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Direct from the Six, world renowned, Canada’s largest city, with Canada’s biggest thinkers, visionaries, and hustlers. This is Startup Talk episode 19 Autoklose, featuring the founders, funders, innovators, and community leaders who have led Canada’s startup ecosystem right here in Toronto. You’ll hear the challenges, the failures, the successes.

Toronto’s Startup podcast gives you the full story direct from the entrepreneurs and influencers who have made a difference. Now, the host of Startup Talk, the founder of TorontoStarts, the Startup Coach.

Startup Coach:  Welcome back to Startup Talk episode 19, Toronto Startup podcast. It’s the Startup Coach here, and on this episode, I talk to Shawn Finder, CEO and founder of Autoklose. We talk about his growth hack to get $48,000 in sales on day one of launch, the B2B sales handbook, how to avoid your sales emails going to spam, and so much more on this episode of Startup Talk

Welcome back to Startup Talk podcast episode 19. It’s the Startup Coach here, and I’m here with Shawn from Autoklose. Welcome, Shawn.

Shawn:   Thanks, Craig.

Startup Coach:  Tell us about Autoklose.

startup talk episode 19 Auklose - with The Startup Coach

Shawn:  Autoklose is a sales engagement platform that has a built-in B2B database that helps with the prospecting at the top of the sales funnel.

Startup Coach:  We’re going to get into that, but before that, I always like to talk about the history of an entrepreneur. Where did you grow up, what was your background like, were you a handful for your parents? What happened there?

Shawn:  Perfect. Well, I grew up in Toronto. I used to play semi-professional tennis, so I was always playing competitive sports. I did my MBA in finance, went down the finance route, worked at some of the big banks down here on Bay Street, and then realized that I was a little bit too social for the people in my finance team, so I ended up becoming an entrepreneur about four and a half years ago, and haven’t looked back.

Startup Coach:  You were just telling me a few seconds ago that this is not your first startup.

Shawn:  Yeah. No, my first startup was about four and a half years ago, which was a data company, and it provided B2B data to a lot of the big players here in Canada as well as the U.S., and then what we did was we parlayed that business into the sales engagement tool that has the database inside, so both companies currently run independent of each other, but with Autoklose, they’re both actually built in.

Startup Coach:  Oh, interesting. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Shawn:  I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur at a very young age, so after I stopped playing competitive tennis, when I was teaching it for 10 years, I ended up meeting a lot of people that were twice my age, and I was always selling, trying to be the best tennis coach at the place I was working, and it was always in my blood. I was always enjoying networking. I always enjoyed entrepreneurship, the dragons and the shows, and then I finally took the leap about four and a half years ago and left my six figure paying job, and made $49 and started from there.

autoklose left my six figure job- Startup Talk podcast episode 19

Startup Coach:  So let’s talk a little bit about your tennis career. I can’t find someone on the street and say, “Hey, that’s a tennis player,” or, “That’s a tennis body,” because you can tell a basketball player or maybe a football player the way they’re shaped, but a tennis player can’t. Is there a lot of fame that goes with tennis? How you do get to be one of the top in Canada like you were?

Shawn:  I started playing tennis at age seven, and my body definitely hasn’t changed much. I always had a good heart when I played tennis, but I was never the fittest athlete, but what tennis taught me was being very competitive at a young age, and also networking. When I did my MBA in finance up at McMaster, all three of my co-ops were actually from people I taught or knew from teaching tennis.

Shawn:  I would say tennis was the backbone of what started my career, and also got me into working at the banks, and working for Volvo, et cetera, before I became an entrepreneur.

Startup Coach:  You’ve built these platforms, whether it’s one platform or two, but you have an MBA in finance. Did you have a co-founder that helped build these? Did you outsource the platform? It’s often a problem for startups. A lot of non-technical founders want to figure out how to build their platform, and they get quotes from $20,000 to $800,000, and they don’t know what to do. What happened with you?

Shawn:  It’s an interesting story. I met my now co-founder at a networking event. One thing I’ll give to entrepreneurs is try and find someone that is the opposite of you. I’m an extrovert, my business partner is an introvert. I’m a sales, marketing, business development person, and he is the IT, operations, brains behind that.

Shawn:  He actually was from Serbia, so it ended up working out well with development because we ended up getting our development all done out in eastern Europe, which back in the day was a lot cheaper, but nowadays they are getting more and more expensive. That’s how I met my partner, and we’ve built both platforms now together.

Startup Coach:  Focus now on Autoklose.

Shawn:  Okay.

Startup Coach:  Tell me about how Autoklose is different from other email platforms.

Shawn:   Okay. Autoklose is a combination of two things; it’s a combination of the database company and a sales engagement company all in one. If you wanted to prospect to hundreds of people and fill the top of your sales funnel with leads, you can not only email them in our platform but you can actually find the person you want to target inside the platform.

Shawn:  We’ve taken two different things, consolidated that all into one tool for sales reps to save time, and hopefully make a lot more money.

Startup Coach:  We talked a little bit about the marketing, marketing automation pieces where… let’s start there. I’m in my email system and there’s a few people I want to target. How do I find them? How do I know I want to target them, and then what do I do with them?

Shawn:  Marketing-wise, what you’re really looking to do, you’re looking to get a list and then nurture them through newsletters, through blogs, through education, through value. What you want to do at that point is through the marketing, is kind of do the demand gen, but you want to bring the people that are interested in your product into the sales side, and that’s where you really want to personalize your outreach to these people, and try and ideally get them to whatever your call to action might be.

Shawn:  That might be to schedule a demo with you, have a 15 minute call with you, or even try out your product. You have to make sure you have both, because they do integrate with each other.

Startup Coach:  How do you solve that problem?

Shawn:  We solve that problem by, personally our company, what we do is we’ll take anyone that’s put their hand up through our marketing platform, and then we’ll put them through a sales funnel inside Autoklose, but we’ll also do different things in Autoklose, like do personalized video.

Shawn:   Everything is very, very personalized, so you want to make sure you do your due diligence and know what company they might’ve worked at, what their interests are so you can put all that in your messaging, because when a prospect sees an email come in, it feels like it’s one-on-one.

Shawn:  The conversion rate is a lot better than if you blast 1000 people with the same content where they know it might be going to a lot of people at once.

Startup Coach:  We’re talking about email campaigns and drip scripts and putting people into a weekly or daily or whatever that messaging is, to try and get them from point A to point B. The biggest problem is if I find a lot of people is one, it’s hard to set up the timing, and what scripts go where, and then to write them. How do you actually solve those?

Shawn:   That’s very interesting you say that. One of the biggest problems we see right now is people don’t know how to write the content. When they do write the content, they think the content is all about them. I’ll give you an example of one we read last week, and I talked with this… at an event is, a lot of people write an email and they’re going to introduce themself.

Shawn: They’ll say, “Hi. My name is Shawn Finder, and I’m the CEO of Autoklose. I want to talk to you about this.” It’s the first mistake; you’ve already emailed the prospects. You don’t want to introduce yourself. They already know your name and your email from when you emailed them, so go into talking about what their challenges are, and how you could bring them value.

Shawn:   What you really want to do is make it short and sweet, but try and show the prospect exactly how you’re going to help them, because they already know who you are. You don’t have to introduce yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about the prospect.

Startup Coach:  The content is the problem for a lot of startups as to, “I need to put this funnel together in a 10 email script,” and selling a little bit at a time to try and close somebody, “But I have no idea what to put in that content.” Outside of articles or inside of articles, do you have videos? Do you have tutorials to help people through the types of things you’ve just suggested now?

Shawn:   Yes. We’ve actually done a few things recently, because of content. One is, inside our templates we actually highlight any spam words you have in your content. We do that because people had issues with the content, so we said, “Okay, if we can help them eliminate the spam words,” so for example if you put the word free or discount, we’re going to highlight it in yellow and ask you to change it.

Shawn:    Or, for example if you have too many links in your signature or in your message, because if you have too many links, you’re going to go into the spam filter. We actually have, it’s called the Autoklose Tips inside our template, and we actually coach you through how to write a good email, how many words it should be, how many words your subject line should be, what are the best converting emails, and how many follow-ups you should have as well.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, that’s great, because people need that help. I just write whatever, because usually I have so much content and stuff that it’s just like, “Here’s all this crap that’s going on. I hope it’s okay; here you go.”

Shawn:   Yeah, exactly.

Startup Coach:  We’re in Toronto and, “Here’s 10 events that are happening, and here’s the three startups I talked to, and here’s what’s happening in this podcast.” There’s just so much stuff, so I’m trying not to overwhelm people, at the same time give them decent content, but it exactly is what- how do you build the content to make it from here to there?

Startup Coach:  I teach growth hacking, I teach marketing, and it always is a problem. One of the things I have done myself is I’ve subscribed to a bunch of these automated email campaigns just to collect them, so that I’m going to have all these examples to show my students saying, “Here is 20 examples of email campaigns, so some of them have to apply to you. Let’s just take them away and do them.”

Startup Coach:  That is great. How do you help sales? Startups, the biggest problem is you can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one is going to buy it. Startups need revenue, they need traction, so how does Autoklose help them with the sales cycle, and increase their sales?

Autoklose gets you qualified leads at the top of the sales funnel - Startup Talk Podcast episode 19

Shawn:  Ideally what Autoklose does is it helps get you qualified leads at the top of the sales funnel. One of the things we find with salespeople is, to say this, the honest truth, is a lot of people are lazy. They send one to two follow-ups, and they think that prospect is not interested.

Shawn:  What Autoklose allows you to do is send those eight to ten follow-ups to that prospect to get them engaged. Now, what you want to do is you want to try and get that qualified lead, but you want to automate it, because if you’re going to sit there and send 100 emails out, you probably spend eight hours of your day looking over it, and as a salesperson you wouldn’t make any money.

Shawn:  What we allow you to do is schedule that once, and then press start the campaign. Then you can go tonight and watch the Toronto Raptors play, and everything will be fully automated for you.

Startup Coach:  That’s amazing, because I’ve tried some of that with some of the other platforms. Wrestling with the platform really takes your mind away from trying to figure out the flow of what you’re trying to do, and by the time you’re like, “Ah!” Is your platform easy to use?

Shawn:   Yeah, so actually it’s great you ask that. Something we actually just launched this morning was product tours. What we found was we had a lot of people coming on our 14 day trial, a lot of people showing interest, but the problem is they didn’t know the simple way, the first thing to do was to connect to their email.

Shawn:   Now what we’ve done is we’ve actually built a product tour inside Autoklose that will actually step-by-step take you through that process to get your first campaign started. We’ve already found in our first day with trials today that a lot of people like that, because it’s almost like just because you know your platform or a salesperson might know your platform, not everyone is going to know your platform.

Shawn:   You really have to walk them through, and almost hold their hand for the first 14 days, to get them to really get accustomed with your platform, because nowadays there’s so many different platforms out there.

Startup Coach:  I teach growth hacking, and we just had that session this week. One of the things, the statistics I always tell people is that the most successful growth hacking companies spend 40-50% percent of their time on the first user experience, because it’s really getting someone from that, “What is this product,” to getting the benefit and feeling, “Wow. I really love this.”

Startup Coach:  It really is training, education, making it simple for someone to do those scripts, and it’s key to move that forward, otherwise they don’t know the benefit of the product.

Shawn:   Yeah, and I’ll say two things to that. It’s funny you were talking about this today, because actually, this morning I gave an offer for our customer success person. Her only job will be to help onboard our clients, and also give one hour to each client that is, and when we see they’re not having good campaigns, or they’re not connecting their email, we’ll actually have her call them and walk them through how to do it.

Shawn:   Even I heard this at the conference a few weeks ago was, it’s harder to get a new client than it is to retain a client, so you want to make sure that you keep retaining your clients and upselling your existing clients, because those are the easier sells than to go out, get on the cold calls and start doing that stuff to get new clients.

Shawn:  Make sure you focus on that first user experience, because if they have a good first user experience, they’ll never leave you.

Startup Coach:  Absolutely. What made you think that, “Oh, we need another email marketing platform.” What’s the unmet need that specifically Autoklose solves better than anyone else?

Shawn:   That’s a great question. Sales engagement tools, there are a lot out there, but the difference is the database, because we find and I find that a lot of sales leaders nowadays are trying to consolidate things now, meaning they don’t want to teach a salesperson how to use a CRM, a marketing automation, an email marketing platform, a sales platform, a cold calling platform.

Shawn:   What we wanted to do was build the database in, so now salespeople don’t have to go buy the data, they don’t have to go buy a sales engagement tool, but they have a tool that has it all in one, and we’re trying to integrate everything into that one tool to make the life of salespeople a lot easier.

Startup Coach:  Who is your target audience then?

Shawn:  That’s a great question, and something I talked about was buyers personas recently. The reason why I’ll say it is because when we first started, we didn’t know our buyers persona; we just wanted to sell. Now within our messaging, we actually have a different buyers persona, and our messaging is very different.

Shawn:   For example, if we’re talking to a CEO of a small company, what would a CEO want? They want to make more money, so our message to them would be, “We can make you more money.” If you’re talking to a national sales manager, they want their regional sales manager to beat their quota, because then they get a bonus as the national sales manager, so how do we market to a national sales manager?

Shawn:   We tell them, “We’re going to help your regional sales managers reach quota.” Then what do SDRs want? They want money too, and more demos. They want a fully booked calendar of demos. If we tell an SDR, “We can book you 20 meetings a day using Autoklose,” or, “20 meetings a week using Autoklose,” those are our buyers persona.

Shawn:    Each person, you have to curate your content to each buyer differently.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, this is something I go into with my startups, is that depending on whether they’re a one-sided or two-sided market, they need to develop three to five buyer personas in each side, because there are so many different people you’re selling to, and different messages, different landing pages, different advertising campaigns, different scrips, different all those things, because they all want different things.

Startup Coach:  If you’re selling what a computer manager wants versus what an end administrator wants at the front desk, you’re going to get mixed messages, and your sales are going to go down, so it’s important to have that.

Shawn:    One thing we did was when I first showed my sales team that, they were like, “We’re spending four days on building a buyers persona. I could be selling, making money.” But let me tell you, the four days we spent… I did it on a Saturday and Sunday, so we only missed two days of work during the week, but that four days we spent, two months later they came to me and go, “Shawn, that was a really good exercise, because now are revenue is up and we’re hitting our numbers,” et cetera.

Shawn:   It might seem like a lot at the forefront, but it’s probably as important as anything to know your buyers, because if you don’t know your buyers then you’re not going to be able to sell.

Startup Coach:  Absolutely, so where does your product fit in the lean sales funnel? You say it early in the funnel. What does that mean to you?

Shawn:  Our product is more right at the top of the sales funnel, so what we’re trying to do is get you as many demos, calls, et cetera of people that are qualified, with the minimal amount of work by you, therefore we want to get you 14 to 20 demos at the top of your sales funnel while you’re driving to work, while you’re driving home from work, while you’re going to a local bar, et cetera.

Shawn:  We try and really focus on helping salespeople get more demos with the least amount of work.

Startup Coach:  That’s great. How did you get your first clients? It’s always a thing with startups to, “How did you get your first clients? No one knows who I am. How do you build that reputation?” How did you do it?

Shawn:    Actually I’ve never told someone this. I’m going to tell you exactly how we did it, okay? It worked perfectly, so if you’re listening, follow it. We actually started prospecting six months before our product was even built, so what I did was we built the landing page, and all I did was talk about what we were building, and asked for your email.

Shawn:  This was six months before we even started. We actually just talked to development  and we just hired our developers, but what we did through that six months was we continued to nurture and talk to our clients as if they were building the product for us.

Shawn:  We’d ask for surveys. We’d tell them, “Hey. We just finished phase one; this is how it’s going to look,” and do quick little videos. When we actually launched, and it was January of 2018 when we launched, we already had a list of over 1000 people that were interested.

Shawn:   In our first week, we generated over $46,000. What I would say is don’t wait until your product is launching. You need to start getting people into it six months before, and that’s through social selling and through other growth hack ways.

Startup Coach:  That’s amazing. It’s exactly a playbook I try to teach startups. Don’t start on launch; you’ve got to start way ahead, build your community, get their feedback, engage them earlier. They’re going to be the people you sell to first when you launch. They’re going to be your evangelists, they’re going to give you feedback, tell you where you’re going wrong.

Startup Coach:  There’s so many things that community builds for you.

Shawn:   Yeah, and funny enough, we still use that theory today. For example, we’re building a new dashboard. What I did was I asked all of our 4000 existing clients, “Here’s 14 things we want to put on the dashboard. Pick three.” Whatever the top eight were from our clients are the eight that we’re actually going to put on the dashboard.

Shawn:  Right now, we’re so product driven that our clients decide what features we’re going to do, and we don’t even decide.

Startup Coach:  That’s great. I’ve worked with a lot of big companies and small companies, and putting that kind of control takes a while to get management to switch over. Give the people what they want. What’s wrong with that?

Shawn:   Yeah, exactly. 100%. If you’re going to build something and you’re not sure the client’s going to want it, you might be wasting your time building it. Let your clients decide what you’re building, and prioritize that.

Startup Coach:  I’ve taken a lot of project management training in my life. I was PMP and whatnot, and they teach you that on time, on budget is the most important thing. In several of these things I said, “Yeah, whatever. That’s a joke.”

Startup Coach:  They’re like, “What?” I’ve got to tell you, give the people what they want. What matters to me is that the person signing the cheque has a smile on his face. Doesn’t matter if it took twice as long, cost twice as much, half as much, half the time. If they’re smiling then I gave them what they want.

Startup Coach:  They’re going to call me again the next time.

Shawn:  Yeah, and not only that. The best business is referral business, so if you make your clients happy, they’re going to refer you more business. Build your features that your clients want, and down the road you might not ever have to make a cold call, because if people and word of mouth are talking about your product, and people love your product, and they love your customer service and your customer success, you’ll get referrals that’ll build your business.

Startup Coach:  We talked a little bit about this, but everyone talks about hustle as an entrepreneur. What are you doing to build traction and continue to build your audience?

Shawn:    We do many different things. One thing we recently did was we published a book. That book by itself we published two months ago, called The B2B Sales Handbook, got us over 2000 leads. We’re very engaged on LinkedIn. I also will be doing about 40 to 50 podcasts over the next four months. We also got into personal video, so we actually do a lot of video now.

Shawn:   If you’re not using video, video is becoming huge. Even put in your email campaigns, but we do personal video on LinkedIn. What I’ve done is I’ve built a big following on LinkedIn, so whenever I talk about a product, or talk about value, or talk about challenges or give tips, there’s a huge following.

Shawn:   I would say I tell people your network is important, but also nowadays your personal brand is just as important. Continue working on your personal brand, and you can become a thought leader in that industry. You’ll get a lot of sales like that as well.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, it’s important to continue to build your connections in your network online. I know a lot of people are older or around my age, they’re always like, “What’s social media?” Well, that’s funny, and they have very few people on LinkedIn, and now I’m talking to a few friends of mine who are unemployed. I’m like, “Yeah. How’s that 20 LinkedIn connections working for you when you’re looking for a job?”

Startup Coach:  The point is, is make the connections, build your network. It’s great in person coming to our events, Startup Drinks. I’m sure we’re going to talk about other communities that you’re aware of in the city, but you have to build your network online whether they’re the people in the community, your supporters, the people who are going to buy your product, everyone, because entrepreneurship is not a solo sport, and you really need to build your tribe that support you.

Shawn:  Yeah, and especially, we live in Toronto, and we’re a huge tech market here. There’s always different startup events. There’s different events literally every few weeks. Go to the event, listen to people, shake some hands, because when we first started we didn’t go to a lot of events, and I changed that because you’re five minutes away from an event every two weeks.

Shawn:  Go stop by for an hour, shake some hands, and you’ll never know who you’re going to meet.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, it’s really important. He says every few weeks. TorontoStarts has an event every week, if not more than every week, never mind all the other communities. There’s almost every night of the week there’s an entrepreneur community event going in Toronto, and we’re going to talk about what other communities you’d recommend here in a bit, but I want to talk about Collision.

Startup Coach:  I know you were there. We met at one of the socials after Collision. What did you think? How did you take advantage of it, and what were the growth hack techniques you used to make any connections you needed?

Shawn:   Collision was a great event. I’m so happy it was here in Toronto. The speakers was great. The CEO of Intercom was just unreal, and a lot of the speakers were talking about what we’re talking about today, retention and customer success, but I used it more then to visit a lot of our clients.

Shawn:   We had about 14 to 16 clients that I wanted to go see, but I also wanted to see a lot of the Canadian startups, about what they’re doing, and visit their booth and shake their hand. I wish that the keynotes were a little bit longer. I felt like 15, 20 minutes wasn’t enough, because they go on, they introduce themself, they say hi to the audience and then 10 minutes later they’re saying goodbye.

Shawn:  I think if the speakers maybe would’ve spent half an hour, but besides that it was a great event, great for Toronto, and I got to meet you, Craig, so it was even better.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, that was amazing. I think I was out with Will from OutLoud Speakers School. He’s out meeting with someone the lobby here. We’re at Workhouse; it’s a coworking space in Toronto. I like to give him a shout out every once in a while, but yeah. Collision was amazing, but you were telling me a little bit beforehand about you, you’re using your tool, and how you made meetings; go ahead.

Shawn:    We don’t only use our tool for cold prospect, and we do it for following up on quotes. We use it, for example, Collision. What I did was I had my data team make a list of people that might be attending the Collision conference; that’s Canadian startups that might be attending.

Shawn:    We looked on their website to see who would be there, and what I did was I put them through a campaign to ask them, and it was called Collision Conference Coffee. All I did was I built a calendar, which I use for my scheduling, and I asked for 9-11 on the Tuesday, 9:00AM to 5:00PM on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but I decided only on the Thursday I was going to take meetings.

Shawn:  What I did was I sent it out, and actually filled my calendar with meetings. On the Thursday, I actually didn’t even walk to the show or get to hear any of the keynotes. I actually was literally sitting in the lobby hour after hour meeting people, shaking their hand, and actually funny enough, I had a call with somebody today that actually is becoming a partner of Autoklose who I met at the conference as well; another startup in Toronto.

Startup Coach:  That’s great. Conferences like that are fantastic to catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while, meet new connections, network and all that kind of stuff. I saw very little of the speeches and the presentations, though a lot of my friends and people I know were speaking.

Startup Coach:  Sheetal Jaitly from TribalScale, and Michael Sanders from Horizon Blockchain Games. The list goes on and on, but I’m sure I’ll forget people that get mad at me, but that’s the way it goes. It was great to meet all these people, and I was mostly walking the floor because we had about a dozen startups from our community as part of the alpha and the beta program around there.

Startup Coach:  Fiix mechanics, I saw X-Matik was there, Therapy Innovation; I’m going to forget and a whole bunch of people are going to get mad at me again. I could only shout out a few. It was great. I was trying to connect them with all different people they needed to be connected to, FitFi, other people, yeah.

Startup Coach:  Have you attended any of the other Collisions before, just this is your first one?

Shawn:   That was my first Collision conference, actually, and I had a great time.

Startup Coach:  Yeah, I had a great time. The consensus is that the speeches should’ve been about 30 minutes, I think, just to get that little bit of that extra five minutes, of getting to your point, so that’s great. It sounds like you are a serial entrepreneur, your second company combined into one now. What tips do you have for founders?

Shawn:   I’d give a few. One; focus on the culture of your employees when you start your business. Your first few employees are the most important. Two; I’ll tell you this much, when a developer tells you it’s going to take three months, times everything by two or three.

Shawn:   Nothing happens overnight. As an entrepreneur and a salesperson myself, I always want things done quickly, but things take time. Number three is focus on what your customers want, not what you want, therefore almost be product driven and not customer driven, because if you build the right product, customers are coming.

Shawn:   That was one of the mistakes I made with my first company is I was going after the clients without building the product. With Autoklose, I keep building the product no matter what happens with the clients, but the clients continue to come because I keep building better product.

Startup Coach:  I couldn’t agree more with all of those things, so I’ll just leave that. I got little jumps for each of those, but I just won’t bother. Now that Autoklose is up and running and you have 4000 clients, somewhat?

Shawn:  Yeah, we have over 4000 clients now.

Startup Coach:  What’s next?

Shawn:    We’re going to continue to build Autoklose. We’re building new features, new integrations. This month we’re doing a huge hiring spree, so we hired somebody today. We have two other offers out, and about 30 other interviews next week, so we’re growing.

Shawn:   We’re trying to solve a problem that millions of salespeople around the world have, so it’s definitely going to take a few years, but we’re going to get there.

Startup Coach:  How important is being able to pitch, for an entrepreneur?

Shawn:   Being able to pitch is very important. Sometimes especially who you’re speaking to, when I speak to a CEO for example, or one of my salespeople speak to a CEO, you have 30 seconds or even less. What you need to make sure is your pitch you have down pat, so if somebody asks you for your pitch and you’re in an elevator, you can say it.

Shawn:  I remember I was pitching to Arlene Dickinson at an event here in Toronto at the TELUS Pitch event. You can’t go to a pitch and have somebody pay attention for three, four minutes of a pitch, so make sure you’re very concise, you get to the point, you talk about the problem in the industry and what the solution is, what you’re solving.

Startup Coach:  Are you talking about the TELUS Pitch event this year?

Shawn:  This was last year I believe I went to it, yeah.

Startup Coach:  They hosted the launch of the TELUS Pitch event here at Workhouse, and I was part of taking pictures when they were filming the promo video, and a bunch of people going in. It’s open right now everyone, and the link will be… whenever you say TELUS pitch here in this podcast, it’ll be a link to this year’s 100k, pitch for one minute to apply for up to 100k you can win.

Startup Coach:  I know two or three of the winners that have won; there’s people who work out of here. AquaMobile won two or three years ago.

Shawn:   I remember.

Startup Coach:  It’s not impossible, that’s for sure. Any advice for startups seeking advisors?

Shawn:   One thing I would say if you’re going to seek an advisor, or even if you’re going to look for money is don’t just choose any advisor or anyone that’s going to give you money. The most important is that the advisor can provide some value to you. If I was going to look for an advisor, I would look for somebody that might be a sales influencer that can also make some introductions for me.

Shawn:   What I would recommend is don’t just choose somebody to choose somebody. Make sure that they can help you, and they can help provide value to your company, before you bring on an advisor.

Startup Coach:  What tools would you recommend, or you think are really great, that you use, for entrepreneurs?

Shawn:    I’d give you a few. One; Slack, for us, is amazing. Slack is amazing because we have an office in Toronto, we have an office in Florida, and I have a huge office in Serbia. We’re all over the world, and we use Slack with every single department. Number two is Calendly. I did a webinar with them last week, and Calendly, I love, because instead of going back and forth with six emails to find out when your prospect has time to meet with you, you could just send them a link and say, “Please pick a time that works for you.”

Shawn:   Number three is I like Zoom, because I like to show my face during all of our presentations. I have all my sales team show their face during a presentation, so we use Zoom for screen sharing, for doing product demos, but the list can go on and on. We use Trello in-house. Sometimes I look at my credit card bill and I’m like, “You know what? We use about 40 to 50 different softwares.”

Shawn:    Sales Navigator we’re using, and some of them we don’t use, and we’re still paying for.

Startup Coach:  That happens. What resources, communities do you recommend here in Toronto?

Shawn:  Resources? If you’re an entrepreneur, I actually used to go to Entrepreneur Society, which was great. Bill Hennessy was great with the Entrepreneur Society. TorontoStarts; there’s tons of different communities, resources. I would read, if you’re in B2B, our B2B Sales Handbook is amazing. You could find it on our website.

Shawn:  It’s 100 pages. I know it’s long, but it has everything from growth hacks to social selling, to how to prospect, to what templates work, to what subject lines convert, to what body paragraphs in emails convert, so those would be, I guess, the ones that I’d recommend to start.

Shawn:   I’ve also read From Impossible to Inevitable from Aaron Ross, who I’ve done a webinar with, and his book is great as well.

Startup Coach:  That’s great. All great advice. Where can people find out more, and get more information about you and Autoklose?

Shawn:  If you want information about Autoklose, you can do to While I’m on that, Intercom is another tool we use. Amazing for websites. If you want to email me, Shawn, that’s spelled S-H-A-W-N, Feel free to email me if you have any questions, but you know where I’m very active is on LinkedIn.

Shawn:   You could follow me on LinkedIn, you could follow our page on LinkedIn, and we provide all of our content, all of our blogs, all of our videos, all of our podcasts, and you’ll see everything there.

Startup Coach:  Great, and you were mentioning before we started that you sponsored an event, SaaS North, that’s coming up. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Shawn: Yeah, so we sponsored the SaaS North event in Ottawa; another great event. A lot of people actually from Collision were there, so that will be in Ottawa in November. A lot of the tech startups here in Canada all go to that event, and last year there was some amazing speakers.

Shawn:  Michael Litt from Vidyard was there, Michele Romanow, so yeah. I would definitely check out SaaS North, and if you need any discounts on tickets, you can reach out to me as well.

Startup Coach:  Fantastic. Thank you very much for being on the podcast, Shawn.

Shawn:  Thank you so much. That was a lot of fun.

This has been Startup Talk episode 19 Autoklose, Toronto’s startup podcast. For more exclusive content, the episode vault, and to be part of TorontoStarts community, visit Get your name on the newsletter mailing list and check out our upcoming events.

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Books Discussed:

The B2B sales handbook,

Impossible to Inevitable from Aaron Ross

Other Great Resources

TorontoStarts – Toronto’s Startup Community

Toronto Events – Find out what’s happening in Toronto

The Startup List – Get your Start up on the list!

Startup Launch – 8 Week Pre Accelerator Program

Startup Drinks  – Monthly Toronto Entrepreneur Open Pitch Open Bar event

The Cryptocurrency Conference

Ultimate Startup Funding Course for Canadian Entrepreneurs

Ontario Angel Investors List

What is NRC IRAP Funding?

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