Tag Archives: sales

MicroConf 2015: How to build a solo SaaS sales machine

MicroConf 2015: How to build a solo SaaS sales machine

Steli Efti (Close.io)
The person with the highest level of clarity always wins.
Sale based on value.
Don’t fizzle around based on features, pricing, and costs. Refocus the conversation on the values you can provide.
Truly qualify people.
Ask questions until you reach an understanding that needs the minimal amount of interpretation as possible.
You can be an amazing salesperson if you ask a lot of questions and qualify people correctly.
Content is not just for marketing. Content is also for sales. If you do content right it can be your invisible salesperson in the cloud.
You can do a lot of hacks to make a person open your email but then you need to deliver on it. Start off on the right foot.
If a certain amount of people do not think you are spamming them then you are not sending enough emails.
Send more email.
Book: Predictable Revenue
Go two levels above the buyer in the organization and ask for referrals down (to the buyer). (“Hey CEO of the business, I’m doing this in one sentence thing that is really valuable. Can you point me to the right person in your organization to chat with about this.”)
Much better process is top down than bottom up if you are doing enterprise sales and cold emails.
Never, ever, ever stop following up until you get a response.
Magic happens when you follow up.
Demos need to be 7-9 minutes and then you leave some time for questions. People will not remember anything more than ten minutes.
Everybody and anyone you know is part of your sales team.
Every person that buys from you can be part of your sales family. Ask for referrals.
Sales at the end of the day is you being the most decisive person in the room.
Once you are really truly convinced you can help them it is your responsibility, your duty, your religion to sell them.
Sales is a performance art.
It takes three months to know if somebody is going to be really good at sales.
The difference between somebody being good and truly great at sales is consistency.
(Download my notes from another great talk on sales Steli did at Y Combinator’s Summer Sales School.)

9 Reasons Why People Won’t Buy Your Product (And How to Fix Them)

Episode 246 | 9 Reasons Why People Won’t Buy Your Product (And How to Fix Them)
Date: 2015-07-21
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsDon’t go too much into the features too quickly or else people won’t understand the value they will get out of it. You can’t just go after benefits either.
The headline should be a promise rather than a description.
Start with a benefit (promise). Then text that digs down into how it does that (but not features yet). Then some testimonials or press links. Then dig into a couple of features in bullet points or short snippets. Three to six features on home page.
Use “you” language on home page.
Also have a full features page.
Targeting traffic is hard. The less traffic you send to your homepage the better. Send more traffic to individual landing pages that look like your home page but with the headline changed to something that hits with the traffic source.
You can morph your pages to talk directly to an audience.
People might not trust that you can deliver on the promises that you are making on your homepage or landing page. To get around that you lead nurturing. Offer something very small in exchange for an email address.
It is hard to tell how long lead nurturing is going to take.
There is going to be an incumbent in whatever market you enter into.
The biggest competitor to most bug tracking software is spreadsheets. If it works well enough then why would somebody change?
You have to show not just incremental value but a dramatic savings in time, a dramatic savings of money, or how you can make someone a lot more money, or how you can remove a pain from their life. You have to figure out what that pain is and really go after that.
Remove the pain of switching from whatever they were using to using your software (even if you have to manually enter data for them).
Asking someone to sign up for your service is asking them to do work.
Send emails to new users with their onboarding tasks. Have a walk-through or guided setup.
Use something like retargeting to bring people back.
Collecting email addresses and then not emailing them for three months is the worst thing you can possibly do.
You can ask on your sales page, “Have you tried a bunch of other products and they haven’t worked for you?”
It is hard to not overprice something if you are not also delivering the value.
Don’t drop price. Add value to it.

Y Combinator Sales School

These are notes on the amazing sales seminar that Steli Efti of Close.io did at Y Combinator on August 14, 2014.
You can watch the talk here. It is only an hour and I highly recommend it.

Sales Basics

You’re not looking for traditional sales people for a startup.
Sales for a startup is a completely different beast. It requires more hustle.
Look for people that know how to show up, know how to follow-up, and know how to close.
Follow-up is when winning really happens.
Make sure you never stop following up until you actually get to a result.
Just ask the (close) question a lot:

  • Are you ready to buy?
  • Do you want to buy?
  • What can we do to get you to buy?

In sales if you are not getting rejected it means you are not trying hard enough. It means instead of going for the big deals you are going for small deals inside of your comfort zone.
You need to be able to deal with being rejected.


Learning the basics of sales is simple if you are smart and a hustler.
What makes great salespeople great is not that they are good at talking or charismatic. What makes great salespeople great is consistency.
You can’t judge (salespeople) on a few interviews. You have to work with them for a few months.

Ask Questions

Sales is all about asking questions.
She who asks questions leads the conversation.
You really want to dig deep and understand a person. Once you understand you throw one dart and it hits.

Sell Value

Don’t sell features.
Don’t talk about features.
Sell them on the value your features are creating.

Friendly Strength

The way you need to do sales is friendly strength.
Don’t be friendly weak.
Interact like a great parent–for a position of friendly strength.
You should know better about your product and market than most customers do.
Customers want to buy from people that have strength and come from a friendly place.

Follow Up

You never stop following up. Ever. Until you get a yes or a no.
Yes and no are both wins.
Keep following up. Be professional and see what happens.
When people tell you they don’t want to hear from you anymore then leave them alone.
If people don’t reply to an email then never stop following up.

Outbound Sales Pros & Cons

Outbound sales powers your business to be proactive.
The awesome thing about outbound sales is you identify someone you want to be your customer and you go after them proactively.
You can scale outbound sales dramatically.
Outbound sales can make a huge difference
What sucks about outbound sales is that you are interrupting people with a message they didn’t ask for.
Outbound sales is going to be painful.

Lead Generation

You can buy lists. The good thing about it is every idiot can do it. The bad thing is every idiot can do it.
People that sell lists are going to sell them as many times as possible so the people on them are going to get tons of (sales) calls.
You can scrape lists.
More often than not the high quantity things are low quality.
To get lists you can either buy lists, scrape lists, do the work yourself manually, or outsource it.
Take your five or ten best customers and create a spreadsheet and enter as many details you can about them (how many employees, where on social media they are, who made the purchasing decision, etc.) and then try to find the common denominators between them.
If you go really broad you are going to get inconsistent and unpredictable results.
If is better to go narrow than really broad at the beginning.

Sales Calls: Reach People

Your outbound model depends on your reach rate.
Reach rate is really crucial.
Reach rate is the top of the funnel.
Pay close attention to your reach rate.

Sales Calls: Sound Good

You need to sound good.
The slimmest way of how you impact people is what you are actually saying.
Be a bit excited.
If you aren’t excited talking about your business then people won’t give a fuck about your business.
Your voice is going to create images and those images are going to influence people so you need to be excited. You need to be energetic.
Be authentic.
Make sure when you are talking to people in meetings you’re having some level of enjoyment and excitement.

Sales Calls: Asking Questions

You need to talk to them and qualify if they should be buying your product. If so, why?
Once you know that you can really close them.

Sales Calls: Manage Objections

You need to be able to manage objections.
Sit down and think through the top ten or fifteen objections that people have. Write down an answer to those. Keep it at two sentences max. The answers don’t need to be perfect.
Be able to answer something with precision and clarity in one or two sentences.
When you answer on the fly you tend to talk too much.

Sales Calls: Ask for the Close

Ask early (for the close). Ask often (for the close).
You’re the most interesting person they have talked to in a while.
Loving what you did and buying is a different thing.
Buying is a level above loving.
You always want to go for the top.

The Original Elastic Sales Script

Start by addressing the question of, “Who the fuck are you?” (Hi, my name is ____. I’m calling startups in the area to find out if they are a good fit for our beta program.)
Use a lot of lingo that says, “I’m like you. I’m in your area. I understand you.”
Every sentence in an email or a cold call is selling people on listening to you for another sentence.
“Does that sound interesting to you?”
No matter the answer follow up with, “Oh that is interesting. What is your sales process?”
They have already made up their mind so let them get that out of their system (by saying yes or no) and then keep going.
The power of questions is really, really amazing.
When somebody asks you a question there is a very strong unconscious urge to answer.

Cold Emailing

They have to open it. They have to read it. They have to respond. You have to have a plan to follow up.
The subject line is the first thing they look at.
If your email wasn’t opened it didn’t exist. The first thing you have to do is make sure people open your email.
You have to make sure you have at least a 30% open rate.
Every sentence in this email has to sell the reader on why they should read one more sentence.
Have one call to action. Not five.
If you’re trying to make a meeting give them one time so they don’t have an option.
Follow up two or three times at least.
Don’t send one email and then never follow up. (If you do that) then don’t even send the first email.

How to Design a Killer Client Demo

Episode 232 | How to Design a Killer Client Demo
Date: 2015-04-14
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsThe best way to learn to code is get a 40-hour a week job coding and to have a mentor.
Use GoToMeeting and WebEx for doing a demo.
Gotomeeting isn’t good for recording a demo.
Make sure you use a USB headset.
Start the demo by letting the other person to talk. Let them describe their problem in their own words.
Large enterprises want to know a product has a history.
You want to know what the stage is before you get on the call.
If you can ask questions prior to the demo is the ideal scenario.
Gather as much information about the target customer as you can before you get in there.
Show a sample customer (ideally with a picture) who has problems very similar to the person you are talking to.
At the end of the day it is all a numbers game.
It helps to have concrete answers ready ahead of time.
There are going to be people who have their own agenda when you get on the call with them.
At the end of the middle section is when you really want to get into how your product works. It is not enough to talk them through a hypothetical scenario.
You need to prove it.
Never respond to a pricing request with pricing information.

Breaking through SaaS Plateaus with Ruben Gamez

Episode 231 | Breaking through SaaS Plateaus with Ruben Gamez
Date: 2015-04-07
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsThe first plateau is higher if the price point for the product is higher.
Getting to product/market fit is harder than you think.
When it is just you you need to focus on one thing.
You need to get enough volume (of trials) before optimizing.
You can’t optimize your way into a $10,000 a month business.
You are probably not going to get pricing right when you launch.
It the first few weeks or months is when you need to be testing pricing the most.
You can forecast when you are going to plateau.
Unless businesses have zero churn they are going to plateau at some point in time.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Churn (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Episode 226 | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Churn (But Were Afraid to Ask)
Date: 2015-03-03
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsChurn is the percentage of people that cancel in a given time period.
Revenue churn is a better metric than customer churn.
Involuntary churn is when a customer’s credit card expires.
Higher-priced point customers, while tougher to land, do not churn out as much as lower-priced customers.
You have to fight the first sixty day churn differently than the post sixty day churn.
1.5% is a typical enterprise SaaS monthly churn rate.
The obvious way to reduce churn is to improve your product.
You can get rid of people who aren’t a good fit for your product by just raising prices.
Another way to reduce churn is to get people using your product through onboarding, emails, free concierge services, making your product intuitive, having a guided wizard, and gets them to their minimum path to awesome.
Get metrics into your user’s inbox. It reminds them of the value they are getting out of your app.

Is It Getting Harder to Grow a Successful Business Selling Info Products?

TMBA272: Is It Getting Harder to Grow a Successful Business Selling Info Products?
Date: 2014-11-27
Link: Tropical Talk Radio
Tropical MBAInfoproducts are strong today and will continue to be into the future.
There is no better motivation that customers who have already paid for the product.
Have sales always be present but never pushy.
Be assertive about promoting your content.
Make your site very easy to follow so people don’t get overwhelmed.
The bigger the pool of available information the more important it is to have a teacher or someone to guide you through it.
It is a slow, steady process.
Book: The One Thing by Gary Keller

Trust Signals for Your Website

Episode 205 | Trust Signals for Your Website
Date: 2014-10-07
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Startups for the Rest of UsYou have this vision of what your product is supposed to be and then there is reality–what the customers actually want. You have to balance between those two things.
Find the minimum path to awesome.
Heavily script the onboarding process.
People don’t buy things from websites they don’t trust.
You have to establish trust on your website.
Trust is grounded in ability and integrity.
People will trust you more when you come out with something that looks really sharp.
Book: Don’t Make Me Think
Book: The Non-Designers Design Book
Don’t serve up ads on a corporate website.
Be careful about using stock images in place of people you have pictures of.
About pages get a fair amount of traffic.
Choose the things that are important and put them in the top nav. Move everything else down below the fold, into the footer, and in other pages.
Think of all of your content as if first time visitors are looking at it.
In your copy use “You” rather than “We”.
Show contact information for your company.
If it feels very safe to write then it is junk.

Sales and Marketing

Lecture 19: Sales and Marketing

Link: How to Start a Startup

(You can find notes to the other lectures here.)

Tyler Bosmeny (@bosmeny)

How to Start a StartupThere is a million ways to do (sales) so you’ll find what works for you.
As a founder you’re the sales people.
Talking to your users is selling.
Passion and industry knowledge trump sales experience.
Prospecting is the process of figuring out who will even take your call.
In the early days go to a lot of conferences.
Get attendee lists in advance and email every single person to try to set up meetings.
A lot of people don’t know how to write cold email. It should be really concise.
When you get (potential customers) on the phone remember to shut up.
Follow up.
You really have to have kind this inhuman and unreasonable willingness to follow up and drive things to closure.
Your goal should be to get people to a yes or no as quickly as you can. Where you die is if you have a thousand maybes.
You gotta remember what your goal is.
Avoid the free trial trap.
At the end of a free trial you’re going to have to sell them all over again.

Michael Seibel (@mwseibel)

The best way you can make your pitch better is to improve your company.
Just talk less.
The thirty second page is three sentences:

  • What does your company do?
  • How big is the market?
  • How much traction do you have?

If in one sentence you cannot tell your mom what you do then rework your sentence.
Use simple language.
It cannot be complicated.
If your team has done something that has made investors money then you should mention that.
Your only way to build credentials is if you have accomplished something.
The more you talk about a bad thing the worse it looks.
Investors like to invest based on traction.
If someone who has passed on your company offers to make introductions pass on that.
Fundraising is a sprint not a marathon.
Schedule all investor meetings in one week.

Qasar Younis (@qasar), Dalton Caldwell (@daltonc)

Make sure the person you’re talking to knows what you do. (Dalton Caldwell)
Actually ask for money. (Dalton Caldwell)
You can tell when people are passionate and know their business very well. (Qasar Younis)
After the meeting follow up. (Qasar Younis)
Anything other than a check or a wire of funds is a no. (Qasar Younis)
Do due diligence on investors. (Qasar Younis)
You’re selling part of your company. You should know who you sell it to. (Qasar Younis)
Fundraising does not equal success. (Dalton Caldwell)

Outbound Sales for Startups with Guest Steli Efti

Episode 202 | Outbound Sales for Startups with Guest Steli Efti
Date: 2014-09-16
Link: Startups for the Rest of Us
Book: Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound Sales
Cold calling and cold emailing has a stigma to it.
Rather than talking sales is a lot more about asking questions and proactively listening.
When listening someone will convince you that your solution is the right one and you need to tell them that.
Sales is more psychologically hard. You don’t have to do anything that is physically hard.
When you do sales you can’t avoid rejection. You have to embrace it.
We all can get good at sales.
Sales is highs and lows.
On every single day you’re not going to have the same outcome.
Make your goal to get rejected every day.
Sales will come as a result of making calls. Don’t tie your goals to sales.
In the early days it is more about learning.
In the early days focus on how I can learn as much as humanely possible about your customer.
Cold email usually works better for large established organization and works to just get in touch with the right person to schedule a demo with.
Cold calling sometimes works better in the SMB market than the enterprise market.
To do cold calling the customer lifetime value should be at least a few thousand dollars.
The reasons people will not buy your product will be about ten to twenty objections that you hear every single day. Write those down. Then write down an answer to each of them. The answer doesn’t need to perfect it just needs to be short. Two to three sentences max.
People like confident people.
A lot of people outsource sales because they think they don’t know how to do it.