The Art of Selling Software

The last talk of the second day at Business of Software 2015 was Steli Efti. Sales was one of the things I wanted to learn about at this conference so I was looking forward to it. Here are my notes.

“Running a software business would be great if you didn’t have to deal with customers” — BoS Attendees

What does it mean to communicate with other people and why does it matter? Humans like to deal with other humans.

Usually companies try to cut out human interaction to scale. Steli’s company tries to be different. Small team of 8 people but still finding the time for human interaction.


There are three main types of calls you could be making:

  • Inbound
  • Cancellations
  • Outbound (assuming it fits your market)

Calling cancellations is a great way of gaining insights into how you can improve your product. As Steli said:

“There is no better medicine for your bad ideas than people telling you why they are cancelling”

Reach people

You need to reach somebody to sell. It is important to track your reach rate, with 100 dials how many times do you speak to someone? Any less than 20 it’s probably not worth it.

Sound good

It’s 80% how you sound and 20% what you say.

Make yourself sound excited, sound like an authority and give your message tonality. This matters when selling.

Ask questions

Who are these people and how can we help them?

Manage objections

Not everyone will agree with you. Prepare for your ten most common objections and have your responses to hand when doing sales calls.


Are you ready to buy?


Marketing emails are not sales emails. Ditch the non-human, fancy HTML designed email sent from a generic email address. Here are Steli’s top tips:

  1. Quality: Write like a human.
  2. Quantity: Send more email than you’re comfortable with.
  3. Semi-personal: or “Sent from my iPhone”.
  4. Call to action: Schedule a call, Reply to this email, etc.

“Write sales emails that deliver on the subject”


Keep it 15 minutes or less.

“One of the most painful things for a software company to do is to watch their own demo”

  1. Quality first: Can/Should they buy? Is it worth your time?
  2. Benefits vs. features: Focus on what is relevant, not every single feature.
  3. Sales vs. training: Demo value rather than teaching functionality.
  4. Errors and mistakes: Be prepared for them. It will happen.

Follow up relentlessly

When you have some kind of existing interaction keep following up until you get an answer, either yes or no. Hopefully yes.

Visit customers

Everyone should visit customers. You don’t need to visit all customers, but even just a few would be beneficial in building a connection.


Turn support into something that generates revenue by bringing in new referred customers. Turn the negative into positives.

5 Ways to Sell Software Using Sales

  1. Call people.
  2. Send lots of email.
  3. Give good demos.
  4. Visit customers.
  5. Give real support.

“People will forget what you said, what you did, but never how you it made them feel” — Steli Efti

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