In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to sell in the current climate.

In the current environment, making sales right now is extremely difficult. A lot of sales people will be working from home and that in itself can be very tricky. Also, many businesses are going to be struggling financially and this will hinder your ability to sell your product or service. 

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what to do right now if you work in sales, how working from home can be tricky for sales people, tips to help you cope when working from home and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:12 Why this topic was chosen.

01:26 What to do right now if you work in sales.

01:59 The nature of sales.

02:38 How working from home can be tricky for sales people.

03:11 Tips to help you cope when working from home. 

05:04 The importance of authenticity when working from home.

05:32 Why you should focus on what you can control.

05:58 Why speed matters a lot right now.

08:10 Why cashflow is king right now.

3 Key Points:

  • This is going to be a tricky time for people in sales.
  • Sales people working from home is highly unusual.
  • Nobody is going to care about what you sell in a week or two from now.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on The Startup Chat in our pandemic series… That’s what it is. We’re going to talk about sales because I have a sales something, savant genius, whatever word people want to use, but he knows a thing or two about sales. So let’s talk about sales. I’ve seen some emails you folks have sent, I’ve seen some features you folks are releasing and I know you’ve changed it up, your roadmap a little bit, yourselves, in order to service folks. But I think the big question on people’s minds from a sales standpoint, both if they’re managing salespeople and they have sales people or they are a salesperson, what do I do? Everything’s different now. I’m not in an office. I don’t know if my prospects are going to listen to me anymore. Or even like… What do I do? So please lay it on us.


Steli Efti: Yeah. This is going to be a very tricky time for people in sales, but there’s many other people that are in much worse situations. Okay, so a couple of things. I think first on an individual level, salespeople working from home is highly unusual and selling just from their home. And on top of it, it’s going to be even much more unusual if the whole family’s with them, right? Sales is such a context sport, kind of high velocity, high quality context sports, such a communication sport. And it’s so fundamentally relying on the state that you’re in being a powerful enough state to be able to influence people, hopefully in a positive way. That if you are at home and you are depressed or anxious or fearful or confused and there’s children screaming in the background and you’re in your pajamas and you’re not trying to call somebody that is equally distracted at home, confused and you’re trying to now make people pay attention to you and then make buying decisions, it’s going to be tough, right? There’s no sugarcoating and this is going to be a tough time. It’s funny the first big surge of questions that I got from sales team, salespeople, sales leaders, was the selling from home piece. And on that, there’s a lot of advice out there. And I think the only things I can say there is you’ll have to find a way to get yourself in as good of a state as you can and you’re going to have to improvise and incorporate, right? So if you do Zoom calls, for instance… I heard this multiple times people are like, “I’m doing these Zoom calls and then my children come into the room.” Don’t be like the one guy that was like whatever expert on BBC that had the wife or whoever it was trying to secretly grab the little girl and get it out of the room in the background, everybody could see it. Just have fun with it, be a human. If your children show up, just have them come over and wave hi and ask the person you [crosstalk]-


Hiten Shah: [crosstalk]-


Steli Efti: … That you’re on Zoom with, “Hey, do you have a family? You have children? If so, are there at home as well? My kid is always looking for more remote trends right now, so if your kids are around, tell them to come by and say hi as well.” Just turn it into a positive like you are human being, you have maybe children or distractions at home, things are going on, the prospects of people you’re talking to are in the exact same boat. They’re the same situation and pretending that this isn’t happening. Pretending your in some kind of corporate office in your suit and tie and pretending that this is normal times is just inauthentic and will push you further away from making real connections versus getting you closer to your customers and getting them feel like they can trust you, they care about you and they like you. So when crazy stuff happens, just make it part of the deal. And if you’re in the kitchen and you have to make a cereal for all the kids while at the same time you have to be on a call because your wife or your husband had to jet out for some emergency, then you have to make that part of the deal. You have to tell people, “Hey, it’s a crazy time, I’m at home. I don’t want my children to die, so I have to make them some cereal, but I’ll talk you through some of the big points. We could talk about some of the big questions you had and we won’t let cereal stand in the way between the two of us getting things done in life,” right? It’s just make light of it and be authentic and be okay that some craziness is going to ensue and you can expect perfect quiet focused environments at home for your sales calls or sales presentations. I think that that’s really important. Whatever you need to do to manage yourself, your own emotional states of minds is going to be much more important during a pandemic where you’re locked in your home than it usually is. So get your shit together and manage it and don’t complain, nobody cares. It’s very difficult, we all get it, but nobody gives a shit. Just do your best as good as you can and focus on what you can control and don’t worry about the things you can’t. Now I’ll say some other highly tactical things that I’m very surprised about that almost nobody gets. Like these things are not that difficult and they’re going to make a very big difference. I’ll lay them out for the people that are listening to us. Number one, speed right now in sales more so than ever before is everything. The only thing that matters. I get this, I have this multiple times, Hiten. Especially with people I care about like my friends, I want to kill them when I hear this. If you’re in the middle of a negotiation with a customer right now, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: If you’re in the middle of negotiating a big deal with a customer right now, this is not the time to fuck around as if you have all the time in the world to get this deal done. This is the time to optimize closing the deal way above any little… Like how we could get a few $1,000 more because we know that we could get it if we just negotiate hard enough. And if we give them the silent treatment for a couple of days, don’t respond to the email, they’ll come around and they’ll want this. Unless you have fucking face masks or ventilators that you’re selling, nobody is going to probably care about what you sell in a week or two from now, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: If you have people’s attention right now, it is worth gold, diamonds, everything. You cannot throw it away and you can’t be casual with it. Any deal you can get done today is much less likely to get done tomorrow, is much less likely to get done next week. Get the fucking deals done, especially the ones that are in the final finish line, push it through whatever it takes at this point. Whatever it takes. I guarantee you, once there’s lockdown in the entire country, wherever you are, and once some of your family members might be sick, even if it’s just mildly, they don’t have to be in the hospital and once the people are started to lay people off, it’s going to be much harder to convince your prospects to become customers and sign contracts, right? They’re going to have other problems and they’re going to be paralyzed and not going to want to buy anything for a while. So speed, close the deal and close it now. And the other thing, it goes hand in hand with this is cash. Cash is king much more so than ever before. Give people a… And people who know me know this. I never tell people to give people discounts, I never tell people to not care about the quality of the deal and negotiate OBP too urgent or too eager to close the deal, but these are different times. This is the fucking pandemic. Cash flow is king. If you can get a prepayment for a year or for six months or three months, it’s much better than closing a customer on a monthly basis. And you can give them hefty discounts if they have the cash cushion and the confidence, get all the money you can from them upfront. You’re going to need it. You’re going to need any dollar you can on your bank account upfront. So optimize for prepays and for cashflow over anything else, right? Now it’s not the time to close deals that have net pay 90 days and where they don’t have to pay the first three months. Because they don’t pay you now and there are new customers, there’s a very good chance in two or three months they’re not going to pay, right? If the economy crushes. I hate to break it to you, but negotiating contracts that are paid monthly is worthless. A contract is only worth something when we have some level of stability in the world. Negotiating, going back and forth with a customer right now to have them sign a contract that they’re going to be paying you monthly and they’re going to be a customer for two years is not going to be worth anything. If in four months that company’s bankrupt, that contract is worthless. Or if they’re in such dire financial situation that they either pay you and go bankrupt or they decide to break the contract and just not pay you. The contract is worthless. They’re just not going to pay you and you’re not going to do a damn thing about it. You’re not going to start suing customers that are in the brink of bankruptcy when there’s a world economic downturn to get your $200 per month payment because it’s some kind of a contract. You’re not going to do that. So just realize that negotiating contracts if the payment terms on monthly right now is probably not worth much. Because when there’s crisis, contracts are not really worth that much. So cash flow and cash is king and speed kills, move with it, a high degree of urgency, focus in any and every deal you can close right now. Get as much money upfront as you can, even for much better terms for customers. Do these things. And if you have any kind of customer outstanding bills and invoices that if you’re a consultant and you’re like, “Yeah, here’s some invoices I have outstanding,” don’t fucking wait around. Get those paid and get them paid right now as if your business and life depends on it because it might a couple of months from now. So, that’s kind of all those short-term advice that I can give to people right now on how to do sales during a work from home pandemic. But there’s a lot more information. I’m putting together a whole resource on how to sell during a crisis. If you want more, if this is super relevant to you, you can always send me an email, Selling crisis or something along those lines in the subject line, I’ll know what you mean, I’ll send you more information if you need. So this is kind of high level all I’ve got.


Hiten Shah: That’s a lot Steli and that’s great.


Steli Efti: All right. I hope everybody is listening. I hope you close those deals, I hope you get that money and I hope more so than all those things that you and your loved ones stay healthy and stay sane over the next couple of weeks. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Cheers.