Steli Efti: The Art of Selling Software

“How to sell software, using… sales.”

The inbound dream: Every sale you make comes to you magically through the internet with no human touch.

Does that mean you can’t do better? Is there another way to more sales?

Steli has accelerated sales in some of the fastest growing Silicon Valley startups as well as growing his own SaaS business, At BoS USA 2015, Steli offers some proven techniques to grow your sales revenue and improve your sales processes. You can apply many of the same ideas to get things done in your own organization, regardless of your role. As Dan Pink said, ‘To Sell Is Human‘.




“Running a software business would be great if you didn’t have to deal with customers” — BoS Attendees

What does it mean to communicate with other people and why does it matter? Humans like to deal with other humans.

Usually companies try to cut out human interaction to scale. Steli’s company tries to be different. Small team of 8 people but still finding the time for human interaction.


There are three main types of calls you could be making:

  • Inbound
  • Cancellations
  • Outbound (assuming it fits your market)

Calling cancellations is a great way of gaining insights into how you can improve your product. As Steli said:

“There is no better medicine for your bad ideas than people telling you why they are cancelling”

Reach people

You need to reach somebody to sell. It is important to track your reach rate, with 100 dials how many times do you speak to someone? Any less than 20 it’s probably not worth it.

Sound good

It’s 80% how you sound and 20% what you say.

Make yourself sound excited, sound like an authority and give your message tonality. This matters when selling.

Ask questions

Who are these people and how can we help them?

Manage objections

Not everyone will agree with you. Prepare for your ten most common objections and have your responses to hand when doing sales calls.


Are you ready to buy?


Marketing emails are not sales emails. Ditch the non-human, fancy HTML designed email sent from a generic email address. Here are Steli’s top tips:

  1. Quality: Write like a human.
  2. Quantity: Send more email than you’re comfortable with.
  3. Semi-personal: or “Sent from my iPhone”.
  4. Call to action: Schedule a call, Reply to this email, etc.

“Write sales emails that deliver on the subject”


Keep it 15 minutes or less.

“One of the most painful things for a software company to do is to watch their own demo”

  1. Quality first: Can/Should they buy? Is it worth your time?
  2. Benefits vs. features: Focus on what is relevant, not every single feature.
  3. Sales vs. training: Demo value rather than teaching functionality.
  4. Errors and mistakes: Be prepared for them. It will happen.

Follow up relentlessly

When you have some kind of existing interaction keep following up until you get an answer, either yes or no. Hopefully yes.

Visit customers

Everyone should visit customers. You don’t need to visit all customers, but even just a few would be beneficial in building a connection.


Turn support into something that generates revenue by bringing in new referred customers. Turn the negative into positives.

5 Ways to Sell Software Using Sales

  1. Call people.
  2. Send lots of email.
  3. Give good demos.
  4. Visit customers.
  5. Give real support

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Steli Efti, There you go! All right, guys! So we’re gonna talk about how to sell software using sales. Yeah! It will take about 60 minutes for it to really like land. All right so let’s see. We’ll do the clicker magic. Which direction do I have to click? There’s the pointer! Sales! We’ll try this again.

Hey, ladies and gentlemen! There you go! So I truly believe that appreciation is the currency you pay the Universe with so I wanna say thanks for Mark for inviting me. Even more importantly, I want to say thanks to Patrick for suggesting to Mark to invite me and I wanna thank myself to suggest to Patrick to suggest to Mark to invite me. So thanks to all of you for showing up. It’s the last talk, I’ll try to make it as boring as I can.

Well now that I said thank you, I want to complain a little bit because typically when I give talks, I do curse a lot. So much so that people track how much I curse, which depth they run analytics on it. And not just that, there’s a person that used clarify API to take out all the curse words out of my keynotes and uploaded to YouTube. So if you go there and you search for Steli’s vocabulary, you will find these videos. Now Mark made me promise that this presentation would be clean which is very challenging to me. So I’ll try to do my best. Phil actually, who was working with me and is leading the product team on the flight to Boston was asking me well if you can’t curse – what is it about 1-hour presentation? Usually you have about 5 minutes of content. How are you gonna – what are you gonna do with these 55 minutes that you usually don’t need? My first direction was just to do a Q&A. Let me cop out of this. And then I thought no, I would curse at this point. I will do 60 minutes of content no questions. So if you have questions, I’m sorry. But the good news is that tomorrow I’m gonna do a workshop so it’s about how I sell at the workshop so if you have any questions at the end of this presentation we don’t have time. Just come to my workshop and ask all your questions.

All right, so first of all raise your hands and be proud if you’ve no clue who I am. Must be most of you. Thank you. It’s the level of humble pie I need to eat to start a presentation. So more work to be done – I’ll give you the quick version of who I am, why I care about sales in software and I know a thing or two about it?

So first is on the personal side, I’m originally Greek but I grew up in Germany. I used to say I’m the best the past to offer culturally. The two opposites – I dropped out of high school when I was 17 or 18 to start my first business. I’ve been a sales entrepreneur my entire life another way of saying it is I’m completely unemployable and no credentials and nobody would ever give me a job. So people ask me what made you decide to do that? I’m like it was lack of options, really! Simple as that, not very inspirational but it’s the truth. So I won’t bore you with my life story. There’s other videos of me boring other people with it, but the last company that I started is really relevant for this.

So the last business we started, it started off as a services company and it was called elastic sales. And what we did is we offered B to B startups in Silicon Valley an outsourced sales team on demand. Think AWS for sales, just replace the service with sales people. Kind of a compelling pitch and we thought it would just kick off the sales people, skill them up you see a dash photo online and you get another 10 sales people. You see the live calls and emails and you just lean back and the money is coming in and you just go another 100 sales people, please. So it’s kind of how it works, not exactly but it worked well enough so that we actually did sales for over 200 venture startups in Silicon Valley.

Why were we the best kept secret in the valley? Because only the CEO’s knew we existed but we knew everyone in the B2B space. We knew everybody’s problems, tactic strategies, technologies and what all of them were struggling with. We were developing sales models from the ground up for some of the hottest companies, some of them might even be called today unicorns. So that’s how we got started.

And from day one, we built internal software. Mainly because two of my co-founders were technical but the other side of it was that I hated all the sales software that was out there so selfishly we just looked at each other and we went let’s just build software that’s gonna help us scale these services in the organisation. It’s thousands of sales people around the world. So that was really the reason why we started building software and then at the beginning we didn’t really have a clue of what we wanted to build and didn’t have a vision other than we hate everything else, but about 6 to 9 months into development of the product you’re growing the business, we started really creating a point of view and we were understanding and believing what is good sales software? What is sales in essence really? And the products and software started becoming better and better and better and that’s so good that there was a lot of demand outside and we decided in January 2013 to release the software we thought would take a very, very long time for this software to grow because we’re in a competitive space. And I like to say that as an entrepreneur I’ve been wrong my entire life, about everything – and very rarely am I glad that I was wrong and this was one of those times. When we launched I thought they would take us 3 to 4 years to catch up with the revenue of the services business and it didn’t. It happened a lot faster. When people ask me today how did you guys decide strategically to move into the CRM space? It’s so competitive! I’m like because we didn’t strategically decide to move into the CRM space. It’s part of why it worked, because we kind of stumbled into it. I would have never wanted to get into the market ever, not loving it. We’re very successful and is a piece of software that’s great for companies that wanted to be in B2B sales that do inside sales so if you sell primarily through the phone and email, we’re the best tool in the world to do that. With thousands of customers around the world, we’re highly profitable and growing really fast. I’ll brag about that later on.

So another thing that might be relevant to this audience, I have a podcast. Tuesdays and Friday’s we do these talks. It’s me and my really good friend, he’s the marketing and the sales guy. We talk very technical but we also talk about how did the death of our parents affected us as entrepreneurs, how did it affect religion, depression. Nothing is off topic and we’re struggling to find more ridiculous topics that nobody has ever talked about and challenge each other. So if you like podcasts and you’re into B2B you might want to check it out.

So I don’t just launch companies and podcasts, I also launch baby boys. So these are my two boys. My 3-year-old and the a 1 ½ year old. I really don’t launch them, it was more my wife that was the technical co-founder and I was more of a supportive and business development role. My oldest one negotiated a T-Rex toy out of the current trip that I’m on and the youngest one can’t negotiate yet, but he’s really upset with me. For some reason he’s walking around at home right now looking for me. Can’t get it – when we try to Skype, he’s like what the hell? Why don’t you – what is this? Why is he not here? He’s super confused about it. I just needed to brag, it has nothing to do with this presentation.

So yesterday dinner I was part of a group that felt safe so there was a statement made that was perfect for my presentation. The statement was that running a software business would be so great if you didn’t have to deal with customers. If only it wasn’t for these people, these humans, this beautiful software that we built it’s amazing. We want the money; the money is cool. But dealing with the humanity attached to the money is really inconvenient. Really inconvenient!

I wanna introduce you to a human and this could again futuristic, it’s a philosophical just for a second and then we’re gonna go really practical and tactical. So this is Mary, she is awesome! Mary helps the entire team of close with all kind of operational tasks. She’s amazing, she’s a wizard! And she also helps a lot with managing my calendar. So if you ever want to be able to be on a call with me or on meeting for lunch, you probably have to communicate with Mary. I’ve noticed a trend lately where people, once they meet me in person and when we had our phone call, once the call and meeting is over and we have to schedule another meeting or something I just go hey, just check with Mary and we’ll figure out a time to make this happen.

And then people go let me ask you Steli. Is Mary real? Is she one of these like half AI, half outsourced service and just some nice stock image and just you give the illusion of a human being or am I really communicating with somebody real? The first time that happened I was like that’s kind of weird and cute. Of course he’s human. But it’s happening now with such regularity that I’m like this is interesting. I wonder if at some point when we’ll communicate with each other we’ll have to certify each other as humans. We’ll go hey. This is the – I’m sending you an email, this is the product that we’re doing. By the way, I’m really human. Here is my certification. Don’t worry, it’s not just some crazy AI magic that’s going on. Besides the humorous part of this and thinking about the future and a future where a lot of communication will mimic humanity but not necessarily be defined by in the way we used to. You have to think about the paradigm shift with like what does it mean for people to communicate with other human beings and why do we care? I sort have been asking myself so now when people ask me is Mary real? I go why? And it freaks them out. I am like why? Why is that important? Why do you wanna discriminate Mary based on – she’s human or not?

So there is something and we’re not gonna go any deeper. I’ll leave you with that question for you to marinate on for the rest of your life, but what I want you to understand based on this is that humans like to deal with humans. We do. And maybe you like to deal with software more than humans, some of us like the software a little bit more than the humanity attached to the attached to money and we want to attract the software. But humans like to deal with other humans. Humans like to buy from other human beings. So if you wanna sell something, you might wanna consider hat.

So a lot of the tactics that I will tell you about are things you would typically think only a larger VC type of company with lots of humans, only if you have lots of humans can you put a lot of humanity at your customers, right? So when you’re a small team and you wanna scale and you wanna be smart, you try to cop out all human interactions because those don’t scale. You try to figure out a way so that people give you money without any human interaction whatsoever, you try to support them in a way that doesn’t need any human interaction but the perfect project is the perfect so we never have to talk to anybody because he is always perfect and charge as little money as possible so nobody cares or worries about it. Nobody has any concerns when they have to buy, we never have to interact with anything so if they go it doesn’t really matter. We tried to design these kinds of businesses and I’m not saying they are bad, I’m just saying it’s not the only way to do it.
We are a tiny team at We’re just 8 people and this is also our recent retreat in Berlin. We go in a retreat every 3 months, but here’s a few things that makes us unique and at the core of it is that we do things that are a little bit out of the norm. First of all, we are venture funded and self-funded. Yeah. Think about that one. How is that possible? Well we raised a seed round when we were a totally different business, it was all convertible debt that was supposed to convert which never happened. So we do have investors, some amazing people but they don’t necessarily have equity. And we are running the board of the business and we run all the decisions in the business and we never had to raise it seriously. So we run the business just like it was bootstrapped with a lot of the benefits that are attached to having investors.

The other thing we do is; we are very small and semi-remote so we have an office in Paloalto, but people come and go. Lots of our people travel because we love to travel. We have somebody that works out of Bangkok, Berlin and LA. So we have a few people that totally remote and they’re kind of there. We all travel once a month together. So we have a central point where we come together but we also spread apart. And we’re tiny in terms of our size but we still decided to be the most expensive solution in our very, very competitive market. Thank you, Mark! Thank you, one person!
Yes, I mean usually you would go wow, we have these public companies and these venture companies with tens of millions of dollars with this tiny team that’s the cheapest. We went the opposite way, we said we’ve the greatest product and people. Let’s be the most expensive for them! We create the most value to the world to our customers, to a specific group of customer. Why should we undercharge? And although our nearest and smallest competitor is 10 times larger than 100 employees and they have $50 million in funding, we have more revenue and profits than them. Obviously. So we’ve been able to accomplish some of these unicorn trajectories in our first early years as a SAAS business that other companies accomplished once they have $40 million and they hire tons of people by not doing that. But being a small team – but one of the enabling factors of our growth is that we embrace humanity with that.

So let’s talk tactics for a second.

One of the most underrated growth technologies of the world is the phone. Especially when it comes to software companies. Phone, right? I have to pick it up, kind of heavy and then I have to dial and then look at the waste of human energy, talent and imagination when you sit there. Right? You’re listening to a beep tone – this was really close I would have said my first curse word, but I didn’t. So you listen to the dial tone and then you listen to the voice mail. You’re wasting all this time. Why isn’t sending an email much better? You could send an email to millions of people at once versus making one phone call at a time. We can’t talk to 10 people on the phone at once other than in certain exceptions. So a lot of you don’t like to deal with the phone you don’t like to call the customers or the prospects that designs a business that doesn’t need to do that. And I think in some cases it’s the right strategy but many times it isn’t and I’ll tell you why it’s amazing to use the phone and why all of you at least should consider it. And the ones that already do, I’ll tell you how to do it better.

So first the companies that go for all it’s all inbound. Well was all inbound. Our sales and our traffic and market is all inbound. We’ll do outbound sales at some point because we’re really good at it, but when we launched we said in a few months we’ll do outbound and we still say in a few months we’ll start outbound, but inbound has been working pretty well for us. So even if you have an inbound machine, people come and sign up for a trial or demo, I want you to call these people. I want you to call them long term in your business and short term I want you to call them even if the customer lifetime validity is small, I want you to still call them so you can learn and get insights. Welcome them to your platform.

The other night I had a conversation; in the early days and we were trying to figure out what content marketing that we used was the most effective and I was like we don’t really have the analytics setup in the right way and I kind of feel guilty about it but I don’t know which one of the content things that we do, what are the best channels? How do I figure this out without investing all this time in instrumental analytics? Like pick up the damn phone! DAMN is not a curse word, right? So I’m just checking! So just pick up the phone and ask people where did you hear about us? And I’m like wow! I’m the guy preaching to everybody that they should pick up the phone for sales but then in marketing I’m completely oblivious to it as a tool to gain insights. So you pick up the phone and you say welcome to the trial! I just wanted to personally reach out and say hi. And then quickly ask how did you hear about us and why did you sign up? How about that? How about some people that could learn something from them? Welcome them, give them that extra touch.

We have customers that buy from us just because we call them and our competitors don’t and they’re like I wanna buy sales software from an organisation that understands sales. We’re like right on! We’re with you. You should, right? And our competitors don’t welcome them. So even if you don’t wanna sell, call to ask questions, to learn. We call because we want to qualify every single opportunity that comes in through our door so we know which opportunities need help and sales resources dedicated to them so that they convert into customers better and faster. You should call the cancellations. I know that we all can have now a box that forces people or not to tell us why they wanna go. And then when you make it a certain character model, they just go I don’t like it. You get that sometimes these people that go XXX like 100 million times and then they go really annoying into forcing you into a character count to cancel my subscriptions.

So you can do this automated, right? You can just have people fall out of form and that’s really useful and you should do that, but how about you pick up the phone? Because I can tell you there’s nothing more sobering than to hear from somebody what’s really bad about your software. There’s no better medicine for bad ideas and all your stupidity than people telling it to you. Giving it to you raw, from one human to another.

The other thing is that on the phone you have more context. You don’t just have the words and content but the way it was delivered. So when somebody says it was all right, it’s not the same as this was all right. You go whoa! What wasn’t? You don’t sound that convinced, help me out here! And he goes yeah you know, the problem was that you guys didn’t do X, Y, Z and your competitor does and this failed us and this solved the problems we’ve created and now we went from this was all right to here’s all the problems about your product. So a phone conversation, human to human conversation, allows you to get richer context which makes for richer insights.

There’s no second hand insights. You can’t outsource that, you can automate that, you have to have it and experience it to create these insights.

So you want to call some of these cancellations even if you’re not calling all of them. Just call some of them. But it’s kind of painful. Yes, that’s why I want you to do it. I want you to embrace everything that’s outside of your comfort zone. If you leave this conference and you do everything that seems like a good idea and you’re comfortable, you’ve wasted your money and time. If you can just pick one thing I would pick the one thing that you’re the least comfortable with but still seems like the right idea cause that’s where all your growth is gonna be. Outside of your comfort zone and not within it. So the other thing – somebody asked me yesterday when is the – why does outbound cold calling still work or doesn’t it anymore? And I’ve written the book on startup cold calling. I literally wrote the book on this topic, but I don’t think every company is into cold calling. Far from it! We are not doing it ourselves for our business right now. I am not dogmatic about cold calling. I am pragmatic about it. So for some businesses it makes a lot of sense to do cold calling. And in some businesses it makes no sense. All I want you to do is not to be – because you don’t like something not to take it off the table if it might be the right thing for your business.

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Now let’s talk a little bit about how to make these calls work and how to do sales calls correctly.

All we’re gonna do here is we’re gonna do the basics, because basics is where the mastery lies and where everybody gets wrong. When you make a cold call, the very first thing that you need to do is you need to reach another human being. Sounds obvious, right? It’s the number one problem why sales calls don’t work, the economics but they don’t work when people come to me and they go Steli, our cold calling campaign doesn’t work. I go cool, what’s your reach rate? I can bet money that they don’t know. Well what do you mean by that? Well I mean if you dial 100 numbers, how many times do you actually speak to a human being that has decision making power versus dial tones, voicemails or talking to somebody who has no decision making power. They don’t know – here’s the problem.

People come to be with their plight and they go Steli, we’re gonna make 100 cold calls a day and we assume that we’re gonna get 10 people interested and we’re gonna close 1 out of those, right? That seems kind of fair, 100 and 10% you’re gonna get an opportunity and 10% of those you’re actually gonna close. That seems like a reasonable funnel. The problem is that if you do cold calling, most likely your reach rate is gonna be 15%. So you call 100 people, you’ve reached 15 people, now if you convert 10% of those into an opportunity, we’re taking about 1.5 humans. And if you convert 10% of those into a customer, we’re talking about 0.15 humans. That math looks dramatically different and it’s all because people didn’t understand that the reach rate – a lot of the times with these things we all want to fix the end of the funnel, like how can we sell better? How can we negotiate better? Well you need to reach somebody first.

If you pitch – in the forest and the trees all fall, you know what I mean. So reach rate is really, really significant. There’s one thing you need to know, if you do inbound, with inbound there’s a really powerful hack to dramatically improve your reach rate. You call people within 5 minutes of them signing up. Magic happens. You call them an hour later and you’re gonna have 100% less effectiveness in your calls and outreach. Because if you call them within 5 minutes, they are most likely not in a meeting, at their computer and looking at your thing. It’s much more likely that they’re gonna pick up the phone and when you say hello, I’m calling for they’re looking at it. So at least they won’t go – what is this? Typically, what they say is I just signed up and we go that’s why we called. To say welcome! Welcome! Personally, we wanted to welcome you! Hey! Well I still need to play with the product. Cool, play along but before you do that really quickly, how did you hear about us and why did you sign up? I’ve done this with thousands of people and I can put you in the right direction. Instead of you trying to figure out all the answers on your own, I will point you in the right direction that this is not the right tool for you, I will point you in another direction. And we do that regularly. Very simple.
If you do outbound cold calling, what you want to do is you wanna – you need to consider a lot of things to make it work. You need to figure out who am I selling to? Is this personal persona communicating to the phone? Do they ever pick up the phone when somebody calls them and they don’t recognize it? So you sell to VP’s of marketing or Fortune 500 companies, good luck cold calling them right? But if you sell to accountants, lawyers sometimes and other professionals, some of them do pick up the phone regularly and they get lots of calls from people that they recognise them so it’s a great channel for you to reach them.

What you want to keep in mind is that your reach rate when you call people needs to be above 15%. If you can push it to 20-30-40% magic! Beautiful! If it’s below 10%, you’re dead in the water! Don’t optimise your pitch please! Don’t try to come up with a new PowerPoint. Nothing will fix this problem.

You can’t make calling work if you almost reach nobody you call. It’s never gonna work.

So now that I reached somebody, I need to sound good. Now this is again hard to swallow for some of our more technical friends here, but the humans interact and a lot of the communication part is non-verbal, it has nothing to do with content. It has a lot to do with body language and with tonality and on the phone it’s all tonality. So like 80% how do you sound when you’re trying to present what you say? This is so hard to believe that you need to demonstrate it once in a while to people. Back in the day many ages ago, when I had a much larger sales force, I literally would call people with this pitch we’ll save you $5,000 in 5 years, whatever. And I would call people and tell them we will save you $5 in 5,000 years. All you need to do is sit back, relax and not think about X, Y and Z. And people take the meeting, they would buy the product and my team would be like holy cow! Right? So it doesn’t matter! The point in that situation is that the brain is a magical device and it goes $5 in 5.000 years that makes no sense and changes the data sometimes just to make sense of that.

You heard that funny story when they were testing this in uni’s and they had the banana and one would jump up and stab the student with a banana and there were props and there was blood and everything? The student runs out with a banana and there’s police and ambulance coming and then the police is interviewing the people, the students that were sitting around them and they are all describing the knife. All of them. Because the brain went banana? That’s bananas! That can’t stab somebody so just change the banana to a knife.

So the way you sound will create an image in the person’s ear and then through that in your mind. And that image will influence how they feel about you and that will influence how influenced they want to be by you. Email, it’s not the nicest thing, we all would like to just give the facts and people make the right decisions, but that’s not the reality of the world we’re living today. Who knows with the AI’s in the future? But right now, you need to understand that if you call people, you better sound good. And that means that you need to sound excited because if you’re not excited that you’re talking to me, why should I care about you? You called me and interrupted me, I was just making myself a sandwich. If you’re bored talking to me what the hell? So you better be excited and happy talking to me, you better sound smart and an authority and somebody who knows something about something. Otherwise why would I want to talk to you? We want to talk to somebody who sounds like they’re an authority. It sounds authentic and someone they could cross potentially so you need to pay attention to the kind of energy and state you’re in when you make these calls or when other people in your team make them. This matters and it sounds very much like personal development hoo-haa, just sit in front of a mirror and go we’re gonna be great! And then you call and everything is gonna be great. So I know that that’s not that appealing of an idea and not a good practice to do it exactly this way but you need to care.

When people are on the phone and they sound like this – yes, I’m calling from ABC Software. I wanted to welcome you to our site. Just kill me! Let’s both just kill ourselves. This is horrible! And too many times I hear people sound like that. Sales people, CEO’s, engineers, everybody. Too many people sound horribly unenthusiastic when they’re calling to talk to a prospect. And that’s a crime in my world we stopped doing that.

Then you want to ask questions so a lot of times, people – we had this with somebody in the audience – our pitches are 20-30 minutes. How can we do that when we’re doing a cold call? Well you don’t. And your pitch can be shorter than that, but my whole point is like when you pitch, you want to just give me one sense, a little bit of something like what is the context of this? And then you don’t go on telling them your whole life story or everything your product does. You don’t have the permission; you haven’t built the social capital.

All you do is when you pick up the phone, think about it! You pick up the phone and what is in your mind when someone is talking to you who you don’t know? Who is this? So what you do first is you answer that question. You go hey, my name is Steli I’m calling for reason X, Y and Z and this is why I called right now. And then the person – think about it. That is a user journey of that phone call then the person goes well what does Steli want from me? Right? And I go, here’s what I want for you. What we do is – in a sentence, so you can relax. It’s not gonna take all of your day. What we do in a sentence is X, Y and Z. So now the person thinks yes, no or maybe. So they go yes and I go great! And now I ask some questions to figure out if they are the right pitch. So I say great, what is your sales process like? They go maybe. I go great! What’s your sales process like? And they go no. You say great! What’s your sale process like?

It’s not that I never care, it’s if they like it or not or are they interested or not. I don’t care the beginning but I need them to get it out of their system. I don’t want them to think I need to verbalise it so they can now pay attention to me. And I don’t want to sell them if they’re not the right fit but they don’t know and I don’t know yet. We just said hello, there’s not enough information for people to make a really good, educated decision but I know that they will have an opinion and I can’t just talk over that because if someone thinks it isn’t for me. And I go well – and they’re like, how am I gonna get out of this call now? I have to buy flowers from my wife. So then while I’m talking they’re not listening. They all assume just because we’re talking – think about how many times somebody talks to you you’re not paying attention, especially when they’re not there in person. You’re like checking your Facebook status and deploying some new code. It’s like a script and when they say the right key words you zoom in again, but you’re not paying attention the entire time that somebody speaks.

I have shocking news for you, when you talk. That also applies to other people.

We never seem to consider that when we talk. We only know about all our defence mechanisms when other people talk to us. So you wanna ask a bunch of questions like who are these people and how can you help them?

Like there’s a simple qualifying process that we go through. First I need to know can I help you? Then I need to know can you help me? Only the answer is yes, I sell.

But then again selling is pretty easy. So I ask a bunch of questions like is this person the right fit? Can we truly help them? And then often I ask questions to see if he’s the decision maker, if they have the money, what is the decision making process, if it’s a referral customer. Is this gonna be somebody who helps me? And if the answer to both questions is then yes, I sell then selling is easy but that’s the easy part.

Do you want to learn how to ask really good questions? Then pay attention. I will just say one thing with this. People are surprised again and again about getting the exact same objections. How are you surprised about this stuff? People always ask this. It’s like the people’s humans. They always ask about our pricing. Well maybe they always ask about pricing, how about preparing for that question? That’s a crazy idea, right? How about just having a word doc and in that doc you write the 10 most common questions and objections and then you think about an answer to those. Preferably an answer that’s just like one or two sentences, because again it’s more about the delivery than the answer. Again, some people are pained by this truth but it’s the truth. Some people are asked really ridiculous questions just for answers and clarity and confidence. There it’s just a transaction of confidence. They will go I have doubts about this I feel weird about this and then they will ask you and you feel really good or calm or confident about it. All right, this feels ok now. And they will move on to the next topic.

But the point is that you’re able to answer these questions not by computing an answer in real time and be horrible and having to do this again, but by preparing for it, right? And then this is version control. You don’t do this once and its perfect forever. You have versions. You start with version 1 and you spend 30 minutes on it and you don’t waste your life. And then once a week you check in with the team and you go are these still valid, good answers? Are we getting good responses? If not, let’s improve on them. And then finally you go for the close. So – and I’m not gonna talk too much about that and if you want to learn more about that shoot me an email But too many phone calls, human interactions they don’t end with just the ask for the close. A – are you guys ready to buy? Are you excited? Are we gonna do this? Can you give me your credit card number? Are you signing up? Are we getting a commitment? We all are afraid to ask that question because that question creates a moment of truth and that truth it might hurt because they might just reject me. So I’d rather go in to nicey nicey land and go this was an amazing demo, thank you for your time and they go yes, this was really great. Thank you for your time! No, thank you! And then you go back to your team like this was an amazing demo. We thanked each other 12 times and the chemistry was off the hook! And then they go all right, so what’s happening? We’ll wait and they’ll buy. Yeah, sure. So you have to ask for the money and to create these moments of truth.

All right, I’ll talk a little bit about email.

Here’s my main issue with most B2B companies when it comes to the emails they send. They are all very marketing emails and I want you to also send sales emails. Marketing emails have nice html and they come from email addresses that are like contact@ or support@ or even better noreply@ but I don’t think you guys would make that mistake. And they come from a non-human, obvious a one to many communication with something that’s very like artificial. Nice looking but it’s not like human communication. You wouldn’t paint beautiful pictures to communicate your point to your mom. You would just tell her and look her in her eyes. So I want you to send marketing emails as well and all that stuff but I also want you to start sending sales emails.

Now, what makes a sales email a sales email? Very simple. A few things. Number one, it needs to feel like a confident human being. So no html, it comes from a real human being email address, even if it’s automated its still Kevin or Phil@. It’s not contact, sales, support, some generic email address.
Then you don’t write subject headlines that read like ads. The 10 reasons why will change your sales team. I don’t have a talk like that – I would never write this, all capital letters to another human being. It’s obvious in the subject that this was not written to me by another human being. So you wanna make sure that your subject lines read like human being written. I have a quick question. Like something that sounds like a human being wrote it. Small letters. There’s even hacks, if you misspelled the subject lines it increases open rates sometimes. We see it’s more human we like it so we click it.

So you wanna send a lot more than you’re comfortable with. So you know, actually a great SAAS entrepreneurs and investor once said that if some part of your email list doesn’t think you’re spamming them, you’re sending too little emails. And whatever you think they are comfortable with, you need to send more. Now you can segment and pay attention to the people that wanna unsubscribe, they will. You can pay attention to the people that don’t open your emails and you can start reducing what these people get, but the people that open and respond to your emails and engage, send them more! They obviously like it! You wanna send a ton of emails! You wanna over communicate, especially when somebody signs up for a trial of your products, it’s your responsibility to stay on top of mind and to manage the relationship, not theirs! They signed up and the next moment I’m hungry. Sandwich. I’m distracted. My wife. Flowers. That’s it, they never think about you again. It’s your job to keep on top of mind. They get hundreds of emails from daily deals from sites that they subscribed to your emails that you sent is like an inbox nirvana 5 minutes later they will never see this thing again. So you need to be on top of mind. Send a lot of emails and follow-ups. You wanna make your emails call to action oriented.
Ok, this is what you wanted to communicate with me. What do I do now? Give me one thing! Only one thing but please give me one thing. Don’t send me emails that tell me to do nothing, you’re wasting my time. Just give me something to do! Is there something to read, to click or reply? Why did you send me this? What is my job now? How can I get this out of my inbox and get my responsibility done?

Same basics with sales emails, right? You need to open, read and respond and follow up. So very basic things. Open is the biggest thing so a lot of the times people send me their sales emails and they go seller, can you critique those? I go no and they go why? And I go because there’s no subject line. I’m not gonna look at your email if I won’t know what the subject line is. So we discuss the subject lines and make sure that you write like a human. Make sure you don’t trick me like what was the most effective subject line ever written to you?

Most effective subject line ever written to me was opened my inbox after vacation, hundreds and hundreds of emails, I immediately zoomed into one email that says very disappointed. And I click on that and it’s . . . that we haven’t been able to connect yet. I’ve tried to email you a number of times and I’m like, delete. I applauded that person, you tricked me to opening it. Delete! So just because you get really great opening rates, it’s not the whole experience. I guarantee you if I send you an email today and it says I had your mother in my basement even if you don’t have a mother, you would open that email! But it doesn’t mean that you’re gonna read and respond and become a customer and appreciate it. So let’s keep the entire journey like subject lines that deliver and I like emails that deliver on the promise of the subject line. Please!

Then anything you say in your email is a pitch to keep on reading. A lot of times people send me these huge emails and at the bottom then there’s the best stuff because they just assume since they wrote all of this sequentially I will surely read all of this sequentially. Again, not true. Don’t bury the lead, come out swinging! Every sentence needs to be answered like ok, so? Why am I spending my time with this? Now that’s why you want to keep it brief, because if your email is just one sentence, it’s harder not to read it than to read it. It takes more human decision making energy for me not to read these 4 words than to read them but if you send a huge email it will sure fire way from me. I just go you don’t respect your time and my time so this isn’t gonna be a great relationship. So make sure that the emails that you write are short and to the point and every sentence you need to ask yourself if I only read this sentence, would I read on? And if the answer is no, you need to short it down.

Again you need to get me to respond, but in emails you need to imagine that I’m not gonna respond, cause I get distracted because of other things on my mind and I’m like this friction. Monday or Tuesday. Monday’s not it – and that’s it. Now the phone rings or something happens and I’m done. I’m like done with that decision and now it’s even harder for me to go back to this email because I already experienced some friction and decision making back and forth on it. So make sure you follow up and I’ll talk about this more in a little bit in more depth and detail.
Here’s a cool tablet for people that don’t wanna follow up definitely which is what I recommend to most people, especially in automated setting what you can do is you can utilise the breakup email. This is a very powerful email template, right? You send – basically somebody signs up and you send them an email and tell them let’s get on the phone and I will handle it to this demo and then send them another email – hey I saw you uploaded this and this but you haven’t uploaded your context, here’s the way to do it. Send them another email with hey, it’s time for you to upgrade! Here is a discount code. And they never reply to any of these emails.

Here’s a powerful email to write. This is an example for Hubspot. I think the subject line is not that great. So they say thank you from Hubspot. A better subject would be goodbye from Hubspot because what they basically say here – and I’ll send you the template if you want – they say hey, I’ve tried to communicate with you so many times. Now is the point where I have to make the decision that’s probably something is not right for you now so here’s the deal. I’m gonna take you off my list and you will never hear from me again. If you want to get in touch, you can get in touch with me.

Here’s another example with the subject from Trunk Club. It uses goodbye from Trunk Blub, better! And I would use goodbye from Steli, from the person. And again it says hey, I tried many times, and it seems that you’re not interested. If you are I’m always here to help but you’re off my list. You will never hear from me again. Those are the emails and here, I tracked it, there were like 4 emails with Trunk Club and 5 with Hubspot. I never replied to any of those emails and I always reply to the goodbye one. Always do. This is a very effective email. Because you take something away from a human and the moment they took it away from me I was like no, no. I am interested! That’s why I signed up. I truly was. I just didn’t have time! Until they told goodbye. I was like no, don’t say goodbye yet!

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When you demo your product, this is a good one. All right. So this is one of the most painful parts of software companies is watching that demo’s. Experiencing the demo’s. I’ve seen thousands and they all were terrible. All of them! So what we’re gonna try to do is we’re gonna try to make the world a better place right now together, by deciding to stop this, at least for the companies in this room. And there’s a few simple rules – this is not that magical. It’s not that hard to give great demos!

A few simple rules. Number one, you want to make your demo short! 15 minutes. Not 30, not 60. Most software companies, especially the ones in the enterprise space, have 60 minute demos. With another 30 minute Q&A’s. Kill me now! It’s horrible! You want to make your demos short. You wanna make sure that you only give demos to the right people. Do you know how many demos I’ve seen? An hour, 12 people in our team are dialling into this demo and at the end it turns out when they ask well what are the next steps? The person goes well that’s a good question. This is kind of my first day here as an intern. So I’m not quite clear what the next steps are. Well what the hell? And then people again get upset. This is outrageous! These humans again! Wasting our time! Well how about qualifying the people you dedicate an hour and a half of your day to? How about picking up the phone, asking a few questions and realise who’s this person? What’s their best way of helping them? It’s really a demo. So only give out a demo to people who truly qualify and when you do, make it short. Realise that it’s not about demonstrating all your features and functionalities.

This is so obvious, but I really – what I want to do is I want you to record the demo you give and then watch it. With this slide printed out and next to it. Yeah, let’s do that! Most of the secrets of life or no secrets are just hard to implement. What is the secret to living? What can I do with the new sporting thing? Eat broccoli and work out! Boom! Done! That’s it! There’s no magic in this. But doing it is something that I don’t wanna do. So give me something I wanna do. Right now, so I can’t, I just can’t. So here’s the deal, we all know these things. Nothing I tell you today is something that’s like magical and you’ve never heard and thought of before but that’s not the point. My point is can I get you to do one of these things? One more than you did yesterday and we made the world a better place, we made it a great event. That’s all it is. What’s the one thing? Look at your demos. I have to look at our demos and our demos are horrible. They are! Like there’s so much that we need to improve and once we improve it, in 6 months that you look at it again, and it’s grown in to terrible land again.

This needs to constant work so you don’t demonstrate all features, don’t click things. I’m going to punish you if you click things. Like people go and this is the page where you send the emails – look. Here’s the email I’ve pre-written. Here’s the send button, click on send. Now we’re gonna watch the spinning wheel. Oh it spins! See, sent. What? Why did I have to watch this? This is so ridiculous. It’s mindless, this is mindlessness at work and people are just going what’s the simplest way to do it? I now have to do everything of this product and I’m gonna show this person everything about the product. Oh, yes. You click settings and just – yes. There’s a self-control here and it’s bad, ladies and gentlemen. And really it’s – all right. So please, don’t click on things! Just go! This is the page where we send emails. It’s beautiful, see the template is simple, two seconds.

Here’s the next page. Keep it moving! Show me the things I need to see! I have questions and I answered those, let’s get to the next point. What do we need to click on the button? And just watch it spin and it’s just stupid. And the other thing, you don’t – this is – demos are not training. You’re not making me a black belt ninja in your software right now. That’s not the purpose of it. Thank you, one person! I’ll take it! It’s not your demonstrating value, you’re not training me in proficiency. And then please be prepared for errors and mistake. This is another thing where it’s very rational.

You know, somebody gives a demo and you click around and then I lost my internet connection. Let me see, this never happens! Really? Or they click on something and, error message. People, this is not the first time on rodeo. It’s not the first time this happened in a demo. And then they like go to the engineering room and they kick in the door and I’m like this is ridiculous! I’ve just had a demo and everything broke down! You guys are crazy? And then they’re just like you really have to interrupt rolling stones right now. To listen to this dude and they go like this. And nothing gets done. So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to prepare for these things that happen again and again.

How about before you do a demo, you open up all the tabs of the most important screens that you need to share so you can share them online and offline. If you can’t do that, take some screen shots then you got to get a PowerPoint. If there’s a bug, here’s what we do when there’s an error in the live demo. If there’s an error in a live demo, we go oh this is beautiful! This is a perfect opportunity for me to demonstrate to you, this is a real error, I didn’t plan this and I’m gonna demonstrate to you how to communicate to our support team to fix this.

So you go up into the right, you go to live chat, we have real engineers and they are building the product and they’re answering the question. And watch this I’m writing hey Phil! I’m doing a live demo right now and I’ve just got this error! And yeah, any ideas of what to do next? And then Phil says well I want you to open console, and what exactly did you do is it reproducible? And we go through the routine and I’m like this is the way we deal with things when things breakdown. It doesn’t happen often, but when it happens I want you to report. That’s it! It’s the little things that you do that makes you stand out. You really just have to open one eye and you’re king amongst the blind. Really it’s what it is. Every day we marvel at how successful we are. This is ridiculous! We’re a bunch of jokers, how are we so successful? This is crazy! Right? It’s the little things, you do this, you stand out. How many demos have they seen when something went wrong and people were like flustered and then you do a demo and you’re totally prepared, relaxed and happy. That’s all it takes to make a human comfortable with you, makes them trust you. Wants to do business with you. Very simple.

So I’m not gonna spend too much time on this, but you should email me about this. This is the number one piece of advice that I give with the highest error attached to it. I know this, because every day at this point I get about 5 emails of people telling me the magical things that happened in their lives following my advice. A very simple rule. When we have a communication, a call, a meeting in person, an email exchange and you show some level of interest in my proposition and then you go silent, I will follow up indefinitely. That means forever. Forever!

Until I get a response, I’m cool with yes or no. Both are good. Both are clear end results. The place where companies go to die is the maybe land, we don’t know what happened land, we have to make up stories in our mind what happened land. I don’t like to live there. I like to live in no and yes. Both of them give clear results and they give me information what to do and improve and how things are going. So you will hear from me forever. There’s many examples, I’ve given talks about how we’ve got brilliant investors, press. I got to this event because of a follow-up.

I sent Mark an email, he doesn’t remember this, 2 years ago. Hey, I should speak at your conference. Never heard from Mark and I sent another email hey, watch all these talks. I didn’t get a reply. And then I had another person in the team to reach out to Mark, didn’t hear anything back. And then I was like Patrick, can you be so kind to tell Mark that you like me? And round of applause for Patrick, please! That’s how you get invited to events to speak. People are like how do you get invited? It’s not invited, it’s kind of open to interpretation term. But now once in a while I do. But follow up a lot. We’re building a whole book on this, case study on case study of people closing a million dollar deals getting funding, getting press, creating magic by just following the simple rule. You will never, ever stop following up. When somebody is silent, you don’t equate it with rejection. You equate it with they’re busy and having a life and it has nothing to do with you. That’s why they don’t reply. It’s your job to keep the relationship going.

You wanna visit your customers!

So a lot of times, you think of visiting customers physically is like an enterprise thing to do but only big enterprises customers. Strippers and steak. Strippers are a profession, right? I’m still in the clear. So you think like you have to go and take this customer out and like wine and dine them to do and spend all this money to get to the $10 million contract. Well we sell to people who pay us $100 a month or $500 or $10,000 a year. It’s not enough for me to visit all these people. You don’t have to, but you still have to visit your customers. Even if your customer lifetime value is $1,000 I want you to start visiting your customers. Not all of them, but some of them.

There’s nothing more beautiful than walking into an office of a customer and seeing your product live in production and seeing the pain and confusion in the faces of the people that truly have to use it, not just the people who bought it. Nothing more powerful than sitting down and building relationships. Getting contacts! It’s even more contacts than the phone call. You now see the office, the energy, the people. You see the other software tools that they use. What is this on the screen? You’re using this competitive product with – why? Yeah, we like their thingy thing better than your thingy thing.

You would never know, right? You wanna build a relationship face to face and these people is gonna create loyalty and that’s gonna transcend into more money, better relations, more insights and champions. We really like to visit customers. This was a customer that we visited when we were in Berlin – I travel a lot, we all do, and when we travel we take this as an opportunity. Since we’re not in the office anyways, to visit customers. With customers around the world, we travel, we visit our customers. Show up there, we shake hands and kiss babies, we give books. We – and we go and talk to the users than sometimes other people that communicate with us on a daily basis through support chat or email and we ask them how do you like it? And they go it’s all right and then we go oh, cool! What’s not great about it? So you wanna visit your customers, even if you do it just once a quarter or once a year, I don’t care. Start visiting your customers!

You wanna give support. No news here, but the way that we like to give support is one way in which we give real support. So one of my co-founders is doing support full time, the entire business and company, everybody in the company is doing support. And at this point, the size of our customer and revenue base it’s hard to do. It’s getting harder and harder every single month to maintain doing that. Even harder is it when things go bad and that’s the most important time for you to turn support into something that generates money. It’s not just a nicey, nicey thing. It’s a necessary evil. Humans ask questions that they can’t answer through support or a knowledgebase. So because humans are not proficient in reading themselves what the answers are, we have to have humans answering some of these questions. It’s not just that, it can be an amazing opportunity to turn things around, especially when they’re bad.

Yesterday, while at this amazing conference, our app went down. And I’m like getting into the groove of the conference, I’m having fun and enjoying it and then it’s like we’re getting tens and tens of calls every minute, emails and people that where is the app? Where are the mission critical apps? If you can’t check it, you can’t make sales, calls, emails and talk to your customers. So your sales team is sitting there worthless, without the software allowing them to do their job. So all of a sudden you have to leave the conference and then the question is what do you do? Not just fixing the problem but do show up? Do you call these people that are complaining, even when you don’t have a good answer? You just take the punishment and you go yes, we’re horrible. Yes, this is terrible. Give me all your aggression and frustration. Just give it to me and get it out of your system and I’ll take the punishment because I deserve it. And then I’ll call you back in 10 minutes to fix the problem. And then I’ll call you back and tell you why we’ll fix it, how we will fix it and what we will do about this not happening again. Very uncomfortable but it’s those moments that turn things around.

We made some big, stupid mistake a year ago or two and we actually decided to call every single customer and apologise and we took that opportunity to have a real conversation with these people and a lot of them told us how happy they are usually with us and then we turn that into you know what? You’ve been such a loyal customer, you’re so happy and super understanding even when we messed things up. I love you and want to give you a better price on our product. How about we switch it to an annual contract and you can take advantage of our 15% annual discount? We converted an insane amount of people to annual contracts. That’s how you turn something negative into something positive. You have to bite the bullet though and call these people that you’re uncomfortable with that you know are gonna shout at you and not gonna sing you praises. It’s those things outside your comfort zone. If we do it and you’re competitive and you don’t, it’s gonna crush you. So those little things that make all the difference.

So just a word on enterprise sales for those of you that are crazy enough or delusional enough to attempt it. I just have one point. IBM does not buy software. There’s no corporation buying software, yet. Until AI changes everything. So until then, there’s always people. It’s always gonna be Bob, Mary, John, Joe. Some human usually in enterprises it’s a collection of humans which is why it’s so hard to do that are making these decisions.

I interviewed Gary Van der Chuck most of you or many of you might know him and I was telling him how did you transition from selling wine to selling multi-million dollar contracts to Fortune 500 in the enterprising space? And he was like what’s the question? What transition? I was selling to Bob and Mary wine and now I’m selling to Bob and Mary advertising budgets. I am just dealing with people; it doesn’t matter what I sell.

You realise that a lot of the mystic we don’t know what we’re doing or why we’re not doing it the right way. All that goes away and you realise it’s just people. The thing that makes is complicated is you deal with many people and you need to realise that all of these people have conflicting interests. A lot of the times, software business, especially start-ups they think because you always think it’s in the best interest of the overall business, you go and you pitch the overall best interest of the business. You go this is why our software is the right thing for IBM and the person thinks well what’s in it for me? Is this good for Bob? Cause if it’s not good for Bob, who cares about IBM? They were around before I was here and they will be around when I leave. I need to take care of my own interests. So if something seems risky to Bob, doesn’t matter if it’s the right thing for IBM. He’s not gonna do it. Something that seems risky or stupid or bad for the career, Mary, she’s not gonna do it.

So there’s individual interest, there are group interest, maybe a department or division and there’s the overall good of the business. You need to understand that all of these usually are in complete conflict in an enterprise and large organisations and you need to navigate that conflict by adjusting your pitch to the individual, to the group, to the overall business. And most people don’t, they give one generic pitch and they hope they will catch it. They need one person that will look at this and goes this is risky for my career and you’re done. You realise then and you always deal with a person that’s again why wining and dining and meeting the person in the enterprise is so important, something that you can’t discuss over the phone. But it’s hard to build up the relationship so that Bob tells you that there’s this other person in their department that’s not that great of a person and you need to know these juicy details to know what’s going on there and you can navigate these waters.

But once you realise that, a lot of the complexities go away and it’s actually pretty simple. For people that wanna know more, I’ve written two books. Actually I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and we’ve turned them magically into books as a content strategy of ours. But these books are really good. One is all about outbound sales for start-ups and the other about inbound sales for start-ups. And then we combine the two to make the ultimate book for start-ups. We like to re-purpose and re-mix content and we really like to create useful content. So if you want all of these, all 3 which would be redundant but still nice, you can email me at and I will give it to you for free.

And then I will quickly summarise and leave you with a story. I want you to think about these 5 ways to sell software using sale. We didn’t have enough – I didn’t think of the spacing enough to give the last s.

So 5 things, the first is I want you to start calling people and using the power of the phone to connect with other human beings for your business. I want you to send the emails just like a human being would send to another human being, communicate like a human being. I wanted to start giving good demos, short and to the point, demonstrating value. Being prepared for problems and issues that could arrise. I want you to visit your customers. Just do me a favour, write down a customer you will visit by the end of the year. I promise it will make you a better person, your business a better business and your product a better product. Their lives better – it’s just gonna make humanity a nicer place. Go and visit your customers in person and then give real support. Especially when things are really bad, don’t hide behind your helpdesk centre or some generic email. Don’t hide! Show up and show face, it might be a great opportunity for you to build a relationship and get more money from them.

I’m gonna end my presentation with this. So a lot of the times people ask me and they say Steli, you’re this amazing sales guy, a Silicon Valley sales guru and all that. What was the most powerful sales pitch you got? The time you were sold in the most amazing way? And I always tell this story. This is 12-13 years ago. I just started as entrepreneur, my first business was going kind of all right, I’m like 17/18 years old and eventually I’m able to afford a nice suit. I’m coming from a really humble factory worker immigrant family background and so I don’t have a lot of money. Now I have some money, I wanna buy a really nice suit to feel really professional about being an entrepreneur. So I went to this place where I felt really comfortable. I’m a dude, so when I shop, I don’t wanna talk to anybody. I’m small like a special forces unit thing. You drop me and I go and grab the target and just I’m out of there. I don’t wanna spend too much time in there.
So when sales people approach me I just go no. I’m just looking! Don’t talk to me! So I walk into this store and this is extra uncomfortable because this is a very expensive store. I wanna buy something expensive so my ego feels great about myself. So I walk in there and I’m like I don’t really wanna talk to anybody because I don’t really know anything about these things. So I feel uncomfortable. So this is an older dude, super slim. Bald, immaculately dressed. Looks like somebody who has experience and has seen something in his life and is super charismatic. He sees me and approaches me and I go like I’m just looking! And I’m running into a corner and he’s shadowing me the entire time, just plotting.

And then at the right moment I look at something and he throws in some little fact and he goes this tie will not work for you and he reels me in and we start talking and he’s just doing his magic. Magical guy, gives me this advice, tells me what to wear and not to wear. Does his whole spiel. At the end of the day I’m in front of the counter ready to pay all this stuff. This huge pile of clothes and he puts everything in and it’s like all right. It’s €3000. And I’m like it’s a bit more than what I wanted but kind of cool. I’m so successful I’m gonna spend that much money today. So grabbing to my pocket and I realise I don’t have my wallet and there’s like a line behind me and now I get insecurities.

I’m 17 and I was like these people will think I can’t pay; this guy will think I can’t afford it so I’m like I forgot my money. I will come back never. And so I’m like sweating now, I’m red. I’m like – so I’m telling this person and I’m like I’m super sorry. I forgot my wallet. Can you just put it to the side and I will go and grab my wallet and I will come back and everything is gonna be fine? He looks at me and he goes no. And I’m like oh man! And he goes what do you mean put it to the side? These are your clothes, you take them with you and whenever you can, you come and you pay. And I was like – so he packs everything up and gives it to me and I’m like slowly opening the door, just checking if there’s an alarm or something and I walk out. And I tell you what I did next.
I went into my car, I called my next appointment and cancelled, I drove home, picked up my wallet and drove right back to the store, I walked in and I paid. And I tell you what I would have done if that person would have put that stuff to the side. I would’ve walked out there and I would never come back because I was embarrassed and I hate shopping and it took me half a year to get the energy to get myself to go and buy some clothes. And up until that point, nobody ever treated me like that, with that level of respect and trust. And 13 years ago, I don’t know what ties I bought, I don’t know what clothes I bought, after that event I started going to the store every month and I spent on average 2 to 3,000 every month with this specific sales guy. Every month!
13 years ago I don’t know any of these clothes anymore. I don’t know what I bought or his name or the store name, but I will never forget how he made me feel. I will never forget that! I tell this story all the time on stage. I’ve told this to thousands of people and I will continue telling the story forever. So as humans, we do still possess a little bit of power and that power is to make another human being feel something. Don’t disregard that power when you run your business. Thank you very much!

Steli Efti,
Steli Efti

Steli Efti

Steli Efti is known as Silicon Valley’s most prominent sales leader and has advised hundreds of startups on growing their sales teams successfully.

He is the CEO and co-founder of Close, which started life as a ‘Sales as a Service’ business for SaaS companies but became an inside sales SaaS CRM for startups and SMBs. Close is a 40 person remote working company. Steli has written 9 books about startup sales and is an active investor & advisor to many high growth companies.

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