How To Stay Focused By Saying No, With Steli Efti | Yuli Azarch

How To Stay Focused By Saying No, With Steli Efti

Yuli Azarch Yuli Azarch | March 29, 2019 | No Comments on How To Stay Focused By Saying No, With Steli Efti

Steli Efti is the Co-Founder and CEO of, he is also the co-host of The Startup Chat. is a basic sales CRM. It helps many small-to-medium size businesses and entrepreneurs all around the world. People are use Close as a software tool to help them close more deals and make more revenue.

What we discussed on the show?

  1. How did start?
  2. Starting a Software-as-a-Service business
  3. Product Evolution
  4. The proposition value is the most important.
  5. How to stay focus by saying no.
  6. Big wins.

The team of

How did Close started?

Fourteen years ago, Steli decided to sell everything he had and buy a one-way ticket to San Francisco. He had big dreams of building a big tech company so that he could change the world. That did not turn out exactly as he envisioned…

He worked on that company for 5 years and made every mistake he could. That company was a painful and soul-crushing defeat for him. After many attempts and failures, he stumbled upon a new and improved idea. He started another company called Elastic Sales. The initial idea was that it would help venture-backed technology companies.

Elastic Sales helped its customers develop a predictable and scalable sales process. In the process they built an internal tool called Close, that helped their salespeople do better, close more deals, and be more productive. Eventually, within a few years, he realized that the future of the company was the software product and not the services. They fully focused on the software, and that has been the business that we have been running from the past few years.

Starting a Software-as-a-Service business

When he started the SaaS business, Steli believed that all the sales software out there was in bad shape. He had the experience as sales and the other two co-founders were technical, they knew how to develop software.

What did they do?

Their salespersons working for Elastic Sales were based in the same office. That meant “opportunity” for Steli. He and his software developers sat down in the same office as the sales team. This helped them gain insights on what the life of a salesperson looked like. After some time they gained a very unique perspective that allowed them to develop an original philosophy on what is good sales software was.

“We started building sales software that was very differentiated with everything else in the market, because of this approach. And that was what really lead into the ultimate success.”

Product Evolution

“I’ve found that if the core promise and value proposition, of your Minimum Viable Product, is really strong and your product market fit, people would buy your product, even if things are not perfect about it, even if it is a little buggy.”

According to Efti, what most sales software was doing at the moment was forcing some things that salespersons didn’t really enjoy, like data entry. Steli and the co-founders worked hard to develop the right software so that salespersons had to deal with little manual data entry as possible

They also realized that sales software needed to help salespeople communicate more and communicate better. They were the first to offer the “calls” feature right out of the box in the sales software. Calls could be made and received from the software and tracked.

The first version of Close that they launched was a very basic sales software, but it lacked a very important feature, which was “reporting”. But soon they realized that even with this huge hole in their product, people were still buying their product. People still bought because they felt strongly about their value proposition. They ended up building reporting capabilities in the end, to make the software much stronger.

The proposition value is the most important.

Stefi had a lot of the mistakes, painful failures, and struggles that happened before he and his co-founders launched this product. According to him, the mistakes that they learned in their previous businesses, were incredibly useful. With Elastic Sales, they were learning how to market and sell to 200 different SaaS products.

They learned so many insights, that by the time they launched Close, they were able to avoid many mistakes and ran smooth. One of their biggest lessons was realizing that, even though they lacked a very important feature such as reporting, they still launched the product and succeeded in the beginning.

“Having realized that you have to say no to a lot of things, you have to be laser-focused, and you have to be ok with a lot of people giving you a lot of negative feedback, and you still have to go out into the market and see if you succeeded vs trying to please everybody.”

By the time they launched Close, Efti and his team were are able to stay very focused on the product. They learned how to avoid getting distracted by extra features, add-ons, or different marketing strategies.

Efti and his co-founders remained focused on what really mattered, their value proposition and main philosophy. This made them choose the right type of customer and avoid time-wasters.

How to stay focus by saying no.

According to Efti, the most important thing is to learn “saying no”… Saying no is challenging because most people are afraid of missing out and being wrong. People are usually in self-doubt. So they are looking out in the world for guidance. There is very conflicting advice out there, which is not always wrong but takes you in the wrong direction.

According to Efti, the goal should be to not to never make a mistake but to move and learn incredibly fast and adjust to mistakes along the way.

“When you say yes, to everybody and everything, you are basically saying yes to nothing. You have zero focus… I think it is just learning to be focus without trying to be right, just trying to be fast, trying to learn and adjust.”

According to Efti, the secret to focus is the ability to say no and the courage to be ok with being wrong and not being afraid about it. But like a muscle, saying no takes practice. It is a mindset, and once you put it to practice you’ll be confident in saying yes on what really matters and rejecting what doesn’t have to you. Efti advices to start small and less scary, start with things that are less consequential.

Big wins.

“One of the struggles was that we were too good at being a small team. I think in year 3, we should have been wiser and start hiring. We were so full of ourselves, and in year 4 it started breaking because the scale of the business outgrown the size of the team. Then when things start breaking and we started hiring to fix these things, it was much more painful than it should have been.”

Still, managed to pull it out.

That small group of people knew each other for a long time. They respected each other and liked each other. This group was so good at what they did, not only because of the skills but because all of them launched similar products and failed at the same time. They knew the know-how, what to do, what do avoid.

The original six had a lot of experience working together, making mistakes, and failing. That by the time they launched Close, everybody was an expert on failing. That helped the team grow and scale Close in the first 3 years to millions in revenue.

Show Notes.

  2. The Startup Chat.
  3. calls feature.
  4. reporting feature.

Thanks, Steli Efti!

You can learn more about Steli, by subscribing to his amazing Startup Chat podcast or by checking the blog at

He has also written about 6 e-Books about startups, selling, hiring, acquiring customers, etc. And the best of all is that he offered to send them for free, just send him an email to [email protected] with the subject line “bundle motherfucker”…

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