Hack & Hustle

How To Sell Like A Boss: Keep It Short

CEOs are in a better position to close a deal: they have a lot of experience, a deep industry background, they have more decision making power and a better understanding of the overall business. But one of the main reasons why CEOs are often brought in to seal a deal is just magical branding bullshit: 

The CEO has a high status, and everybody likes to deal with high status people. That aura of importance can make a real difference in how people perceive you and your offer.

The good news is, you don't actually need to be a CEO to benefit from this effect.

Here's a simple hack to sell more CEO-like, without pretending to be something you're not: shorten your sales conversations. 

Simply open your sales call as follows: "Hey John, I'm super excited about the call today. I want to be respectful of your time, and I have another call in exactly thirty minutes. I think that's going to be plenty of time for us to accomplish everything we need, so let's get down to it. Let's talk about the objections and the questions that you guys have, and really move this forward."

Simple as that, but it sets the tone for the entire dialogue.

Why Should You Keep Your Sales Conversations Short?

  • By defining a clear time limit at the beginning of a sales conversation, you demonstrate that you're busy. Why does being busy matter? Because people equate being busy with being important and successful.
  • It gives the whole conversation a focused energy and clear direction.
  • It creates urgency in the conversation to move things forward.

Why Some Sales People Like Lots of Talk

If you go into your sales conversations as if time is not an issue, you'll create the impression that you're weak and unimportant, and that your time has no value. Yet, some sales reps believe they should engage in long small talk. Why is that?

  • Because they think it's a more natural way to have a conversation.
  • They confuse meaningless small-talk with building rapport. If you're good at building rapport, you don't need an eternity to build it, you do it quick. If you need twenty minutes of small talk to build rapport, you suck at building rapport.
  • They assume that the more they talk, the higher the chance that the prospect is going to buy.
Needless to say, all these assumptions are misguided. Sales is about selling, and that's what you should focus on.

How To Interrupt Prospects Who Love Hearing Themselves Speak?

Some prospects keeps on talking and talking about everything under the sun. Many sales people will just let the person speak, lending them their ear - secretly hoping this will create enough goodwill and sympathy to help them close the deal. Wrong. Interrupt them to bring the conversation back on track - that will only make them respect you more. 

Here's what you say: "Hey John, let me interrupt you real quick, John, I respect your time immensely, I know that we only have another ten minutes on this call, I want to make sure that we cover all the important things. I know that we said that A, B and C is really crucial to you. Is there anything we're missing? Let's make sure that we cover every little point to make sure that we're really going to deliver the biggest value, and make this a tremendously successful deal for you. So let's focus, what are the core things that are really important to do?"

You're being polite, but determined. Use friendly strength to take charge of the conversation, and give it a clear direction. Prospects appreciate that, especially if you make it all about them. 

Be Your Own Sales-CEO

Long-winded conversations where you talk about everything between heaven and earth really defeat the purpose of sales. If you're not creating value for the buyer and your own company, you're just wasting time. 

Whether you're an entry-level sales rep or VP of sales - be the CEO of your sales conversations.

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Sales Objection Overkill? How To Handle Prospects Who Keep Requesting More And More

I recently listened to our sales guy talking with a prospect who had a seemingly endless list of objections. He wanted feature X, he didn't like the way our sales CRM lacked social features, he thought we should improve the mobile experience, and it just went on and on like this. A never-endling list of requests.

Our sales guy defended our app. Immediately jumped in after every objection. Lots of explanations and excuses.

The prospect kept on going. More objections. More demands.

It went back and forth like this for several rounds, and the call wasn't going anywhere. It was just tiring and exhausting, and no value was created for either party. The sales conversation slowly but surely deteriorated into one big waste of time.

How do you handle a situation like this? What can you do when you're inundated by objections, and for every answer you give, you just get another objection?

Let Them Talk Themselves Empty First

First of all, you don't immediately jump at every objection they give you. Instead, let them talk and just listen. Don't create an opposition where it becomes a competition between sales rep and prospect. Give them space to express their concerns.

Ask if there's anything else, and keep listening. Don't defend, don't respond to these objections directly at this stage. 

Prioritize Objections

Now you ask them: "Out of all these things that you mentioned, what's a deal-breaker, what's important, and what's nice to have?"

prioritize 

Let them prioritize their requests and objections into these three categories.

And then focus on the deal-breakers. Completely ignore the nice to haves. Just handle the objections that can kill the deal first.

Then ask them: "Did I do a good enough job? If we could address these particular things in this way, would you consider us as the right solution?"

You'll either get a yes or a no. If you get a yes, it's easy - you can move on with the sale.

But what if they say no?

Then you ask them another question. You ask them: "What's missing? What else do you need?"

Prioritizing their objections, so you can focus on the things that matter, rather than forever dancing back and forth with them around an endless stream of objections.

Ignore The Nice To Haves

Don't talk about nice to haves if you haven't dealt with deal-breakers and the important stuff. Even if you can fulfill all their nice to haves, and you're the perfect fit for them in that category... if you can't resolve the deal breakers, the nice to haves are worthless.

Keep The Conversation On Track

I can tell you from experience that many times prospects will bring up a dozen different things that they want to have, and when you ask them: "What's a deal breaker, what's really important to you?" they will bring up things they haven't mentioned at all.

Prospect: "Well, if you want to talk about the really important things, that's A, B and C." (And during the entire conversation, they've talked about everything from D to Z, but not a single word about A, B or C.)

If that happens to you, don't get frustrated with the customer - it's your responsibility to keep the sales conversation focused on what matters.

YOU have to ask the right questions so that they give you the answers that matter.

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Traction Book Interview on Startup Sales

Here's a recent interview Justin Mares did with me. Justin wrote Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers, together with DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg.

It's a great book for startup founders, and if you buy before September 15 you'll get a bunch of awesome bonuses.

Here's an overview of what we talk about:

  • the different stages of startup sales
  • founder-led sales
  • sales challenges for technical founders, and how to overcome them
  • developing a sales model that works
  • scaling sales
  • the difference between good and great sales people
  • ... and more ;)

Listen in!

Transcript:

Justin Mares:
Awesome. Okay, cool. Steli, you have a ton of experience with startup sales. One thing that we talk about in Traction Book is we talk about kind of a phased approach where startups are in the early stages where they're trying to go from 0 to 100, 0 to 1,000 customers. There's more of the growth phase of 1000, 10,000 and then there's kind of the scale phase past that, which is where some companies like HubSpot, Salesforce and the like are in that now.

In your opinion, how have you seen sales change across all of those different phases? What do startups need to know, depending on the phase that they're in?

Steli:
Yeah, that's a great question. When we were running an outsourced salesforce in the heart of Silicon Valley basically doing sales for other startups or technology companies, we liked to divide companies into two stages to simplify things: sales exploration and sales execution.

In exploration, what that means is that you typically have already a few customers maybe. That's after you put a product together and you've got it validated and some people like it and some companies pay for it. But you don't yet have a repeatable and predictable sales process where you know exactly the amount of results you're going to drive by the type of activities that you're going to take. You haven't figured it out in a way where you can see the future and you know exactly what to do to hit your numbers next month and the month after.

In the exploration phase it's just like with the customer development process. It's a lot more about learning than about executing, because you don't know yet what to execute. A lot of times companies will make, startups and entrepreneurs will make the mistake of taking the few customers they have and the few results they've seen and thinking, "Well, this is great. We have 20 paying customers. We want to have 2000 paying customers. Let's just hire a bunch of salespeople and have them go nuts and hopefully it's going to create a lot of revenue for us." That usually is not that great of an idea.

In the exploration phase you want to go step-by-step. The very first step, I would say, is as founders, it needs to be a founder-led sales approach where you actually do a lot of the sales selling yourself. Even if you're technical, even if you think you don't have experience, you need to be selling because the type of feedback you're going to be getting, the type of signals and data points and information that you are going to be receiving is going to be completely different from some salesperson you just hired a few weeks ago because they lack the context and experience and really depth of knowledge and connection to your market, your idea, your product, your technology.

So having you speak to people and have them describe to you their problems or why they don't want to buy your solution is invaluable and you can't outsource that. You can't give that task to somebody else. You need in the early days to do this yourself. Even if it sucks, especially if it sucks, to feel that pain and figure out why does it suck, what is so difficult about selling my solution, what works, what doesn't, what kind of emails do people respond to, what about this sales approach is really good or bad? A lot of times founders want to take this like I'm comfortable working and just hire somebody right off the bat to do it and that's usually a bad idea.

At the beginning I would advise people to do sales themselves. Then once you've done it, you'll sell for awhile as founders and you've seen some results, you've created some successes, some things work, some things didn't, you might be tempted to be like, "Well, we're growing. We don't have just ten customers now. We have 50 and it gets harder and harder for me to do the sales stuff and I need to do other things as well, so let's now just go out and hire a bunch of sales pros, right? Preferably with 20 years of experience in our market so they can just come in with a rolodex and get us to 2000 customers like that." Which is what I call "entrepreneurial pipe dreams", like unicorns, like magical fairy dust that solves all your problems.

Whenever you can actually hire a salesperson with 20 years of experience for your teeny-tiny startup that hasn't figured things out yet, you should be scared sh**less. You should be running for the hills because that person is probably better at selling bullsh** than actually selling products. If somebody's really great at sales, they're making a sh** ton of money somewhere, why would they leave to come to work at your company where a lot of things are not figured out yet? And they're probably not going to be making that much money now. They might eventually but not at this point. You need to ask yourself that question.

Anyway, once you've done it yourself for awhile, I would recommend people to go and find some young talent. Find people that have a kind of entrepreneurial sales DNA, that have the hustle DNA, that are young, ambitious, that want to be part of a startup, that have that competitiveness but also some compassion so they actually care about people, they actually care about the things they are selling, they're not just in it for themselves and their profit. Hire two or three inexperienced people to work with you and you still manage that.

I know that sucks and founders are like, "Well, I don't want to manage a sales team. I don't know anything about sales and now I'm hiring these people that don't know anything about sales. We are the clueless crew. How can this actually succeed?" But just like anything else, that's the only reason new companies exist. If the experience companies already provided everything necessary in the world, there would be no need to create new things.

With sales it's similar, in the early days, once you have a bunch of things that work and you have a little bit of success, it's not fully repeatable but it kind of works and you've closed some deals, you have some customers, bring in a little bit more fire power, not to scale what you've accomplished, because what you've accomplished is not yet scalable. But to actually expand more work and more experiments and try more things and have also people that push you to focus more on that.

Once two salespeople show up, all of a sudden you have to give this a lot more priority than when you were alone. Some days you did some sales and other days you just worked on the blog or your new logo or something else. Now you actually have two, hopefully young, bright people sitting there, looking at you, saying, "What are we going to do today to create sales?" That's going to force function you to actually make it a priority for a short period of time.

Test more, try more, experiment more. Once that works a little bit better that what you've done before and you've gotten some good results from it, that's really the time to then look to hire some junior sales leadership, somebody that has been made sales manager, managing a team of four or five people at a company that's a year or two ahead of where you are right now in terms of stage.

After that person takes what you've done, they take that team, they improve on it, they expand, they hire a bunch more people that get it to the next stage and only then will you have something that's pretty, not 100% repeatable and scalable but pretty close to it, that's when you bring in the VP of Sales, a really senior person that can take what you have and now they scale it and put in hiring, new recruiting processes, improve the compensation plan, put in a training plan. They do all these things to create a structure and infrastructure to scale, but that's kind of the last stage of sales hiring for startups and new ventures. When you start, you do it yourself and you hire some young talent and you manage and do it with them, and then you hire some leadership and then eventually you graduate to senior leadership and senior executives.

Justin Mares:
Got it. Okay. There's a lot to dig in there. The first thing, what do you say to founders, especially technical founders who a lot of them kind of have this mentality of, "I'm not good at sales"? What do those people do? Do they just have to suck it up and just not be good at it and deal with it for months at a time? What do you say to those types of people?

Steli:
Yeah, that's a good question. I think there's two separate things to pay attention to. Number one is actually figuring out . . . Most technical people have a skewed understanding and a wrong one, in my opinion, on what sales really is. They think sales is all about talking, sales is all about bullying people into a direction that you want them to. Sales is all about being an extrovert and being out there and loving the attention. Sales is all about being the Wolf of Wall Street basically.

A lot of technical people, rightly so, are like, "I hate these people. I don't want to be one of them and I don't want to have to do this sh**." I agree with them and I think that sales is really not about that. At its most fundamental level, sales is all about asking questions and actively listening and not so much about talking. I find that a lot of engineers are really good at sales; they just don't realize it. What I love about engineers is that a lot of times they've learned to not stay on a surface level understanding. They'll really dig deep.

When you say, "Well, what I'm looking for is something that will help me with email marketing," most salespeople, marketing people who are extroverts would go, "Oh, you need something that helps you with email marketing. We have something that helps you with email marketing. I think you should be a customer." An engineer will be, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What does 'email marketing' even mean? What exactly do you need? Is it newsletters? Is it something else? What sucks about the solutions that are out there today? Have you tried something?" They've learned to actually really dig deep to understand what actually is it that we're talking about.

If you're able to do that, you're already 80% a sales pro because that's really what it's all about is talking to people, discovering what their true needs are and challenges and what their real situation is and what they care about and what they don't care about and what's important to them and what's not. Once you arrive at a real understanding of who the other party is, then it's actually easier to sell. Because if they're a good fit, if you think you have truly solved that problem, you throw what I call "one dart".

You pitch them in exactly the way that your product delivers value in their world in the way that they want in their own words. You just use all the information you gained to tell them, "You know what? This is actually a good fit. Here's why what we do addresses your issue exactly the way that you want it."

All you have to do is really practice, listen carefully enough until you are at the point where you're convinced they should buy, then don't tell them about all your features, don't tell them about all your functionality and technology. Don't start telling them about your life story. Just take everything you've learned from them and translate it into how is my product solving this person's problem in the way that they care about, and then let's just talk about that. If you're able to do that, you're going to be able to be really good at sales.

A lot of technical people will be like, "I'm an entrepreneur. I'm just not a sales guy." Well, here's where sales and entrepreneurship are very closely related. In sales, if you know how to listen to people and really learn about their needs and build rapport and then pitch them effectively on how your product solves these problems, the only other thing you need to do to succeed is be okay with rejection and embrace it.

Be okay that if you're going to go out there and take a shot and connect with people and ask them about what their needs are and try to convince them to buy your product once you've been convinced that they should, some people always say "yes" but not all of them. A bunch of them will tell you "no". You have to figure out how to emotionally deal with that rejection and keep marching forward. You have to be able to actually embrace that rejection, because if you don't get any no's, you can't get any yes's. If you don't get people telling you "no", you won't be able to close deals.

Nobody has a perfect record here. Everybody has to deal with rejection and that's very much what entrepreneurship is all about. You can't just optimize for 100% hit rate of everything you do works because, you know what, just keep a normal job that's really well pre-defined if you're trying to optimize for comfort and want to avoid rejection.

If you're able to deal with rejection and you're able to actually be a really good listener before you start talking and trying to pitch people on your ideas or your product, you have everything you need to be good at sales, really.

I was talking to Patrick McKenzie, @patio11 as some people will know him, and he spent some time in our office down in Palo Alto. We were chitchatting about sales and here's a guy who in his personality is really nothing that you would consider a sales guy. Nothing about his person, nothing about the way he carries himself, nothing about the way he's dressed, his look, his haircut, nothing tells you, "Oh, this is a sleazy sales guy."

But he's a fu**ing sales machine because he figured out, "What are the basics of selling? This is not that hard. And this is actually useful and important." So he just gets the basics so he gets the job done and he's not apprehensive about it or dogmatic about it, but he's really pragmatic. Sales is something that helps, something needed in the world and it's actually easy to understand. Here's the five steps of how to actually do this so let me use it to propel my business and my products and the things that I'm doing forward.

Understanding what sales really is and understanding that you don't have to be an a**hole to sell and you don't have to be somebody that's a fast talker and that loves to hear themselves talk all the time to be successful in sales, busting these myths, I think, can help a lot with engineers embracing sales and not being so afraid of associating themselves with it.

The other thing is just realizing to a certain degree you have to just . . . In startups and entrepreneurship sometimes you'll have to do work you don't really fu**ing love because it's really, really important. You don't have to do it forever but in the early years it's really, really important for you to do it because you won't be able to scale something if you haven't really discovered what people truly care about and how to deliver that value to them and sales is a great way to do that because it kind of takes you out of your comfort zone of sitting on your couch with your laptop researching things on the Internet to having to go out in the real world, sit next to another human being or sometimes call them and tell them why you think what you have is really valuable and then listen to them telling you, "I don't care."

That's a lot more uncomfortable than saying, "Oh, I just had four clicks and our conversion rate is not optimal but . . ." All that sh** is pretty comfortable but I think to face real rejection from real people is something people don't enjoy and it sucks and it takes a lot of time but it can't be outsourced. It's really crucial. You have to be out there pitching your solution, learning from real people what they like and dislike and if you don't like that, you might find a way around it.

A lot of times if you're in the end consumer space and you develop some game that's a one-hit wonder or even a two-hit wonder, you've developed some app that gets massive viral traction, the rules there are different. But if you're in B2B, if you're selling to business or professionals, if you're building a SaaS product that people have to subscribe and pay monthly, if you're in that world, embracing the sales is going to help you be a better entrepreneur and build a better business.

Justin Mares:
Got it. Okay. You mentioned a couple different ways that entrepreneurs can approach sales. In your mind, what really separates the good salesman from a great one?

Steli:
That's a good question. Separates good people from great people? I do think that it really comes back to what I was saying before. Empathy, competitiveness and compassion. Great sales people are really competitive. We have a bunch of engineers in our team with Close.io, with the company that we're running, and our engineers are actually, at this point, by this time, are really good at sales, all of them, just because they've been exposed to it so much.

The difference between understanding or being good at sales, like being able to ask the right questions, practice and listen, figure out what people care about and then give it to them in an impactful way, that can be learned. That's something good salespeople do.

The other thing that good salespeople do is kind of figuring out how to go out and communicate effectively in a high frequency, so either do a lot of emails or a lot of calls, being out there networking, whatever. All that stuff can be done. The real difference between good one and great salespeople is consistency because here's the thing that sucks about sales: sales is very much kind of a competitive sport.

Let's take basketball. If you're a basketball pro, let's say you're Michael Jordan at your prime and you go out on the field and it's a new game and the clock starts, you don't get extra brownie points because you're Michael Jordan and you've been playing really well for the last four years. The score reads 0. You have to perform today. It doesn't matter what you did last week.

That's what makes sales really difficult is that it doesn't matter if you had a great sales week and you closed this huge deal and everybody high-fives you and you did an amazing job, it's Monday, it's a new day. What happened yesterday doesn't matter anymore; you have to perform again. If you don't, you're going to suffer and your company's going to suffer. You have to perform every single day.

That's really hard for most people. Most people have high highs and low lows. Some weeks they do a good job. Some weeks they do a bad job and they're inconsistent. The difference between great salespeople and good ones are not that the great ones have some kind of magical charisma and, yeah, there's some people that are really charismatic, yeah, there's some people that have some cool ideas and hacks and tactics, but the real difference between the good and great ones is consistency.

People that do it everyday, that show up everyday as if it's their first day and give it their all consistently over long, long periods of time and people that can bring it everyday, that's really the big difference.

Justin Mares:
Got it. We talked about earlier how startups can essentially scale through different sales stages, how it depends on the stage of the company and what you need to accomplish, all of that. When you're going from the startup phase, like it's just the founder calling his first couple customers and making sales, what do you do to scale up that process, especially if the founder doesn't consider him or herself a salesperson? How do you decide how to build a process, how to hire people, all of that stuff?

Steli:
Well, I think that you shouldn't worry about scaling that. All you should care about in the early days is finding things that work, discovering things that work and learning more about your market, your customers, your business model and the way to effectively deliver your value to your market, whatever that means.

So what you do is you try things and you see what the results are and you try to figure out if there's ways to improve the results. Then you see if the results are good enough so that they would warrant you building your business on top of them, even if it's just one channel of things you are considering doing for the long term, versus you doing certain other things that bring you zero results and you try to improve them and you can and then you just kill that as an option. You say, "This is not working for us so I'm going to stop worrying about it."

I think that the mistake I've seen too many very, very early founders do when they just start doing sales, they overthink things. Sales is not that different from product development. You overcomplicate things. You worry about how are we going to build the scalable infrastructure for a solution that nobody cares about. You're worrying about the wrong things.

I was talking to a founder today that has been doing sales for two or three months himself. He had some decent success and he's thinking about getting one or two junior people to join his team in his company in a sales and business development capacity and he was telling me he's been worrying about hiring people for the last six months and the reason why he hasn't started recruiting or hiring is because he's trying to come up with the perfect compensation plan for them, for his SaaS solution.

I was like, "Oh, cool, so what's the progress you've made in the last six months working on this compensation plan?" He laughed and said, "Well, I haven't really made any progress." I'm like, "Oh, cool. How many days in the last six months have you worried about this?" He's like, "Every single day I'm worrying about this."

We've all done this. This is insane. Don't worry about it. Just hire some people and be honest with them and tell them, "Listen, guys, this is not fu**ing IBM. I don't know what the solution is. I don't know what the right sales compensation model is. The benefit to you guys is not that this is the best sales job that's predefined and already working. The benefit and the reason why you guys should join is because you're going to learn how to develop these things. You're going to really learn how to build a startup, how to be entrepreneurial. We're going to develop these things together. We're going to find out what works and what doesn't."

"So I'm going to give you guys X in base salary and then hopefully in the next two or three months we'll find out a way to start with a simple bonus or commission structure and we're going to expand on it and you guys are going to be able to influence that together with me."

It's not about you figuring it out on your own in your head and then having the magical solution that at the first try is going to be perfect. It's about iteration, being okay making mistakes. You're going to make mistakes. Compensation structures are going to be wrong and you're going to have to revise them and change them constantly. The types of salespeople you hire are going to be wrong. Once you discover what really is your marketing, you're going to have to change it.

There's going to be so much change. Because you have to realize that your business is going to be constantly changing until you've figured it out completely, don't worry about the details so much. Done is better than perfect. Just get going. Try things, get some success. If it works and it works repeatedly, do more of it. If it works and doesn't work repeatedly, that's dangerous.

That's actually one of the most dangerous things is when you consistently perform in a certain way and get very inconsistent results. That's one of the most schizophrenic things for entrepreneurs because what the hell am I to decide now based on this data? Why is it working one month and it doesn't work the other months?

In sales a lot of times that has to do with not inconsistent pitching or salesmanship, but with inconsistent types of prospects and leads that you're generating. This is a topic for another full 30 minutes to discuss but my main point is don't worry so much. You're going to make mistakes, just like with anything else. Embrace it, be okay with it, and focus on the one thing that really matters is just learning and improvement, momentum.

Have we been smarter about sales this week than last week? That's the only thing that you should care about. If the answer every week is "yes", you're on the right trajectory. If the answer every week is "maybe", you could do better. If the answer is "no", you're in trouble.

Justin Mares:
Sure. That makes sense. To end, what is the single biggest thing that you see startups struggle with in terms of sales, especially in the early stages?

Steli:
That's a great question. There's many things but one thing that I can give that I think fits what most companies are going through is trying to make things work that don't work, like doing more of them and trying to scale things that are just inherently not scalable.

I'll give you an example. Lots and lots of startup, they'll close a bunch of deals on their first couple of customers through, let's say, investor referrals or just their network. You go to your friends, peers, people you know, people you know you know, and get references and referrals and close your first couple of customers that way, which is perfectly fine the way you should get going at the beginning.

But then what they do is they take those results and they just say, "Well, I closed 20 customers, let me hire 10 salespeople. Each of them should close 30 customers and we're going to be up and running." The question is, well, how did you close these people? Is that really repeatable? Can these people you hire get the same type of leads in the same type of way you did to create the same results?

Too many people don't really think this through. "Oh, sh**, no they can't." Okay, well, if they can't, what ways will you make available to them to actually create results? Where are the leads going to be coming from? Where are the prospects going to be coming from that these salespeople have to sell?

I think too many times startups get a little bit of results and they don't ask themselves, "Wait. Let me go back to the source that generated these results," which usually is leads, your leads, your prospects. Where did they get those from? Can I grow this source? Is this source really scalable? Is it a repeatable one? If I hire somebody can they tap into the same source or create a similar one for them?

If not, then there's no purpose in hiring lots and lots of salespeople. They're not going to have anything to do. They're not going to be able to do anything because you close your family and your grandparents. Okay, cool. How is that helping them in actually going and creating more results for you?

So I think that really asking yourself, "Are the results we're driving, are those repeatable? Can we consistently repeat them? Do we have a certain level of predictability? Do I know what kind of sales we're going to generate next week or next month?" If the answer is yes, yes they're predictable, yes they're repeatable, then the last question is, "Are they scalable? Can I grow this? Is this big enough so that I could hire another person doing this or two people?"

Only once you have a "yes" as an answer, it doesn't make sense to try to grow sales by hiring more people. A lot of startups make that mistake that they take results and they don't ask themselves, "Is this really repeatable? Is this really predictable and is it scalable? Can it grow? How big is this pool that I've created the results out of?"

Justin Mares:
That's fantastic. Well, dude, this has been great. Is there anything that you think we should cover before we wrap?

Steli:
A million things but no, I think we covered already a lot and you can tell I'm super passionate about this topic so I could talk on for hours. I think if people are interested to learn more about very specific B2B sales because that's the thing that I know and I teach and we practice everyday, you can go to http://blog.close.io. Close.io is our company. We write two, three articles a week. I try to write very technical things, how to negotiate discounts on your closed pre-paid deals, how do you price, really practical things. So if you enjoyed this session I think you'll enjoy the blog and that's probably a really good place.

The other thing is people can get in touch with me if they want to chitchat sales, I offer sales office hours to lots of people. Fifteen-minute sessions where we jump on Skype on a call and you tell me what you're doing and I'll try to be as helpful as possible.

People can always reach me at steli@close.io, if they want to say hi or book a sales office hour and chitchat.

Justin Mares:
Awesome, man. Well, this has been fantastic. Thanks again for doing the interview and we'll chat soon.

Steli:
Awesome. Thank you so much.

Justin Mares:
Cool.

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How A Tie Salesman's Trust Changed The Way I Look At Sales

The best sales people can change your life. Not because of what they sell you, but because of how they make you feel. 

More than 10 years ago I was a young entrepreneur, and I was really excited about buying nice ties and nice suits. I spent a lot of money on looking "professional". (As you might notice, I've outgrown that by now).

So one day I walk into this expensive store in this European city where I used to live, and I want to dress for success.

I'm one of those guys who walks into a store and says: "No, I don't need any help" when a sales person walks up to me.

But this one sales guy is different. Dressed really well, full of charisma, and he gives me just enough space and steps in just a the right moment. We start chit-chatting, and he drops some interesting tid bits about the ties and the shirts... 

Eventually I've got everything I want, we go to the cashier, the sales guy rings up all the items, puts it all together, packages the whole thing beautifully for me, all adds up to more than a thousand Euros. 

I my hand goes to pull out my wallet... and there's nothing. I forgot my wallet!

I just spent an hour in the store selecting expensive clothes, and I don't have any money on me. Most people would feel embarrassed about this... and so did I!

Me: "I'm so sorry, I forgot my wallet at home... just keep everything, and I'll try to come by again sometime to purchase the items." 

This sales guy looks at me: "No, sorry. I can't do that for you."

I just reached a new level of embarrassment. I was young, appearance really mattered to me, and then forgetting my money and hearing this guy tell me "No"... I just wanted to disappear from the face of the earth for a moment there. I'm starting to sweat, fumbling for words, and he continues talking:

Sales guy: "Are you crazy? These items, Sir, are yours. You take them with you, and you come whenever you have the chance, and you pay. I don't want to keep that. You come and pay whenever you have a chance. Don't worry about it."

I was flabbergasted. "Seriously? This is over a thousand Euros worth of items, and you just give them to me? This is the first time I shop here." 

Can you guess what happened next?

I walked out of that store with my thousand Euro bag full of ties and shirts. I drove straight back to my office, picked up my wallet, drove straight back to that store, and paid.

I can guarantee you, if the guy would have put the stuff to the side, I would have either not showed up again, or showed up weeks and weeks afterwards. I'm just a really bad shopper. I don't often take time out of my day to go shopping. But because of what he did, he got his money immediately.

And you know what else?

I continued shopping at the store, from that sales guy, every single month. For the next two years that I lived there, I spend probably around a thousand Euros on average every single month there.

Why?

Because he made me feel incredible. He made me feel like somebody who was valued and trusted and important. And this feeling never left me. Ten years later I still tell the same story. 

Take A Moment And Reflect

What was the best sales experience you've ever had as a customer?

Why was that the best sales experience? What did it do? How did it make you feel?

Experiences like these provide you with opportunities for the most meaningful learning, the deepest insights into how to sell.

To become a true master of the sales game, don't just consume sales courses, read books or visit workshops. You need to dig deeper than words and pictures - it's the experiental and emotional level where the true sales insights unfold.

The Gift Of Sales

When you really make an impact on somebody while you sell, that feeling, that moment you create, it might stay with them forever.

It's not just about making them a loyal customer. It's about making an impact on their life. I'm still telling this tie sales man story ten years later on the other end of the world. Nobody up to that point, and I'm not even sure ever after that, has made me feel like that. It made me feel really special.

And you as a sales person, you have the chance to make people feel special every single day - take that chance and run with it.

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Free Cold Calling Coaching

Want to get a free cold calling coaching session with one of Silicon Valley's leading sales experts? Get on a call with Steli Efti, deliver your pitch and get direct one-on-one coaching. Completely free and strictly limited. Watch the video to learn more:

Ready to take your cold calling skills to the next level? Sign up for a free cold calling coaching session:

We're excited to offer this, this is a great opportunity for everyone to learn a lot in short time. Everyone is welcome to take us up on this offer - from zero sales experience to experienced sales veteran.
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Effective Entrepreneurship: The Not To Do List

Every founder, every entrepreneur, everybody who works in a startup knows the burden of the to do list. I love to do lists. They are a beautiful thing. They help me get things done. 

But recently I discovered the power of the not to do list, and it's made such a huge difference for myself and our company that I want to share it with you.

 

I started my days with writing a to do list. It helped me to become more productive, but there was always one challenge: Keeping that list focused. Over the course of each day, the list inevitably grew. 

I'm too ambitious to keep my to do list small. I always feel like I can add one more thing, squeeze another commitment into my day, get just one more task done. 

The Result? Overwhelm & Stress

More often than not, this strategy led to stress and emotional turmoil. Sometimes my to do list would have the exact opposite effect of what I want it to do: instead of creating more focus, it created more distraction. Instead of clarity, it created complexity.

majk

And then one day I went the other way:

The Not To Do List

I now start every day with writing my not to do list, rather than my to do list. What goes on my not to do list?

  • all the things that I want to work on,
  • I would like to work on,
  • I think I need to work on,
  • but today, I'm not going to take the time to do that. Not do, not think, not worry about today.

Once my not to do list is done, I get start with my to do list - which is very short and usually only contains one or two items.

Free Up Mental RAM

Every time when something new comes up, I put it on my day's not to do list.

New idea?

Not to do list.

Reminded of something I wanted to take care of?

Not to do list.

Somebody else asks me to do something?

Not to do list.

Something cool I want to try or learn more about?

Not to do list.

This important thing that wants to be taken care of?

Here, let me put you on my not to do list.

nottodolist

[This is what my not to do list looks like today... at the beginning of the day. Keep it simple.]

Distracted? Grasshopper Mind?

Whenever I get distracted, whenever I lose my focus and my brain goes into attention deficit mode, I stop and look at my not to do list.

Is that stuff on my not to do list? If yes, I stop working on it immediately.

And if it is not on my not to do list, I ask myself: should it be?

The Result?

I don't know how long this little productivity hack will serve me, but what I do know is this: Since starting my days with my not to do list, my productivity has gone up significantly!

Not To Dos For Teams

We've now applied this to the entire business. We already had a product roadmap. But now we also have a anti-roadmap. The anti-roadmap contains all the things we're not going to do. 

If you plan on creating a not to do list with your team, be prepared for some heated discussions. Because different people will have different priorities, and they'll be willing to fight to keep things they consider important off the not to do list. But these kinds of discussions are important, because they lead to more clarity and align the vision of your product among different team members.

Managing Complexity

At Close.io we're only six people, but our little startup is growing fast, serving thousands of customers all over the world. As your company matures and scales, you'll have to be able to deal with a larger number of issues.

The more complicated your company becomes, the more important it is that you can filter out the noise, and focus on what matters.

What Are Your Productivity Hacks?

What helped you to become more productive? If you try the not to do list, share what it did (or did not) do for you. I'd love to read your comments on this.

Thanks to Luke Thomas for reading and commenting on the draft for this.

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Should You Outsource Sales?

As the CEO or founder of a startup you'll someday make a decision to either grow an internal outbound sales team, or outsource it.

Outsourcing sales to people who really know how to do outbound sales is a good choice... but only if the time is right!

When is the time right? Well, there are two distinct stages of sales for any company:

Sales Exploration

At this stage you're still figuring things out. It's about learning and experimentation. You have not yet figured out a predictable and repeatable sales model. You haven't developed your sales funnel yet. You're looking for answer to these questions:

  • How do you generate leads?
  • How do you qualify leads?
  • How do you close them?
  • What are your conversion rates?
  • How much time does it take from initial lead generation to closing a customer?
  • What's the average LTV of a customer?
  • What kind of sales reps do you need to hire and how do you compensate them?
  • How much does it cost to acquire a customer?
  • Do you have scalable lead sources?

You don't need to have 100% of all the answers, but at least have the answers 70%.

Sales Execution

At this stage you already have all the answers, or at least you have them 70% of the way.

            70%                              

You already have something to build upon, you already have something that works. Now it's just about scaling it up and optimizing it.

You Can't Outsource Sales Exploration

This is something you and your internal team must do. You the founder, you the CEO, you the early employees who have a holistic understanding and know the nitty-gritty details of your startup.

The lessons you'll learn during this phase are crucial, that's why you don't want to outsource them. You want to put your own finger on the pulse of the market, so that you get a feel for what prospects respond to.

You want to know what works, what didn't work, and why. These are crucial pillars for your understanding of your market. 

The mistake many startup people make is they hire a “sales person” to go out and talk with customers so they can do what they’re good at which is building product or “running the company.” Sales people are a different breed, you say. The problem is that in an early stage business there probably isn’t a perfect fit between your early product and a customer’s needs. You learn that by showing them your product, watching their reactions, asking them questions about what they’d like to see improved and then racing back to the office to talk with the team about what you’ve learned and how you can incorporate it into your product plans.  Repeat this process 50 times and trust me you’ll see patterns.

- Mark Suster, Startup Sales – Why Hiring Seasoned Sales Reps May Not Work

Outsource Sales Execution

Once you're in the sales execution phase, then you can outsource sales. Now you can hand it over to sales professionals who really know how to execute and optimize a sales model.

They can take you from 70% to 80, 90 and finally 100%. That's what they specialize in; not the creative thinking and wild experimentation required to build your first sales model, but to refine and polish it. 

tweetatm

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Inbound Sales Kung Fu (Webinar)

This might just be the fastest way to get your inbound sales kung fu up to speed. Schedule an hour of undistracted time, switch off your phone, close the other open tabs, take notes and learn :)

Slides from the webinar:

Inbound Sales Kung Fu Webinar Transcript

This is going to be all about improving your inbound sales process, effectiveness and at the end of the day the thing we all care about most is improving the quality and quantity of the deals that you guys are closing through incoming leads to your company.

A little bit about my background and why I both care deeply about sales and inbound sales and why I hopefully have a little bit of expertise in the topic. So we started a company a few years back called Elastic, Elastic was offering a service called Elastic Sales where we would work with start-ups.

Mostly SaaS businesses and technology businesses in Silicon Valley, offering them an outsource sales team on demand. We do a lot of sales consulting and sales outsourcing, and we helped over 200 venture backed start ups in Silicon Valley alone to scale their sales efforts successfully.

In the process of doing Elastic Sales and having a secret sales lab in the heart of Silicon Valley we build a secret sauce software that we used to outperform and outcompete sales teams that are out there called Close.io.

Close.io is an inside sales tool, an inbound sales tool that we use to really scale sales massively and that we release to the world. Probably that’s the way that many of you guys have heard about today’s session and many of you are customers.

With Elastic Sales we hands on helped over 200 venture backed startups scale their sales, with Close.io we’re helping thousands of salespeople around the world. Sales is definitely something we care deeply about. Now let’s look at inbound sales today.

First a little definition. Inbound sales basically defines any kind of sales activity that you do where prospects and leads are coming to you as opposed to outbound sales where you go out to prospect and find, and generate leads, people and companies that have never heard of you.

Typically there’s nine steps in the entire sales process for inbound sales. Number one usually there’s some kind of traffic that’s been generated. There’s many ways to get people’s attention and company’s attention directed to your business, service or offering.

The second step is to take that attention and that traffic in the online business and turn it into some kind of a first conversion. A sign up, a requested demo, a contact form, whatever it is. Writing a comment on your blog, whatever it is. Somebody comes to you and gets aware of your service, and your business, and your product and then converts to some level of interest. Signals that there’s a little bit of interest in what you’re doing and your service and offering. After that your job really starts in inbound sales.

After somebody comes to your side and converts at the first high level your job in sales is now to activate them. There’s a lot of things you can do with the product but ultimately on the sales side what you really want to do in inbound sales is call and email these sign ups, or demo requests, or people that contact your company and activate them from somebody who showed some interest, to somebody who engages actively in your sales processes. Once they are activate and you can engage in some form of communication with them, you want to qualify them. Once they’re qualified typically you give them some kind of demo or pitch about your product or service.

You’ll have too as a next step to effectively manage objections, questions they have, things that don’t quite work out. And then if there’s real buying interest you usually will phase into some kind of a negotiation phase and you’ll have to do a bit of follow up and hopefully at the end of the whole process close them as a customer. We’re not going to focus on step number one and two because that’s not really in the realm of what the inbound sales team is doing. But we’re going to go through step number three to nine, all the way from activating them to closing them and see how to perfect your process and how to think about inbound sales in a way that’s going to be really effective.

All right let’s start with the two primary tools that you’re going to be using to activate people once they’re in your funnel. One is going to be email, the other is going to be call in. Let’s stat with email. When it comes to sales emails there’s just four really simple rules that apply that you have to keep in mind. Any kind of email that you ever send to an incoming lead will first have to opened, then read, then responded to, and typically you should think about if after the first response they get back to you, what kind of follow up plan do you have?

Now the crazy thing is that most companies when they write emails for activating their incoming leads, they really spend way too much time on the first step which is the most crucial step which is having people actually open the email that you sent to them. They’re spending way too much time on the reading portion and then again almost no time on the way that they end the email in a strong call to action to actually make people respond.

Most companies honestly never actually have any follow up plan in their mind when they get started with writing up some emails to activate their incoming leads and engage them in sales conversations. Now let me come right out of the gate and tell you guys that more likely than not you are all not sending enough email to your incoming leads and your inbound leads. You are not.

I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of founders, I’ve talked to every week I talk to 30 or 40 founders, VP’s of sales, entrepreneur start ups and all of them are not sending enough email. Let me give you a quick number just to give you guys a guiding base for what that means. If somebody comes through your funnel online and either signs up for a trial or a demo or anything like that, they should get between four to six emails within the first 14 days of the initial conversion.

Four to six emails from you, you can automate all these. You don’t have to personally send one email at a time which would be a huge time sink. We would talk a little bit about automating emails, but the core takeaway here is that if somebody comes as an inbound lead and shows interest for your service and product, and you don’t send them at least four if not better six emails in the next seven to 14 days, you’re sending them way too little email. That’s just a fact. I’ll give you some real examples of massively successful companies that have their inbound sales funnel figured out, how many emails and what specific emails they’ve sent. I’ll show them to you case by case.

All right so let’s talk a little bit about kind of setting up an automated email process so that you activate as many of your incoming leads as possible, and you activate them to engage them in the conversation so that sales can pick up on that conversation and qualify them, and eventually close them as deals. So as we said four to six emails during the trial. You have to think about a couple of things when you automate email because during the trial for the inbound leads mostly you would want to set up an automated email flow. You don’t want to send manual emails, there’s an exception to this rule and that exception is if you’re selling to Fortune 500 companies and your typical deal is worth over $100,000 you might not want to use these automated emails. You might actually want to look every deal case by case or every inbound lead case by case because the volume is going to be really low.

But if you’re kind of in the mid-market or low market segment which most companies are then you want to automate the entire process. A couple of best practices on automating sales emails for inbound leads. Number one, make it semi-personal. NO emails are being sent to leads that are from contact@ your company name or info@ your company name, or sales@ your company name. You always want your automated emails to come from personal email domains that have names on them preferably from your sales team. It would be steli@close.io, kevin@close.io, anthony@close.io those were the emails to be sent from versus contact@close.io.

The reason for that is simple, your actual response rates and activation rates go up dramatically if the person that receives your emails feels like that email was sent from a human being. That’s a guiding principal to all sales email, always ask yourself does this email look like and feel like, and read like it was sent by another human being versus does this feel like and look like it was automated or it’s a marketing email or a newsletter email.

Anything that looks impersonal will dramatically decrease your open rate, read through rate and response rate. You want to have it as high as possible so use personal emails. There’s a little hack this is something you may or may not want to do but I’ve seen this being implemented successfully with many companies which is some companies go so far to make their automated look even more personal. That they actually have in the welcome email in the footer that says sent by my iPhone, sent from my iPad. And just by including that although it’s an automated email it makes people feel and perceive that email as being something that was written up on a phone or an iPad or something, and makes them respond to them at a higher rate. This is borderline kind of grey tactic but it’s something that I want to bring up.

Benjamin asks, what kind of solution do you use for drip emails? We’re using a solution called customer.io. Customer.io there is getdrip.com, there are many solutions. If you type in drip emails or life cycle emails there’s going to be tons of tools that are really good that you can find out there. So the next questions is, if you could actually automate these emails through close.io the answer is no. Close.io doesn’t offer you an automated drip email marketing tool today because we’re very focused on the sales side of things but we perfectly integrate with a tool like customer.io which those guys are really awesome. The tool is really simple and you set up your customer.io email settings in a way where all those drip emails that you sent though customer.io are automatically are being loaded into close.io so you know everybody that you’re sending that email to.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a drip email or personal one. The integration of customer.io works pretty well so definitely I invite you guys to check them out. So you’re sending these semi-personal emails, obviously you can do a lot more than just that. One of the effective tactics, a lot of really successful businesses will use some kind of an email course or some kind of sequence course over six to seven emails usually around 30 days. So a lot of times when you sign up for close.io for instance in the sign up form we’ll ask you if you want to get our start up sales email course which is around nine to ten emails over 30 days. And we’ve seen that that’s a super effective process in actually getting your inbound leads to convert into customers later on.

You can have a lot of events-driven emails that are automated. So some companies if you’re a little bit sophisticated, instead of sending people four to six emails that are like a welcome to your trial how’s it going? Your trial’s ending in two days do you want to talk to us? Those are kind of like basic three emails that you can send. Some people are a lot smarter about the automated emails that they send and they do it event driven. So they see if somebody ticks certain activities or not, or if somebody has uploaded let’s say if you’re a tool that’s on people’s website and you have to include Java Script on somebody’s website to use your tool you would see somebody actually include the Java Script or not based on that you would send them different emails. Hey I’ve seen you’ve been on trial for four days and haven’t included the Java Script, here’s a simple guide on how to get started.

Just reply we’ll do it for you. Or if somebody has included the Java Script hey congrats I’ve seen that you’ve included the Java Script and our analytics product is already running on your side. Let me know if you need any more help or if you want to jump on a call and talk about the next steps. You can really set event driven, intelligent emails based on the activity that people have. That usually works real well if somebody signs up for a trial. And then make sure that whatever email you send don’t just make it informational, the entire goal of the email is to always activate people. At the end of every email there should always be one and only one, not five, not seven- one call to action. Hey do you want to schedule a call does next Tuesday or Wednesday work at this time? Please reply.

Or, hey please reply to this email let me know what are the reasons you’re looking into this. Or hey please click on this to check out our e-book that w wrote. Every email should have one call to action, sometimes I see companies send emails out that have like four calls to action. Hey do you want to go on a call with us or check out this video that we have? Or I’ll also attach this e-book that you can read? Or if you have any questions click on support.

The more call to actions you have, the less people will actually convert to them, and click on them, and respond to them. But the other extreme to this is companies that send emails that are purely informational. Hey I’m glad that you’re on this platform, welcome. Here’s ten things about us that I think would be interesting to you. Have a nice day, cheers. Like that’s obviously a wasted opportunity.

Your entire goal for emails should be to get people on calls. When you do inbound sales emails, those emails should actually convert and activate people into taking actions but also to engage in a conversation that allows you to qualify them and later on close them in the funnel. Let’s actually look at some examples of companies that are doing an amazing job with this. So we’re going to look at some inbound sales emails that HubSpot is sending and HubSpot is a very successful business basically the company that coined inbound marketing as a term and a company that’s on the path to IPO. Let’s see if you’re signing up for HubSpot for a trial for instance what kind of emails do you get from them?

The very first email that you get from them that says, hey Close.io HubSpot time to chat? Not my favourite subject line in the word but whatever I just signed up, I get it, I opened the email and this is a fairly washed down email. It says Hey Steli, I just saw that you signed up. Check out this video. I’ve also been checking out your website and I think we should chat, what would be a good time noon or before 11:30 am tomorrow? It’s fairly nice, a kind of a little welcome email with a call to action. Ignore that, no response from me.

Then I get another email you know a day or two later. Close.io & HubSpot | Follow Up Resources. Now this is a really long email and the reason why they do this is because they typically sell to still mid-market customers but larger probably over 100 employees and up to a few thousand employee companies. This second email is kind of focused on giving me all the material I need to sell internally if I have to get other people on board. It’s like a long email that talks about background and includes white papers, tells me the ROI with an increase in 2.7% in traffic and all the cool stuff. It has a bunch of attachments so it’s a lot of material. I obviously ignored that email.

After a few days after that I get the third email that says, HubSpot & Close.io again I don’t think those subject lines are great to be honest with you. But whatever, let’s look at the body of it. The basic philosophy behind the emails that they sent. Hey Steli you know pardon my message today. I got a call from my sales rep, to call to see what the decision making process is looking like and now is the deal. Now they want to offer me something to create urgency. More importantly you need to know that our prices are going to be up and my boss authorised that we will give you an amazing discount of which I only have two to give out to. If you are interested in buying let’s talk right now because there’s going to be an increase in price and I saved one of these discount codes for you but it’s going to run out by the 30th.

So this is all about creating urgency, all about pushing you to actually make a decision. Because I am in sales and I know this shit I was like yeah this is all bullshit and I ignored it. And now comes the fourth email and this is actually a really good one and one that converts really nicely for many people. For some reason here is actually excellent which is should I stay or should I do. The entire email is like hey dude I reached out to you multiple times, I called you, I left voicemails, I emailed you here’s what’s going on. Either you don’t care about this anymore or you’re not interested in our solution, or... and now they're being funny. You know you’ve fallen and you can’t get up and let me know I’ll call 911 for you all right.

Dude please reply to one of my emails, please let me know what’s going on right. It’s funny but still I ignored it. Now here’s the last one and the one I responded to which is one of the most effective emails they sent, thank you from HubSpot. And when you open that email it basically says hey dude, you know I reviewed you and I reviewed all the efforts I made to reach out to you. It seems like you’re not interested so this is the very last that you get from me. I’ll stop bothering you good bye and good riddance.

This good bye that takes the deal away from me and tells me you know what I’m not going to care about you anymore, that’s the email I responded to. My response was hey, I’m still interested. I just didn’t have the time this and that, maybe we should chat another time. See how this worked? You welcomed somebody nicely, you give them some material, you follow up and give them some kind of an offer and try to activate them. You ask them why they aren’t replying to you and at the end you take it away. You say you know what dude I’m done with this, I’m going to stop emailing you. That’s usually the email that people response to.

Let’s look at another example because the beauty of this other example is that they’re using the exact thing template, the exact same formula. HubSpot is very much a B2B software marketer and information tool so they send to all the business.

TrunkClub is a B2C place, they sell to dudes that don’t know how to go shopping and are not stylish but have over $1,000 a quarter to spend on looking good. So they basically put together packages and boxes full of expensive clothes for you and ship it to you. this is what happens when you sig n u for TrunkClub. First email I get is like important information on your first shipment. This is a good subject line because I’m like did I already buy something so I open it. This is all about hey I’m Lizzie I’m your personal blah, what would be a good time for us to chat and see what kind of style you have and how to put your first thing together. I ignored that.

Next email is Hey Steli you know your stylist here. Hey dude you haven’t replied yet let’s get on a call and start putting together awesome fashion to make you look awesome. I ignored that. Next email, the third email is hey are you still interested? You know I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, it would be really awesome to put together your first TrunkClub. What would be a good time to chat? I ignored that email and then the fourth email is good bye from TrunkClub.

That’s a great subject line, it got my full attention immediately. I opened that email and it basically says hey dude I really wanted to connect with you but you don’t seem to be interested so this will be the last time that you hear from me. I responded and said you know what, no I’m actually interested. I just didn’t have the time, it’s a very powerful email. It’s the exact same formula that although they sell to individuals they follow the exact same formula and that’s for a very good reason. As I said I’m going to share with you guys this presentation so all of you guys can learn and copy from the best and also the whole session is recorded so you can share it with your team. Steal from the best, this formula works. All right let’s look at once people respond to email and even when they don’t response, how to use calling and picking up the phone.

Dialling somebody’s number as they’re coming in, qualify them and close them so again sales calls really follow the same simple formula as sale emails. Sales emails need to be open, read, responded to right and followed up to. In sales calls first you have to reach people which is the hardest thing to do. You have to sound good because it’s a lot more like confidence is important, what you say is important but how you say it plays a massive role in how it’s perceived. You want to ask questions to be able to qualify people, you have to manage objections because people will have objections. Things that stand in the way between themselves and buying your solution or product and you need to close them right. Let’s go through a couple of these really quickly. Most importantly is reaching people and here’s a pro tip that you need to follow. You need to call all your incoming leads within five minutes of them signing up, or contacting you, or filling out a form.

Five minutes is the golden formula. What’s the value of an incoming lead if they sign up and show interest, you call them two or three days later and then you don’t reach them. And then you call them again and you don’t reach them, and you call them again and you don’t reach them. Kind of a waste of an opportunity. There’s actually studies out there that show that if you call somebody within five minutes of them signing up or contacting you, that your reach rate will go up 100%. The reasons are really obvious, if I sign up for your product right now and you call me a minute after my sign up chances are number one, that I know who you are and what you’re talking about. Chances are I’m not in a meeting because I just was spending time signing up for your product.

And chances are I’m on my laptop, on my machine. I give my full attention. The context of the conversation is fully there because I just spent time reading your website, filling out a form, checking out what you’re doing. And last but not least you know that I’m probably not outside, probably not in my car because I just signed up on your website. If you’re able to call somebody within five minutes of them signing up your reach rates will go up dramatically which means that your effectiveness will be tremendously better because you’re not wasting all this time calling people that you’re not reaching, listening to dial tones, listening to voice mails. Having to remember to follow up again.

Isn’t it a lot better if you just call the inbound leads immediately and reach all of them? Not all of them but 90% of them, that’s what the pros do. That’s what the big boys do, the big girls, the people that really know what they’re doing, that’s really the highest art of inbound sales kung fu. Not just email everybody and have that automated email process in place, but call everyone. Call them immediately because it makes a dramatic difference in your reach rates.

So now that you’ve called them within five minutes, what do you do? What do you do in that call? A lot of salespeople, a lot of companies will tell me they just give up what do I do? I can’t sell them, they haven’t really had a chance to try our product. Well first activate them. Once you call them within five minutes here’s the simplest inbound sales script in the world. Hey John, I just saw that you signed up for a trial and I wanted to personally take the time to call you and welcome you to the trial. I wanted to see if there’s anything I can do to point you in the right direction to make sure that you get the most out of your trial.

That’s it. Hey I just wanted to personally welcome you. Now you can ask a few questions and actually discover how did they hear about you, what are the problems that they have and the needs they have? What are some of the questions they have that you can answer immediately to point them in the right direction and make sure that they don’t waste time in a way that will lead them ultimately to leave the trial and decide that the product is not for them.

Ask them questions so you can actually qualify them and we’ll talk about qualifying people a lot more because it’s super crucial to the inbound sales funnel. So you’ll ask them some questions, hey what is important to you guys? What’s your process like, what are you looking for, what other tools do you use, what’s your budget, what’s your sales process etcetera? Ask and it will allow you to create a pipeline and understand who actually qualifies for your product versus not.

Who should you be focusing on from all the inbound leads that you’re getting. Hopefully you’re getting more and more as your marketing is ramping up and becoming more and more successful. So once you’re getting tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of leads you have to start realizing and ranking which of these leads are more valuable than others. Which of them really actually qualify for our products, which ones should we focus on selling? Then last but not least you try to close them. In the first call you might not want to close them on buying your solution immediately. You might want to close them on setting up another call with a key decision maker.

Or you might want to close them on they checked out your product and it looks too expensive and why it’s not too expensive and it’s really valuable. Or it doesn’t look mature enough, why it is. You have to actually influence them and guide them in the right direction so they think about your product and your service in a way that you want them to think about it. Now that you called everyone within five minutes, you activated them, you discovered a lot more about your marketing and your customers, you qualified them.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the portion of the qualifying side of things because that’s really crucial in inbound leads one of the core things. After you activated people the next goal you have in the conversion funnel is to actually qualify them. Figure out who’s the qualified customer, who’s the actual qualified lead for us. There’s three layers, three levels on which you want to qualify people. Number one is look at the customer profile and see if it matches your ideal customer. If could be size, if you’re selling your solution you’re dealing with a customer or companies that are less than 10 people that’s a really important thing to know because if you talk to somebody for an hour and you feel like oh this was an amazing call.

At the end of it you find out that they have 10,000 employees. Deal’s done, you know your solutions won’t actually work. You want to find out some things like customer size, how many employees do you guys have? The use case that they want to use it in, what do they want to use it for? So if somebody signs up for close.io and they want to do marketing automation then we can tell them listen sorry but this is not really the use for it. If somebody has a field sales force of thousands of people that are going and knocking on doors every day door to door, that’s the use case of sales software they’re looking for we’ll tell them no.

You don’t qualify, we don’t qualify for you and you don’t qualify for us. This is not really something that you should look into. So customer profile qualifying is all about learning what’s the size of the company, what’s the use case they’re looking for, what’s the industry in some cases. Some industries might be better for you than others. What’s the history of kind of other tools and products they’ve used. Some companies have figured out that the most qualified customers they have are customers that are really tech savvy so they only sell to customers that are also using other software tools in a similar fashion. Whatever it is, you develop a customer profile then when you qualify people you figure out if they match that customer profile.

The next thing that you want to qualify people on, the needs they have. You want to figure out and learn why is this person interested in what we do, what are the needs that the team will have that will ultimately use this product, our product. What are the overarching needs and goals that the company has, you want to understand all the stakeholders and their needs, and the way they are thinking about things or the reason why they’re looking into your solution so you can actually effectively sell them at the end of the day. But also figure out if this is a qualified customer and if their needs are matching your solution, the problems they have are matching the solutions you have to address these problems. Last but not least you want to qualify them on the decision making process.

You want to figure out, who are all the stakeholders involved? Hey who are you, the person I’m talking to from that organization? What’s your decision making power, are you the ultimate decision maker, are you just a gatekeeper or an early researcher? Who else will be involved in the decision making process and what’s the time to close here. Are you actually in the market right now, how much time will you take before you make a final decision? Are you looking at other people’s solutions as well or only in two hours. Are you looking to building the solution internally versus buying a solution.

Like you want to figure out what is the decision and buying process of this potential customer. Once you’ve checked off that they are the ideal customer profile, they have the right needs that you can address and the decision making and buying process that they have is something that you’re interested in, and that’s realistic, and that they’re actually in the market. Some companies will sign up for a trial and then tell you no we’re not going to buy anything in the next two years.

They’re disqualified, there’s no reason for you to spend any time, mind share or energy, or trying to close them if you know that for reason X, Y, Z that they just signed a contract with a competitor for the next three years. There’s no way that we’re going to ever buy so there’s no way for you to sell to them.

So you shouldn’t waste any time trying to sell to them, or attempting to sell to them. So really crucial once somebody’s signed up or comes in as an inbound lead you set up automated emails to activate them, you call them really early on preferably within the first five minutes to activate them. And when you have them on the phone you can actually qualify them and figure out should they actually move into the next step of the funnel. Our sales team should we actually focus on energy and time on trying to close them?

Now once you’ve qualified them you want to show them your product. Most companies that have an online product to demo, a software product to demo so let’s talk about demos as part of pitching and the inbound sales funnel a little bit. Number one your demo’s gone way too long right. Your demo’s way, way too long and in many cases you’re giving your demos to too many people. That is why I brought up the qualifying before the demo or pitching your product.

A lot of times I see salespeople and inbound sales teams that pick up the phone to call an inbound lead and they’ll start selling, they’ll start pitching. Here’s why we’re great, here’re who else is using us, here’s all the reasons, other features that we have. They spend 30 or 40 minutes doing the demo and then they’ll find out that the person was never qualified to buy. Wow, we waster an hour of time selling somebody that should have never bought in the first place. Make sure that you first qualify and then you demo or pitch.

When you demo make sure you demo in 15 minutes or less. Too many demos, almost every product demo I see is too long. I know what you’re thinking you’re thinking well but our product really can’t be demoed in 15 minutes. Well fuck you right. Your product can be domed in 15 minutes, your product can be domed in 5 minutes. It’s all about editing, it’s all about taking away all the unnecessary and focusing on the core essentials that people near to learn. I see demos all the time where people are clicking on things, are you crazy? Are you nuts? Well I’m going to sure you how you can invite other team members in our product.

You go over here with your mouse and you click on the invite others button, why the hell do you have to show me how to click a button? Why can’t you just say our product allows you to invite a lot of other people. Inviting other people shouldn’t even be part of your demo if your product is not really a referral or invite tool right. Just take away everything that’s unnecessary and show me the core things that really matter like how’s this product actually creating value, making a difference in my life? You can do that in 15 minutes, and then leave another 15 minutes for the other side to ask questions. Oh I’m really curious how you invite users, can you show that to me click by click? Cool all right.

If they’re really interested which raises a red flag to me if somebody is really interested in that step by step. If they are show it to them. Don’t show them everything, all the features, every little click, every little lead, every little thing. People intrinsically feel like online demos should be an educational session where you train them in every single feature and every single functionality of your product, no. Those things are called trainings and they are usually reserved for your customers, for the lead paying customers.

Demos are a sales tool, it’s about demonstrating how your tool is going to create value versus teaching them all of the functionality. There’s a clear distinction and most product demos that I see seem to be confused about this purpose. The purpose of the demo is to sell, is to demonstrate the value of the product, it’s not to show everything your product is capable of doing. It’s really not.

Make sure that your demos are quick, to the point, focused on the qualified leads and focused on benefits versus showing all of the features that are possible. It seems like somebody in this building has decided that now is the right time to start hammering our walls. I don’t know if you guys hear this but if so just to give you some context our neighbour putting up a nice picture or something, I don’t know what they’re doing. Now that we’ve activated people through email and calls, we’ve qualified them and we know that they’re really good buyers, and they really should buy our product or service, and we’ve given them a demo of how our product or service works. Now typically people and companies will have objections.

People will have reasons why they don’t want to buy, what’s wrong with your product or service. You need to be prepared for that. There’s easy way to prepare and manage objections. First and foremost create a managing objection document where you take the ten most frequent objections people have. We don’t have the time it’s too expensive, we’re looking to your competitor who’s much bigger than you, we’re thinking about building this internally, is this really secure enough. Whatever it is every company has kind of different rankings of objections that people have. But you’ll realize once you’ve done 100 sales calls, 1,000 whatever the number is probably 20, 30 or 40 you’ll realize that there’s a few objections that come up again and again.

Don’t be surprised by that. Don’t try to address these objections in real time and compute the answers in real time case by case. Write a document, write down the best answers you could think of and write them down in a sentence or a paragraph. Like one or two sentences versus full paragraphs or pages. And the core effect of this exercise is not so much about learning these by memory and being a robot that just recites things from memory. It’s about clarity, being able to answer an objection in a sentence or two versus computing the answers in real time which a lot of times leads to answers that are not concise and take way too long, and are like babbling, rambling on because you’re just thinking about how to answer this in the best away while you’re talking.

It’s not usually a really effective way to be super concise. And being concise more important about what you’re saying is the underlying message that you’re sending to the potential buyer and the prospect which is that these guys seem to have clarity and confidence when it comes to this issue that I just brought up. They don’t seem to be flabbergasted by any of it, they don’t seem to be confused by it, it doesn’t seem like where they’re like yeah right the security of the email. Well this is the way we’re doing it. They’re able to answer it in one sentence, the security is really important here’s what we do.

We do X, Y, and Z to address that and the ten massively companies that are happy with our security so we’re sure we can do that with you too. Just be able to answer things concisely in a sentence or two which will raise the level of confidence that people have in your solution because you seem to be super confident about it. And then last but not least when it comes to managing objections like having an FAQ document and an objection management document. More importantly make sure that you listen really carefully to people so it’s not just the way that you pay attention to how they say things so you can actually separate the real objections from the fake ones.

Some people say well yeah this looks good but I think the price is too high. Sometimes the price objection is a real objection and people actually think it’s too expensive but many times people just say price because it’s the easy way out. There’s something else they didn’t like about your solution your product, or you frankly. Sometimes people don’t buy because they don’t like the person that they need to buy from. We’re all human beings at the end of the day. Instead of saying I don’t like you, or I thought that your product really looks ugly, or whatever it is that their real objection is. They say this is probably too expensive for us. How do you separate real from fake?

Well you have to listen carefully and you have to listen more than just the content but also the context, not the what but how. How they’re saying what they said, does it sound really convincing? Does it really make sense in the broader context, yeah they’re calling from Coca-Cola about $100 a month is priced too high for us. If something doesn’t compute, or doesn’t make sense it probably is because what they’re saying is maybe not what they’re really thinking. Your job in sales is to tactfully and with elegance stimulate them to actually tell you what’s really going on. So if you talk to people and what they say doesn’t make sense you can say you know what that is really weird, that is really curious. Is it really pricing or did we really address your problem in the best way possible you’d have the budget for this.

Yeah I mean you’re right, if maybe this did X, Y and Z more the price wouldn’t be an issue. But it seems to be only addressing one of our points and for that it’s too expensive. Sometimes just asking honestly hey this is really curious. Is it true if we did everything perfectly that really the pricing would stop you?

Let me ask you this, if we actually got to the price point that we have in mind would you buy immediately? That’s a great clarifying question. If we actually reduced the price that you had in mind would you buy immediately? They would sometimes go no because your security thing is down, maybe your product doesn’t address all our issues. Now you’re going to get the real versus the fake one. If there’s an elephant in the room don’t tiptoe around it, address it.

That’s really an empowering way to manage an objection. Sometimes some companies will always have the same issue like you have a tool that needs to be installed beyond the firewall and every single customer you talk to is afraid of the security issues with your solution. If you know that’s an issue don’t hide behind it, don’t try to run away from it, don’t cross your fingers and be like I hope this won’t be the one sales call where people would bring this up. No address it immediately.

Say you know what now that we’ve figured out through a qualifying person that you really are a great buyer and you should really buy our solution. I’ve demonstrated how it works and we went through your objections and it feels like this is the right tool. You didn’t have a chance to bring this up but let me tell you 9 out of 10 times when we talk to customers of your size security issue is a big concern. So you guys feel the same way that security is going to be a really important them?

If they happen to say yeah well let me tell you how we deal with the security aspects. We have A, B, and C and we deal with it in this and this fashion. This and this is the reason why you should trust us. These other companies have trusted us and our happy and successful with us, does that sound fine or what else do we have to do to make you guys feel comfortable and confident in the solution from a security perspective. If they don’t bring it up, you bring it up. Address the elephant in the room. Managing objections is one of the most awesome things in sales because it’s partially the reason have a reason for existing.

If all you had to do was send some automated emails and people would look at a product and a product or demo, or video and then sell themselves there wouldn’t be no reason to have salespeople. A big reason why salespeople still exist is because people have objections, questions, things they’re concerned about, afraid about. Some of them rational, many of them emotional, and here’s where you as a salespeople and you having sales skills actually makes a difference to the bottom line of your business.

Raise the objections, look for them, and then professionally address them and help those people. Guide them through all their confusions, and problems and objections to a land of clarity, and excitement and confidence in your product and solution. Now that we got that all out of the way we activated them, we qualified them, we demonstrated our product, we managed the objections usually in the final step of buying the product they’ll have some objections but they will have some things they want to negotiate around. I want to just give three quick tips on how to negotiate with things that you will tropically encounter when you’re doing a lot of inbound inside sales. A lot of times people will ask for references.

The first call hey after they qualify they’ll ask you hey can I talk to other customers that are successful and happy with your solution? I’d really love to talk to two or three other customers before we even go further down the trial. The answer to this is always yes but at the right time. Your references, your happy customers, the people you sold and closed, you serviced today and they loved you. They are happy and successful with you, those are your most precious sales resources.

These customers, these references are your extended sales team, your sales back up team. You should use them absolutely use them to close more deals and close the really important big deals. But you need to use them carefully and you need to use them as the previous resource they are. If you give out references too early in the process like just right off of if you qualified somebody to buy you didn’t have any chance to manage their objections, they didn’t really get a demo, they didn’t really trial the product, you didn’t really get to the pricing point. If you give them the reference too early here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to burn up too many of your references because you’re going to be giving out too many. So if your customers are talking to too many of your prospects.

Too many times what’s going to happen is they’re going to talk to a reference and then they’re going to decide not to buy. When they talk to them they’re going to be like well yeah it’s been really good to talk to these two or three references that you have. We really like what they said but we realize we’re too early in the process and we’re probably going to buy your product in two or three years. Why the fuck did they ever talk to a reference? That’s something you should have figured out in the sales process and you didn’t need your customers take a half an hour to talk to somebody to figure that out. Your customers will get burned out, they’re going to talk to too many of these-0 your reference customers going to talk to too many bad prospects and then they’re going to have too many failures.

Too many times where they’re going to talk to somebody and at the end the person is going to say this is really helpful, thanks for taking the time to tell me about the experience. I don’t think we’re going to buy. What kind of signal is that sending to your reference customer not the right one. Here’s what you say, hey I’m absolutely happy to connect you with our happy customers. We’re going to do it at the right time though. Once you’ve actually had a chance to try the product, went through all the steps and you’re basically ready to buy.

We answer all your questions, you’re just about ready to buy that’s the time we’re going to connect. It’s the last time to have a happy and successful customer to make sure that you get the outside reference before you sign the contract or seal the deal. Does that sound fair enough to you? We’ve done this hundreds and hundreds of time, every time somebody asks for a reference you’re going to tell them yes I’m going to give you one at the right time a little further down the sales process. They’ll say yes, they’ll say that’s fine. That’s the way that you’re actually going to create your reference but also that will create your success stories for them.

So every time your customer talks to a potential customers it should lead to a close. At the end of that call the customer should say you know what this was really helpful. This was the last thing we needed, yes we’re also going to buy. That’s going to create the kind of conscience and excitement that you want your reference customers to have. All right so that’s one. The next one on the negotiation side in the inbound sales is discounts.

A lot of people super early in the process will ask for discounts. They will say, well I looked at your product it’s interesting but it’s too expensive. This other product is much cheaper, can you make it cheaper than that? The answer to that is always no. Because here’s the deal when you do inbound sales you want to sell based on the value of the sale in general. You always want to sell based on value, not on price. Sales based on price is a race to the bottom and it’s something that you should leave off to the Wal-Marts of the world.

Most likely you want to sell to people because they really want the value that your product creates not because it’s the cheapest thing in town. When people ask for discounts here’s another way to actually deal with it. Generally you will be giving out discounts and many cases it’s unavoidable, it’s just the way the market works. You just don’t want to say yes to people early in the cycle. Again first they need to qualify then discount s is also something that should come at the end of the cycle.

Sometimes people will tell you hey I really love your product, I just need one little tiny feature. These are the 5,000 features we will never use so it’s kind of painful for us to pay for the entire massive price. You’ll be very sympathetic to that, this will sound very reasonable to you so you’ll be inclined to be like yeah, let me give you a discount. But never ever give a discount that early in the sales process.

Again here’s a simple way to deal with incoming inquiries about discounts right off the bat. You tell people, listen I totally respect that you’re asking to get the price for the product. What I would ask you in return and we’re certainly open to that, but what I would ask you in return is first actually realize the value our product can bring before we talk about this discount. Here’s the deal, why don’t you use the product for a full month. Why don’t you really give it a run for it’s money and you will really use it for a full month. After you actually use it and truly confirm that this is the right product, the best product in the market I’ll give you the best possible price for it.

Does that sound fair enough? Nine out of 10 times people are happy with that and many of these people will not go through 30 days of usage but after a few days they will realize that it’s not the right product or they never really were that serious about it. So never compete on discounting before somebody actually realizes that your product is really valuable.

Once they really use it, and they love it, and they just need a little lighter price yeah sure give them a discount. Maybe you sell them one year contract or some other mechanism to make it a fair exchange. Then last but not least in inbound sales a lot of times you’ll talk to lots and lots of people that want to negotiate with you and you kind of got to negotiate with them one on one. Always negotiate in pairs, here’s like a massive thing where big companies are really amazing in negotiation. It’s not that everybody who works in a large corporation like a massive negotiation far from it. But large organizations have a process in place that forces the best possible outcome to come out of it, one of these process is that a lot of times when you talk to large organizations the person you’re negotiation first that’s kin d of your champion is not the person you negotiated with at the end of it.

The person at the beginning will be all excited about your solution, will make your spend time qualifying and demonstrating, answering all their questions, supporting them in the trial. They’ll make you invest more and more time and effort, and energy, and sweat, and blood into the deal. And then they’ll hand you off to a department that doesn’t give a shift about you like the procurement department and now more time you invest and the more bought into you are to the deal the harder it is for you to move away from the deal. The more you’re ready to make concessions in order to close the deal. If you invest all this time with this really friendly force and then they move you over to somebody that has no stake in the deal, that has spent zero time and where all they care about is squeezing you out of the least little bit of whatever they can get out of you.

You go through procurement and they push you for the pricing and they really don’t care because you spent months and months trying to close this deal that you’ll make a lot more concessions than you’re willing to in the early days. Then they’ll push you off to legal and like every step you’ll make a few more compromises, and a few more steps, it’s going to get harder and harder for you to step back on that deal or away from it. At the end they’re going to get the optimized deal they could ever get.

Now when you’re a smaller team you don’t have a hundred departments to do this. So what you do is you make sure that at the end of the negotiation deal always bring in somebody from your company that has zero stakes in this deal to confirm that the negotiations that you have are good ones. We’ll do this a lot and sometimes we’ll bring in somebody from engineering, even somebody that’s not from sales.

We’ll have a salesperson pick up some engineer and say here’s the deal, I’ve been working on this deal for months. This is the company, this is why they’re so amazing, here’s what they want, here’s where we are and now they’re asking for this last little thing and I really want to give it to him. And the engineer because they don’t’ care will be like well that makes no sense. They should pay this or you should get back to them with that and that.

Then interestingly enough almost always the salesperson will actually start taking the side of the customer and go, well no I think it’s fairly reasonable why can’t we give them this? And then it’s going to be like back and forth and if there is enough respect in the team more often than not at the end the salesperson goes yeah you’re actually right. Let me go back to them and offer them what you just said. Let me get back to them and not just say yes but actually make that final counteroffer and almost always the customer will take the counteroffer and you’ll have saved tons and tons of money.

You’ll get a lot better deal out of it just because you made sure that you’re not negotiating the entire time yourself, you’re actually involving towards the end of it somebody who doesn’t care about the deal so it can be really objective and have the right distance and perspective of the deal. And challenge you on all the concessions that you’re willing to make because you’re kind of like so bought into this deal. All right I’ve actually going to jump over this.

There’s another presentation about this topic and I want to have a few more minutes. I’ll rush over this last part a little bit but here’s a really important point that way too many salespeople don’t really realize. Follow up and follow through is really where wining happens. Most companies, most salespeople, most sales organization optimize heavily and focus heavily on what happens in the beginning of the sales process and they don’t care a lot about what happens after. Showing up is certainly half of the win, but the other half is following up and following through.

And here’s a very simply philosophy that I have on follow up. My very simple philosophy on this is, if I engage in a conversation this is not about outbound this is inbound. For somebody that came in and showed interest, and we engaged and then at the point of the sales process either early on or later on people go they don’t call me back or they don’t reply to my emails. I will follow up as many times as it takes until they do. I don’t care about what their response is.

It doesn’t matter if they say yes or no, or fuck off but I will follow up endlessly forever until I get a reply or a response. And that is a simple strategy that has led to massive success in many cases. We’ve closed countless deals because we follow up more than others. We raised money with spectacular investors and they told us the only reason why they invested is because we follow up more than other entrepreneurs did. It’s a very simply formula. When you do cold outreach which seems irrelevant.

You can’t do follow up unlimited, if they send someone an email who’s never heard of you, you might follow up one more time and that’s that. But if somebody actually came in to your funnel, or contacted you, or you had a sales call with them, or a sales meeting or any other real engagement you follow up forever. Until you hear back from them. Most times people think that because you sent someone an email two, or three, or four emails and never reply you think they probably lost interest so you’ll lose interest. More often than not people don’t lose interest, people just lose focus.

Other people’s lives doesn’t revolve around your company, your solution, your product or you as a person. They have other things they have crisis, they have personal issues, the business issues, all kinds of other things that are happening that take away their focus on buying your product,.

Here’s the secret, if you stay on top of your game you just keep following up with them more often than not after the fourth, fifth, the seventh, the twelfth follow up they’ll respond and they’ll say ooh my god I feel so bad thank you so much for staying on top of this. We had this big crisis, or we had this big whatever. Something happened and I totally want to jump on a call tomorrow because we really are now ready to buy.

You know who they’re not going to buy from? Your competitors. Because all your competitors stop following up eventually because they felt like these guys are not interested anymore. Follow up as much as possible until you get a reply. In terms of frequency you want to time this you follow up a day after, three days, five, seven and maybe every week, every two weeks, every four weeks and then every month. Don’t go too crazy on the frequency.

Make sure that your follow ups are always clean and professional, don’t be mean or say this is the 34th follow up why haven’t you replied to me? This is outrageous. Always keep it cool, maybe it’s the 40th follow up hey I hope you have a beautiful day I hope this week was great. We weren’t able to connect how about this Tuesday or Wednesday at 10 am? Just keep it simple, and professional and clean.

Email is probably the best channel to follow up with people because it’s the least intrusive and you can do it many times. The phone is a bit more urgent it’s a bit more attention but you can’t call somebody 40 times that’s not necessarily acceptable. And then in person is the most focused and attention demanding follow ups so this would be only something that I would recommend for a large multimillion dollar deal.

A lot of multimillion dollar deals have been closed because somebody was following up, not hearing anything and they eventually did the hey we’re in the area we thought we’d stop by your office. You wouldn’t believe how many massive deals were closed just because of that. It is a potential way to actually follow up and follow through, and close the deal. There’s a bunch of people that actually have now followed this follow up philosophy and have had tremendous success with it. I’m not going to go through these references.

You can read up on them online and many different other places. Last point I’ll make is how do you actually create urgency in inbound and inside sales, how do you make people actually make a decision quickly when they’re like yeah this all looks interesting but we’ll take all the time in the world to go there. I’m actually going to skip over the first step and I’m going to send you guys a link that describes this strategy in a lot more detail. But there’s really two things especially a lower staffed business they create urgency to push people to make decisions faster in inbound sales.

One is an upcoming price increase. So the more mature your company is the more times you’re probably going to increase the price a little bit. A lot of times those price increases are real opportunities to create urgency to close your current funnel and pipeline and make people buy more seats. Because you’re going to grant them on the old price so you’ll tell people hey we’re about to increase our price in the next few weeks.

You’re just trying our product if you make a buying decision by the 10th, 20th of this month you’re going to get the old price for life, for all the sees that you’ll purchase, all the accounts Price increase is a great way to force urgency, the final decision of the sales funnel so they actually make a buying decisions today and don’t wait around forever. The reverse of that is giving them other incentives that are going to run out.

Running like promotions, and campaigns it could be things like discounts. It could be hey we’re going to run a special July World Cup promotion where if you buy this month we’re going to give you a 20%, lifetime discount on your product. You have to make a buying decision by the 30th.

You could discount the product, give the reason why and why you’re doing it for this month. The kind of timeline attached to it, you could give them the incentive of additional seats. Hey this month we’re running a buy one get one free promotion so if you have 10 users that would need to buy this product you could actually just buy five and give five other seats for free. You could offer them features or upgrades. Say hey this month if you buy at least four of our lowest tiered seats we’re actually for free going to upgrade you to our most professional plan.

And you can offer them services. You can say hey if you buy this month we’re going to give you our premium prices consulting, or support or service for one year that’s worth $5,000 for free. Make all kinds of incentives and incentives are tested and proven models in inbound and inside sales to actually help your customers make buying decisions quicker. You should utilize all these strategies to help people to make buying decisions as quickly as possible. We’re kind of right on time at the 60 minute mark.

Some people asked a few questions in the middle of the session but if you have any additional questions on inbound and inside sales, or any other thing that I mentioned in this session just write it in the chat. I’m going to be online for the next 10 minutes answering questions, taking the time to do so. But if you want to reach out personally to me do it please do it, reach out steli@close.io and ask any questions if you need any support. I want to support and help you guys as much as possible to get your inbound sales get to the next level.

Make you black belts in inbound sales kung fu, martial arts. This is much as I can stretch the matter for. Let me know if you have any questions either now or later via email. I wish you guys nothing but success, may the rest of the day bring lots of closed deals.

bout my background and why I both care deeply about sales and inbound sales and why I hopefully have a little bit of expertise in the topic. So we started a company a few years back called Elastic, Elastic was offering a service called Elastic Sales where we would work with start-ups. Mostly SaaS businesses and technology businesses in Silicon Valley, offering them an outsource sales team on demand. We do a lot of sales consulting and sales outsourcing, and we helped over 200 venture backed start ups in Silicon Valley alone to scale their sales efforts successfully.


In the process of doing Elastic Sales and having a secret sales lab in the heart of Silicon Valley we build a secret sauce software that we used to outperform and outcompete sales teams that are out there called Close.io. Close.io is an inside sales tool, an inbound sales tool that we use to really scale sales massively and that we release to the world. Probably that’s the way that many of you guys have heard about today’s session and many of you are customers. 


With Elastic Sales we hands on helped over 200 venture backed startups scale their sales, with Close.io we’re helping thousands of salespeople around the world. Sales is definitely something we care deeply about. Now let’s look at inbound sales today.


First a little definition. Inbound sales basically defines any kind of sales activity that you do where prospects and leads are coming to you as opposed to outbound sales where you go out to prospect and find, and generate leads, people and companies that have never heard of you.

Typically there’s nine steps in the entire sales process for inbound sales. Number one usually there’s some kind of traffic that’s been generated. There’s many ways to get people’s attention and company’s attention directed to your business, service or offering. The second step is to take that attention and that traffic in the online business and turn it into some kind of a first conversion. A sign up, a requested demo, a contact form, whatever it is. Writing a comment on your blog, whatever it is.

Somebody comes to you and gets aware of your service, and your business, and your product and then converts to some level of interest. Signals that there’s a little bit of interest in what you’re doing and your service and offering. After that your job really starts in inbound sales. After somebody comes to your side and converts at the first high level your job in sales is now to activate them. There’s a lot of things you can do with the product but ultimately on the sales side what you really want to do in inbound sales is call and email these sign ups, or demo requests, or people that contact your company and activate them from somebody who showed some interest, to somebody who engages actively in your sales processes.

Once they are activate and you can engage in some form of communication with them, you want to qualify them. Once they’re qualified typically you give them some kind of demo or pitch about your product or service. You’ll have too as a next step to effectively manage objections, questions they have, things that don’t quite work out. And then if there’s real buying interest you usually will phase into some kind of a negotiation phase and you’ll have to do a bit of follow up and hopefully at the end of the whole process close them as a customer.

We’re not going to focus on step number one and two because that’s not really in the realm of what the inbound sales team is doing. But we’re going to go through step number three to nine, all the way from activating them to closing them and see how to perfect your process and how to think about inbound sales in a way that’s going to be really effective.

All right let’s start with the two primary tools that you’re going to be using to activate people once they’re in your funnel. One is going to be email, the other is going to be call in. Let’s stat with email. When it comes to sales emails there’s just four really simple rules that apply that you have to keep in mind. Any kind of email that you ever send to an incoming lead will first have to opened, then read, then responded to, and typically you should think about if after the first response they get back to you, what kind of follow up plan do you have?

Now the crazy thing is that most companies when they write emails for activating their incoming leads, they really spend way too much time on the first step which is the most crucial step which is having people actually open the email that you sent to them. They’re spending way too much time on the reading portion and then again almost no time on the way that they end the email in a strong call to action to actually make people respond.
Most companies honestly never actually have any follow up plan in their mind when they get started with writing up some emails to activate their incoming leads and engage them in sales conversations. Now let me come right out of the gate and tell you guys that more likely than not you are all not sending enough email to your incoming leads and your inbound leads. You are not.

I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of founders, I’ve talked to every week I talk to 30 or 40 founders, VP’s of sales, entrepreneur start ups and all of them are not sending enough email. Let me give you a quick number just to give you guys a guiding base for what that means.

If somebody comes through your funnel online and either signs up for a trial or a demo or anything like that, they should get between four to six emails within the first 14 days of the initial conversion. Four to six emails from you, you can automate all these. You don’t have to personally send one email at a time which would be a huge time sink. We would talk a little bit about automating emails, but the core takeaway here is that if somebody comes as an inbound lead and shows interest for your service and product, and you don’t send them at least four if not better six emails in the next seven to 14 days, you’re sending them way too little email. That’s just a fact.

I’ll give you some real examples of massively successful companies that have their inbound sales funnel figured out, how many emails and what specific emails they’ve sent. I’ll show them to you case by case.

All right so let’s talk a little bit about kind of setting up an automated email process so that you activate as many of your incoming leads as possible, and you activate them to engage them in the conversation so that sales can pick up on that conversation and qualify them, and eventually close them as deals. So as we said four to six emails during the trial. 

You have to think about a couple of things when you automate email because during the trial for the inbound leads mostly you would want to set up an automated email flow. You don’t want to send manual emails, there’s an exception to this rule and that exception is if you’re selling to Fortune 500 companies and your typical deal is worth over $100,000 you might not want to use these automated emails. You might actually want to look every deal case by case or every inbound lead case by case because the volume is going to be really low.

But if you’re kind of in the mid-market or low market segment which most companies are then you want to automate the entire process. A couple of best practices on automating sales emails for inbound leads. Number one, make it semi-personal. NO emails are being sent to leads that are from contact@ your company name or info@ your company name, or sales@ your company name. You always want your automated emails to come from personal email domains that have names on them preferably from your sales team.

It would be steli@close.io, kevin@close.io, anthony@close.io those were the emails to be sent from versus contact@close.io. The reason for that is simple, your actual response rates and activation rates go up dramatically if the person that receives your emails feels like that email was sent from a human being. That’s a guiding principal to all sales email, always ask yourself does this email look like and feel like, and read like it was sent by another human being versus does this feel like and look like it was automated or it’s a marketing email or a newsletter email. Anything that looks impersonal will dramatically decrease your open rate, read through rate and response rate.

You want to have it as high as possible so use personal emails.

There’s a little hack this is something you may or may not want to do but I’ve seen this being implemented successfully with many companies which is some companies go so far to make their automated look even more personal. That they actually have in the welcome email in the footer that says sent by my iPhone, sent from my iPad. And just by including that although it’s an automated email it makes people feel and perceive that email as being something that was written up on a phone or an iPad or something, and makes them respond to them at a higher rate. This is borderline kind of grey tactic but it’s something that I want to bring up. 


Benjamin asks, what kind of solution do you use for drip emails? We’re using a solution called customer.io. Customer.io there is getdrip.com, there are many solutions. If you type in drip emails or life cycle emails there’s going to be tons of tools that are really good that you can find out there.


So the next questions is, if you could actually automate these emails through close.io the answer is no. Close.io doesn’t offer you an automated drip email marketing tool today because we’re very focused on the sales side of things but we perfectly integrate with a tool like customer.io which those guys are really awesome. The tool is really simple and you set up your customer.io email settings in a way where all those drip emails that you sent though customer.io are automatically are being loaded into close.io so you know everybody that you’re sending that email to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a drip email or personal one. The integration of customer.io works pretty well so definitely I invite you guys to check them out.

So you’re sending these semi-personal emails, obviously you can do a lot more than just that. One of the effective tactics, a lot of really successful businesses will use some kind of an email course or some kind of sequence course over six to seven emails usually around 30 days. So a lot of times when you sign up for close.io for instance in the sign up form we’ll ask you if you want to get our start up sales email course which is around nine to ten emails over 30 days. And we’ve seen that that’s a super effective process in actually getting your inbound leads to convert into customers later on.

You can have a lot of events-driven emails that are automated. So some companies if you’re a little bit sophisticated, instead of sending people four to six emails that are like a welcome to your trial how’s it going? Your trial’s ending in two days do you want to talk to us? Those are kind of like basic three emails that you can send.

Some people are a lot smarter about the automated emails that they send and they do it event driven. So they see if somebody ticks certain activities or not, or if somebody has uploaded let’s say if you’re a tool that’s on people’s website and you have to include Java Script on somebody’s website to use your tool you would see somebody actually include the Java Script or not based on that you would send them different emails.

Hey I’ve seen you’ve been on trial for four days and haven’t included the Java Script, here’s a simple guide on how to get started. Just reply we’ll do it for you. Or if somebody has included the Java Script hey congrats I’ve seen that you’ve included the Java Script and our analytics product is already running on your side. Let me know if you need any more help or if you want to jump on a call and talk about the next steps.You can really set event driven, intelligent emails based on the activity that people have. That usually works real well if somebody signs up for a trial. And then make sure that whatever email you send don’t just make it informational, the entire goal of the email is to always activate people. At the end of every email there should always be one and only one, not five, not seven- one call to action. Hey do you want to schedule a call does next Tuesday or Wednesday work at this time? Please reply. Or, hey please reply to this email let me know what are the reasons you’re looking into this. Or hey please click on this to check out our e-book that we wrote.

Every email should have one call to action, sometimes I see companies send emails out that have like four calls to action. Hey do you want to go on a call with us or check out this video that we have? Or I’ll also attach this e-book that you can read? Or if you have any questions click on support. The more call to actions you have, the less people will actually convert to them, and click on them, and respond to them. But the other extreme to this is companies that send emails that are purely informational.

Hey I’m glad that you’re on this platform, welcome. Here’s ten things about us that I think would be interesting to you. Have a nice day, cheers. Like that’s obviously a wasted opportunity. Your entire goal for emails should be to get people on calls. When you do inbound sales emails, those emails should actually convert and activate people into taking actions but also to engage in a conversation that allows you to qualify them and later on close them in the funnel.

Let’s actually look at some examples of companies that are doing an amazing job with this. So we’re going to look at some inbound sales emails that HubSpot is sending and HubSpot is a very successful business basically the company that coined inbound marketing as a term and a company that’s on the path to IPO. Let’s see if you’re signing up for HubSpot for a trial for instance what kind of emails do you get from them?

The very first email that you get from them that says, hey Close.io HubSpot time to chat? Not my favourite subject line in the word but whatever I just signed up, I get it, I opened the email and this is a fairly washed down email. It says Hey Steli, I just saw that you signed up. Check out this video. I’ve also been checking out your website and I think we should chat, what would be a good time noon or before 11:30 am tomorrow?

It’s fairly nice, a kind of a little welcome email with a call to action. Ignore that, no response from me. Then I get another email you know a day or two later. Close.io & HubSpot | Follow Up Resources. Now this is a really long email and the reason why they do this is because they typically sell to still mid-market customers but larger probably over 100 employees and up to a few thousand employee companies.

This second email is kind of focused on giving me all the material I need to sell internally if I have to get other people on board. It’s like a long email that talks about background and includes white papers, tells me the ROI with an increase in 2.7% in traffic and all the cool stuff. It has a bunch of attachments so it’s a lot of material. I obviously ignored that email.

After a few days after that I get the third email that says, HubSpot & Close.io again I don’t think those subject lines are great to be honest with you. But whatever, let’s look at the body of it. The basic philosophy behind the emails that they sent. Hey Steli you know pardon my message today. I got a call from my sales rep, to call to see what the decision making process is looking like and now is the deal. Now they want to offer me something to create urgency. More importantly you need to know that our prices are going to be up and my boss authorised that we will give you an amazing discount of which I only have two to give out to.If you are interested in buying let’s talk right now because there’s going to be an increase in price and I saved one of these discount codes for you but it’s going to run out by the 30th. So this is all about creating urgency, all about pushing you to actually make a decision. Because I am in sales and I know this shit I was like yeah this is all bullshit and I ignored it.

And now comes the fourth email and this is actually a really good one and one that converts really nicely for many people. For some reason here is actually excellent which is should I stay or should I do. The entire email is like hey dude I reached out to you multiple times, I called you, I left voicemails, I emailed you here’s what’s going on. Either you don’t care about this anymore or you’re not interested in our solution, or... and now they're being funny. You know you’ve fallen and you can’t get up and let me know I’ll call 911 for you all right. Dude please reply to one of my emails, please let me know what’s going on right. It’s funny but still I ignored it.Now here’s the last one and the one I responded to which is one of the most effective emails they sent, thank you from HubSpot. And when you open that email it basically says hey dude, you know I reviewed you and I reviewed all the efforts I made to reach out to you. It seems like you’re not interested so this is the very last that you get from me. I’ll stop bothering you good bye and good riddance.

This good bye that takes the deal away from me and tells me you know what I’m not going to care about you anymore, that’s the email I responded to. My response was hey, I’m still interested. I just didn’t have the time this and that, maybe we should chat another time. See how this worked? You welcomed somebody nicely, you give them some material, you follow up and give them some kind of an offer and try to activate them. You ask them why they aren’t replying to you and at the end you take it away. You say you know what dude I’m done with this, I’m going to stop emailing you. That’s usually the email that people response to.

Let’s look at another example because the beauty of this other example is that they’re using the exact thing template, the exact same formula. HubSpot is very much a B2B software marketer and information tool so they send to all the business. TrunkClub is a B2C place, they sell to dudes that don’t know how to go shopping and are not stylish but have over $1,000 a quarter to spend on looking good.

So they basically put together packages and boxes full of expensive clothes for you and ship it to you. this is what happens when you sig n u for TrunkClub. First email I get is like important information on your first shipment. This is a good subject line because I’m like did I already buy something so I open it. This is all about hey I’m Lizzie I’m your personal blah, what would be a good time for us to chat and see what kind of style you have and how to put your first thing together. I ignored that. Next email is Hey Steli you know your stylist here. Hey dude you haven’t replied yet let’s get on a call and start putting together awesome fashion to make you look awesome. I ignored that.

Next email, the third email is hey are you still interested? You know I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, it would be really awesome to put together your first TrunkClub. What would be a good time to chat? I ignored that email and then the fourth email is good bye from TrunkClub. That’s a great subject line, it got my full attention immediately. I opened that email and it basically says hey dude I really wanted to connect with you but you don’t seem to be interested so this will be the last time that you hear from me.

I responded and said you know what, no I’m actually interested. I just didn’t have the time, it’s a very powerful email. It’s the exact same formula that although they sell to individuals they follow the exact same formula and that’s for a very good reason. As I said I’m going to share with you guys this presentation so all of you guys can learn and copy from the best and also the whole session is recorded so you can share it with your team. Steal from the best, this formula works.

All right let’s look at once people respond to email and even when they don’t response, how to use calling and picking up the phone. Dialing somebody’s number as they’re coming in, qualify them and close them so again sales calls really follow the same simple formula as sale emails. Sales emails need to be open, read, responded to right and followed up to.

In sales calls first you have to reach people which is the hardest thing to do. You have to sound good because it’s a lot more like confidence is important, what you say is important but how you say it plays a massive role in how it’s perceived. You want to ask questions to be able to qualify people, you have to manage objections because people will have objections. Things that stand in the way between themselves and buying your solution or product and you need to close them right.

Let’s go through a couple of these really quickly. Most importantly is reaching people and here’s a pro tip that you need to follow. You need to call all your incoming leads within five minutes of them signing up, or contacting you, or filling out a form. Five minutes is the golden formula. What’s the value of an incoming lead if they sign up and show interest, you call them two or three days later and then you don’t reach them. And then you call them again and you don’t reach them, and you call them again and you don’t reach them. Kind of a waste of an opportunity.

There’s actually studies out there that show that if you call somebody within five minutes of them signing up or contacting you, that your reach rate will go up 100%. The reasons are really obvious, if I sign up for your product right now and you call me a minute after my sign up chances are number one, that I know who you are and what you’re talking about. Chances are I’m not in a meeting because I just was spending time signing up for your product. And chances are I’m on my laptop, on my machine.

I give my full attention. The context of the conversation is fully there because I just spent time reading your website, filling out a form, checking out what you’re doing. And last but not least you know that I’m probably not outside, probably not in my car because I just signed up on your website.

If you’re able to call somebody within five minutes of them signing up your reach rates will go up dramatically which means that your effectiveness will be tremendously better because you’re not wasting all this time calling people that you’re not reaching, listening to dial tones, listening to voice mails. Having to remember to follow up again. Isn’t it a lot better if you just call the inbound leads immediately and reach all of them? Not all of them but 90% of them, that’s what the pros do. That’s what the big boys do, the big girls, the people that really know what they’re doing, that’s really the highest art of inbound sales kung fu.

Not just email everybody and have that automated email process in place, but call everyone. Call them immediately because it makes a dramatic difference in your reach rates. So now that you’ve called them within five minutes, what do you do? What do you do in that call? A lot of salespeople, a lot of companies will tell me they just give up what do I do? I can’t sell them, they haven’t really had a chance to try our product.

Well first activate them. Once you call them within five minutes here’s the simplest inbound sales script in the world. Hey John, I just saw that you signed up for a trial and I wanted to personally take the time to call you and welcome you to the trial. I wanted to see if there’s anything I can do to point you in the right direction to make sure that you get the most out of your trial. That’s it. Hey I just wanted to personally welcome you.

Now you can ask a few questions and actually discover how did they hear about you, what are the problems that they have and the needs they have? What are some of the questions they have that you can answer immediately to point them in the right direction and make sure that they don’t waste time in a way that will lead them ultimately to leave the trial and decide that the product is not for them.

Ask them questions so you can actually qualify them and we’ll talk about qualifying people a lot more because it’s super crucial to the inbound sales funnel. So you’ll ask them some questions, hey what is important to you guys? What’s your process like, what are you looking for, what other tools do you use, what’s your budget, what’s your sales process etcetera? Ask and it will allow you to create a pipeline and understand who actually qualifies for your product versus not. Who should you be focusing on from all the inbound leads that you’re getting.

Hopefully you’re getting more and more as your marketing is ramping up and becoming more and more successful. So once you’re getting tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of leads you have to start realizing and ranking which of these leads are more valuable than others. Which of them really actually qualify for our products, which ones should we focus on selling? 

Then last but not least you try to close them. In the first call you might not want to close them on buying your solution immediately. You might want to close them on setting up another call with a key decision maker. Or you might want to close them on they checked out your product and it looks too expensive and why it’s not too expensive and it’s really valuable. Or it doesn’t look mature enough, why it is. You have to actually influence them and guide them in the right direction so they think about your product and your service in a way that you want them to think about it.

Now that you called everyone within five minutes, you activated them, you discovered a lot more about your marketing and your customers, you qualified them. Let’s talk a little bit more about the portion of the qualifying side of things because that’s really crucial in inbound leads one of the core things. After you activated people the next goal you have in the conversion funnel is to actually qualify them. Figure out who’s the qualified customer, who’s the actual qualified lead for us.

There’s three layers, three levels on which you want to qualify people. Number one is look at the customer profile and see if it matches your ideal customer. If could be size, if you’re selling your solution you’re dealing with a customer or companies that are less than 10 people that’s a really important thing to know because if you talk to somebody for an hour and you feel like oh this was an amazing call. At the end of it you find out that they have 10,000 employees. Deal’s done, you know your solutions won’t actually work.

You want to find out some things like customer size, how many employees do you guys have? The use case that they want to use it in, what do they want to use it for? So if somebody signs up for close.io and they want to do marketing automation then we can tell them listen sorry but this is not really the use for it. If somebody has a field sales force of thousands of people that are going and knocking on doors every day door to door, that’s the use case of sales software they’re looking for we’ll tell them no. You don’t qualify, we don’t qualify for you and you don’t qualify for us. This is not really something that you should look into.

So customer profile qualifying is all about learning what’s the size of the company, what’s the use case they’re looking for, what’s the industry in some cases. Some industries might be better for you than others. What’s the history of kind of other tools and products they’ve used. Some companies have figured out that the most qualified customers they have are customers that are really tech savvy so they only sell to customers that are also using other software tools in a similar fashion. Whatever it is, you develop a customer profile then when you qualify people you figure out if they match that customer profile.

The next thing that you want to qualify people on, the needs they have. You want to figure out and learn why is this person interested in what we do, what are the needs that the team will have that will ultimately use this product, our product. What are the overarching needs and goals that the company has, you want to understand all the stakeholders and their needs, and the way they are thinking about things or the reason why they’re looking into your solution so you can actually effectively sell them at the end of the day. But also figure out if this is a qualified customer and if their needs are matching your solution, the problems they have are matching the solutions you have to address these problems.

Last but not least you want to qualify them on the decision making process. You want to figure out, who are all the stakeholders involved? Hey who are you, the person I’m talking to from that organization? What’s your decision making power, are you the ultimate decision maker, are you just a gatekeeper or an early researcher? Who else will be involved in the decision making process and what’s the time to close here.

Are you actually in the market right now, how much time will you take before you make a final decision? Are you looking at other people’s solutions as well or only in two hours. Are you looking to building the solution internally versus buying a solution. Like you want to figure out what is the decision and buying process of this potential customer. Once you’ve checked off that they are the ideal customer profile, they have the right needs that you can address and the decision making and buying process that they have is something that you’re interested in, and that’s realistic, and that they’re actually in the market.

Some companies will sign up for a trial and then tell you no we’re not going to buy anything in the next two years. They’re disqualified, there’s no reason for you to spend any time, mind share or energy, or trying to close them if you know that for reason X, Y, Z that they just signed a contract with a competitor for the next three years. There’s no way that we’re going to ever buy so there’s no way for you to sell to them. So you shouldn’t waste any time trying to sell to them, or attempting to sell to them.

So really crucial once somebody’s signed up or comes in as an inbound lead you set up automated emails to activate them, you call them really early on preferably within the first five minutes to activate them. And when you have them on the phone you can actually qualify them and figure out should they actually move into the next step of the funnel. Our sales team should we actually focus on energy and time on trying to close them?

Now once you’ve qualified them you want to show them your product. Most companies that have an online product to demo, a software product to demo so let’s talk about demos as part of pitching and the inbound sales funnel a little bit. Number one your demo’s gone way too long right. Your demo’s way, way too long and in many cases you’re giving your demos to too many people. That is why I brought up the qualifying before the demo or pitching your product.

A lot of times I see salespeople and inbound sales teams that pick up the phone to call an inbound lead and they’ll start selling, they’ll start pitching. Here’s why we’re great, here’re who else is using us, here’s all the reasons, other features that we have. They spend 30 or 40 minutes doing the demo and then they’ll find out that the person was never qualified to buy. Wow, we waster an hour of time selling somebody that should have never bought in the first place.

Make sure that you first qualify and then you demo or pitch. When you demo make sure you demo in 15 minutes or less. Too many demos, almost every product demo I see is too long. I know what you’re thinking you’re thinking well but our product really can’t be demoed in 15 minutes. Well fuck you right. Your product can be domed in 15 minutes, your product can be domed in 5 minutes. It’s all about editing, it’s all about taking away all the unnecessary and focusing on the core essentials that people near to learn.

I see demos all the time where people are clicking on things, are you crazy? Are you nuts? Well I’m going to sure you how you can invite other team members in our product. You go over here with your mouse and you click on the invite others button, why the hell do you have to show me how to click a button? Why can’t you just say our product allows you to invite a lot of other people. Inviting other people shouldn’t even be part of your demo if your product is not really a referral or invite tool right.

Just take away everything that’s unnecessary and show me the core things that really matter like how’s this product actually creating value, making a difference in my life? You can do that in 15 minutes, and then leave another 15 minutes for the other side to ask questions. Oh I’m really curious how you invite users, can you show that to me click by click? Cool all right. If they’re really interested which raises a red flag to me if somebody is really interested in that step by step. If they are show it to them.

Don’t show them everything, all the features, every little click, every little lead, every little thing. People intrinsically feel like online demos should be an educational session where you train them in every single feature and every single functionality of your product, no. Those things are called trainings and they are usually reserved for your customers, for the lead paying customers. Demos are a sales tool, it’s about demonstrating how your tool is going to create value versus teaching them all of the functionality.

There’s a clear distinction and most product demos that I see seem to be confused about this purpose. The purpose of the demo is to sell, is to demonstrate the value of the product, it’s not to show everything your product is capable of doing. It’s really not.

Make sure that your demos are quick, to the point, focused on the qualified leads and focused on benefits versus showing all of the features that are possible. It seems like somebody in this building has decided that now is the right time to start hammering our walls. I don’t know if you guys hear this but if so just to give you some context our neighbour putting up a nice picture or something, I don’t know what they’re doing.

Now that we’ve activated people through email and calls, we’ve qualified them and we know that they’re really good buyers, and they really should buy our product or service, and we’ve given them a demo of how our product or service works. Now typically people and companies will have objections. People will have reasons why they don’t want to buy, what’s wrong with your product or service. You need to be prepared for that.

There’s easy way to prepare and manage objections. First and foremost create a managing objection document where you take the ten most frequent objections people have. We don’t have the time it’s too expensive, we’re looking to your competitor who’s much bigger than you, we’re thinking about building this internally, is this really secure enough. Whatever it is every company has kind of different rankings of objections that people have. But you’ll realize once you’ve done 100 sales calls, 1,000 whatever the number is probably 20, 30 or 40 you’ll realize that there’s a few objections that come up again and again.

Don’t be surprised by that. Don’t try to address these objections in real time and compute the answers in real time case by case. Write a document, write down the best answers you could think of and write them down in a sentence or a paragraph. Like one or two sentences versus full paragraphs or pages. And the core effect of this exercise is not so much about learning these by memory and being a robot that just recites things from memory. It’s about clarity, being able to answer an objection in a sentence or two versus computing the answers in real time which a lot of times leads to answers that are not concise and take way too long, and are like babbling, rambling on because you’re just thinking about how to answer this in the best away while you’re talking.

It’s not usually a really effective way to be super concise. And being concise more important about what you’re saying is the underlying message that you’re sending to the potential buyer and the prospect which is that these guys seem to have clarity and confidence when it comes to this issue that I just brought up. They don’t seem to be flabbergasted by any of it, they don’t seem to be confused by it, it doesn’t seem like where they’re like yeah right the security of the email.

Well this is the way we’re doing it. They’re able to answer it in one sentence, the security is really important here’s what we do. We do X, Y, and Z to address that and the ten massively companies that are happy with our security so we’re sure we can do that with you too.

Just be able to answer things concisely in a sentence or two which will raise the level of confidence that people have in your solution because you seem to be super confident about it. And then last but not least when it comes to managing objections like having an FAQ document and an objection management document. More importantly make sure that you listen really carefully to people so it’s not just the way that you pay attention to how they say things so you can actually separate the real objections from the fake ones.

Some people say well yeah this looks good but I think the price is too high. Sometimes the price objection is a real objection and people actually think it’s too expensive but many times people just say price because it’s the easy way out. There’s something else they didn’t like about your solution your product, or you frankly. Sometimes people don’t buy because they don’t like the person that they need to buy from. We’re all human beings at the end of the day.

Instead of saying I don’t like you, or I thought that your product really looks ugly, or whatever it is that their real objection is. They say this is probably too expensive for us. How do you separate real from fake? Well you have to listen carefully and you have to listen more than just the content but also the context, not the what but how. How they’re saying what they said, does it sound really convincing? Does it really make sense in the broader context, yeah they’re calling from Coca-Cola about $100 a month is priced too high for us.

If something doesn’t compute, or doesn’t make sense it probably is because what they’re saying is maybe not what they’re really thinking. Your job in sales is to tactfully and with elegance stimulate them to actually tell you what’s really going on. So if you talk to people and what they say doesn’t make sense you can say you know what that is really weird, that is really curious. Is it really pricing or did we really address your problem in the best way possible you’d have the budget for this.

Yeah I mean you’re right, if maybe this did X, Y and Z more the price wouldn’t be an issue. But it seems to be only addressing one of our points and for that it’s too expensive. Sometimes just asking honestly hey this is really curious. Is it true if we did everything perfectly that really the pricing would stop you? Let me ask you this, if we actually got to the price point that we have in mind would you buy immediately? That’s a great clarifying question. If we actually reduced the price that you had in mind would you buy immediately? They would sometimes go no because your security thing is down, maybe your product doesn’t address all our issues. Now you’re going to get the real versus the fake one.

If there’s an elephant in the room don’t tiptoe around it, address it. That’s really an empowering way to manage an objection. Sometimes some companies will always have the same issue like you have a tool that needs to be installed beyond the firewall and every single customer you talk to is afraid of the security issues with your solution. If you know that’s an issue don’t hide behind it, don’t try to run away from it, don’t cross your fingers and be like I hope this won’t be the one sales call where people would bring this up. No address it immediately.

Say you know what now that we’ve figured out through a qualifying person that you really are a great buyer and you should really buy our solution. I’ve demonstrated how it works and we went through your objections and it feels like this is the right tool. You didn’t have a chance to bring this up but let me tell you 9 out of 10 times when we talk to customers of your size security issue is a big concern. So you guys feel the same way that security is going to be a really important them? If they happen to say yeah well let me tell you how we deal with the security aspects. We have A, B, and C and we deal with it in this and this fashion.

This and this is the reason why you should trust us. These other companies have trusted us and our happy and successful with us, does that sound fine or what else do we have to do to make you guys feel comfortable and confident in the solution from a security perspective. If they don’t bring it up, you bring it up. Address the elephant in the room.

Managing objections is one of the most awesome things in sales because it’s partially the reason have a reason for existing. If all you had to do was send some automated emails and people would look at a product and a product or demo, or video and then sell themselves there wouldn’t be no reason to have salespeople. A big reason why salespeople still exist is because people have objections, questions, things they’re concerned about, afraid about.

Some of them rational, many of them emotional, and here’s where you as a salespeople and you having sales skills actually makes a difference to the bottom line of your business. Raise the objections, look for them, and then professionally address them and help those people. Guide them through all their confusions, and problems and objections to a land of clarity, and excitement and confidence in your product and solution.

Now that we got that all out of the way we activated them, we qualified them, we demonstrated our product, we managed the objections usually in the final step of buying the product they’ll have some objections but they will have some things they want to negotiate around. I want to just give three quick tips on how to negotiate with things that you will tropically encounter when you’re doing a lot of inbound inside sales.

A lot of times people will ask for references. The first call hey after they qualify they’ll ask you hey can I talk to other customers that are successful and happy with your solution? I’d really love to talk to two or three other customers before we even go further down the trial. The answer to this is always yes but at the right time.

Your references, your happy customers, the people you sold and closed, you serviced today and they loved you. They are happy and successful with you, those are your most precious sales resources. These customers, these references are your extended sales team, your sales back up team. You should use them absolutely use them to close more deals and close the really important big deals. But you need to use them carefully and you need to use them as the previous resource they are.

If you give out references too early in the process like just right off of if you qualified somebody to buy you didn’t have any chance to manage their objections, they didn’t really get a demo, they didn’t really trial the product, you didn’t really get to the pricing point. If you give them the reference too early here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to burn up too many of your references because you’re going to be giving out too many. So if your customers are talking to too many of your prospects.

Too many times what’s going to happen is they’re going to talk to a reference and then they’re going to decide not to buy. When they talk to them they’re going to be like well yeah it’s been really good to talk to these two or three references that you have. We really like what they said but we realize we’re too early in the process and we’re probably going to buy your product in two or three years. Why the fuck did they ever talk to a reference?

That’s something you should have figured out in the sales process and you didn’t need your customers take a half an hour to talk to somebody to figure that out. Your customers will get burned out, they’re going to talk to too many of these-0 your reference customers going to talk to too many bad prospects and then they’re going to have too many failures. Too many times where they’re going to talk to somebody and at the end the person is going to say this is really helpful, thanks for taking the time to tell me about the experience. I don’t think we’re going to buy. What kind of signal is that sending to your reference customer not the right one.

Here’s what you say, hey I’m absolutely happy to connect you with our happy customers. We’re going to do it at the right time though. Once you’ve actually had a chance to try the product, went through all the steps and you’re basically ready to buy. We answer all your questions, you’re just about ready to buy that’s the time we’re going to connect. It’s the last time to have a happy and successful customer to make sure that you get the outside reference before you sign the contract or seal the deal. Does that sound fair enough to you?

We’ve done this hundreds and hundreds of time, every time somebody asks for a reference you’re going to tell them yes I’m going to give you one at the right time a little further down the sales process. They’ll say yes, they’ll say that’s fine. That’s the way that you’re actually going to create your reference but also that will create your success stories for them. So every time your customer talks to a potential customers it should lead to a close.

At the end of that call the customer should say you know what this was really helpful. This was the last thing we needed, yes we’re also going to buy. That’s going to create the kind of conscience and excitement that you want your reference customers to have. All right so that’s one.

The next one on the negotiation side in the inbound sales is discounts. A lot of people super early in the process will ask for discounts. They will say, well I looked at your product it’s interesting but it’s too expensive. This other product is much cheaper, can you make it cheaper than that? The answer to that is always no. Because here’s the deal when you do inbound sales you want to sell based on the value of the sale in general. You always want to sell based on value, not on price.

Sales based on price is a race to the bottom and it’s something that you should leave off to the Wal-Marts of the world. Most likely you want to sell to people because they really want the value that your product creates not because it’s the cheapest thing in town.

When people ask for discounts here’s another way to actually deal with it. Generally you will be giving out discounts and many cases it’s unavoidable, it’s just the way the market works. You just don’t want to say yes to people early in the cycle. Again first they need to qualify then discount s is also something that should come at the end of the cycle. Sometimes people will tell you hey I really love your product, I just need one little tiny feature. These are the 5,000 features we will never use so it’s kind of painful for us to pay for the entire massive price.

You’ll be very sympathetic to that, this will sound very reasonable to you so you’ll be inclined to be like yeah, let me give you a discount. But never ever give a discount that early in the sales process. Again here’s a simple way to deal with incoming inquiries about discounts right off the bat. You tell people, listen I totally respect that you’re asking to get the price for the product. What I would ask you in return and we’re certainly open to that, but what I would ask you in return is first actually realize the value our product can bring before we talk about this discount.

Here’s the deal, why don’t you use the product for a full month. Why don’t you really give it a run for it’s money and you will really use it for a full month. After you actually use it and truly confirm that this is the right product, the best product in the market I’ll give you the best possible price for it. Does that sound fair enough? Nine out of 10 times people are happy with that and many of these people will not go through 30 days of usage but after a few days they will realize that it’s not the right product or they never really were that serious about it.

So never compete on discounting before somebody actually realizes that your product is really valuable. Once they really use it, and they love it, and they just need a little lighter price yeah sure give them a discount. Maybe you sell them one year contract or some other mechanism to make it a fair exchange.

Then last but not least in inbound sales a lot of times you’ll talk to lots and lots of people that want to negotiate with you and you kind of got to negotiate with them one on one. Always negotiate in pairs, here’s like a massive thing where big companies are really amazing in negotiation. It’s not that everybody who works in a large corporation like a massive negotiation far from it. But large organizations have a process in place that forces the best possible outcome to come out of it, one of these process is that a lot of times when you talk to large organizations the person you’re negotiation first that’s kin d of your champion is not the person you negotiated with at the end of it.

The person at the beginning will be all excited about your solution, will make your spend time qualifying and demonstrating, answering all their questions, supporting them in the trial. They’ll make you invest more and more time and effort, and energy, and sweat, and blood into the deal. And then they’ll hand you off to a department that doesn’t give a shift about you like the procurement department and now more time you invest and the more bought into you are to the deal the harder it is for you to move away from the deal. The more you’re ready to make concessions in order to close the deal.

If you invest all this time with this really friendly force and then they move you over to somebody that has no stake in the deal, that has spent zero time and where all they care about is squeezing you out of the least little bit of whatever they can get out of you. You go through procurement and they push you for the pricing and they really don’t care because you spent months and months trying to close this deal that you’ll make a lot more concessions than you’re willing to in the early days.

Then they’ll push you off to legal and like every step you’ll make a few more compromises, and a few more steps, it’s going to get harder and harder for you to step back on that deal or away from it. At the end they’re going to get the optimized deal they could ever get. Now when you’re a smaller team you don’t have a hundred departments to do this. So what you do is you make sure that at the end of the negotiation deal always bring in somebody from your company that has zero stakes in this deal to confirm that the negotiations that you have are good ones.

We’ll do this a lot and sometimes we’ll bring in somebody from engineering, even somebody that’s not from sales. We’ll have a salesperson pick up some engineer and say here’s the deal, I’ve been working on this deal for months. This is the company, this is why they’re so amazing, here’s what they want, here’s where we are and now they’re asking for this last little thing and I really want to give it to him. And the engineer because they don’t’ care will be like well that makes no sense. They should pay this or you should get back to them with that and that.

Then interestingly enough almost always the salesperson will actually start taking the side of the customer and go, well no I think it’s fairly reasonable why can’t we give them this? And then it’s going to be like back and forth and if there is enough respect in the team more often than not at the end the salesperson goes yeah you’re actually right. Let me go back to them and offer them what you just said. Let me get back to them and not just say yes but actually make that final counteroffer and almost always the customer will take the counteroffer and you’ll have saved tons and tons of money.

You’ll get a lot better deal out of it just because you made sure that you’re not negotiating the entire time yourself, you’re actually involving towards the end of it somebody who doesn’t care about the deal so it can be really objective and have the right distance and perspective of the deal. And challenge you on all the concessions that you’re willing to make because you’re kind of like so bought into this deal.

All right I’ve actually going to jump over this. There’s another presentation about this topic and I want to have a few more minutes. I’ll rush over this last part a little bit but here’s a really important point that way too many salespeople don’t really realize. Follow up and follow through is really where wining happens.

Most companies, most salespeople, most sales organization optimize heavily and focus heavily on what happens in the beginning of the sales process and they don’t care a lot about what happens after. Showing up is certainly half of the win, but the other half is following up and following through. And here’s a very simply philosophy that I have on follow up.

My very simple philosophy on this is, if I engage in a conversation this is not about outbound this is inbound. For somebody that came in and showed interest, and we engaged and then at the point of the sales process either early on or later on people go they don’t call me back or they don’t reply to my emails. I will follow up as many times as it takes until they do.

I don’t care about what their response is. It doesn’t matter if they say yes or no, or fuck off but I will follow up endlessly forever until I get a reply or a response. And that is a simple strategy that has led to massive success in many cases. We’ve closed countless deals because we follow up more than others. We raised money with spectacular investors and they told us the only reason why they invested is because we follow up more than other entrepreneurs did.
It’s a very simply formula. When you do cold outreach which seems irrelevant. You can’t do follow up unlimited, if they send someone an email who’s never heard of you, you might follow up one more time and that’s that. But if somebody actually came in to your funnel, or contacted you, or you had a sales call with them, or a sales meeting or any other real engagement you follow up forever. Until you hear back from them.

Most times people think that because you sent someone an email two, or three, or four emails and never reply you think they probably lost interest so you’ll lose interest. More often than not people don’t lose interest, people just lose focus. Other people’s lives doesn’t revolve around your company, your solution, your product or you as a person. They have other things they have crisis, they have personal issues, the business issues, all kinds of other things that are happening that take away their focus on buying your product.

Here’s the secret, if you stay on top of your game you just keep following up with them more often than not after the fourth, fifth, the seventh, the twelfth follow up they’ll respond and they’ll say ooh my god I feel so bad thank you so much for staying on top of this. We had this big crisis, or we had this big whatever. Something happened and I totally want to jump on a call tomorrow because we really are now ready to buy.

You know who they’re not going to buy from? Your competitors. Because all your competitors stop following up eventually because they felt like these guys are not interested anymore. Follow up as much as possible until you get a reply.

In terms of frequency you want to time this you follow up a day after, three days, five, seven and maybe every week, every two weeks, every four weeks and then every month. Don’t go too  crazy on the frequency. Make sure that your follow ups are always clean and professional, don’t be mean or say this is the 34th follow up why haven’t you replied to me? This is outrageous. Always keep it cool, maybe it’s the 40th follow up hey I hope you have a beautiful day I hope this week was great. We weren’t able to connect how about this Tuesday or Wednesday at 10 am? Just keep it simple, and professional and clean.

Email is probably the best channel to follow up with people because it’s the least intrusive and you can do it many times. The phone is a bit more urgent it’s a bit more attention but you can’t call somebody 40 times that’s not necessarily acceptable. And then in person is the most focused and attention demanding follow ups so this would be only something that I would recommend for a large multimillion dollar deal. A lot of multimillion dollar deals have been closed because somebody was following up, not hearing anything and they eventually did the hey we’re in the area we thought we’d stop by your office. You wouldn’t believe how many massive deals were closed just because of that.

It is a potential way to actually follow up and follow through, and close the deal. There’s a bunch of people that actually have now followed this follow up philosophy and have had tremendous success with it. I’m not going to go through these references. You can read up on them online and many different other places.

Last point I’ll make is how do you actually create urgency in inbound and inside sales, how do you make people actually make a decision quickly when they’re like yeah this all looks interesting but we’ll take all the time in the world to go there. I’m actually going to skip over the first step and I’m going to send you guys a link that describes this strategy in a lot more detail. But there’s really two things especially a lot of SaaS businesses use to create urgency to push people to make decisions faster in inbound sales.

One is an upcoming price increase. So the more mature your company is the more times you’re probably going to increase the price a little bit. A lot of times those price increases are real opportunities to create urgency to close your current funnel and pipeline and make people buy more seats. Because you’re going to grandfather them on the old price so you’ll tell people hey we’re about to increase our price in the next few weeks. You’re just trying our product if you make a buying decision by the 10th, 20th of this month you’re going to get the old price for life, for all the seats that you’ll purchase, all the accounts.

A price increase is a great way to force urgency, the final decision of the sales funnel so they actually make a buying decisions today and don’t wait around forever. The reverse of that is giving them other incentives that are going to run out. Running like promotions, and campaigns it could be things like discounts. It could be hey we’re going to run a special July World Cup promotion where if you buy this month we’re going to give you a 20%, lifetime discount on your product. You have to make a buying decision by the 30th.

You could discount the product, give some BS reason why and why you’re doing it for this month, with some kind of timeline attached to it, you could give them the incentive of additional seats. Hey this month we’re running a buy one get one free promotion so if you have 10 users that would need to buy this product you could actually just buy five and get five other seats for free.

You could offer them features or upgrades. Say hey this month if you buy at least four of our lowest tiered seats we’re actually for free going to upgrade you to our most professional plan. And you can offer them services. You can say hey if you buy this month we’re going to give you our premium enterprise consulting, or support or service for one year that’s worth $5,000 for free.

You could make all kinds of incentives and incentives are tested and proven models in inbound and inside sales to actually help your customers make buying decisions quicker. You should utilize all these strategies to help people to make buying decisions as quickly as possible.

We’re kind of right on time at the 60 minute mark. Some people asked a few questions in the middle of the session but if you have any additional questions on inbound and inside sales, or any other thing that I mentioned in this session just write it in the chat. I’m going to be online for the next 10 minutes answering questions, taking the time to do so. But if you want to reach out personally to me do it please do it, reach out steli@close.io and ask any questions if you need any support.

I want to support and help you guys as much as possible to get your inbound sales get to the next level. Make you black belts in inbound sales kung fu martial artists. This is as much as I can stretch the metaphor. Let me know if you have any questions either now or later via email. I wish you guys nothing but success, may the rest of the day bring lots of closed deals.

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Lean Startup Experiments: Hiring Humans Instead Of Building Technology

Back in the days when we ran our sales consultancy and sales outsourcing company, we did a lot of cold calling for Silicon Valley technology companies. One of our clients was selling software directly to doctors. And the main challenge we had with this was that doctors are really hard to reach. 

So we looked for ways to increase our reach rate. Our clients were spending too much time every day listening to dial tones and then going to voice mail, and not enough time talking to doctors.

That's when we discovered autodialers. 

An autodialer is a neat piece of technology that basically calls several phone numbers at the same time, and drop the numbers which continually ring or go to voice mail. It seemed like autodialers were perfect for us - this technology was made to solve the exact problem we were struggling with.

Because we have brilliant technical co-founders Anthony and Thomas on our team, we were able to build our own autodialer. The question was just: should build our own autodialer or not?

Is It Really Worth It?

But we still weren't exactly sure how much value an autodialer would bring us. Would it be worth spending our engineering time to create the software to be able to dial several numbers simultaneously and only put a call through to a sales rep once an actual human being picked up?

So we hacked together a quick experiment in order to...

Test The Idea

We called a staffing agency and called for more manpower. The next day we had five temps in the office, gave each one a headset and made them dial through a bunch of numbers of clinics and hospitals. Their job was just to dial the numbers, hang up when nobody picked up the phone or when it went to voice mail.

If someone picked up the phone, the temp would say: "Hey, my name is John Smith, I'm calling from XYZ, can I talk to the doctor?" If the person on the other end of the line said yes, the temp would hand over the head set to the sales rep, who would then take the conversation from there.

So our office was filled with temps who were basically doing what an autodialer would normally do: dial a lot of numbers at the same time, and put a call through to a sales rep whenever a human being picked up the phone.

This was indeed as chaotic as you probably imagine it, but it also yielded some very valuable data: our sales reps could speak with 3 to 4 times more doctors per day using this system.

Based on this data we decided to invest engineering time into building our own (non-human) autodialer.

humanrobot

Are You Considering A New Technology?

Imperfect experiments are a lot better than refined theories. Whenever you have an idea that you believe could really move the needle, come up with an experiment that you can run really quick to see if the idea stands a reality check.

Don't spend a lot of time looking at different vendors and comparing things, purchasing and implementing technology. Don't spend hours, days or weeks discussing and pondering different options. Hack together a quick test, look at the data you get and then make an informed decision.

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The Dangers of Pitching Prematurely

A lot of sales people start pitching way too early in a sales call. This almost always shuts down your chances of closing a deal. Want to know how to work your way to the perfect time to pitch? And a failproof method to find out exactly how to customize your pitch for every prospect? 

This method ties in with the most important lesson I ever learned in sales. It's fundamentally about gaining a deep understanding of your prospect, and using it to close the deal.

Remember this scene from Wolf of Wall Street?

You know why all their sales pitches suck? Because each of these sales seminar attendees pitches prematurely. They assume that what they like about this pen is what their buyer likes about the pen. They just show up and throw up all over the prospect, rather than gathering information, engaging the prospect and presenting the solution in response to their fact find.

But rather than talking in abstracts, let's demonstrate this on a specific case.

Example: Pitching a Scheduling App To Doctors

You call up Dr. Smith, and after a quick intro you launch into your pitch, full of enthusiasm.

Sales rep: "Hey Dr. Smith, we've built this scheduling app, and it saves doctors like you a lot of time. Would this be interesting to you?"

Dr. Smith: "No, we don't really have that problem, I don't think this is really for us..."

Sales rep: "Yeah, but our scheduling app can also help you to reduce staff costs because you don't need to have somebody on the phone all the time, going back and forth with potential patients... are you interested in reducing your staffing costs?"

Dr. Smith: "No, I don't think this is something we're interested in..."

Sales rep: "Yeah, but, how about if we could actually increase your revenue a bit?"

... and the sales rep goes on and on like this, without a clear target, without a clear understanding of where to aim at.

Aimlessly Throwing Darts in the Dark

He's just throwing features and value propositions around, hoping something sticks. 

He's just taking stabs in the dark. He's not working, he's guessworking. He's playing value proposition lottery, hoping to get a lucky ticket. That's not selling, that's speculating. It lacks strategy.

Building a No-Street

Every time you throw out another random benefit of your solution, and the prospect says no to that, you are building a no-street. You're conditioning the prospects mind to say "no" to your proposals. The more often the prospect says no to you, the more likely he is going to be to keep saying no, and the bigger the disconnect between you and the prospect.

No -> no -> no -> no -> no -> ... [can you guess what they'll say next?]

Even if you finally get lucky and offer them something they are interested in... if they've just told you no five times in a row, they're much less likely to now change into the yes-lane. They'll just give you another no, because they have mentally tuned out. They feel like you don't really know what they are interested in, you don't really get them, and you don't have anything of value to offer.

How to Work Your Way to Yes - Step #1

What's a better way than random benefit sputtering? You want to gain an understanding of the prospect that is so precise that you can predict in advance where the prospect's sweet spot is. Wouldn't it be awesome to lead the conversation in a direction where you can do just that? Well, there is!

And what's the best way to lead a conversation in sales?

Asking questions!

Specifically open-ended questions (questions which can't be answered with a yes or no). 

satellite

Use your questions as satellites which map out the prospects wants and needs. You want to use your satellites to spot the exact coordinates of their sweet spots.

Sales rep: "What's one of the biggest challenges you have in your practice right now, especially when it comes to patients, managing revenue, managing costs, managing your time?"

Dr. Smith: "Figuring out a way to increase revenues is important in todays economy."

Sales rep: "Ok, so increasing revenue is really important for your practice."

Dr. Smith: "Right."

Getting Past Surface Level Understanding

Most people at this point in the conversation would think: 'Great, I got it! I will pitch this doctor our scheduling app as a way to increase revenues!'

But you - the real pro sales rep - aren't satisfied with that. You keep exploring, you take it a step further.

Sales rep: "If increasing revenue is important to you, what have you done in the past to achieve that? And what are you currently considering? Is it about advertising, is it about getting more new patients in? Is it about efficiencies, e.g. having more people show up on time, and reduce the number of no-shows? What kind of measures would you think of that could really make a dent?"

Dr. Smith: "We don't really have a problem with no-shows. The main thing would probably be doing more effective advertising."

Now that piece of information changes the whole dynamic of the conversation dramatically, compared to what the first version of the answer was (and even more so compared to the sales rep shooting darts in the dark).

What's Next? Digging Deeper!

digdeeper

At this point it might seem like there's no way to sell to this doctor - after all, how can your scheduling app help Dr. Smith's advertising?

But this is the point that differentiates mediocre sales reps from great sales reps. Because now you're really getting into consulting. You're not just trying to get the prospects money in exchange for what you've got, you're revealing something of value to your prospect.

Keep asking questions. You try to find out: is advertising is really the thing that would benefit this doctor the most? What's their actual no-show rate? (Maybe there's potential for significant improvement, and Dr. Smith simply isn't aware how big an opportunity for increasing revenues this represents).

Practice The Art Of Listening - Step #2

Don't just listen to what they say, but also listen to how they say it. If you're selling person to person, observe their body language. When does the prospect really light up, when does the energy in his voice get a lot more excited? These are often more important signals to pay attention to than the actual words he speaks.

Test Before You Pitch - Step #3

At this point in the conversation you're probably in a good position to pitch. But again, don't gamble, don't guess, don't hope for luck. Instead, test! 

Don't proclaim: "Dr. Smith, I think I have the perfect solution for you! We can save you cost on scheduling!"

Instead, keep asking, probing, testing:

Sales rep: "Dr. Smith, if there was a way to save on scheduling and staffing, to save on software costs, if you could make significant savings in all the resouces you have to deploy to schedule your day-to-day operations in an effective and efficient manner as possible, would you be interested in a solution like that? Would that be an option for you to save a lot of money, so that you keep your revenues unaffected, but lower the costs, and thus end up with more profits, instead of trying all kinds of new advertising things that have unknown outcomes and aren't predictable?"

And then wait what they say!

Dr. Smith: "Na, I'm not really a saving-money-guy."

That's valuable feedback! It saves you a wasted bullet - now you don't have to pitch what you wanted to pitch, and are still good for another round of interaction and questioning, until you get a clear sense of what would work.

Ultimately, you want to get to a point where Dr. Smith says: "Yes, that would indeed be interesting."

cleartarget

Because now you have a clear target. Now you know which buttons to push and how to frame your solution. Now you can throw and you are certain that you will hit. You have the clarity to know what they care about. Now it's time to actually make that pitch and close the deal. This is how you actually sell the pen.

coveyunderstand

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