Is OUTBOUND SELLING DEAD? (A Real CEO/Buyer’s Perspective)

Steli Efti is the CEO of Close.io, a sales expert and a general outbound legend.

On this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Steli explains why outbound selling isn’t dead and how to book a meeting with a tech CEO.

You'll learn:

Sponsored by:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Steli Efti
CEO of Close.io

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Do you want to know how you can get a true competitive advantage with your outbound sales efforts? Well, this episode is for you.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, sales nation. Welcome to today's episode of the Salesman Podcast. On today's show, we have Steli Efti. He is the CEO of Close.io. He's the author of The Ultimate Startup Guide to outbound sales. He's a complete legend, a pleasure to have on the show. As always, after all that is said, [inaudible 00:00:27] writted. Steli, welcome to the Salesman Podcast.

 

Steli Efti:

Thank you for having me again.

 

Is Outbound Selling Dead? · [00:34] 

 

Will Barron:

You're welcome sir, glad to have you on. Outbound selling, in a world full of content coming from every which direction, I talk about on the show all the time and trying to get my audience to create content, to point in front of their audience as well. Is the space for outbound selling anymore or should we give up, and should we just be focusing on the inbound leads that are given to us?

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah, it'd be convenient if all of you give up on outbound because it would make certain people's up on efforts, much easier. But I don't believe that any kind of effort fundamentally is over, and up on selling, and up on sales is definitely not dead yet. Just like cold emails aren't dead, and phone sales is not dead, and everything. Every year, there's some new thing or old thing that's now dead. And it kind of still lives on for much longer than we think. So, no man, up on selling isn't dead. There's a debate now on inbound sales and content being dead as a strategy because it's so over flooded, and everybody creates so much content that content attracts less traffic, and traffic converts less based on content. So, people are like, “Well, this inbound thing is not working anymore since everybody's doing it now.”

 

“Great outbound selling is well and alive but mediocre outbound is definitely dead. Email is also dead if you do a mediocre job at it, but great email is well and alive.” – Steli Efti · [02:08] 

 

Steli Efti:

No, I think that up on selling is well and alive, but it's great outbound selling that it's well and alive. Good up on selling might be in trouble and mediocre one is definitely dead. And I think that's true for many ways of communication… Many communication channels that are now just over flooded with competition. Email, I get so much bad email and mediocre email. That's definitely dead. Email is dead if you do it a mediocre job at it, but great email is well and alive. Is get a great email in my inbox, one of the most effective ways to get my attention, get my… A connection to me and get a conversation, a conversion at the end of the day. So, I think the quality of the way you are executing matters more than ever in a world that's more competitive than ever.

 

The Most Effective Way to Get Your Prospect’s Attention · [02:30] 

 

Will Barron:

So, we'll use you as a case study cause this is the perfect way to go about it, I guess. As a CEO of an awesome startup growing rapidly, what's the… And to use your words, what's the most unflooded way to get in front of you? What's the best way to get your attention? Is it a good email versus trying to get you on Snapchat or some other platform where perhaps there's less spam hitting you?

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah, that's a great question. So, I don't think that I am a great example for every CEO out there or every CEO of a startup. But in my case, in my particular case, we'll see if we can learn something more general about it. I do think that email is still one of the best ways to get a hold of me. You could try to get in touch with me through social media, but social media is a medium that is not an absolute, and you can tell if you check out my Facebook, my Twitter, or my LinkedIn account, especially my LinkedIn account is bankrupt. I don't even log in. I don't even go there anymore. I have like 7,000 connection invites. I have like countless messages that I'm not even going there anymore. I don't just… I've abandoned the platform.

 

Steli Efti:

But if you look at my social media, you can tell I'm kind of casually participating. I'm a little active, but I'm not hardcore committed to it. So, if you go to a platform that I'm just casual on I may or may not see your message. I may or may not respond. That's really the honest truth. And it's not that I don't care. It's just that other places of communication are a higher priority for me. And I'm already behind on those. There's already a full-time job keeping up with that. So, the best way to get in touch with me truly, is by sending me an email, but then that email better be good. If you sent me an email, that is… And here's what I mean by good. Well, we can like demystify because good, what the fuck does that mean? And who knows what we're really talking about.

 

Steli Efti:

If you sent me an email independently from… If I'm going to become a customer or not, or if I do what you want me to do, but if you sent me an email that demonstrates to me implicitly, not explicitly, that you understand who you are dealing with, that you have some level of understanding who I am, and what my inbox looks like, and what my life looks like, and why I should give a fuck about your message. If you demonstrate that I will pay great attention to it because the vast majority of messages that reach me don't. And I can give you a specific example if you want.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah, for sure.

 

Steli Efti:

So, me just like probably many people, but especially people that are technology CEOs, I get, I don't know, maybe 30 or 40 emails a day from outsourced dev shops around the world.

 

Steli Efti:

Development agencies, web agencies, or freelancing companies that want to tell me, “Hey, we're great developers and you could just offshore some of your development to us for cheaper, better, or whatever.” I delete all of these. I don't even open most of them because I can tell by the subject line, in many cases what this is going to be about, but these emails get deleted. A pattern recognition. It doesn't even take me a second. I don't read the whole fucking thing. It just… I see it within a split second, I pattern recognise, I delete, I move on with my life. I got an email two weeks… two or three weeks ago from somebody and I open it and it was a web development agency, and the first sentence was, “Steli you probably are getting flooded by cold emails from web development shops. And you probably delete all these messages. I just asked you to read on for three more sentences before you make that decision.”

 

Steli Efti:

And I was like, “All right, fair enough.” I'm going to… Fair enough. That to me, that shows a level of empathy, a level of authenticity, and a level of competence, knowing who this person's dealing with. Then I'm like, “That deserves three more sentences of my time. I'll give you that.” And it's compelling because I'm like, “Maybe he has something interesting to say in the next three sentences.” If he has this level of understanding on my disinterest, in what he's trying to propose.

 

Will Barron:

And did he? You're leading-

 

Steli Efti:

No.

 

Will Barron:

This up now that there's-

 

Steli Efti:

No.

 

Will Barron:

An amazing three sentences coming afterwards.

 

Steli Efti:

No, the… Well, good three sentences. And I think that for somebody that might have a need to, might have problems on their development team, or might have a need to work with a high-class development team, this company might be a good company to work with. I just have… I'm just so not in the market of that. It's just like you sending me an email saying, “Do you want to get married? I'm an incredible human being.” And I'm like, “I'm already married. I'm not in the market for that. No matter how incredible you are. I'm just not in the market.” So, I'm not interested, but I did not delete his email and I did reply.

 

Steli Efti:

And I said, “Hey, fair play to you. Good on writing a really good email. I recognised and appreciate high-quality salesmanship and marketing. I have zero interest. So, I would really suggest you don't waste too much time trying to get in touch with me but check in once in a while. And if you send me this type of information, when I get… Next time I talk to somebody that is looking for a development company, I might point them your way because I was impressed by your communication.”

 

Steli Efti:

Obviously, it was not just that. I looked at the website and they seemed to be like a really high-quality agency. But the email itself was great. Not necessarily because I needed what they had to sell and I wanted to buy it instantly, but it was great because it stood out from a sea of average. And it stood out because somebody knew who he was dealing with and communicated with me in a way that made me think, “All right, this is a person that deserves my attention, and my respect, and my time. So, let me keep on reading on, even if it's just for three more sentences.”

 

Why Your Follow Up Emails Need to be Loaded with Value · [08:25] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay, well, we're going to call this person Barry, and he is going to be the subject for the rest of this conversation Steli.

 

Steli Efti:

All right.

 

Will Barron:

So, how does Barry, wherever he is from, reach out to you in a quarter, in a month, in a week, without pissing you off, stay on top of mind, and I guess, how does he then turn this conversation into how he gets referrals? Which is what you alluded to then, as opposed to perhaps he's never going to get business from you. How does his next email continue that impact? And what do you want from it? What value do you want from it? How could he wow you to start getting some referrals flung his way?

 

Steli Efti:

Well, so that's a good question. I think that number one, he could just get in touch with me regularly, maybe once a month, maybe once a quarter, and if he's not pushy, and if he's not needy, and if his message is not 99.9% just pure selfish, I will never be ano… I won't be bothered. I replied to his original message and said, “Hey, not for me, but good luck.” If he sends me an email three months and goes, “Hey dude, three months ago, you said, not for you, I'm just checking in. The world is changing. Maybe things have changed. In case so, let me know. Other than that, I hope you're doing really well.” How would that make me angry, or pissed off, or enraged me? No reasonable human would get totally out of whack for that. So, even if there's zero creativity, and there's zero strategy, and all that person does is once every three months sends one message, “Hey, how's life? Anything I can do to help?”

 

Steli Efti:

I'd never get annoyed. You know, it's even the opposite, a year later I'm going to be like, “Mother fucker.” I'm going to feel like I know that person I'm like, “This person is not going to give up and I respect that.” And also, Barry is now part of the people I know. So, when Barry sends me an email, it's not a stranger anymore. We've had a relationship for a year. And that relationship has told me a bunch of things about Barry. Barry is somebody that keeps his word. Barry is somebody that respects my time because he doesn't waste my time sending me huge messages. Barry's persistent. Barry's probably pretty honest. I have a relationship with Barry. We've never worked together, but a year or two years into it, if somebody asked me for a web agency to work with and Barry had sent me an email two weeks ago, I'm going to be like, “Let me connect with my good friend, Barry.”

 

Want to Impress Your Warm Prospects? Give them Something of Value Without Expecting Anything in Return · [10:55]

 

Steli Efti:

Although, I've never met the guy. Because over a long enough period of time, I'm going to create a relationship with this person. Now having said that there are things to probably accelerate the relationship or get a return out of it. And you mentioned a really good one, which is like, “Hey, how can he, wow you?” Or basically, I'll translate into, “How can he create value to me that's beyond just being nice and persistent? And how can he get referrals, and connections from you? So, that he gets opportunities to do business.” So, on the wowing side, it's interesting. There is a way to wow people by doing free work for them. By offering something to them of incredible value, without asking for anything in return. Which makes you feel like you're indebted, right?

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. Of course.

 

Steli Efti:

It makes you feel like you want to return the favour. But obviously, when you run a business, you can't give things for free away forever, unless you're incredibly well funded to do so. Which most companies and people are not going to be there. They're not going to be able to work and do incredible arts of… Produce incredible works of art for nothing, for years, waiting for something good to happen in return. But if you're strategic about it, if you choose people that you think and you are pretty convinced are influencers into your customer base, people that could get you thousands of other customers or hundreds of other customers. Then doing something great for them for free could be an incredibly smart investment. And I'll do a shout-out right now. So, if you look at… So, Hiten Shah and myself, we have a podcast called the Startup Chat.

 

Steli Efti:

And the Startup Chat is a podcast that's only possible because there are companies that are doing free work for us. That when we said, “We are thinking about doing a podcast, do people think that's a good idea?” There's a bunch of companies that came to the forefront and said, “If you guys want to do this, we are going to help.” And one company was like, “You know what? We are going to do the website for you. We're going to put together everything that you need to make a good-looking website for the podcast. And you won't have to spend any time or money on this.” And another company got in touch with us and said, “You know what, if you want to do a podcast, we can do all the post-production and we can upload it to iTunes. And we can do… we can take care of all the podcasting things that happen afterward, show notes and all that.”

 

Steli Efti:

And we started working with both of these companies. One of them is Rebuild, which does the website. And one of them is Podcast Model, which I'm giving a shout at now. So, you see how this works? And without them, we would not have been able to build a very successful podcast. But because we are pretty influential, Hiten much more so than me. And because a lot of people come to us for advice, we've sent them tonnes of business. And they're prominently promoted on our website and once in a while, we'll give them a shout. They never asked us for one, by the way. They never said, “Oh, we're going to do this work for you. But we have to be prominently on your website. And every second episode you need to give us a…” They never ask for anything in return, but we felt because they've been doing amazing work, that we're going to keep promoting them.

 

“You can definitely wow people by doing free work for them. By offering something to them of incredible value, without asking for anything in return. Which makes them feel like they're indebted. You can do free work, but it needs to be strategic, and it better be great. That's probably the tough part about this, is that if you send me free work and it's mediocre, that's worse than not sending me anything.” – Steli Efti · [14:43] 

 

Steli Efti:

So, and there are many examples of this where you can go and do great work, offer it, or just do it. Redesigns was a big trend while where great designers would just go to big products, Facebook pages, Twitter pages, Microsoft, and be like, “This thing sucks. Here's how we could redesign it.” And they would write a great piece of…a blog post about it and everybody would go crazy if the work was truly good. And all of a sudden Microsoft and Facebook reaches out and all want to give that person a job to work with him. So, you can do free work, but it needs to be strategic, and it better be fucking great. That's the… That's probably the tough part about this, is that if you sent me free work and it's mediocre, that's worse than not sending me anything.

 

Steli Efti:

Because now I know I definitely don't want to work with you. And that sucks, but it's just part of the game. You better be good at what you do. And then the third thing is on the referral side of things. I think that it really depends again, how likely is it that the person that you're talking to knows a lot of people that could be your customers? And how good or bad is the risk-reward ratio for me to give your referral? So, the web agency thing is a great example because on the one hand, I know, I mean thousands of technology founders. So, I'm a great person to ask for referrals to tech founders, to do web development for them. On the reverse, I'm a terrible person to get in touch with because most of the people I know are not entrepreneurs with a lack of tech expertise and lack of tech resources.

 

“When it comes to referrals, you need to ask yourself who is the type of person that can connect you with an audience that you want to be connected to selfishly, but that will also benefit from that connection.” – Steli Efti · [16:25] 

 

Steli Efti:

I don't know the typical person that's somewhere in an area where they're like, “I have this great idea for an app, but I just don't know anybody who can develop it.” That's not my audience. It's not the people that I'm surrounded with. I know these brilliant developers that have access to all the brilliant developers. So, telling them about some web development agency, somewhere else, it's not the most compelling connection I can make for them. It's not something where I provide an incredible amount of value to them. So, it is very rare that somebody will approach me and ask me for that, where I can then turn around and go, “Aha, I have a great recommendation for you.” So, you need to ask yourself who is the type of person that not just can connect you with an audience that you want to be connected to selfishly, but that will also benefit from that connection.

 

Steli Efti:

And now too many people think too small and go, “Well, we do great web development work. Why… For certain, if Steli connects us with Silicon Valley founders, it's going to be great for them as well and for Steli.” But the… You have to take a hard cold look in the mirror and ask yourself, are we really, truly better than these developers at these teams? Are we really going to offer something of that great value to them? And in most cases, the answer is no. There are people you can create value to, but just not the audience I speak to. So, you need to ask yourself, how can we make it so it's valuable for the person giving the referrals to give it? How can we make it so it's exciting for that person? So the person's walking around wanting to give that referral. And it's not so trivial. It depends really on who the person is and what their network looks like.

 

Influencer Marketing, But For Salespeople · [17:24] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay, Steli, so there's something that I feel has crept up here. I've never really vocalised it on the podcast, but I've pondered about this in the past. So, right now, influencer of marketing is the big shit in marketing. Where everyone wants to do. I get hit up… I'm sure you do as well, but I get hit all the time to do different promotional pieces, to keynote speaking, all this kind of… I'd turn it all down, other than kind of like the Salesforce HubSpot that we deal with, and the longer-standing deals, and kind of content that we create for them. So, other than that, I tend to turn most of it down, so I can kind of narrow my focus for the podcast and grow in that. Do salespeople, to find this white space, to find these gaps in where attention is, do we just need to do what marketers were doing a year ago and do it more nichely?

 

Will Barron:

And what mean by that is, marketers have been spamming emails for years, and now salespeople are starting to spam emails. Marketers for the past two or three years, influential marketing's been huge. Do salespeople now need to look at the white space there, the gaps, and start to do kind of one on one influencer marketing? And getting into your good box or whoever are the industry leaders, and making friends with them. Is this something that we can perhaps do when the next marketing trend comes? Salespeople can look at the back of that and say, “Perhaps there's a gap in there for us as well.”

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah. But I don't see how that's a new thing. That's been around forever.

 

Will Barron:

But it's just labels, I guess then.

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

Maybe that's how it is.

 

Steli Efti:

But the bad thing about this is that the only label I can give it, that is a true representation of reality in my mind, is one that's boring and not as exciting as influencer marketing. Doing, getting a referral, building lasting deep relationships, or deeper relationships than your competitors. That are most players in the market are pretty superficial in the way that they access their network and they work with their network. So, if you can create slightly more in-depth relationships, that's a killer competitive advantage because the same people will do a lot more for you than they will do for your competitors. Even if they have a relationship with both of you. And… But the other thing is that the one nice thing about influencer marketing today is that there are these individuals that can reach a vast audience, just a massive, massive audience at a pretty high scale. Similarly, to whole television networks back in the day.

 

Steli Efti:

Right? So, Kylie Jenner has as much reach as whole networks of television and radio publications back in the day. Now we might argue on how deep is that… the relationship that she has and how lasting will it be? But that's a different conversation for a different time. So, if I can get some influencer on Instagram to take a picture with my product and be like, “This is the shit and you should buy it.” And the product is something that relates to my audience and my audience can afford, and if I'm the type of person that my audience wants to be like, that's incredible. You pay one person and you can impact tonnes and tonnes of people, maybe much stronger than just being an ad on some television show. For certain much stronger.

 

Steli Efti:

The problem on the sales side of things is that network effect doesn't really apply here. There's not… Even if you become friends with the CEO of some fortune 500 company, and that person holds the key to many, many multimillion-dollar deals for you. That person's incredibly valuable, as valuable as Kylie Jenner posting about you on Instagram. Maybe more valuable. But it's not a relationship that you can just send that person an email and go, “Hey, just tweet this, or just take a picture with this. I'm going to pay you $100K to do so. And you are giving me hundreds of K back in return.” That's not going to work that way in most cases, at least, if you're not an in-consumer brand.

 

Steli Efti:

So, in selling, especially in B2B selling, you're going to have to build these relationships. And the return is going to come probably much slower but over much longer-lasting periods of time. Some relationships that salespeople have made with a… They got one customer and they treated a customer really well and over 30 years that customer made that salesperson's living, paid the mortgage, the houses, the cars, everything was just that one relationship. And that person went from being the CEO of this business to the CEO of that business, to a board member of that, and brought in the salesperson all those deals and can be incredibly life-changing. But it's not as scalable. It's not as nicely one to millions of people. So, I think it's not as sexy because of that.

 

How to Get in the Good Books of Your Ideal Clients and Develop a Working Relationship · [22:09] 

 

Will Barron:

So, how does Barry then, rather than his quarterly emails, how does he build a genuine relationship for you? How does he become your friend? And so, that you're not just perhaps referring business, but you're perhaps giving, he can ask you questions or it can give, not mentoring it. I hate that kind of cheesy phrase. ‘Cause I don't want my audience to be pestering people for that. But how does Barry get in your good books and become a mate and a friend with you so that over the 5, 10 years as you are going, kind of like, growing companies, and selling them, and buying them, and going, doing crazy things, he's kind of along on that ride with you?

 

Steli Efti:

So, two things. Barry needs to stay in touch with me, which is the hardest fucking thing. Seems like the easiest thing in the world.

 

Will Barron:

And why is that hard?

 

Steli Efti:

The hardest thing, because people are not committed. They're not committed to the relationship. They're not committed to their ask. They're not committed to thinking long-term. So, they get-

 

Will Barron:

How do you Steli, sorry to interrupt, how do you-

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah.

 

Tell-Tale Traits of a Salesperson Who is Not Committed to the Relationship With The Prospects · [23:10]

 

Will Barron:

Sniff out a quote-unquote salesperson who isn't committed, who isn't really into it for the relationship? Who's just trying to suck value from you. You know, other than the obvious of a just really shit email, it's like begging and being, I used the word before, being needy, kind of get rid of all that bullshit, and that low level of sales professionals, or salespeople. How do you sniff out the real pros who you think it's worth you investing in your time into a relationship with?

 

Steli Efti:

It's very easy. I'll let them wait. Here's… I'll give you a very simple tactic. I get… Oftentimes I'll get flooded with people that want advice. And if, if it comes incremental, usually I try to do a really good job in responding very thoughtfully and giving advice whenever I can. But at times when I get flooded, I give a keynote speech somewhere. And then there are hundreds of emails with people asking me about advice. I'll implement a very simple trick. I just will respond to them and go, “Right now I'm a little under the water. Can you check back with me in two weeks and I'll try to take the time and be helpful?” That will eliminate 80% of the people because I'll never hear from them again. That a… They were so excited to write to me, but they're not committed at all to the relationship to really wanting advice from me.

 

Steli Efti:

They were just emotionally motivated at a given point in time. Two weeks later, they've forgotten they're now somewhere else doing something else and don't care about this anymore. And me asking them to check back just one more time is just enough friction to get rid of the people that are uncommitted. So, that's a beautiful model for me because I want to help you but you need to earn that help at times, and a way to earn it is to show me that you care enough about my help that you'll ask me one more time, and at an agreed-upon time. Most people can't do that. So, 80% of those requests go away. And then the people that ping me two weeks later, I go, “Oh, you are the real deal.” You really care about this enough to ping me one more time, which is more than 80% of the population.

 

“You can weed out the uncommitted people in your life by just having them wait a little bit longer, and they're gone forever.” – Steli Efti · [25:11] 

 

Steli Efti:

Let me now take the time to respond to you. You can weed out the uncommitted by just having the wait a little bit, and they're gone forever. They've forgotten about what they wanted and what they wanted you to do very, very quickly. The people that stay in touch, the people that keep pinging me about… There's so… There are literally tens of thousands of people that have emailed me the last two years, asking for advice, asking for mentorship, asking for coaching. An incredible amount of people. Out of those, the amount of people that have stayed in touch with me regularly, maybe 8, 9, 10, I don't know. Maybe I don't know the exact number, but it's not more than 10. Those 10 people, I remember though. And when they send me an email coming back to the Barry example, I don't feel like they are strangers anymore.

 

Steli Efti:

And in some cases, I've never met these people in my life. That we've never worked together, but I've just been hearing from them for three years consistently. And now staying in touch is one thing but then the other thing is you make me part of your journey, and then your journey better be good. Honestly.

 

Your Warm Prospects Want to See Your Brand Grow Before They Engage with You · [26:20]

 

Will Barron:

And what does that mean?

 

Steli Efti:

That means that… I'll give you two examples. Let's say there's Barry and that there's Gary. Just to make this even more ridiculous. And both of them are web development agencies and both of them did the same kind of approach. And I said, “Hey, let's stay in touch and ping me once a quarter.” Now Barry is sending me once a quarter a message just saying, “Hey do you know anybody that we can work with?” And anytime I click on their website, because I'm curious to see, did the website change, or they have logos, is the team grown, what's going on with that company?

 

Steli Efti:

I basically two years into the relationship still the same website, same logo, same… nothing has changed. Barry seems to be the same on social media, Twitter follows, his engagement, his content, everything seems to be pretty stagnant. And then there's Gary with the G and Gary sends me a message every three months. But then when I go to Gary's website, it seems to be growing and the logo seems to be more impressive. And Gary's social media following is growing and both of them, one has a small business that's stagnating and the other one has one that's flourishing. I'm going to be inclined to help more Gary than Barry. Not because I'm an asshole because there's a limited amount re… I want to help both. But if I own… If I have one recommendation to make I'll lean towards the most successful one. The same goes for entrepreneurs.

 

Steli Efti:

If I follow your entrepreneurial journey and you are learning very slowly, and very painfully, and repeating mistakes, and not progressing for many, many years, which is by the way, what I did for many years. Then I'm going to be very sympathetic to you and I'm always going to want to help you, but I'm not… I'm still going to be very protective of my network. I'm not going to be like, “Yeah every investor I know, let me connect you with them.” Because I'll think it's going to be a waste of their time and your time. So, I'm not going to open all the doors because I don't think you are capable of walking through these doors in a way that's good for you and good for them. Now, if you keep me part of your entrepreneurial journey as some have and you are growing, and not, not making mistakes, but you are succeeding, then obviously I'm going to be much more willing to open doors for you, because I know it's going to be beneficial for both sides.

 

Steli Efti:

And I know you can handle it, they can handle it, and this is going to be good for everybody. So, you need to stay in touch, but as you stay in touch and are committed to the relationship if over long periods of time there is growth, that's going to affect, again, my relationship with you. Now, you are my friend that's struggling and never getting their shit together versus you're my friend that's succeeding in life and is on a track record to become more and more valuable to the world. And that will again, in return change, how I'm going to act, and how much I'm going to help you, and how much… how many doors I'm going to open for you. And it's just a, again, it's not a nice fact of reality, but it's a necessary one to understand. You stay in touch with me, but then you better get your act together and show that you are progressing and succeeding if you want your network to open their doors for you.

 

Will Barron:

For a sales professional, rather than an entrepreneur, just to put that kind of twist on it for the audience here.

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah.

 

Ways to Follow Up Without Annoying Your Prospects · [29:30] 

 

Will Barron:

Maybe they've got a Twitter. Maybe they've got some kind of… They're on LinkedIn, they're doing something. So, there's a number to grow there. So, that's one side for a second. Should they, or is the value in them, perhaps they don't control the… Well, clearly they won't control the company website, me, and medical devices, I had no impact whatsoever on the big corporate brands that I used to work for. But would there be value in me, perhaps every now and again, giving you a bit of industry news, or conversationally as opposed to like a spammy email, or that your competitor's doing this, or…

 

Will Barron:

And I want to refrain from saying that I'm trying to align myself up as an expert or build credibility. Clearly, that happens organically when you have these conversations and you are interested in an industry or a space. Is that an email that should come quarterly as opposed to, “Hi Steli, I'm just checking in.” Should it be “Hi, Steli this is flipped in the market, your competitors have just done this. I've just done a deal with your biggest competitor and without sharing too much, maybe we should have a phone call and have a conversation to see if what we've done with them should help you.” Is that the kind of conversation we should be having to, again, layer it up, not just to send this? ‘Cause I get occasional bullshit check-in email.

 

“If you follow up with me, trying to give me some industry insight, or news, or some competitive news or insight, or whatever else it is, if that message is mediocre or not good, it's actually worse than just checking in with me because it shows that you're clueless.” – Steli Efti · [30:52] 

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah. I think it depends. And, and to me, I'll tell you honestly, if, again, if that message that you sent me that is giving me some industry insight, or news, or some competitive news or insight, or whatever else it is, if that is merely mediocre or good, it's actually worse than just checking in with me because it shows that you're clueless. So, if you send me a message going, “Hey, Steli, did you know that your biggest competitor just launched this new feature?” I'm now thinking you're clueless. I'm like, “Yeah. I… Yes, I did.” This is not news. And you thinking it's news to me-

 

Will Barron:

So, what would be an example of news, that what could… Obviously it's difficult to-

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

Suggest it without it happening or is there-

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

An example of this happening in the past?

 

Steli Efti:

I mean, so I think that in most cases, because you're not going to have some kind of industry knowledge or insight that is so unique that the expert that you're trying to sell to doesn't have it. I think it's much better to give personal insight. Your personal insight versus the industry insight. So, you telling me there's a new report coming out about the CRM space. Did you know about it? It is much less useful than you telling me, “Steli out of curiosity, I signed up for your competitor X three weeks ago. And I was surprised by a bunch of things they did, strategies they had. And I don't know if you're interested, but I'd love to share them with you. So, if you're up for it, just let me know and I'll write it up or we can jump on a call. I can tell you some of the things I experienced that were interesting or stood out to me.” Now, that's much more interesting to me because A, I don't have your insight and I didn't have your experience.

 

Steli Efti:

And I most likely didn't sign up with the server three weeks ago. And B, it's a unique perspective you are offering me. And it might be something that I'm interested in or not, but it is unique. I can't have it. It's your experience, your insights, your ideas, your curiosities may… I'm instantly going to be leaning in on that and thinking, “Huh. Maybe that person saw something, or experienced something that I haven't seen, or that I haven't paid attention to.” That's much more valuable to me than, “Have you read this news?” Yeah, mother… I read the news. I don't need somebody to send me the news. I think that's a mistake a lot of people, a lot of salespeople make. They sent these things glowing of how smart and clever they are. “Ha, ha, ha, here's something great I've done for you.” And it actually makes me put you down a notch and think you are clueless.

 

Steli Efti:

You're sending me a message and you don't know what you're talking about. I had people send me my own art… I mean, this is probably because it's a mass tool, but there are people sending me messages, trying to tell me something that I have taught them in the first place and they don't recognise that. They sent this to the person that's the author of this content. I mean, the… So, give a unique and personal perspective when you can. That can be much more powerful and useful than trying to find industry-wide stuff. If you are not the industry-leading expert, necessarily.

 

How Thinking Long-term Gives You a Competitive Advantage · [33:57] 

 

Will Barron:

So, there's a lot I'm getting from this and it narrows down. If we funnel the conversation Steli into the value that you can give is your personal, unique, experience, and thoughts. And if you are an expert, which I was an expert in urology products here in New Yorkshire, there wasn't… I worked for one company and then moved to the basic competitor. So, I knew the product range inside out. No one could compete with me on that. And there's… I'm trying not to blow my own trumpet, but yeah, it was a pretty [inaudible 00:34:26] because I'm a huge nerd. I loved the technology. I loved all the endoscopes, the camera systems. I really enjoyed talking about aperture, the amount of light that would go through a light cable, how hot it would get, and all these data points with surgeons.

 

Will Barron:

Some surgeons didn't give a shit. Some surgeons really enjoyed that technical conversation. So, obviously, you've got to pick your battles there. So, I would be classed, I guess, in a micro, tiny miniature world of, I would be a thought leader within Yorkshire. And I guess that's all I needed. I only needed to sell to 15, 12 urologists here and I've smashed my count of like 10 million pound target. Is that something we should be positioning ourselves to within our vertical? And I don't want to get into the debate of whether salespeople should or shouldn't create content. But should the end goal be, I'm going to commit to, because I essentially, this is the conversation so far, I'm going to commit to five years in this vertical. I'm going to commit to becoming known by adding value by building relationships with these “thought” leaders within there. Is that what salespeople who want to earn huge commissions should be doing? And is it worth kind of sucking it up for 12 months to get the kind of offset benefit of that in the kind of 12, 18 months down the line?

 

Steli Efti:

I think it depends. So, for some people, this is an amazing strategy. I think the more important… To me the more foundational thing rather than the tactic… A tactic could be, I'm going to become a domain expert to the 10th degree. I'm going to be so knowledgeable about all the technical details of my domain. That's going to be my unfair competitive advantage and people are going to know me for that expertise. Another tactic could just be that I'm going to be the most thoughtful relationship builder. And the way I'm going to remember people, this is more of an old school thing, but the way I'm going to remember people's birthdays, and their child's birthdays, and their anniversaries, and what they care about life, and for how long I'm going to be able to remember all these little details, and be very mindful and thoughtful, and very giving in ways that's going to make people feel very special about me.

 

“The best way to get a competitive advantage in today's world is an old-school tactic, which is to think very, very long-term and to act very, very long-term.” – Steli Efti · [36:59] 

 

Steli Efti:

That can be another tactic. And that could work really well. There's people that sell in areas that should require a lot more expertise than they have. And they've been able to be incredibly successful without having as much expertise as they should have because they've been able to get a competitive advantage. And to me, the best way to get a competitive advantage in today's world, and increasingly so, is an old-school tactic. Which is to think very, very long-term and to act very, very long-term. Because as things are changing constantly if you know, what's not going to change, what's going to stay the same for real long periods of time. You can out-compete almost anybody. And this is a great example, of why I love Amazon's whole approach to innovation, which is don't focus on what's changing because that's a moving target. We're never… We're always going to be a step behind on that, but let's focus on the things that will never change.

 

“Things are changing constantly. If you know what's not going to change and what's going to stay the same for a really long period of time, you can out-compete almost anybody.” – Steli Efti · [37:22]

 

Steli Efti:

And for them it was two things. People will never want to pay more for the same thing and people will never want to wait longer to get the same thing. So, all the innovation that Amazon does and has been doing for many, many years has been, how can we make incremental improvements every fucking day on getting things cheaper and getting them faster to people? And if we use technology to do that we're always going to be a step ahead. And I think the same thing applies for salespeople. If you think whatever your career path is or your industry. How can I build a career for 10 years? And I know for young people, this is especially hard to do. Thinking that long term when your life has been so short, is a tough task and ask, but, and unsexy as hell.

 

Steli Efti:

But if you can think in decades versus in years or months, you are going to crush people. You're not going to crush them in the first month they are competing against you. Maybe not even in the first year, but you're going to start crushing them in year 2, in year 3, and in year 10, you're going to be so ahead it's going to be impossible for them to compete with you. You have to ask yourself in the same vein if you started in an industry and somebody has been investing in building relationships, knowledge, networks for 10 years, and that person's competing with you with the same amount of energy, and effort, and motivation, how are you supposed to win? How… It is impossible to win against that person. And you want to be that person and you become that person faster than you think. But for people that have lived more than 20 years on this planet, 5 to 10 years go by much faster than I used to think.

 

Steli Efti:

The older I get. So, time goes fast and today I can tell you all the people that have become investors, friends, people I've invested in their businesses, and all the people that have the most influence on my success. Everything I have today are people that I started relationships with in most cases, 5, 10 years ago. And now I see the return because these people are incredibly successful. And so, they're opening doors. They're helping me. They're make… They're my unfair competitive advantage. It just took a minute for me to start realising that.

 

“Your strategy needs to be thinking longer-term than your competitors. Doesn't mean that you shouldn't act with urgency, doesn't mean that you shouldn't act in the present moment, but you should think about your actions as things that can help you today but also build towards a long-term goal. The fundamental strategy for success in sales and in anything else, honestly, is long-term thinking because everybody else is thinking short-term and you're going to crush them if you do.” – Steli Efti · [39:39] 

 

Steli Efti:

So, I think that the strategy needs to be, to think longer-term than your competitors. Doesn't mean that you shouldn't act with urgency, doesn't mean that you shouldn't act in the present moment, but you should think about your actions as things that can help you today but also build towards a long-term goal. And if you apply that strategy tactics could vary based on your personality, based on your industry, but the fundamental strategy for success in sales, in my mind, and in anything else, honestly, is long-term thinking because everybody else is thinking short-term and you're going to crush them if you do.

 

Steli’s Go-To Resources For Self-Improvement · [40:11] 

 

Will Barron:

We'll wrap up with that Steli. One final question, mate. Other than your own, which will come onto in a second. Are there any books, resources, anything that I guess, especially to do with relationship building that you can recommend to the audience to improve their game, kind of long after this show?

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah. I'm going to give an unusual book recommendation, I think when it comes to relationships. Because it really doesn't have anything to do with relationships other than the relationship with oneself is Wherever You Go There You Are and it's by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He's a really cool guy because he comes from the sciences, was a medical professional, and he brought meditation to the medical world and built a big meditation centre at MIT, and he is somebody that's grounded in science. But has really advanced meditation, I think, to a strong and mindfulness to a very strong degree over the last 20, 30 years. And it's somebody that people that are not too much into the esoteric part of meditation can relate to. It's a very short book. It's written beautifully, it's fairly poetic, but it is very practical in a weird way.

 

“You can't build great relationships with others if you don't know who you are and if you are not in touch with yourself.” – Steli Efti · [42:05] 

 

Steli Efti:

And to me, in order to build great relationships with others, this might sound all woo, woo and bullshit to most salespeople, but you can't build great relationships with others if you don't know who you are and if you are not in touch with yourself. And so, building a practise of mindfulness will help with thinking long-term, having a calmer mind thinking longer-term, seeing further ahead than others, and will help build relationships… Will help you be a much more attractive human that other humans want to be in a relationship with because you're not as erratic and as easily out of whack as the average person that they get encountered with. So, that's a book recommendation that I think is unusual for a sales podcast, hence why I'm giving it.

 

Steli Efti:

And then obviously for people that are like, “Well, mindfulness bullshit, I don't care. I want sales tactics, how to do cold calls, how to do demos, how to do cold outbound, how to do inbound sales, and how to do all this stuff.” I've written, I don't know, I've lost count like a lot of books on, on sales subject, close to 10 now. So, if you send me an email at Steli@close.io and the subject line could just be Bundle Motherfucker, if you want. So, whatever, it doesn't have to be very long, just give me the Bundle. I'll send you a link. And the audience gets all my books for free to download and there's lots of tactical stuff in there for those that care about it.

 

Parting Thoughts · [42:46]

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. And tell us where we can find the podcast as well.

 

Steli Efti:

Yeah. The podcast is called The Startup Chat. So, you can go to thestartupchat.com to find the episodes or subscribe to us on iTunes. It's twice a week for 20 minutes. Hiten Shah and myself. Hiten is kind of a marketing genius and pioneer. And I know a little bit about sales, at least some people think so. So, we talk about lots of subjects from a marketing and sales perspective, but also from an entrepreneurial perspective within founders and CEOs for many years now and people seem to enjoy it. So, if you like podcasts, you might want to give us a try.

 

Will Barron:

So, still for our link to all that over in the show notes over at salesman.org, without Steli as always, mate, I appreciate your time, appreciate your energy, and kind of some genuine unique insights into this. I feel like there's another episode of how we choose what people to target that's worth investing in. And there's a whole conversation about relationship building to come on the back of this. So, I appreciate all that mate. And I want to thank you for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Steli Efti:

Thank you so much for having me Will.

 

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