Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the Sales & Marketing Grind.

This episode is inspired by a tweet from Hiten that pointed out how marketing is a grind, one that you need to get used to, as it requires you to do the same thing over and over again in order to be successful.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about the tweet that inspired this episode, what prompted this tweet and why marketing is different from sales and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:34 Why this topic was chosen.

01:05 The tweet that inspired this episode.

01:40 What prompted Hiten’s tweet.

03:02 How marketing and sales is a grind.

04:09 How marketing and sales are like working out.

05:03 What makes Steli stay consistently on the sale grind.

08:22 A mindset that salespeople need to develop.

10:10 Why marketing is different from sales.

11:34 How Hiten gets through the grind.

3 Key Points:

  • The most difficult part of marketing and sales is getting used to the grind.
  • Just do more of what ended up working.
  • It’s the same thing over and over again.


Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah, and today I’m going to start off the chat. Steli is prodding me to talk about a tweet, and this tweet was talking about how sales and marketing is a grind, and you have to do the same thing over and over and over again, and you might even quit before you hit gold. So what thoughts did it spur for you?


Steli Efti: Well, first let me actually read the tweet, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, go for it. I totally butchered it.


Steli Efti: So, “The most difficult part of sales and marketing is getting used to the grind, doing the same set of things over and over and over again, sometimes with such mediocre results that you think about giving up right before striking gold.” I like that tweet, because I think there’s a kernel of truth in there, but there are parts of me that instantly recognize the truth in this or my truth in this, but there’s also a part of me that wants to disagree, and then there is a immediate question that I have once in a while when you tweet, which is what prompted this? I literally go, “Huh, I wonder what prompted this? Probably something interesting. I have to remember to ask him next time I talk to him.” So let’s start the episode with that. I’ll tell you what I think about this, but first, what made you tweet this? What prompted this tweet, this thought?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think especially with sales and marketing, people look for the silver bullet, and the silver bullet is the one thing you can do and everything’s all taken care of. What I’ve noticed for sales and marketing, it’s not that. And so what prompted it, is nothing super in particular one event or anything like that, but I was just thinking why a lot of people have a hard time with sales and marketing, while let’s say with engineering or design or even product, they might not have as hard of a time. One conclusion I came to is you’re doing the same thing over and over again. When it comes to some of these other areas like engineering or product or design, the repetition is not the same. You’re not necessarily doing the same thing over and over again and likely seeing mediocre results. You have a tangible feeling of progress and momentum that can happen in those scenarios. While with sales and marketing, I don’t want to say it’s hit or miss, but especially earlier on when you’re trying to sell something or even marketing a product or service, the amount of grind is there. And then when something works, the next thing you have to do is just grind some more on the same thing. So even when it works, you’re just doing more of the same, it just happened to work that time, and you think you could make it work more. Whether it’s closing a deal because you changed your pitch all of a sudden, because you learned over many other conversations that you need to change your pitch, or with marketing where you do a lot of, usually you’re just doing a bunch of experiments early on to figure out what channels, what things work, and that’s like a grind in itself. But then when you actually figure something out that works, guess what? To do more of it, same grind. You just do more of whatever ended up working. And it’s not to say there’s no creativity to these things. It’s not to say any of that. It’s more about what feelings people go through and what motions they have to go through in order to be successful in those areas, and also feel like they’re successful and feel like they’re making progress. The whole thought on sales and marketing to me is it’s a grind. It’s the same thing over and over and over again, and you have to kind of get used to that and realize that you’re going to have a outcome and things are going to work, but if you stop, they won’t.


Steli Efti: Yeah. In that sense, it’s sort of like, maybe a good metaphor is working out, right? Going to the gym, working out. It’s not the type of thing that you can do for a while, reach mastery in and then can stop because now the results that you’ve accomplished are forever yours, where it’s just like your body’s always going to be super fit and super muscular for the rest of your life because you worked out for five years really hard. You have to do it your entire life if you want to maintain those results. So, let’s do this. I’ll share something about how I dealt with the grind in sales, because that’s kind of my world, and then maybe you on the marketing side. What made you, or what is making you able to stay on the grind, especially on the repetitive side of marketing for such a long time, where many people would have stopped at some point? And I’ll share the same thing on my end on sales.


Hiten Shah: Cool. You want to go first? Go ahead.


Steli Efti: Yeah. I think in sales, I think one of the biggest… So, some people that have been embracing the grind of selling for a long period of time, the reason why some people can succeed with that and sustain with it is that they love the chase. They love the feeling of chasing a deal and the feeling of direct accomplishment of closing the deal and acquiring a customer, convincing somebody to purchase something. That was never me, so that never worked. I also like it, but it’s not something that fuels me in a way that I could do this because I just love the chase. What fueled me, what allowed me to grind, and I’ve done, I don’t know, I’ve done an insane amount of selling in my life. The amount of cold calls I’ve made and the amount of cold emails and the amount of deals I’ve closed are astronomical. The reason why I was always able to do it, I mean, one is definitely that I was always passionate about what I was trying to accomplish, but I always thought about one thing differently than many other salespeople, which is that to most salespeople, the person that’s involved in the deal is secondary, right? They’re trying to get the deal. The deal is at the forefront. We’re trying to get corporation X to buy this a product and to sign this contract and to bring in this amount of revenue. That’s at the very forefront. And then we have maybe four people, Mary, Bob, James, and Joe, and they’re all decision makers in this, so I have to convince all these humans and collaborate with them and get them to make corporation X, Y, Z purchase. I always thought about these people and I was thinking, well, sales gives me this unique opportunity to influence people and hopefully create value in their life, but also to get to know them really well. And all I have to do is, when I’m doing all these cold calls, when I’m closing all these deals, is to pick winners, to pick people that I’m like, wow, this person is actually really cool. I’m really connecting with this person. I think this person is very smart. I think this person is going to go far and do really interesting things in life, and then I’ve found a new person to invest in, to build a relationship with, that could serve me for the next 30 years, right? So then even if what I’m doing is repetitive in the sense that I’m just working on deals, cold calling, cold calling, trying to close, there’s a secondary program that is running for me, which is, this is a great opportunity for me to get to know people in a really unique environment and then to build friendships and relationships that are everlasting, and that will pay lots and lots of dividends. This person might purchase from me for the next 20 years. As they progress in their career, I’m always going to have them quote, unquote, in my Rolodex. I’m always going to be able to present them new products, new features, have them buy, maybe they’ll come and offer me opportunity, give me referrals. So thinking that way allowed me to not feel like the moment that my quarter is over and I closed the deal, that work is wiped off and it’s worthless, because what was still there were the people that I’ve met and the relationship that I built with him, and that was compounding. And that helped me a tremendous amount, and then the other one is I think in way we’re similar, just, I don’t know, there’s a certain discipline to know that you need to be willing to do some unpleasant things if you want great results. And eventually, you fall in love with that feeling. With the feeling of quote, unquote, the grind. There’s a bittersweet pain. It’s just at the gym, when you do a great workout, it usually pushes you to a certain point of exhaustion or discomfort, and in the beginning, and for most people I assume, that discomfort is a signal to stop and it’s just negative. But once you fall in love with it, that discomfort is a positive signal. It’s something you get addicted to. It’s something you know this means growth, and it feels great and very fulfilling. And it’s the same thing, or it has been the same thing for me on the sales side of things, especially with the more repetitive things.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. When it comes to marketing, it’s like the majority of it is really about the success you find and knowing that you will find success if you just keep experimenting and keep going, and having that sort of belief. The reason I say that is because the difference with I think sales and marketing is this. You do sales and it feels like you have to focus on the inputs and the number of inputs that you’re doing, number of cold calls, number of emails sent, et cetera. And then obviously there’s replies to them and the next step, a number of next steps, you close. With marketing, it’s a little bit different. You have the ability to see some kind of data or information, usually at a faster pace, usually, not always, than sales. There’s only so many calls you can make in a day. That’s a little bit different with marketing, where there’s, I mean, depending on what channel, what tactic you’re using, there’s a lot more to the grind where you do get some kind of measurable results a little bit faster, potentially. Where it’s like, oh, you post somewhere and you get some traffic to your website, for example. Okay, you got some traffic. That’s actually not a bad thing. Maybe nobody bought, but now you know something that can help you do the next step in a day, for example. Well, with sales, I don’t think you can know anything in a day just because you sent a bunch of emails or did a bunch of cold calls. Maybe you’ll know whether that first email got any responses or not and stuff like. So there is some learnings there, but I think with marketing, you can figure it much faster whether you move on or there’s something there to continue with. To me, the way I get through it on marketing is just remembering and looking at what I do know, and what output I’ve gotten from what I’ve done. I think in sales, you could do the same, but again, with marketing, I think it’s quite a bit easier, because you can measure things, and these are typically more, there’s more volume to those things that you measure. Then the way I get through the grind on both areas actually is by basically focusing on iteration and improvement, and taking whatever I learned and applying it to whatever I do next. For both of these areas of a business, I think it is the copy, the writing, the creative side of it, imagery in the case of marketing a lot of the time. It’s all those types of things that I get excited about tweaking or changing, even the same with a sales email and trying to figure out the best way to say it and send the email and see what happens. And then if nothing happens, great, something was wrong, or not wrong, there’s a better way, and then trying to figure out that better way. So a lot of the motivation for me comes from the fact that I can improve it or I can change it, and treating everything that’s happening as a learning. Like I said, I think in marketing, it might be a little bit easier.


Steli Efti: I love that. Whenever I think about the grind, I have to think about wrestling, and there are these great wrestlers that make the transition into MMA and become mixed martial artists and compete. And some of these guys, one of the big difference between if the background is wrestling versus if the background is boxing or kickboxing or any other kind of martial art, one of the distinct differences is that wrestlers are just better at embracing the grind. They’re just much tougher, and oftentimes they can break their opponents just by the will or how far they’re willing to go in terms of how hard they make a fight or how uncomfortable they make it for both. And so whenever I hear the grind, I see kind of wrestling practice rooms, where people are shouting to each other to embrace the grind. These are just tougher people, so they make other very tough people break. I don’t know, I think it’s an interesting topic. I think that obviously it’s just like everything else in life. I think you can overplay it in both directions. There are people that probably advocate too much and embraced too much just the repetitive, hard work, more hours, just push through everything with sheer will and force. Then there’s the kind of movement that’s also extreme that’s like, no, you never need force, you never need will. You never need to push, you never need to grind. All you need to do is to be smarter than everybody else and find the shortcut and relax and be peaceful, and magically everything great will come to you because you did it in this soft, smart way. Both of them are two one dimensional approaches that are overly idealistic, might work for some people, but for most they won’t. The truth oftentimes is somewhere in the messy middle of both. So, fascinating topic. I love that we got to talk a little bit about the grind on The Startup Chat. All right, I think this is it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Keep grinding.