Episode 31: Closing Software Sales and Your Mental Game w/Steli Efti

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Steli Efti from Close.io shares his story today. After booking a one-way ticket from Germany to Silicon Valley, Steli began a 9-year startup journey that led to some difficult places before he found the success with closing software sales he enjoys today.

In this episode, Steli talks about the importance of your mental and emotional game in a startup, closing software sales, and what he learned from getting beaten by a competitor early in his career. Bonus: Steli shares a hilarious story about a tactic Patrick McKenzie recently used in closing software sales of his own.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Don’t over-estimate where you are as a founder
  • How small habits build momentum over time
  • Why clicks alone won’t sell your software
  • The importance of letting real people use what you’ve built
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 Show Notes:

Close.io – Steli’s startup; Close More Deals. Make More Sales.
ElasticSales – Steli’s first try at sales consulting
The Startup Chat – Steli’s podcast with Hiten Shah
A one-way ticket from Germany to Silicon Valley
– Steli’s first interview
Interview with Steli Efti from Super Cool School
Entrepreneurial Happiness – Steli’s TEDx talk
Kalzumeus – Patrick McKenzie (patio11) blogs on software development, marketing, and general business topics
Charge More For Your Product w/Patrick McKenzie – Patrick’s previous appearance on Chasing Product

“There’s no such thing as secondhand insights…the further you’re removed from the human, the more data you’re lacking in terms of making up for these insights.”

When struggling with closing software sales or anything else, practice “emotional alchemy” – don’t run from feeling bad, shine some light on it, follow the next indicated step. It’s a way to overcome & reverse the spiral of negative emotions.

Steli characterized his startup “Super Cool School” as a Soul-crushing defeat. Here’s what went wrong.
– no balance – it was all work, work, work
– didn’t know how to raise money
– didn’t know how to build product
– long hours
– too soon for the market
– tried to do too much at one time
– trying to hard
– looking down on doing something small
– TAKEAWAY: Khan Academy won because they started small & built up w/insane consistency

Steli says he’s a “maniac” about habits and building momentum in everything you do – he hate goals.
– You can adopt a generic goal like “I want to lose weight” but the trap lies in setting overly-ambitious, crazy goals
– The over-ambitious, crazy goals lead to failure because it’s unnatural and unsustainable

Start with tiny habits that are easy to accomplish, without a timeline
– Consistency adds up & the habits become permanent
– Hint: closing software sales is a habit like any other

Steli says he often finds he is fighting his own ambition. Anyone relate to that? We talk about why stress is disempowering, what to do to deal with it, and why mental game is everything – getting out of your own way is important. Otherwise, closing software sales will be difficult.

Clicks will not sell your software – the better you understand the customer, the better you can serve them, and so the better you can start closing software sales with them.

Steli offers some simple advice for founders: In the early days, a) get out of your head/body/office & into real world, and b) instead of JUST setting up a landing page, take that landing page or app and show it to someone at a local coffee shop. Observe their pain; there is no better antidote to stupidity than seeing real people use what you’ve built. 1x month, go visit a customer, even do a user meetup, buy drinks, mingle, interact, go to their office. This is how the process of closing software sales begins.

The Patrick McKenzie story alone is worth spending an hour listening to this episode. Hilarious story in which Steli is a ghost in the room as Patrick goes about closing software sales. Great stuff.

Steli also shares that he has difficulty in applying high standards & exercising patience – often with himself! Again, can any of us relate to that?

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