Steli Efti's Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins

Steli Efti's Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins

Entrepreneurs and mentors from across Atlantic Canada came together Tuesday to learn winning methods to ramp up their sales from global (and local) leaders in the field.

They were in Halifax to attend the second annual Amplify event, organized by Propel, the regional IT accelerator.

The highlight was undoubtedly the international experts brought in to explain best practices in sales and growth marketing, such as keynote speaker Steli Efti, the CEO of Silicon Valley-based, which makes digital tools to help improve sales.

An expert in software sales, Efti revealed his Seven Deadly Startup Sales Sins. One of the most lethal of these, he said, is not following up  with potential clients – and he meant again and again until you get a yes or a no.

“The first step in sales is showing up,” said Efti. “That showing-up place is very busy. Everybody’s doing it.  The next step, the follow-up part, that’s the place where everybody quits the race . . . So if you follow up, you will win.”

Worse still, is the sin of closing a bad deal – one in which your company makes all kinds of concessions to a buyer that probably doesn’t want your product in the first place.

“A bad deal is much worse than not closing a deal,” said Efti. “Closing a bad deal is like taking on compounded debt.”

A New Brunswick Founder Asks: Can Sales Be Taught?

Alistair Croll, the Dalhousie University grad who’s now a Visiting Executive to the Harvard Business School, advised that eventually all growth strategies trend toward zero – meaning that each time a company follows someone else’s growth hack, it becomes less and less effective. He encouraged entrepreneurs to devise hacks that have never been used before and position their product skillfully so it becomes something customers flock to.

“This takes a lot of work,” he said. “It can take more time than writing the code for the product in some cases.”

One highlight of Ampify is sales advice from leading Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs, and the participants this year were a reminder of how much some companies in the region have grown. They included Moncton-based Alongside, with annual recurring revenue of $1 million, St. John’s-based HeyOrca ($3 million) and Halifax-based Proposify ($5 million).

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Alongside CEO Yves Boudreau encouraged founders to follow their competition, subscribing to their newsletters and reacting to their moves;
  • HeyOrca Head of Sales Operations Ryan Mercer spoke of using sales as a learning experience that helps the product team to understand client needs;
  • Laura Simpson, CEO of Halifax-based Sidedoor has been in business for a shorter period than the other presenters. She dwelt on the emotional side of dealing with clients, imploring people to surrender to the pain in the bad moments and feel the joy of the good times.
  • And Proposify CEO Kyle Racki spoke of using data-based processes to decide pricing and the importance of monetizing existing customers rather than just attracting new customers.