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About The Guest
Shawn Finder was always an entrepreneur at heart. At age 24, he stepped into the entrepreneurial world and never looked back. He started out importing packaging from the Orient and selling it to top retailers in North America. However, as selling was his passion, Shawn founded a list-building company ExchangeLeads in 2013, in order to help salespeople build quality lists for reaching out to new prospects.
In early 2018, Shawn parlayed ExchangeLeads into his second startup called Autoklose, which is a new, revolutionary sales automation platform used by thousands of sales professionals around the world to help them save both their time and money. He scaled Autoklose to 50+ people and sold it to Vanillasoft a Soft in 2020.
- 00:00 — Shawn’s Story.
- 4:47 — Pivoting from working in a company, to entrepreneurship.
- 7:22 — How to bootstrap a startup.
- 11:27 — How to pivot successfully.
- 18:12 — How to scale a startup.
- 24:17 — How to sell in 2021.
- 29:29 — Can tech replace a sales team?
- 40:11 — Lessons learned from exiting a company.
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What is the Success Story Podcast?
On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups and entrepreneurship.
The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.
Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights.
He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their story to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.
Machine Generated Transcript
sales, people, email, build, auto, close, selling, podcast, company, point, business, compliance, months, vanilla, acquisition, Shawn, HubSpot, subject line, automation, Scott
Shawn Finder, Scott D Clary
Scott D Clary 00:00
Welcome to success story, the most useful podcast in the world. I’m your host Scott D. Clary, the success story podcast as part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. The HubSpot Podcast Network has incredible podcasts like the martec podcast hosted by Benjamin Shapiro. Each week, the MAR tech podcast tells stories of world class marketers who use technology to create lasting success with their business and their careers. If you like any of these topics, you’re going to like the martec podcast, how science is changing advertising, how to set up a CRM, so you actually use it. private equities take on digital transformation by big social is focused on newsletters. If these are topics that resonate with you, go check out the mahr tech podcast wherever you get your podcasts or you can also listen on hubspot.com/podcast network. today. My guest is Swan Finder founder and CEO of auto close. Sean is a serial entrepreneur at the age of 24. He stepped into the entrepreneurial world and never looked back. He started out importing packages from overseas and selling it to retailers in North America. However, as selling was his passion. He founded the list building company exchange Lee’s in 2013. He turned that list building company in 2018 to his second startup called auto close, which was a sales automation platform used by now 1000s of sales professionals. He sold auto close to vanilla soft in 2020. So serial entrepreneur, he has an exit under his belt, what we actually spoke about what we spoke about sales topics and entrepreneur topic. So we spoke about sales automation building report. SDR vs AE splits, when rates when MQL should turn into SQL, so marketing to sales handoff, so very tactical sales things then how to optimize your entire sales process. And when is automation appropriate? When is building personal rapport appropriate? What works better? Can you build a sales team, just with automation, can automation software displace or replace an SDR team and some of the results that Shawn seen as he’s used and ate his own dog food, use his own software. And then we also spoke about some entrepreneurial topics. So we spoke about how Shawn close the deal with vanilla soft, how that how that deal even came to fruition. And some of the items that he was thinking about. And he had to navigate when he was trying to incorporate auto close into vanilla soft team into vanilla soft culture, as well as some of the logistical and tactical things that he had to figure out in terms of closing the deal, the legal, the terms, the valuation, all of these different things that he’s done throughout his acquisition process, which is still very fresh, because they just were sold off to vanilla soft in 2020. So we speak about sales speak about entrepreneurship. So if you want to build out a Salesforce if you want to close more deals, or if you want to figure out how to finally sell a company, and then be acquired, this is a great episode, Sean just shares everything. He’s super transparent super candidate. So let’s jump right into it. This is Sean finder, founder and CEO of auto close.
Shawn Finder 03:12
I didn’t have to acquire, obviously, the cash was great to me. So my name is Shawn finder born and raised in Toronto, Canada, former professional tennis player, gone entrepreneur, so played competitive tennis, and then did my MBA in finance, once I realized I probably wasn’t gonna make enough money being a professional tennis player. And from there, it went in many different directions, I went to finance. And what happened was, I went in for an interview for a finance job and the person goes, you don’t have a company that’s looking for Director of Business Development and sales. You don’t have that experience your resume, but you’re very outgoing. And maybe you want to try it. So I ended up interviewing for that role. And I don’t know if I was qualified enough, but they were giving me $30,000 More than I was making. And I was like, damn, I’ll take this job. And what happened was I took that job and that was when I came up with my first idea.
Scott D Clary 04:15
So your first idea so you were a tennis player, finance sales that you just pivoted, pivoted, pivoted. So you took your first biz dev director role or sales role. But now many people are not everyone rather just pivots into entrepreneurship. Are you tactical? Are you a developer? Or did you just want to build something?
Shawn Finder 04:37
Definitely not a developer. I am more sales, marketing, business development. hustler grower. Yes. So what I did was when I took that sales role the first week on the job, I purchased the list, and I gave it to the sales team sales manager and gaming they’re like Shawn, these numbers are terrible. So on emails are inaccurate. And I was actually walking in a little pavilion for lunch with our CTO. And I said to him at the time I go, understand, I just got this role we spent $10,000 on all this information that we need for our sales team. It’s all inaccurate. Why don’t we just build something that provides less volume but more accuracy? He goes, Well, we can. Like, okay, I’m like, like, you can build a software. I’m like, okay, because I want my best friends or coder out in, in Eastern Europe, Serbia, let’s reach out and see what he thinks. And that was actually how I, I went for lunch with my CTO at the time. And then we ended up starting the business and becoming co founders.
Scott D Clary 05:40
And that’s how that’s how the, and that was. Okay, so this is not auto close. This is exchange leads. That was exciting. Okay. So how did that how did that first the entrepreneurial venture go? So you had a you had a technical developer, your co founders, and it was an equity split? Did you quit your job? And then jump into that? Or did you build this as a side hustle to start?
Shawn Finder 06:01
Great question. So the year I was still working, what I did was strategically, I hired my lead developer in Serbia, and at that time, it was about $1,300 a month. So I would pay him full time, he was the only one working full time, I was working full time. At the same time, I was saving about six months worth of runway. So I said, I’m gonna save up a year salary, trying to save up six months worth of rent, food, entertainment, etc. And then when I make my first sale, no matter if that’s $1,000 $50 $50,000, the first sale when the platform was ready, I was going to quit. And funny enough, the first sale was $49.99. But I stuck on my word. And I still quit on that day. I quit a job that was paying me $150,000 for $49.99.
Scott D Clary 06:54
Dude, the balls. So you, you stuck to your word, man. That’s very impressive. Okay, so you obviously grew some gray hairs at that point. So after that first $49, sale 49 and 99 cents sale? How did you grow the company? What was the game plan was a self serve SAS that you go and you know, you had six months runway, so you didn’t Bootstrap and a lot? Probably a little bit did you go raise money.
Shawn Finder 07:22
So we bootstrapped, but we didn’t read it a lot. But this is what I did as well. We tried to I tried to grow the company, right from the get go, I’m like, This is gonna be easy. I sold my first 50. The first week I sold zero. After that 50,000 Like I just quit my job. And I’ve only made 50 bucks, I started to have them come in, I realized it’s not going to be like a rainstorm of subscriptions. So I said, Forget this. I’m going to keep that going. I’m use my connections. And I’m going to go after the whales. And what I did was, my brother was working in the largest telecom company in Canada. And he introduced me to somebody who then introduced me about 10 different people. And I ended up getting into a company called Rogers Rogers is the biggest, it’s the at&t of Canada. I think it’s the number one or two largest company in Canada, I got in there. And within 90 days, had appeal for $160,000. A purchase order for $160,000. And let’s just say that let me hire people and gave me my runway for if I wanted to for years and years. But that was the really start that that I really needed to be successful in the first six months.
Scott D Clary 08:32
So you leverage this and you leverage your connection, but obviously, you had to offer some value. As as an entrepreneur who sold $160,000 deal, how did you manage because I’ve sold to enterprise? I actually used to work so you don’t know I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m actually Canadian. I’m in Fort Lauderdale right now, but I’m originally from Toronto. I used to work for Bell Canada. So I know that I know the nuances of
Shawn Finder 08:53
my brother’s in Florida right now. He moved from Fort Lauderdale. He lives in LA
Scott D Clary 08:57
so I’m in LA so LA. Yeah. Are you serious? So he right behind the
Shawn Finder 09:01
that’s funny. He says he’s right behind the new con.
Scott D Clary 09:05
Yeah, so maybe we connect after he can shoot the shit we go for drinks. Go for coffee. Whenever you’re down here go for something better than coffee whenever you’re down here. I’m always there. That’s so funny. Um, anyway, so yeah, so I know, I know Raj as well. But I mean, the the point that I wanted to drive to this there’s a point not just not just drinking with you and your brother when you come down to Florida, is that it’s not easy to sell the enterprise, especially Rogers, which even for 150,000 they may have to go to RFP sometimes for just because of the size of the company that they are and that means a lot of checks and balances. So how did you sell that deal? How did you get $150,000 Po from Rogers?
Shawn Finder 09:45
So great question basically they were using I think it was like info USA zooming for there was using a few of them and the data wasn’t accurate in Canada at that point. This is about five six years ago where no one with can can with Castle nobody was really selling Good clean data. So we actually built the team in manually had its I had about 26 people in Eastern Europe that were Rogers would give me a list of all their accounts that they were working on. And we would find the first name, last name, valid email, LinkedIn profile for those people, and we manually did it one by one. So I had hired 26 people, we would deliver a certain amount per month, and over the year workout to, you know, over $160,000. And then we were charging, say, $2, a lead. So over the year, we had to get them 70 $80,000 content, 70 80,000 contacts, and it was $2. At that point, 80,000 divided by 12. I mean, we have to provide, you know, six per month, we hired enough people, the labor of Eastern Europe is very cheap. So our profit margins were very large. And that’s what we got into was no RFP it was, I remember, going in there meeting with a few people they needed, it was perfect timing, and then I just built that relationship with them. And still to this day, they’re not a client anymore. But I still still talk to each and every one of them all the time that helped me get to
Scott D Clary 11:03
that amazing at first. So it was just it was just quality. It was just and you know, that’s so great. It’s like that. It’s normally it’s the do things that don’t scale, which is like you’re not this is I didn’t know that this was a person manual effort. Right? That really just you ended up building out. Okay. All right. So you got that first pure Yes, and runway. So when when does the story with Exchange leads pivot into auto close?
Shawn Finder 11:25
Another great question, a good friend of mine from my MBA class, who was a kind of we met every month for coffee. And one day, I sat with him in the boardroom, I said, Listen, like, I gotta think of what’s next. Like we’re doing well, you know, it’s not scaling that quickly. But we’re selling data and our clients are all going somewhere else to send emails. So we got to think of what’s next. And he was like, at that point was like, why don’t you build the email tool so you know, can offer not only the data, but you can also email from your software like, a good idea
Scott D Clary 11:59
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Shawn Finder 14:40
two weeks later, I flew to New York to meet my developers that were actually out of Eastern Europe. They were in New York visiting, I think was Morgan Stanley, their client, and I met him in New York, told him my idea and we started that and well we were growing autoklose I funded my new idea with that Rogers purchase order. So I used that money in the bank and built my second company by using my first company. And using all our profits, we, as you know, in Canada, we don’t want to pay the government. So we had the choice to either pay a lot of taxes or build a new platform, we decided to build a platform
Scott D Clary 15:15
smart. And that was the first iteration of autoklose. And this was, so it’s, you’re still using the same team at this point. So you found developers you can trust, which is actually a huge hurdle for many entrepreneurs actually sent? Yeah, it sounded like you actually didn’t have first developer equity. And I was gonna say, it sounded like you didn’t even have a lot of trouble finding good developers. Like it sounded, it sounded like you had good relationships, they won, which was very, very valuable.
Shawn Finder 15:40
A lot tougher now than it was then. I mean, we found such great talent in Eastern Europe, because my co founder was from there. Nowadays, it’s not easy because everyone’s looking for good talent.
Scott D Clary 15:51
And even when you started autoklose, what year did you start auto close. And because even now, that market is saturated, there’s a lot of 2017.
Shawn Finder 15:59
So we were a little bit late to the game that was already. There already enough players in the game at that point, they weren’t as big as today, but there was at least, you know, a handful of big guys are already playing in that space before we started.
Scott D Clary 16:12
Okay. Okay. So auto close. You started building it at this point, exchange leads, you’re still running that you got? Did you get big wins after the 160k PO? Or did you just sort of ride that out till you launched auto close?
Shawn Finder 16:24
We had enough to pay our expenses to pay our salaries to break even, we’re bootstrap completely. But that that big po really helped us with our development of Otter close, which was we knew was going to be our big one. Because we had the, what we had differently in the market was we had the database and the email platform where most people have either one, we are all inside.
Scott D Clary 16:49
Okay, so walk me through the launch of auto close, because that’s a self serve SAS product or software product. Did, did you I guess, use the use the services or I guess the resources you had for exchange leads, you brought that into auto close, you never exited exchange leads Did you?
Shawn Finder 17:07
No, so exchange, they just was always the parent company even when we launched or close. But we kind of, we move the data from exchanges into autoklose. And once we convert it over, we really only sold our clothes, we had a few subscriptions and exchanges, but we did was we just move them into the audit plus platform said, Hey, you still can get with the data you had from Exchange links. But now we’re going to give you the email for free. So when we launched the audit close, we did have a huge, huge database of people that were either clients interested, were part of our newsletter. So when we launched it, we had I think it was the first two months it was two of us selling I think we were doing 18 hour days of demos non stop, like we could not get off our computer. Because we couldn’t hire quick enough. I started I started calling friends of mine that were working full time at the banks Downtown Investment Banking. I mean, listen, you gotta help me, I don’t have enough people, like just come after work to the boardroom and just start doing demos, I’ll teach you the product one night, I’ll pay the commission, if they sell, we couldn’t get enough. We couldn’t get people quick enough to to first three months, then slow down.
Scott D Clary 18:12
So even walk me through it. So the first three months, even, just to put it in perspective, how many customers that you did you catch her in the first three months? You can even talk but you could talk money as you want. But if you don’t want to just customers?
Shawn Finder 18:25
Yeah, I mean, we broke up. We were broke breakeven. So I spent about $100,000 on development of articles originally, originally, the first first kind of version of it, we broke even within 90 days. And what we did was we did app Sumo, which really gave us a boost. So if anyone doesn’t know app Sumo was a is a company that lifetime offers lifetime deals. So we ended up making I think up to about 40 grand just in that week. And those were tough customers but they do give you a lot of good feedback on your so we made feel 40k there 60k And then it just, you know, it just kept rolling our myself I was doing a lot of sales myself. I had a good friend of mine who left he left the I bacon world to join, can you want to get out of that? In Toronto? Join me it was a great seller. So he was selling for me till about till the acquisition actually. So we had two of us that really driving all the sales I actually two of us throughout most of the three years we’re bringing in 85% of the revenue.
Scott D Clary 19:29
Okay, amazing. That’s so that’s that’s how auto close got off the ground. And and I would just like if you tell everybody what problem auto close is solving. And then I also want to follow up with how did you you mentioned a few strategies to take it to market but how did you differentiate because you did mention you’re late in the game. So what’s auto close for people that don’t know or aren’t in sales or whatever? And what problem is itself?
Shawn Finder 19:52
So auto close is a sales engagement platform that has a built in b2b database therefore, if you’re the For top of the funnel prospecting, but you also need cold contacts, we have both all in one under one umbrella, we let you automate a lawyer’s tedious task a salesperson hates doing. So strategy wise for, for growing. So AppSumo was one another one, we did it, which was great. Podcasts weren’t that big back then, which I would have done if I was doing it. But we did a few ebooks. And what we did in those ebooks was, we made sure that we had the top sales people in the world in our ebooks. So we built I think our first one was called 673 years of sales experience in 56 pages. And what we did was we had the top 30 salespeople, as Google said, in the world, ask them questions and put a profile them in the book. So when the book launched, we had now 30 People, shipping to their network to their newsletter. Everything about auto close, it got us a lot of traffic. And it got us a lot of leads and demos, because now we made the e book. But we’ve also got 30 Different huge networks of 10s of 1000s of people, emailing people about auto close and downloading the ebook and giving us those emails, etc. That really helped move the needle and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. In the space outreach and SalesLoft were the enterprise we focused SMB. So we went up against a lot of companies that were based out of Europe. And I made it myself that I want to build on my personal brand in North America where I’m from. So I was big on LinkedIn, big on posting, being on LinkedIn lives, big on webinars, would have been big on podcast, but didn’t have one back then. But did all those different things to continue working on my brand. And to be honest, it’s my personal brand that year over year that continues to drive those leads. It’s just, I can go and speak in events speak at a conference. And people have listened to me. And as long as I’m continue to provide value, they continue to come to us.
Scott D Clary 22:02
Okay, so let’s talk about let’s talk about sales, engagement and sales automation. So auto close, yes, it’s a database. Everyone can wrap their mind around that. But the really the, the, I guess the the one thing that really can help leverage, you know, give leverage to a sales rep is the fact that they can automate some of the sales process and their sales engagement. Have we? Have we gone too far to maybe automate too much? Or, or? Or what’s the what’s the like, the happy medium? Like, where does auto clothes fit in? Where can you overuse auto clothes are similar products? Like what what does the current sales environment look like when everybody’s trying to do more with less?
Shawn Finder 22:50
Well, I think the biggest piece, the biggest mistake people make with automation in general is they keep everything so long and not personalized. You could write an automated email and make it feel like it’s a one to one email. And you can make it very short. Like, for example, I won my goal earlier this year in the first six months was I want to be on 30 podcasts as a guest. Why? Because it gives good SEO and back in 13. I actually wrote 30 of the top sales podcasts. And I wrote them all in email. And it was very personalized with who had been on etc. And all 30 replied almost and said, Yeah, I’d love to have you on the show, and everyone thought it was a one on one email. So it all depends on if you’re being salesy, or are you being genuine and actually being personable. So I think that’s the key. Now, yes, you do need to have not automate everything. But you can do certain things like on LinkedIn, for example, I love to do email campaigns and multi touch campaigns, but then go on LinkedIn, and put a true comment on that person’s post on how I feel about what they posted. So then when you send them those emails, they don’t actually ever think it’s an automated system, even though I do use the email for the automation, but I do use my social selling. I do all that myself. So I do a kind of a mix and match. But people that just just rely on, you know the automation, and write long emails selling your product. My name is Shawn, I’m a company ABC, I can help you with a, b and c, it doesn’t work.
Scott D Clary 24:17
Do you think that with a tool like this, the because in classic classic sales organizations, you have an SDR sales development rep. And then like an account executive, and SDR is doing, you know, appointment setting and whatnot. And then Account Executives jumping on the call, maybe doing discovery, maybe just maybe even just doing demo if the str is doing discovery. Do you think that with tools like auto close, you still need that setup? Or is there a new way to set up a sales organization?
Shawn Finder 24:44
So we still use that search. SDRs are using more of the email tools. They’re using LinkedIn, they’re using the tools they’re using multichannel, the phone, the SMS and all that stuff. The A’s are using less.
Scott D Clary 24:56
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Shawn Finder 26:42
unless there’s an update, they want to give a certain client based on something that’s going on or a feature release. But the SDRs really need the automation tools just because then they can get more prospecting for that top of the funnel, where I think the account executive needs to be more personable, they need to build those relationships. That’s, you know, finding out that Scott lives in Fort Largo, and after this podcast talking about oh, you know, this restaurant, you know, this restaurant, where have you been? Where do you live, you have to still do that as an ad to build a relationship. But I think at the SDR level, you have to automate as much as possible because you need to be adding those touches.
Scott D Clary 27:13
And one thing I was I was I’m taking some notes, I was listening to some other podcasts that you’re on. And you spoke about sales win rates. And why are we accepting, for example, like a 20% win rate? Speak to me about targeting qualifying how, how do we make sure that we still target and qualify properly, when we’re using an automated system, I guess it’s like good data in equals good stuff out. And the opposite is true as well. So walk me through that.
Shawn Finder 27:42
It’s it’s that and it’s no making sure you have accurate information in general. I mean, you know, for example, if I want to reach out to sales engineers, that’s my target market, or my buyer persona or my ICP, you want to make sure that you’re not sending that you’re putting it out in the message. But you also know for sure that that’s a sales engineer, because you don’t want to be sending a message to a sales engineer that might be a director of sales or national sales manager. So having the right information is very important. And I mean, there’s different strategies you can do to keep it very peripheral. One of the ones I love, and it worked really well was I used a video, but I had a webinar where we had 540 people, but we had 26 people that were named Michael. And I just did a video saying, Hey, Michael, I just want to thank you for coming to the webinar yesterday, your input and etc. And Michael received it thinking it was one to one, but it was not emitted video that was sent to 27, Michael, so you can be a little strategic with the automation. But the key is personalization. You need to make that prospect feel like it’s a one to one, even if it’s not. And with win rates, you’re going to get a higher win rate. A if you can get the emails first delivered, then you have to get them opened. And then you have to have them click to reply. So I know there’s a lot of people that say, Oh, this a funny story. Actually, I had a client call me and said, Shawn, I hate your tool. I have a 0% click rate. And I’m like, let me see what you wrote. I go to his content. He’s wrote the email, but there’s actually zero things you can click. Like, there was nothing to correct. It wasn’t a Calendly. There wasn’t a website, it was nothing. And he was so many. So you have to also know your audience. And we work with small companies. So we find that sometimes happens, but your content is most important, obviously accurate data is is up there as well.
Scott D Clary 29:29
And what I’m trying to what I’m trying to bring out is for for a larger sales team, these are these are tools that you can use to scale, your SDR force. But also one point that I thought was really interesting was that even for an SMB that’s looking to scale, a sales organization, the CEO can use tools like this in place of hiring, 50 $60,000, SDR.
Shawn Finder 29:56
100% and that’s that’s what we’ve done. We tried to do the AES where we can pay them a very, very good salary. With our price point now that we’re moving up, maybe it’s more likely now when we first started, we couldn’t. So you need to what I like to say is you need to close or any sales again platform to be a five person team feel like a 50 person army. So we did was each person has multiple accounts, I would be sending email, everybody in the company sending out emails, people are sending on my behalf, you can create different emails, you can have, you know, Shawn at autoklose COMM Sean dot finder at autoklose, calm and s find your articles comm all sending emails, and then having afforded to one, there’s a lot of different things you can do. But as a small company, everyone’s gotta be wearing different hats. And everyone’s got to be involved in that prospecting. And also in that, that engage.
Scott D Clary 30:48
So you’ve basically, like you’ve democratized building like a sales team with with just a piece of tech. And and you know, just knowing best practices like now you have the data you find, you know, you target your ICP, your buyer persona, you set up some email sequences, you know, the subject lines that open, you know, the copy that converts, and then you just democratized everything. So now anybody can just launch, like a huge campaign, even if you’re just a founder plus one salesperson or you know, any iteration of a very small startup. That’s very, that’s a great, yeah, great. Okay, so,
Shawn Finder 31:24
and we’ve seen so many emails, we know how many words should be in a subject line, how many words should be in your body paragraph? How many follow up email shift for a cold email sequence for swarm email sequence? We’ve seen millions of emails, we know what works, what doesn’t we know what the biggest mistakes are all by just analyzing the data?
Scott D Clary 31:42
Can you can you for listeners, can you walk through some best practices? Some of the data points that you just touched on? Like, can you walk through like the best subject line? How many emails in an email sequence? What points to personalize so that they can take that back and just try and sell better via email? Because I think even you know, they use a tool or not, a lot of people missed the mark on this.
Shawn Finder 32:03
Yeah know, so subject line most important is 345 words, Max, we actually had somebody on our we were analyzing that had 14 words on the subject line. And the reason why you want to three to five words is simple. 67% of people are reading their emails on their mobile device, they’re only seeing three of your words on their mobile screen. So if you don’t have those three words, in the subject line that are the most important, they’re not going to read it. So having something a long sentence or, you know, can we have a call not worth it? The number one subject line that actually works would be Hi, Scott. Just Hi, first name is actually the number one. Another one that works might be Sean plus, Scott, but very personalized, you know, you know, following up to words, you know, quick call, very short, but the whole point of a subject line is get them openly on now. The biggest mistake people make in their body paragraph is a they make it too long. Your first email should be like 75 words. And your follow up email should be about 50 words. If you’re sending an email, it’s over 75 words, it’s way too long. The other biggest mistake people make on body paragraphs is as I mentioned earlier, it’s called the three second rule. The first three seconds of what you write, if you write Hi Sean, I’m the founder of auto close and I can help you with sales engagement. Boring not going to work. A they already know my name is Shawn because my email is Shawn reclosed calm. They already know my company’s name because Sean auto does auto closed comm is my email. If you said something, Yes, Scott. If I was able to double your open rates, and also add 10 meetings to your calendar, would you give me 15 minutes, question mark. And then go into someone you’ve helped before how you can show the value, etc. But you try and hit them with I call it with a pain point in that first line. And don’t talk about yourself. It’s like stuff. If you’re going on a date with a girl, whoever, and you’re gonna talk the entire time, you’re probably not getting a second date. It’s the same with emailing. Keep it short and sweet. Let them do the talking. You give them the first three seconds, let them talk about themselves. That’s what works and follow up emails, cold emails, six, eight, sometimes 10. Warmer emails, five to seven is the range that I like to work with.
Scott D Clary 34:30
And do you include when you run campaigns now do you include cold calling? Do you include LinkedIn, DMS, or are you still very heavy on on just running an email sequence?
Shawn Finder 34:43
So we have not because our team is on Serbia and it’s tough. The phones a little tougher for them most of our team. We’ve only implemented email and social and LinkedIn. So we email we then add them as a connection on LinkedIn. We send them a message and then we do another email and then we’ll do Like I call them intangible touches, which could be the common done Scott’s podcast. Read good. Listen to one of Scott’s podcasts and given your feedback as a comment, like Scott endorsed Scott for podcast as a skill, something like that where they don’t have to really reply to it, but they see in the news feed. Shawn finder just sent your comment.
Scott D Clary 35:24
I just want to take a second and thank the sponsor of today’s episode, HubSpot. HubSpot is the leading business CRM. Now creating a legacy business starts with investing in sustainable scalable tools. HubSpot is the number one CRM for starting growing and scaling businesses. With the HubSpot CRM you have a purpose built solution that’s tailored to your business and your business alone. Now, I’ve used HubSpot for many years now. But just this year, they’re releasing some new features. These are some of the ones that I’m definitely most excited about. So first new feature is called business units. So business units allow you to confidently manage contacts and marketing and sales assets and settings across multiple brands, which means clear insights to empower whatever it is you’re trying to do. There’s also new admin features like permissions templates, and okay ta integration, which makes it easier than ever to add, remove and edit users give them the proper permissions as needed. And lastly, a new HubSpot feature that’s rolling out is called sandboxes. So a sandbox is all admins have access to production like accounts, allowing them to test iterate and experiment with new go to market strategies campaigns, before they actually push them live. This is a game changer, because now you can actually see what works in the sandbox environment, very similar to what a developer would do in a pre prod, or a testing environment. If you want to learn all about HubSpot latest features, some of the new features I just spoke about, you can customize your CRM platform, as well as learn about all these new features. And all the old legacy features as email@example.com.
Shawn Finder 37:02
Shawn fine, you’re just like this, Scott. And then when Sean find your messages, Scotland emails copy like, man, I’ve heard five times last week, Shawn, and they answer the email.
Scott D Clary 37:14
Okay, okay. So you’ve you’ve built out and you you exited to vanilla soft. So this is, you know, there’s more, there’s always more than than one way to do anything. And I think that’s really the way that I want to the thing that I want to pull out from this. So yeah, like you can have sales orgs that do cold calling, you can cold call, you can pick up and dial. But there’s other ways to successfully scale a sales organization based on the resources you have in your like you’re living proof of that. So let next point in your story, you built auto close up, you sold it to vanilla soft, walk me through that transaction. And what’s the what is the partnership with vanilla soft look like? What are they trying to achieve?
Shawn Finder 37:58
Perfect. Well, first of all, I wasn’t even looking for an acquisition. So I wasn’t even looking to get acquired. I was actually at a conference, a vanilla soft Booth was 10 feet away. The CMO at the time, Daryl Prowl, came over talk to me said, Oh, we must we we we do very well with phone and SMS. But we struggle a little bit with email. And I said, Well, we only do email. And then the next day the CEO came on this was in Ottawa, CEO came to our booth looked at and goes, Are you looking to get acquired I’m like, No, but always want to listen. And then we talked for about a week we sent them, we sent them over non disclosures and due diligence and medicine, Toronto went through some numbers. And it’s interesting, because at first, you know, we got a, you know, like every negotiation, we got a number that I was like, I’m not selling for that. And that was the start. So that was kind of the floor. And then I came back and said, Well, I’m not selling less, it’s less than less, it’s this, which is the ceiling. So we’ve got the floor and the ceiling in there. And then you know, you each try and push as close to your number as possible. And that was about 11 months of pushing two months during COVID We actually just didn’t talk because we were so far apart. And we just kept staying in touch. We kept growing our company COVID actually helped auto close because people left the phone left the office and needed email platform. And then October of 2020. So we are about nine months, nine months now. 10 months actually, we got acquired by vanilla soft and the plan is to turn into more multi channel to take a our team B our data as a good play for them and see put our email integrated into their platform where they are. They’re really really good at phone, SMS and some other stuff.
Scott D Clary 39:49
So you you’re you’re fresh, you’re fresh off of this negotiation. So for anybody that does have a start as an entrepreneur, do you have any advice for them who to negotiate a successful exit? Any any tips?
Shawn Finder 40:02
Yeah, you just need to make your podcast 10 hours, Scott? Yeah,
Scott D Clary 40:07
well, no, it’s because I don’t usually talk to people that are this fresh out of an exit,
Shawn Finder 40:11
I’ll tell you, it’s an experience. So we had a co founder myself, there’s a lot that goes into it a lot of stuff. Like I come from an MBA in finance, I kind of knew a lot of it. But some recommendations, we were in growth mode, always. So our numbers were never audited. We never had our financials updated. Like regularly, we had stuff, we car expenses in a food expense column, and they look for absolutely everything. So be the first thing is keep your book up, keep your books up to date, because you’ll never know when an acquisition is gonna happen. Number two, was working capital A little bit of a surprise at the end, I knew it working capital was perfect. Like those know what working capital is how that works is for a SaaS company like us, we get paid upfront. So if I sign people for an annual contract, we get paid that today. But we still have to supply that annual contract from today until you know, next 2022. But when you get acquired, I’ve been paid the money, but the new company now has to provide the service to keep them happy for the year that they’ve already paid me. So all that money, and that worked in government actually goes to the new company and gets taken off the purchase price. So that number for some of us, you wouldn’t think it’s a lot. But for us, it almost worked out to half a million dollars. So it was a lot of money that I knew what it was, and knew it was coming. Didn’t think it was as much as it was. So that was a big surprise. Um, another tough thing was keeping it a secret from all the team members and everyone that was in my team that we’re so close with, and we let them know, like a week and a half before and you know, one of the mistakes that we did not mistake, but we sold the company on September 30. I started working for the new company October 1, so there was no break, it was just like, well, now I’m an owner and now my sales general manager so it was like it was a lot. And then lastly, I would say recommendation is negotiate your salary. If if you have to stay at that company negotiate your salary early on. Because what happens is when you get to the last in the end, and you’re already in for for us at that point was like $40,000 just illegals there’s certain things for to negotiate salary for extra 510 $1,000 is gonna be tough when you don’t want to walk away from the deal because you already deep in the hole with with all the legal so a lot of different missing pieces. And if anyone is going through it right now and listening to the podcast, send me an email book a time with the I’m more than happy to share my experience and and get my recommendation.
Scott D Clary 42:44
Yeah, that’s it’s good advice. Because I think that’s something that also there’s a lot of like, you know, there’s a there’s a fraction of founders that are currently actively going through an acquisition that I probably have access to. And even then, like even if you went through it like five years ago, I feel like for some people like it’s, you know, it’s done, it’s settled. And it’s not top of mind anymore. So I just appreciate the insight, because it’s very, very recent and relevant for you. And how did you and did you have the opportunity to bring over the team as well?
Shawn Finder 43:13
Or did you have to so one of my things and part of my agreement with the acquisition the only way I would get acquired and people love this is if every single person had a job. So I said, my team’s been everything my team got me to where we were, and we become a very tight knit group. We’re all good friends. Now we’ve known each other for many years. I did not let them get rid of one person and part of the acquisition on their half was they wanted the team we had about 30 people 32 people but we were amazing team very smart people a lot of Eastern Europeans hard workers great people. So part of the acquisition was we are all enough when you get us all you get none of us
Scott D Clary 43:54
and and was there was there issues integrating into vanilla soft culture. How did you how did you manage that piece?
Shawn Finder 44:03
So it’s a David’s built a very good culture there. David hook, he’s the CEO of vanilla soft, and but it’s tough when you bring 32 people from Europe from Canada, US and everyone into one place. Early on, we had you know, there was some difficulties I remember one instance where we have like a Slack channel and we’re announcing everyone’s birthday saying happy birthday but we forgot to put all the people from the autos, teams birthdays in there. So we were missing all the people’s birthdays and people were like, but everyone gets happy birthday for vanilla Sapa. Nobody gets for autographs we had like cultural stuff like that early on, I would say it’s we’re nine months in now and we’re starting to really feel as one team. But it did take a while. But but as I said, David, who is a very he’s a seal that’s involved with many different ways with our team. He was an absolute gem when it came to making sure our team felt at home making him feel comforted Making sure they felt secured. He did a great job.
Scott D Clary 45:04
And how do you how do you, I guess, maintain the vision of the company, after you hand over the reins? Was Was David, was he wanting you to just basically run this unit within the company? Or did you feel like now nine months later, there’s conflicting opinions as to where the company’s going to go?
Shawn Finder 45:23
I think there is there’s conflicting opinions. Early on, it was just I was running with it. But I think, as every CEO, you know, David’s a CEO, I’m a CEO, everyone has difference of opinions with how you should scale. You know, because vanilla cells been around for 17 years, yeah, they’ve done an amazing job. They grow year over year, they, they’re, they’re very profitable, where we were only a few years old. So the way you handle a company that might be 17 years old, and a company that’s two years old, where a company 17 years old might be, let’s focus on branding, we’re at two years old is like we need to focus on just growth. There’s a little bit of conflicting views. But she funding a call, like meeting in person two weeks ago to discuss those views. And I think we’re getting on the same track for where we want to see for the next one to three years, but definitely have different views on how to scale how to hire. It’s something that, you know, just every organization will go through, but something we can definitely work work on.
Scott D Clary 46:20
So okay, so that’s amazing. So I want to I want to ask some rapid fire questions to pose some insights from your career in your life, before we pivot into that sort of session round, whatever you want to call it. Closing thoughts on. So three points? What’s next for you? Closing thoughts on some more insight or best practices for email or sales that we didn’t touch on? And then where do people reach you? So social and email?
Shawn Finder 46:43
Perfect. So what’s next, currently part of our deal, I am there for 18 months, so we’re halfway there. It was a cash equity deal. So I have do I do have incentive to stay there after the goal is to stay there and hopefully, at some point, either raise money or have an extra self. So no other plans, but you know, helping yourself and helping that boat continue to sail. Other tips for email is just be in between annoying and persistent. If you’re not in between there, and you’re just annoying. You’re going to be annoying. If you’re just persistent, but not annoying. You’re not persistent enough. So you have to be in between persistent annoying, and where can people find me? I’m always on LinkedIn. And I just started our own podcast called the zero to 5 million podcast. So we do some podcasts. But all yes, we’ll probably Yeah. With. Yeah. So we have a podcast. LinkedIn is a great tool, or as I said, you can email me Sean sh, AWS, auto close with a k.com. Email me and your questions. I love talking about exits, acquisitions and sales in general. And for anyone that’s, you know, listening in Scotts audience, I’m more than happy to jump on a call with you for 1015 minutes. If you’re going through an acquisition, and you have some questions about things in the contract are in the agreement, more than happy to help you
Scott D Clary 48:02
amazing, amazing, thank you. And thank you for the offer. That’s that’s very valuable. Okay, so biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career.
Shawn Finder 48:13
Biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome in my career is probably happening right now is where you get acquired. And it’s like, it’s great. You have a lot of cash have a lot of things going on. But it’s like, what’s next? So that’s the thing I kind of think about right now is like, it might be two years down the road, three years down the road, I don’t know when it’ll happen. But at some point, I’m gonna start something else. And it’s like, like, what do you do next? Next, that’s my biggest challenge.
Scott D Clary 48:40
That’s a good challenge to have that see. That’s a fun, that’s a fun mindset to be in. Because if you’re entrepreneurial, like you know, you just keep building and actually, that’s something that I’ve noticed across a lot of people that exit, like, they could exit doesn’t matter. It could be like 1,000,010 million, 100 million, like, they could exit at any level. And they’ll, most of them will just take some time, but then just start building again, doesn’t matter. Like the money doesn’t matter.
Shawn Finder 49:03
Well, I would say I always say to myself, my most successful business will be my next one. Yeah,
Scott D Clary 49:10
good. I love that quote. That’s a good one. Pick one person. Obviously, there’s been multiple pick one person has had an incredible impact on your life. Who was that? What did they teach you?
Shawn Finder 49:21
So the person this is he’s probably in his 80s, mid 80s. Now, I worked before my MBA. I knows right after my MBA, I worked for a manufacturing company here in Toronto out of Vaughn. And his name was Louis wax Berg, and they actually do I work for them. They do all the private label hand sanitizer, shampoo, conditioner for you name it, Kroger, Walmart, Costco everywhere. And he taught me everything about business, how to write business emails, how to be respectful how to work with Europeans, how to work with people in in Asia, how to negotiate. He was a big mentor of mine. I worked for them for three years, we became friends after. It’s got to be late 80s now and he’s still one of the smartest people sharpest people I’ve ever met in my entire life
Scott D Clary 50:10
amazing. A book or podcast that you’d recommend people to check out.
Shawn Finder 50:16
Well, yours of course, but besides that, a book I love it. Never split the difference by Chris Voss. It’s a negotiation book, amazing book. I’ve read it twice. You need to do negotiations, not only in business and sales, but you need it for I just bought a house and you can house sales for car dealers union for everything. So, know your negotiation, learn your skill, or learn the floor and the ceiling and learn how you can keep creeping up towards that ceiling for you. I
Scott D Clary 50:44
love that. Okay. If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be?
Shawn Finder 50:50
Now many people will understand this one, but you probably Scott will. And I wish I never rented a condo here in Toronto, and I bought a house in my early 20s. Because let’s just say I probably could have retired right now, if I would have bought a house instead of rented in downtown Toronto for many years, because our houses that cost $300,000 years ago are now worth $3 million. So that was my biggest mistakes.
Scott D Clary 51:19
You didn’t have to work. You just had to live in a home for 10 to 15 years max and you would have been a millionaire multimillionaire. Yeah, toronto, toronto is an insane real estate market. Just it’s
Shawn Finder 51:30
so funny. So one of my good friends is a mortgage. He does mortgages, mortgage broker. And I’ve built two companies. I’ve worked my ass off. I’ve worked sales ever made six figures every year since between those 2013 He had more money than me for so long, because he just bought a house in Aurora and had another house he was renting for had two houses that both made a millions of dollars. And he never had to even he he woke up at 11 o’clock and went to bed and was done by two o’clock everyday. But he had real estate, which made him not have to work. Yeah,
Scott D Clary 52:02
that’s but I’ll tell I’ll tell you something. You are you are more recession proof. So that’s all that matters.
Shawn Finder 52:10
That’s exactly recession proof. Exactly.
Scott D Clary 52:14
And last question, what does success mean to you?
Shawn Finder 52:19
So success means to me and I when I can make and help out the people that helped me be successful. So success to me with auto close was I didn’t have to get acquire. Obviously, the cast was great to me. But what it was for my co founders and my developers was I got three people enough money to buy their first house. And that was success to me because for me, I wasn’t worried about what I was going to do. And I always know always go out and make more money and do stuff. But I got three people. One who moved from Serbia here. He took a job with us. I gave him some options. He worked with us from day one, veteran Rasik and office acquisition. You know, everyone my entire leadership team and you’re buying their first house. And as you noted, we talked about real estate. Here’s tough from the each bought their first house with the acquisition. That’s what success was to me. I didn’t care about me buying my house. I worried more about my team buying their house. Amazing.
Scott D Clary 53:21
That’s amazing. All right. That’s all I got. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Shawn Finder 53:30Thanks for having me.