his mom. When I showed that picture, I said, “We’re launching a new baby in March.” I miss him. I saw a lady here with a little tiny baby and I get all like, “Oh my God, I want my baby too.” I get all these crazy emotions.

These are my two super hustlers. They’re amazing. We really didn’t launch them. It was more my wife as the technical founder actually releasing them. I was more taking a supportive role here but I love them. Whenever I have a crowd of more than two people, they have to see a picture. I want to end this talk with one little story. Then hopefully you have a question or two and then we do some book signing and have some great fun for the day.

Hustling is your chance to make a difference

A lot of times people tell me, “You have the tactics, the sales calls, the hustle, the emotional alchemy attitude. Yes, Steli you teach us how to be awesome and close all these deals, but what about the customer?” When was a time where you bought, when somebody sold to you in the most amazing possible way? When did you enjoy buying something from somebody? I want to share that story with you today.

Fourteen years ago, when I first started becoming successful in financial terms as an entrepreneur back in Germany, for the very first time in my life I had money to actually buy shit. I thought, let’s go and spend a lot of money. I went to this really expensive suit and tie store. I’ve never been to a place like that. It was a little insecure. I’m also a really manly man when it comes to shopping so I hate shopping. When I go in I don’t want anybody to talk to me. I just like pick this and I’ll be like, run out of this place. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to mingle. I just want to pick this shit and leave, especially in that place because I was all insecure. I didn’t want anybody to ask me. “Oh, what do you like?” I’m like, “I don’t know shit about anything.” I’m 19 years old with gel and two earrings, ear piercings and like, I don’t know shit about nice suits.

I walk in there and there’s this old guy, bald, really good looking, really charismatic. He sees me and he’s like, “I’m going to get this little bitch. I’m going to get him.” He walks towards me and I’m like, “No, no, I’m just looking. Don’t speak to me.” I do not talk. Eventually he gets me into a conversation because he’s really good. We chit chat and we mingle and we talk. Eventually I’m at the counter. We put all the shit into a big pile. He’s like, “Yeah, that’s like €2000.” I actually go, “Wow, that’s a lot more than I thought but,” awesome by spending a lot of money that’s a sign of success. That must be a good thing. I pulled into my pocket and I realized I forgot my wallet. I’d become all red and all shameful because my inner dialogue goes, because the entire universe is focused on me. This guy is going to think, “Oh this little shitty kid doesn’t have the money. Now he’s like, I forgot my wallet because he doesn’t want to pay that much money.”

I’m like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot my wallet. I’m going to go and pick it up. Can you put this stuff aside for me please?” he looks at me and he goes, “No.” I’m like, “Ooh, pain.” There’s a long line. People are looking at me. I’m like, “Shame.” The guy is like, “No, there’s no way I’m going to leave these things behind. These things, Mr. Efti are yours. You are going to take them with you. Then, I want you to come whenever you have time, this week, next week, the week after. It does not matter. I know you’re busy. Come whenever you can.” He packs up everything and he gives it to me. You know when you do the … open the door and you go like … I go back to my car. I call my office. I cancel all meetings. I drive straight home. I pick up my wallet. I drive straight back to that place and I pay.

For the next two years, every month I spent thousands of Euros in that place with that sales guy, every month. I guarantee you what I wouldn’t have done, if he let me out that place with all my shame I would have never returned to that place, ever. I hate shopping, especially shame shopping. I would have never gone back to that place. Fourteen years later, I don’t remember what the ties look like, what the suits were. I don’t remember shit, but I do remember how he made me feel. I will never forget how he made me feel. For the first time in my life I felt respected and trusted. I will always carry that feeling with me. What I love about the hustle and sales, is not just that you can be a superstar and make things happen and make your company successful and crushing, go out there and be amazing and manage your emotions, overcome your fears and everything.

What I love more about even more about all that shit is that at the end of the day you can make other people successful and make them feel something. You can make a difference. That’s what’s awesome about sales and the hustle. If you want the slides or you have questions, or you need your personal, hustling, psychologist/shrink. You can email me at any time. I always help entrepreneurs. I can’t help it, thank you very much.