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You’ve sent a bunch of cold emails, but you keep getting the same one-line response: “Thanks, but we’re happy with our current solution.” So what can you do to attract prospects who already have a vendor in place?

Start reading their minds.

Pitching to the same kinds of prospects every day actually teaches you how they think. You know what they like and don't like. You anticipate their questions and objections. This knowledge basically makes you a mind reader.

If prospects consistently tell you that they’re satisfied with their current solution, embrace that reality and make it part of your pitch. Tweak your cold email so that you’re leading with their primary—and easiest—objection.

Here’s how it might look in practice:

Hey Steli,

We recently launched a new platform that [one-sentence pitch]. You probably already have a vendor you’re happy with, but here’s why I’ve decided to email you today.

I can’t promise you’ll convince prospects to switch vendors, but if you lead with this mind-reading technique, I guarantee they’ll keep reading your email. If nothing else, they’ll at least wonder why you’re confident enough to reach out to someone who already has a solution in place.

Start writing better cold emails today. Download your free, easy-to-use templates right now!

You still need to follow this up with a great pitch

If you don’t provide value or you’re unable to differentiate yourself from the competition, mastering a cold email mind-reading technique is the least of your problems. By the time you’re using this, you should know why you’re reaching out to prospects who already have strong vendor relationships.

You can build on this lead-in with something like:

We’ve worked with hundreds of companies just like yours. After learning what we could do for them, they chose to make the switch. Seeing this pattern over and over made us realize that we needed to reach out to companies that already have a solution in place, so we can show you there’s something better on the market.

I received a great cold email the other day

Because I run a SaaS company, I get tons of emails from outsource development shops around the world. They all claim to have the best developers and service offerings. Why not offshore some of our development work, so we can focus on growing our business?

Here’s what I do when I get these emails:

I’m just not interested in outsourcing product development. I don’t believe in it—and neither does our team. Plus, most of these cold emails are super low quality. But last week, I received an email that stood out from the crowd.

Hey Steli,

I know you get tons of emails from dev shops just like ours, and you probably want to hit the delete button and move on with your day. But please just give me three more sentences before you make that call.

As I was reading the email, I wanted to delete it, but I couldn’t. I thought, “All right, fair enough. You’re honest and empathetic. You understand what my inbox looks like every day. You’ve earned a few more sentences.”

So I read on and he had a really strong pitch. I’m definitely not in the market for outsourced development, but if I was, I would have replied. He wasn’t able to convert me, but he absolutely got me to read on.

And you know what else? I didn’t delete it. I archived it and figured if other people were ever interested in this service, I’d maybe forward this email.

What’s the takeaway?

If you really pay attention to your prospects—if you ask the right questions and listen to their objections—you’re going to speak to them in a way that feels a lot like mind-reading. Embrace the reality of the situation, address their objections before they have them, and you’ll convince a lot more prospects to read your cold emails.

Improve your cold emails with this simple mind-reading technique by @Steli from Close.io - YouTube

Want more ways to improve your cold emails? Download Cold Email Hacks 2.0 for templates, strategies, and more.

Get your free cold email templates

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So you're looking to systematize your inside sales process so it's easier to onboard new talent and give them the steps they need to succeed...

You’ve come to the right place.

Inside sales is the act of identifying leads, nurturing them, and turning them into customers remotely. That means no golf course, no cigar lounge, and no expensive wining and dining.

According to a survey of VPs of sales, 46% reported a recent shift from a traditional field sales model to an inside sales model, while only 21% reported a recent shift from inside sales to field sales. In other words: Inside sales is increasingly where it’s at. It’s more cost-effective and efficient, and modern technology has made it easier than ever to manage relationships from afar.

The big question you should be asking now is this:

How can I build my own inside sales system that’s optimized for results?

Luckily for you, the first step is buying into the fact that you absolutely need a documented, well-outlined process your entire team can follow.

There's nothing worse than a sales team running around with no direction and no goals. In order to optimize your sales process, you need to know what that sales process actually looks like.

Here's how to make sure your inside sales system works:

Step 1: Start with conversations

If you think you can just walk through the front door on a Monday morning with brand-new plans for your sales team to execute on, don’t expect to see the results you’re dreaming of right off the bat.

You can’t optimize your sales system with the snap of your fingers. Your team has a way of doing things already. Maybe it’s not the most efficient sales process, but it’s their sales process, and it’s what they’re comfortable with.

In order to improve your team’s sales process, it's important to talk to your team in order to learn what they like and don’t like about the way things are, and what their ideal process looks like.

Step 2: Get your team to document their process

Once something becomes second nature to you, you’re unlikely to sit down and write out all the steps. This is certainly true for your current sales process, especially if your team has been doing things the same way for a long time.

Ask your sales reps to write down their processes individually and share them with you.

Documenting everything can help you find problems and opportunities for improvement. You may not need to tear everything down and start from scratch. If you can simply improve upon the processes in place now, you’ll be up and running with version 2.0 much sooner than if you go with a full reset.

Step 3: Compare your team’s processes

At this point, you’ve talked to your team to see what their ideal sales process looks like, and your team has documented the processes they’re currently following.

It’s time to put it all together.

Using the insights you’ve collected from your team, start building a system that you believe covers every aspect of the sale and is optimized for efficiency and results. The goal is for every member of your sales team to buy into this system so that everyone is on the same page with their sales process.

As you’re creating this system, there are a few processes in particular that you’ll need to think through. Keep these six processes in mind as you build out your sales system:

1. Qualifying leads

The first step is qualifying the lead. If the lead can’t be qualified, there’s no use wasting time selling to them, as they’re either not in a position to buy or not a good fit for the product or service you’re offering.

When qualifying the lead, ask questions like: Does the lead have the financial resources to buy? Will they be a good fit for our product or service?

To make this process easier, we've created a way to integrate Process Street with Close.io using Process Street’s Run Link feature, Close.io's Integration Links feature, and Zapier. For a full rundown on how to set up this integration, check out the full post we put together here.

2. Nurturing prospects

Once you’ve qualified the lead, it’s time to start nurturing them. During this stage the focus is on providing value to the prospect, establishing your credibility, and warming them up for a sale.

Selling to a cold prospect is always going to be an uphill battle. Just because you’ve captured and qualified the lead doesn’t mean they’re walking in with an open wallet ready to buy. Skip the nurturing process and your sales system is going to be a bust.

Warm up your leads and keep them hot. There’s no such thing as an old hot lead.

3. Sending the offer

So you have a prospect in the pipeline. There’s never been a better time to send an offer their way than right now. The only question is how to actually send the offer.

What type of proposal should you send?

Is it a PDF? Presentation deck?

Should the marketing team help design it?

Is it just a basic email?

Or do you present your offer verbally on a phone call and don't even need to create a written o

These are the types of questions you’ll need to have answers to as you build out your inside sales process. The last thing you want is to let a hot prospect cool off or get away because you either waffled for too long before sending the offer, or sent it the wrong way.

4. Negotiating with prospects

The prospect is hot and the offer has been sent. If they bite right away, awesome. What’s more likely is that you’ll move to the negotiation phase. They’re going to have questions, and they’re going to try to get more for less.

What’s your negotiation process going to look like? How much are you willing to bend to close a deal? What’s the absolute lowest price you’re willing to offer?

Consistency is key here. You don’t want half your sales team offering major discounts, and the other half standing firm at the initial offer price.

5. Confirming the purchase

Congratulations. You brought in the lead, warmed them up, sent the offer, and negotiated the best deal for both sides. That’s a plus one in the sales column. But the process isn’t over just yet.

What happens after the deal is agreed upon? Who does the new customer get passed on to next? What does the transition look like between sales and the next department? Is sales involved in the transition at all?

A smooth transition process is key to keeping your new customer happy with their decision to do business with you.

6. Asking for referrals

If you’re not leveraging any type of referral process, you’re leaving potential money on the table. Simple as that. If you have happy customers, why not see if they know anyone else who might be able to benefit from doing business with you?

The truth is this:

No outbound lead you generate in any other way will have the same quality as a referral lead.

Your best customers likely know others who run very similar businesses—i.e., leads who are already highly qualified. You’ll be introduced by a friend, and you’ll have the advantage of trust right at the start of the relationship.

That said, there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for referrals. We put together an in-depth guide on generating referrals and optimizing your referral sales process that will teach you the best way to ask for referrals, and more.

Now over to you

There you have it: your step-by-step guide to building a sales system that fits your specific needs and aligns with your company’s goals.

If you want to actually bring it to life, each and every aspect of your new sales system needs to be documented. From generating new leads, to qualifying them, to nurturing them, to sending the offer, to negotiating, to transitioning on from sales, to requesting referrals.

Documenting the entire process is key.

Remember: To make it easier to design your ideal process, start by asking your team what they’re currently doing, and what they consider an ideal sales process.

If you’re looking to take it a step further and gather some serious insight into what makes an ideal outbound sales process for startups, get started with our free your copy of Startup Sales Success Course  and learn how to turn cold leads into hot customers.
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“Process” is a word that makes a lot of founders freeze. A process feels big. Complex. Overwhelming. It feels like something you document once you’re established. And in the early days, who has time for it?

But if you want your sales team (and your company) to grow, you need to let new reps know how you do things and what works. You need a sales process.

Want a crach course on building a winning sales machine for your business? Check out our free email course!

Designing your first sales process doesn’t have to be complicated. By following a few fundamental steps, you could even have one ready to go this afternoon. Here’s how.

Step 1: Write down everything you currently do to get a sale

If you’ve ever made a sale, talked to a prospect, or sent out a cold email, guess what? You have a sales process.

It might not be complex. Or entirely thought through. But you need to recognize that you’re not starting from scratch. Instead, you need to document what you’re currently doing, what’s working, and what needs improvement.

Sit down for no more than 1 hour and write all this down on a whiteboard or in a doc.

Once that hour is up, I want you to look at what you’ve got and ask three questions:

  1. Is it successful? Does your current process work? Meaning, is it progressing deals down the pipeline and producing conversions and outcomes?
  2. Can it be repeated or replicated? Which steps or strategies work every time you talk to a new prospect? Which don’t?
  3. Is it scalable? Will what you’re doing now be realistic when you have 10 sales reps? What about 100? If the answer is NO, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes doing things you can’t scale is the right thing to do in business. But you should be aware of it.

This document is your MVP—your Minimum Viable Process. It’s the most basic form that works and brings in results. If it seems basic or simple, that’s because it should.

Step 2: Find where your process is breaking down and where you can improve it

You want to think about designing your sales process the same way you would about building software or growing any other part of your business. Start with what works, and then iterate quickly and consistently.

Your MVP is your starting point. But it’s just version 1 of your sales process. The goal isn’t to create the perfect sales process in version 1. But to get to version 50 or 60 or even 100.

So how do you get there? You experiment, learn, and adapt.

Each week, sit down with your sales team and go over the latest version of your sales process, asking these 2 questions:

  1. What’s working and how can we make it better?
  2. What’s not working and how can we fix it or kill it?

That’s it. Identify what’s working and should be kept, and what’s not working and needs to be examined and experimented on.

All you need to do to scale your sales process to hundreds of sales reps and thousands of customers is to go through each part of your process, piece-by-piece, and ask: “What can we do to make this even more successful and improve conversions?”

Step 3: Pick a single metric and experiment on it weekly

When you first start out, you’ll probably have a ton of improvements you can make to your sales process. As you make sales, learn about your customers, and gain more knowledge about your market, you’re going to figure out tons of ways you can improve.

But you need to resist the urge to make all these changes at once.

Instead, the best sales process improvements are the ones that are so small and so focused that it’s easy for your sales team to adopt and execute on them.

Plus, changing too much all at once makes it harder to answer the question of what’s working and what isn’t. You want to treat this like a scientific experiment. Make a small change. Experiment. Learn. And adapt.

One of the best ways to figure out which improvements you should make is to think of your sales process as a funnel.

Specifically, you can use the AQC funnel framework—a simple funnel that tracks the activity (A) you put in at the top of the funnel, the quality of that activity (Q), and then your conversion rate (C).

For example, if you apply this funnel to your sales call process, you’ll be tracking and experimenting on ways to improve:

  • Number of calls (Activity)
  • How many times you actually spoke with the person you were trying to reach (Quality)
  • How many qualified conversations led to sales (Conversions)

Each of these steps is an opportunity to experiment and improve your sales process. But as a general rule, you’re more likely to see more impactful results by focusing on the top of your funnel—your Activity.

Every month, pick a metric you want to improve. Then, choose a different experiment every week you think will improve it. Next month, pick a new metric and start the process over.

Keep it simple. Go one step at a time. And don’t overcomplicate things.

It’s hard to take it slow like this when you see all the ways you could improve your sales process.

But so many founders I talk to try to design a massive, complex sales process before they even go out and see what works. They skip the MVP stage and try to create the “perfect” process right from the start.

But this is guaranteed to only lead to one of two outcomes:

  1. You won’t actually write your sales process down because you’ll feel overwhelmed and won’t think you have enough time to do it
  2. You’ll create something so complex and complicated that your sales reps can’t follow it and will push back on you, creating a lot of friction and frustration

So remember, start simple and improve on your process every single week.

Document what you currently do. Find what’s working and what isn’t. Iterate and improve on it step-by-step and you’ll end up with an agile and powerful sales process that gets better every single day.

What do you think? Have you been struggling to create your first sales process or don’t know where to experiment next? Let us know in the comments.

3 steps to design your first sales process today @Steli from Close.io - YouTube

Want more tips on building a winning sales machine for your business? Check out our (100% free) email course for startup founders, business owners, sales managers and reps:

Start your free sales success course today

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Let’s face it, without a reliable source of new leads for your product or service, your business is dead in the water without consistent customer growth. That makes the lead generation ideas and strategies you choose to pursue today, incredibly important to the future of your company.

Marketing and sales teams spend an absurd amount of time and financial resources on lead generation—from creating in-depth blog content, to launching ad campaigns, prospecting on LinkedIn, producing videos, hosting webinars, speaking at conferences, and so much more. 

But at the end of the day, you don’t have an unlimited budget of time and money to pursue every lead generation idea that tickles your fancy. You need results now. 

So, to help you cut through all the noise on this topic, we’re digging deep into the most effective lead generation tactics we’ve actually used to grow an audience of more than 200,000+ leads over the course of the last four years. Plus we’ll be analyzing some of the other lead generation ideas, strategies and tactics we’re planning to test in the future.

Want to take your sales game to a new level? Get free access to our ultimate sales resource library today.


We’ve broken down this guide to lead generation ideas for startups into a few major categories that reflect different organizational priorities, core competencies, and into groupings that tend to work very well together when creating a menu of regular lead generation tactics to lean upon.

Content marketing-driven lead generation ideas.

These lead generation ideas are primarily focused on using content marketing to create a steady stream of inbound leads that discover the content you’re creating—whether that’s written, video, audio, or through another content medium. We’re exploring them all.

1. High quality written blog content

The content we publish here on the Close.io blog has been the backbone of our lead generation strategy for going on five years now. But we weren’t always masters of content.

We’ve learned a lot since our very first post that featured just a simple embed of an MVP video demo of Close.io. Fast forward to today, and we’re regularly publishing pieces like a 5,000 word guide to closing a sale, case study breakdowns of the most effective selling strategies at work in top B2B SaaS startups, and detailed takeaways from how several early stage startups are using cold calling to generate millions in sales.

Now, investing thousands of hours (like we’ve done) into creating this level of frequent, in-depth content doesn’t equate to guaranteed success. In fact, only 9% of B2B marketers report a belief that their brand is very effective with their content marketing efforts. 

Content works for us as a lead generation strategy, for a few very specific reasons. If you’re going all in on using content marketing as a primary lead generation tactic, you’ll need to put just as much time to content promotion as you will to the actual creation of it—because if none of your prospects every see your content, it’s not doing anything for your business.

What’s the primary goal of your content?

The foundation of your content marketing strategy needs to rest on building relationships with the right people—ones who are likely to convert into becoming leads and eventually customers for your business.

So, before sitting down to write a blog post, pause to determine exactly what your motivations are for investing in content as a lead generation idea in the first place, and how that’ll be translated into execution. Answer crucial questions like:

  • Which problems can we solve for our target customers through free content?
  • How can we out-teach the competition and differentiate ourselves on these topics?
  • Where do our target customers spend time online? Do they read blogs? Participate in LinkedIn groups? Search on Google? Look for solutions on Quora?
  • Would we rather have 100 readers that are all in our target market, or 1,000 readers and only a handful of target customers in that audience? This will greatly inform which topics you should write about.
  • Which content medium do our target customers prefer to consume content in?
  • Do we have the core competencies to produce high-quality content? If not, how can we attract and leverage the right people? 

At the end of the day, if you don’t care deeply about helping your customers solve a real problem in their business, and your main motivation is just selling more subscriptions to anyone with a credit card, that’s going to result in pretty shitty content.

Obviously transactional content that asks readers to buy in the first sentence doesn’t sell.

You need to be a teacher—one that’s invested in the future of your students (customers).

How does content get discovered? 

Going back to what we touched on earlier, how you promote your content is just as important as how you create it. Your target customers need to discover it, in order to drive any positive results for your business, right?

For us, organic search drives the lion’s share of traffic to our blog. That’s when someone searches for something like, “sales strategies” on Google, and they see this:

We now create mostly evergreen content that’s intentionally designed to rank well in organic search results for keywords like this, because we learned early on that many of our customers were discovering us from searching for sales-related advice on Google.

Climbing to the top of search rankings is an arduous journey that takes a combination of time, an accumulation of backlinks from high domain-authority websites (achieved from tactics like guest posting, link outreach, and syndication partnerships), social shares on the major networks, and a slough of other factors.

Aside from just increasing the organic rankings for your content over the course of days, weeks and months, you can proactively go out and find potential readers in several ways.

Try engaging in online communities where your target customers spend time, recording simple videos (like ours) for the video search engine YouTube, leveraging your connections to amplify social sharing to the right audiences, and pitching other sites with a similar audience to take a related guest post from you.

Getting your content noticed will take hustle.

2. Educational or instructional videos

The majority of our written content here on the Close.io blog actually begins life as an educational video, filmed in just 10 to 20 minutes, selfie-style by Steli.

This process of Steli first recording a video, works great for a writer on our team to quickly transcribe the core principles & takeaways into a comprehensive written post that can be published in tandem with the video on our blog.

However, on top of streamlining our content production process, we also experience immense benefits from uploading each new video to YouTube twice a week.

Over the past five years, we’ve uploaded nearly 250 videos a year and they’ve been viewed over 1 million times.

These results came without any direct promotion, and zero paid ads driving traffic to get people to watch. While most of our videos now end up getting around 1,000 views, many end up climbing well into the tens of thousands, simply because YouTube’s ranking algorithm rewards them for a number of different reasons.

Consistency is key with getting traction from your video content. Put in the work, show up every day with a strong message, and you’ll start to see what’s gaining momentum.

Combine video with your written content and you’ll be doing two things at once: adding a new acquisition channel for your audience to discover your content, and offering your readers the option to consume the content over video, rather than just text.

3. Audio content (podcasts and audiobooks)

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, it’s not a stretch to begin releasing your own episodes of a show that are geared toward building an audience and helping that community solve challenges in their business.

Even if you already have a sizable audience, giving your readers the chance to engage with you on an even deeper level—through the speakers on their daily commute, during lunch or at the gym—will help you create more meaningful relationships that transcend just the lessons learned from reading your blog content.

Recent studies have shown that over 112 Million Americans alone listen to podcasts. And for those that do, chances are high that they subscribe to 6 or more shows. 

Since 2015, Steli has been hosting a twice-weekly podcast called The Startup Chat with his partner in crime, Hiten Shah.

In each episode of the podcast, we tackle pressing topics for a major segment of our audience—startup founders—and discuss common challenges like how to build a mobile app, finding the right business partner, bootstrapping, growing a remote company, dealing with churn, scaling a sales team, and so much more.

At nearly 3 years and 286 episodes into the podcast, we’re getting over 20,000 monthly downloads. Compounded over time, that’s over 700,000 downloads since we launched the show.

That’s a lot of people tuning in to hear Steli and Hiten’s advice each week, which translates into more dynamic relationships (and lead generation) with people who identify as startup founders or employees. 

And while naturally not every listener today is a true lead for Close.io per se, we take the long-term outlook that anyone listening to a show about growing a startup is at least interested in building a business of their own one day—and as a listener, our CRM for startups is more likely to be top of mind when they are ready.

What’s even greater about how we’ve chosen to structure our podcast, is how relatively easy it is to record and launch each week’s episodes.

We don’t invest a ton of time into in-depth production of the show, the intro is short and to the point, then we dive straight into the conversation topic at-hand. 

We also chose early on to outsource the editing and uploading of each episode to our friends at Podcast Motor—so we could focus solely on what we do best (sharing the best possible content).

To kickstart our podcast episodes, Steli and Hiten pull from an ongoing Google Sheet full of founder relevant topic ideas that are constantly added to by everyone on the team. They’ll hash out a quick outline for the direction we want the episode to go in, jot down a couple of case study examples to pull from, and start recording a back & forth conversation.

Sounds pretty simple, right?

Podcast recordings also make for great content to repurpose over to our blog. When an episode does particularly well with our listeners, we’ll take that conversation (like keeping a remote team engaged with each other) and break it down into a more in-depth written post that explores this topic even further on our blog. 

If you’re already using physical or digital eBooks as a lead generation idea for your brand, then taking a few hours out to record an audiobook version of your already existing content is a very high-impact way to reach not only more people who are not currently within your sphere of influence—but to offer up another, potentially more exciting content medium for your existing audience to digest your book. 

If you want to get even more creative, try taking your highest-performing blog posts and recording audio version of them, made available for free right on the blog post, like author Mark Manson does over on his blog.

Then, as an additional lead generation tactic, you can offer your readers themed bundle downloads of audio versions of your best blog content—that way they can listen to the good stuff whenever they want.

4. Books and eBooks

The eight books and eBooks Steli has written, have been some of our most successful lead generation ideas over the past few years, responsible for tens of thousands of new leads.

From keeping our existing readers topped off with fresh new content for growing sales at their startups, to leveraging the lead generation power of launching our books on startup-focused sites like Producthunt, they’re a win-win for us.

Sitting at over 733 upvotes on Producthunt, the last book we launched, Your Growth Hacks Aren’t Working: Now Pick Up The Phone And Get Customers!, has been one of our most successful lead generation book campaigns—bringing in more than 3,300 new leads so far.

In addition to launching our books on external communities where our audience spends their time online, we also use them for lead generation throughout our blog.

We’ll include regular calls-to-action, asking readers to go and download our book, The Follow Up Formula, throughout our high-trafficked blog posts on everything related to creating a follow up plan, how to perfect your follow up emails, scripts for follow up phone calls, and other topics that are expanded upon in the book.

But I don’t have the time to write a book…

Well, neither do we.

When we set out to produce a new book here at Close.io, we’ll first decide upon a topic we either haven’t covered yet, or something there’s clearly high demand for within our existing audience (again, going back to providing real value rather than just writing what we want to write).

Next, we’ll comb through our catalog of blog posts that are on this broader topic—say something like how to nail your follow up strategy—and we’ll start organizing these posts into a single Google Doc along this cohesive theme. We’ll take inventory of any major gaps that might’ve been overlooked and begin backfilling where necessary, while at the same time removing redundant content that’s been covered already in the book.

After we’ve touched on everything that’s essential to sales negotiation in the level of depth we’re committed to, we’ll take one final pass at editing the book down, whip up a table of contents, get a cover designed from our handy team at TopTal, and we’re ready to ship.  

After launching the book on a handful of online communities (for new lead generation), we’ll promote it to our existing audience as a way to keep delivering relevant value to our community—and ask them to share with others who could benefit from reading it.

5. Downloadable guides

When it comes to lead generation, we treat our guides a little differently than books.

While books often tackle a broad topic at length, releasing shorter-form guides with more frequency, give us an opportunity to go extremely deep covering something more granular like the right B2B qualifying questions you should be asking your prospects.

The biggest benefit we experience from compiling 10 to 20 page guides in the form of downloadable PDFs as a lead generation idea, is the speed of execution. 

One member on our marketing team can create a guide in just a few hours using existing content from our blog. Here’s what that creation process looks like: 

  • Pull a few blog posts that attack the same subject matter from different angles
  • Quickly paste and organize them into a Google Doc
  • Arrange them in a logical order, edit together, format and fill in any gaps
  • Use our cover design template to create a simple cover and save the document as a combined PDF
  • Clone over an existing landing page (like this one), change the copy, and connect it to the new PDF stored on our CMS

And voila, we’ve got a new downloadable guide ready to rock & roll before lunch.

Once you have a few different lead generation resources at your disposal, you can start grouping them together like we do with our Complete Sales Library—a compilation of all our best guides, books, and courses that can be picked up for free.

6. Copy & paste templates

In the B2B world, everyone loves using successful templates as a starting point when learning a new skill, experimenting with different tactics, or looking for inspiration, making them a fantastic lead generation idea.

To-date, our cold email templates have been our single most-downloaded resource, fueled largely by our article on the most effective cold emails.

These templates alone have generated nearly 25,000 leads for our CRM, that’s naturally closely connected to helping customers send better cold emails to their prospects.

These templates perform very well because they’re so closely connected to solving a problem that our customers (and prospects) have. 

However, if we offered templates for something like planning out your content marketing calendar, we’d be attracting leads that aren’t necessarily working in sales—and even more importantly, they’re unlikely to be decision-makers or stakeholders on the task of becoming more effective at selling within the organization.

Determining the right kinds of copy & paste templates you should create as a part of your lead generation strategy, is pretty simple actually… 

Talk (and actually listen) to your customers and prospects.

They’ll tell you exactly where they need the most help if you listen carefully.

  • Dig into their biggest organizational challenges and individual struggles
  • Uncover the small, yet influential steps your prospects take to accomplish their goals.
  • Ask about the places where they get hung up most when doing their jobs.

For us, the vast majority of our customers get the a ton of value from our CRM’s calling functionality—and it’s built around the actual workflow of a salesperson’s daily life to help them be more effective and efficient (and we know because we are salespeople).

Taking that simple tidbit of knowledge we have about our ideal customers, we’ve constructed several different templates that help prospects become better at selling over the phone, and they’ve been high-performing lead generation ideas for us.

From our objection management template, to the call review checklist, and sales interview question matrix, each of these copy & paste templates and scripts have helped us forge new meaningful relationships based around providing true value, to people who identify as having a core problem that our product solves for. 

And that, my friends, is the ultimate goal with any lead generation..

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Picture this: You’re the founder of an early stage SaaS company. You’ve been prospecting and going after your first few clients, when all of a sudden, a massive enterprise company starts waving cash in front of you. They found you and they want to buy what you’re selling.

But wait. You didn’t build your tools for these kinds of companies. Hell, you’ve never even sold to an enterprise client before. But the money’s just sitting there, waiting for you to reach out and grab it.

So, what do you do?

If you’re like most founders, you’re going to take the money. The problem is, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make.

Taking money from the wrong clients is a death sentence for your company. And I should know.

Want more advice on growing your B2B SaaS? Get a free copy of my book "From 0 to 1,000 Customers & Beyond", which I wrote together with my friend Hiten Shah, Cofounder of CrazyEgg, KISSmetrics, Quicksprout and ProductHabits.

How selling to Google and Oracle almost killed my startup

Back in 2007, a senior manager at Google reached out about a startup I was working on. Even though we knew our product wasn’t built for enterprise clients, the money was just too tempting. So we took it. And within a few weeks, we were running trials with not just Google, but Oracle and Intuit as well.

I thought I’d hit the goldmine. Not only were we selling to some of the world’s biggest companies, but they seemed like easy customers. They kept telling me they didn’t need any special treatment or changes to the product.

The thing is, they were all lying.

Fast forward a year and all the deals had fallen flat. Our product hadn’t been built for clients that big, and of course they had needs we couldn’t meet. We’d sold to our non-ideal customer, and it almost killed us.

You need to chase the smart money. Not just the most money.

Especially in the early days, turning away sales is difficult. But no amount of cash can make up for selling to the wrong customers.

If you get someone to purchase your product who isn’t your ideal customer—meaning they won’t get value or see success from using it—they’re going to destroy your business. They’re going to:

  • Create an insane amount of support needs and noise
  • Bombard you with feature requests and try to influence your product roadmap in a direction you shouldn’t take
  • Complain and add a lot of negativity to your culture and team

Inevitably, they’re going to churn. And worst of all, they’re not going to go quietly. They’re going to tweet about you, write a blog post about their bad experience, and tell anyone who will listen how terrible your product is.

I feel like I need to say it again before we move on: Taking money from the wrong customer can kill your company and your brand.

How to define exactly who your non-ideal customers are

To understand who your non-ideal customers are, you need to be super clear on all three types of customers your business is going to come across:

  1. Ideal customers: Customers you built your product for and know intimately
  2. Secondary customers: Customers who you’ll sell to and make a bit of money, but you aren’t really focused on
  3. Non-ideal customers: Customers you don’t want and have to actively stop from buying your solution

At Close.io, we started out knowing we were committed to SMBs—the small and medium businesses. They were our ideal customers and we knew they’d get huge value and see massive success from using us.

Then, there were our secondary customers: freelancers and independent users. We hadn’t built our tool directly for them, but we wouldn’t stop or prevent them if they really wanted to buy.

Lastly, there were our non-ideal customers: enterprise companies and government agencies. We hadn’t built our tools for them and their needs and we knew they wouldn’t see success using us.

No matter how much money they waved in our faces, we knew we had to tell them no. We didn’t build our tools for you and we don’t want your money. If you still want to purchase, you’re going to be treated like an SMB and that’s going to be a very bad experience for you.

Use this information to create a Non-Ideal Customer Profile (NICP) for your entire team

Once you know who your non-ideal customer is, you need to make sure your entire team knows them too. Just like you should have a one-page summary that spells out who your ideal customer is, do the same thing with your non-ideal customers.

This summary can be as simple as you want, as long as it says:

“Here is the type of customer we don’t want to sell to. They’re not ideal for our business and we can’t deliver value to them. In every possible situation, we should turn them away.”

If you can create that level of clarity in your team—especially sales and marketing—they're going to be laser focused and be able to move much faster and see bigger results.

Turning down your NICPs creates powerful referrals

What? How does turning down customers bring in more customers?

Well, there’s a beautiful dynamic that happens when you tell a prospect, “based on what you’re told me, this is not the right solution for you.”

Potential customers aren’t used to hearing no. They’re going to fight you on it and try to get you to change your mind. But you’re not going to.

Because when you’re authentic and transparent like this, people will remember you forever.

They’re going to tell other people about you. Not only that, but they’re going to tell the right people about you. When you told them they weren’t your ideal customer, you were also telling them exactly who your ideal customer is. And because you built that trust by being transparent and open, they’re going to refer the right people your way any chance they can.

Marketing against your NICP keeps them from adding noise to your pipeline

When you know who your non-ideal customer is, you can also actively tell them in your marketing “this isn’t for you.” You can disqualify them before they even send you a message and muddy up your pipeline.

Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re writing an ad for Close.io. Instead of saying:

“The best inside sales CRM in the world.” (Which would potentially bring in a huge range of prospects).

We could say:

“The best inside sales CRM for SMBs.”

All of a sudden, we’re telling enterprise and larger companies “Don’t click here.” We’re cleaning out the noise.

And what if we’re getting clients without enough budget or who want a free tool? We could switch our ad to:

“The best inside sales CRM. Starting at $65/month.”

Now, those people looking for a free tool aren’t going to click. They know it’s not for them.

All these negative qualifiers prevent non-ideal customers from coming through your funnel and creating noise. But you can’t do this unless you know exactly who those customers are.

But Steli, what if I don’t know who my ideal and non-ideal customers are yet?

If you’re just starting out, you might not know who your ideal customer is. Or maybe you’re seeing a lot of demand from customers you didn’t expect. This is fine. Sales is all about listening and learning.

Look at the prospects you have coming in and start asking:

  • Why is this organization looking at us?
  • How did they even find us?
  • What are their alternatives?
  • What is the pain point they have that is so big that they searched a tool like ours out?
  • How much budget do they have?
  • What is their decision-making process?

If you ask these questions to 20–30 people and find a pattern, now you know you’ve got an opportunity to chase.

Never sell in a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, take your time, and listen and learn from your non-ideal customers. Serving the right customers in the best way it will be the difference between moving fast towards success and zig-zagging to nowhere.

Tell me your NICP stories

Have you had bad customers almost crush your business? Let me know what happened and how you dealt with your non-ideal customers in the comments. 

201801190710-BLOG - NICP (Non Ideal Customers) by @Steli from Close.io - YouTube

Want more advice on getting more & better customers? Grab a free copy of "From 0 to 1,000+ Customers & Beyond", a book I co-authored with Hiten Shah.

Download our Customer Aquisition Book

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Hit the phones! Hit the phones! Hit the phones! 

That’s the message sales professionals have heard for years when it comes to generating more business. Pick up the phone and call more leads. Pick up the phone and follow up with old prospects. Pick up the phone and ask for referrals.

Traditionally, picking up the phone meant dialing a number and speaking to someone on the other end of the line. But in a world where our mobile phones have become a key part of our day-to-day lives, the phone is no longer just a device for speaking—it gives us all kinds of special powers.

Want to learn more about turning prospects into paying customers? Get my book The Follow Up Formula!

And one of those powers is the ability to communicate through text.

A 2017 report called The State of SMS quantifies the staggering power of text messaging for business. The report estimates that 7 billion text messages will be sent this year, and 90 percent of them will be read within three minutes. And by 2020, 48.7 million people will have opted in to receive text messages from businesses.

If you’re like me, numbers like this catch your attention.

In fact, it’s numbers like this, along with feedback from our customers, that led us to integrate SMS functionality directly into Close.io. We believe that salespeople should adapt to the times, and the times are telling us that SMS needs to be part of a sales professional’s toolkit.

Here are a few reasons why your sales team should embrace SMS:

SMS creates a personal connection

For years, people thought SMS was too informal for business interactions. But since the vast majority of conversations today happen through text, the reality is that SMS is simply a more personal way to connect with someone—including a professional connection.

You can use SMS to build trust with potential prospects and forge a connection that lasts. The opportunities to strengthen a relationship are varied, and growing by the day, from a simple “Happy Birthday” text to a photo of you and the team working on the client’s project.

An important thing to keep in mind when embracing SMS as a sales tool is your tone. When we interviewed HouseCall Pro, who increased their close rate by 15 percent using SMS, they shared some insight on this topic:

“It’s important to have a different text voice that matches your use of SMS. If you are doing demo confirmation and “transactional” texts, then keep it professional and to the point. If you are using it for post-demo follow up and you’ve built up rapport with the Customer, then feel free to text more like you would with friends.”

You’re not going to want to text someone as soon as they submit their contact information on your website. You’re ideally going to try and schedule a call or exchange a few emails before making the leap into an SMS exchange. Once that initial relationship has been established and a connection created, it’s at that point where you can start to text.  

A more unique way to follow up

As mentioned earlier, 90% of text messages will be read within three minutes of receipt. If you’re waiting for a prospect to send you an approval or confirm a meeting time, a simple SMS nudge is a great way to accelerate the process without seeming too aggressive.

Here’s a sample text you could use: 

Hey - Just want to make sure you saw the email I sent with my schedule.

It’s short. It’s concise. And it gets the point across that the recipient should probably get back to you sooner rather than later.

Get specific answers quickly

One of the best use cases for text messaging is getting answers more quickly than you could by phone or email. If you’re building a proposal for a potential client and realize halfway through that you forgot to ask them a simple question, no worries—you can send that question via text.

Because we’re all so connected to our phones, it’s likely the prospect will see your question pretty quickly. And since we don’t view SMS the way we view email—as a distraction—you could get your answer in seconds. 

That said… With great power comes great responsibility.

You need to be thoughtful about when you're sending text messages as they might set off a loud alert. You don't want to disturb a potential client during the weekend or late at night when they're asleep. 

You can NOW track your text messages in your CRM

For years, organizations feared that using SMS for sales would result in a loss of valuable data. With good reason—the information that changed hands was often untrackable. 

Not anymore.  

Our SMS integration in Close.io is as straightforward as our built-in calling and  integrations. You can send an SMS with one click to any SMS-enabled number within the U.S. or Canada using your existing Close.io phone number. Incoming SMS messages show up in your Close.io inbox and activity feed just like new emails, tasks, and missed calls.

Here’s a look at the SMS function in action:

 Wrapping things up

As more millennials hit the workforce, we’re believers that SMS will become a sales staple. A significant portion of the population already embraces text messaging over phone calls. So if you want to reach the next wave of buyers, it only makes sense to meet them where they are. 

What do you think? Are you still not sold on SMS as a sales tool, or have you already embraced SMS for building relationships with your prospects and leads? We’d love to hear from you!

Want more actionable advice on how to engage prospects in the conversation and move the sale forward? Download a free copy of The Follow-Up Formula!

Get The Follow-Up Formula

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Everybody wants a deal. Especially your prospects. And while you probably think giving 10% or 20% off isn’t a big deal, giving discounts just to win business can cost you more than money. It can kill your company.

Sure, you probably think I’m being dramatic. You’ve been giving discounts for ages and your revenue and customers are still growing. Right?  

The problem is, when your company culture is a discount culture you might win a few battles, but you’ve already lost the war.  

SaaS companies today don’t win on being cheap. They win on being valuable.

Let’s start off with the obvious: The SaaS landscape today is more crowded and competitive than ever. You know that when a prospect is talking to you, they’re also talking to your competition. And somewhere in the negotiation, that prospect is going to ask you for a discount.

And so you think “If this customer is willing to offer their solution at that price, I can too, or even a little lower. Just to win the business.” The problem is, once you start down this path, it’s almost impossible to get off it.

You’ve positioned your company as being the cheapest solution, rather than the most valuable.

Want to get better at handling discount requests and other objections? Get our free objection management template!

When you offer discounts, that’s all people think about your company. We’ve seen this exact situation happen in the consumer goods space. The market gets so crowded and undifferentiated that customers will only pick either the cheapest option or the brand they know and trust.

In SaaS, the only way to win on price is to be free. And you can’t build a company like that.

Instead, I truly believe the winning SaaS companies of today and tomorrow will win on value and they’ll win on brand. And you can’t have either if you’re just trying to be the cheapest.      

Discount culture creates a weak sales force (and a weak brand)

When you give discounts, you’re setting the wrong example for your team. Instead of going out and selling on your solution’s value and your brand, your salespeople will become transactional. They’ll just give the prospect information and then offer them whatever they want.

Worse than that, your sales team will start offering discounts without even being asked! I’ve seen this happen so many times at SaaS companies and it drives me crazy.

A sales rep is talking to a prospect, they qualify them, there's a match, they can really deliver value. And when the prospect asks about pricing, the sales rep preemptively goes: "Well, this is our price. But I would give you a good discount.”

Wait a minute. Nobody asked about a discount!

This is a weak sales culture. Your sales reps will always use the easiest tools available, and when they see discounts being given they’ll start to abuse them. They’ll start to think: "Everybody thinks everything is too expensive. Every buyer wants the cheapest, so before they ask, let me just tell them I'm going to give them a discount."

All of a sudden one of the most vocal voices of your brand—your salespeople—are weak. They’re cheap. And that’s going to reflect on your brand at the end of the day.

You can’t scale because you don’t know what a customer’s actually worth

The other huge issue with discounts is that they make your business completely unpredictable and unscalable.

Instead of a Basic, Pro, and Business plan where you know how much revenue you make for each, you’ve got Customer A with a 12% discount, Customer B with 14%, and Customer C with 2 free user accounts. Good luck trying to build models or forecast your future revenue or even figure out what’s going on with churn.

Those discounts are going to undermine your entire financial structure because you don’t know what a customer’s actually worth. If they remove or add seats, you have no idea what that means in true revenue or churn.

It’s going to cause problems for your support team, your success team, and your marketing team. Even your product people are going to get angry because they’ll have to build all these backend solutions to keep track of billing on all your different discount cases.  

You’ll piss off your customers when they find out you’re charging them more than others

Let’s say a slightly larger company aggressively negotiates a big discount. A few months later, a smaller company comes are your sales rep says “this is the best discount we can give. I can’t go any lower.” I guarantee at some point your customers are going to talk to each other. And when they do, the second customer is going to be pissed.

And rightfully so. You lied to them. You betrayed them. And they have every right to get loud and aggressive and drag your brand through the dirt and tell everyone they know about how terrible you are.

This doesn’t mean you can’t give discounts. You just have to do them right.

If you’re just giving our discounts willy nilly, you’re going to get burned. You’re going to destroy your brand, piss off your customers, and create more headaches than that little bit of extra business is worth.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t give out any discounts. You just have to make sure when you do, you do these two things.

First, make sure you’re getting something in return

The problem with discounts is they create abusive customer relationships. Your customer comes in, demands a bunch of things, and you give it to them just for a bit of business. Instead, you need to ask for something in return. This creates a healthy, reciprocal relationship.

In SaaS, that means asking for:

    1. Prepayment: When a customer agrees to sign a long-term contract or prepays for an entire year, you can absolutely give them a discount. You get guaranteed income and predictable cashflow and they get a break on the monthly price. We offer customers of our inside sales CRM a 10% discount if they pay annually instead of monthly.   
    2. Case Studies: Trading a bit of a discount for marketing materials is also a good deal. Feel free to offer a discount if a customer is willing to spend a few hours on the phone with your sales team to make a great case study and do some co-promotion.  
    3. Referrals and reviews: You can also offer discounts for connections and leads. Ask for a positive review on a specific platform or give discounts if they connect you with other people in the industry who could be strong prospects.
Second, make sure your discounts are standardized

If you are giving out discounts, you can’t have any flexibility or offer customization. Your sales reps can’t just give them out however they want. You need to have set, predetermined discounts for each of the deals you’re offering.

For example, you could offer 10% for a case study, 15% for prepayment, and 20% for a referral that leads to a new customer. That’s it. There’s no 12% or free seats on offer.

But Steli, what do I do if a customer says they're not going to buy if I don't give them a bigger discount than I want to?

There’s always going to be someone who wants more. But you have to draw a line in the sand.

If they’re not willing to work with you, they’re most likely not your ideal customer. At Close.io, we’ve told thousands of businesses “No” when they asked for bigger discounts.

And you know what’s funny? They all get angry. They all scream and yell and tell you there’s no way in Hell they’re going to buy from you at that price. But in my experience, about 50% of the time, they become customers anyways.

It’s just the way they negotiate. They’re trying to get the best deal for their business and you have to respect that. If you have a strong brand and can show the value you provide, there’s a very good chance they’ll choose you anyways.

Of course, there’s one big exception to all of this: Enterprise

As you can tell, I’m sick of seeing discount culture in SaaS companies. But there is one big exception.

If you’re selling to enterprise clients, the way you handle discounts is going to be completely different. You can’t just give them a price and say “this is what it is,” because that’s just not how they work.

Most enterprise companies have a procurement department whose entire job is to get discounts. They have a discount quota to meet, and if you won’t play ball, they’re not even going to consider you.

That’s just the way their organization is built and you’re going to have to go with it if those are your ideal customers.

If you’re trying to win with discounts, you’ve already lost

If you don’t value your solution, your customers won’t either.

So, if you feel like you absolutely have to offer some sort of discount, make sure:

  1. They’re standardized (and don’t budge!)
  2. You’re getting something equally as valuable in return

Sell your prospects on value first and make the discount an added bonus. Not only will this give you a stronger brand, but it will set you down the right path for real, sustainable growth.

Discounting destroys SaaS brands by @Steli from Close.io - YouTube

Want to learn more about handling discount requests and pricing objections? Get our free objection management document!

Download your objection management document

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We're proud to announce that Close.io's built-in Power Dialer is now available worldwide and we've added two new tools designed to increase call volume.

When we first launched the Power Dialer in the fall, we only supported calls made with US or Canadian phone numbers. We’re proud to announce that we’ve expanded support to the rest of the world.

If you're new to the Power Dialer within Close.io, here's a 90 second video that explains how it works:


The Power Dialer enables you to call through a list of leads faster than ever before. It does this by providing a “Call Next Lead” button and automatically moving sales reps on to the next lead until a call is answered.

To help you and your team get started, you can review the Power Dialer in detail in our Support Center.

Two new tools designed to increase call volume

While you’re in a Power Dialer session, you will notice a new menu:

This new menu, called “Dialer Settings”, comes with two new features:

  1. A "Reduced ring time" option - Turning this option on will reduce the number of rings before moving on to the next Lead.
  2. Dialer session share links - Shareable links that send your team directly where a Dialer session is taking place in Close.io.
Increase reach rates with the new "Reduced ring time" option

By default, the Power Dialer will ring the first Contact on each Lead for 32 seconds. We chose 32 seconds to let the call ring long enough so you can you hear the voicemail greeting in order to leave a voicemail message or pre-recorded Voicemail Drop.

The "Reduced ring time" option is intended to help those of us that want to avoid voicemail inboxes. When you turn the "Reduced ring time" option on, the Power Dialer will reduce the ring time down to 20 seconds. This will decrease the likelihood of hitting someone's voicemail inbox. Since you're spending less time per call, your call volume and reach rates should increase dramatically.

Invite your team to a Power Dialer session with share links

If your team is making calls out of the same Smart View with the Power Dialer, you can now send the team a share link that takes them directly to the Power Dialer session.

The Dialer session share links are intended to rally your team when they have a new set of Leads to go after. Just copy and paste the link into an email or Slack channel, and your teammates will be sent to exactly the right place!

Our Product team is actively making improvements to call automation within Close.io. If your experience falls short of your expectations or you have feedback, please reach out to Support Team so we can assist you.

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We're proud to announce that Close.io's built-in Power Dialer is now available worldwide and we've added two new tools designed to increase call volume.

When we first launched the Power Dialer in the fall, we only supported calls made with US or Canadian phone numbers. We’re proud to announce that we’ve expanded support to the rest of the world.

If you're new to the Power Dialer within Close.io, here's a 90 second video that explains how it works:


The Power Dialer enables you to call through a list of leads faster than ever before. It does this by providing a “Call Next Lead” button and automatically moving sales reps on to the next lead until a call is answered.

To help you and your team get started, you can review the Power Dialer in detail in our Support Center.

Two new tools designed to increase call volume

While you’re in a Power Dialer session, you will notice a new menu:

This new menu, called “Dialer Settings”, comes with two new features:

  1. A "Reduced ring time" option - Turning this option on will reduce the number of rings before moving onto the next Lead.
  2. Dialer session share links - Sharable links that send your team directly where a Dialer session is taking place in Close.io.
Increase reach rates with the new "Reduced ring time" option

By default, the Power Dialer will ring the first Contact on each Lead for 32 seconds. We chose 32 seconds to let the call ring long enough so can you leave voicemail messages or a pre-recorded Voicemail Drop.

The "Reduced ring time" option is intended to help those of us that want to avoid voicemail inboxes. When you turn the "Reduced ring time" option on, the Power Dialer will reduce the ring time down to 20 seconds. This will decrease the likelihood of hitting someone's voicemail inbox. Since your spending less time per call, your call volume and reach rates should increase dramatically.

Invite your team to a Power Dialer session with share links

If your team is making calls out of the same Smart View with the Power Dialer, you can now send the team a share link that takes them directly to the Power Dialer session.

The Dialer session share links are intended to rally your team when they have a new set of Leads to go after. Just copy and paste the link into an email or Slack channel, and your teammates will be sent to exactly the right place!

Our Product team is actively making improvements to call automation within Close.io. If your experience falls short of your expectations or you have feedback, please reach out to Support team so we can assist you.

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