AMAs September 10, 2019

I'm Louis, currently the founder of Sales for Founders. Ask Me Anything!

Louis Nicholls @louisswiss

Hey IHers,

I'm Louis, currently the founder of Sales for Founders - a course teaching founders just enough sales to find their first customers and get to $10k in monthly revenue.

I also have a weekly newsletter giving actionable growth tips to ~5'000 founders, and occasionally do consulting work (mainly on conversion rate optimisation and social proof).

Before that, I founded and sold a few different businesses, ranging from ecommerce to B2B SaaS. I've also taken funding and led platform and partnerships at a VC-backed startup, which is what made me want to be an IHer in the first place ;)

Happy to answer any questions about my own experiences or your challenges. Especially in growing from $0 to $10k monthly revenue...

I'll be here on Tuesday, 17 September at 6pm CET to answer all your questions.

Ask me anything!

  1. 3

    Hi Louis! I imagine you sold your course mainly to your email list. I would be curious to know more about your sales funnel (how long was your email sequence, how did you structured it, anything you will do differently next time, etc.).

    1. 3

      I could write a long essay on this to do it justice!

      And I will give a full write up sometime in the next few weeks.

      But, very briefly:

      1. I used @brennandunn's excellent RightMessage.com to collect email addresses and segment my audience.
      2. I added them to a personalised email sequence of ~4-8 emails (depending on when you joined the earlybird waitlist, how you interacted with the emails etc). Emails were sent with ConvertKit.com
      3. Next time I'll go deeper on personalisation and try and provide more value in the emails themselves.

      Sorry if that's very brief and not too useful - like I said, I'll do a detailed write up soon, and happy to answer any questions in the meantime!

      1. 2

        Interesting! I've recently been learning from @brennandunn about how to get the most from ConvertKit.

      2. 1

        Thanks for your answer, I'll be happy to read your detailed piece! 😉

  2. 3

    Hey Louis, thinking about joining the S4F course. Currently I don't even have an idea for my next product. What's your #1 advice for people like me? How to find a problem that's worth solving?

    1. 3

      thinking about joining the S4F course

      Awesome!

      How to find a problem that's worth solving?

      First up, I know it's pretty common advice, but I don't think focussing on a problem is the best way to go about it.

      Try focussing on people instead.

      Talk to people you find interesting. Learn about their life (or business). Work out what their goals, dreams, pains and priorities are.

      How can you create real value? What would make their lives better?

      Working forward from that to a product people want to pay for is then pretty straight forward (but of course still a lot of hard work).

      What's your #1 advice for people like me?

      The same advice I'd give someone who is looking for their dream romantic partner...

      Don't rush things and date the first person who swipes right on your Tinder profile!

      Instead, make sure you're a) the kind of person your ideal partner would want to be with, and b) you're hanging out in situations where your people who are like your ideal partner are likely to be present.

      Same thing holds true for finding pains to work on. Try and become the kind of person who uncovers pains, by focussing on (helping) people, and hang around the kind of places your ideal audiences are present.

      Good luck!

      EDIT: Oh - and read the Mom Test! by @robfitz!

      1. 1

        Great advice!👌🏼
        Both the relationships and the business one 🙏🏻

  3. 2

    How does your podcast fit into the overall strategy for your business, and how is it going so far? Think you'll stick with it, or make any changes in the future?

    1. 1

      How does your podcast fit into the overall strategy for your business, and how is it going so far?

      Great question!

      When I started the podcast, I didn't take it too seriously. Not so great editing, poor sound quality and an inexperienced host (me).

      Luckily, I had some great guests to bail me out.

      Originally, my goal with the podcast was to build my reach - to get the S4F course in front of new people.

      But I didn't spend much time promoting the podcast, so that wasn't very successful.

      Now, after launching the earlybird access, I've realised the podcast was massively useful in two ways I hadn't really expected though...

      • Firstly, it has allowed me to build up relationships with my guests - awesome founders and experts I probably wouldn't have become friendly with otherwise. Several of them will now even appear in the course as guest experts.
      • Secondly, even though I didn't really gain any extra reach with the podcast, a lot of people who signed up for the course said that getting to know me/trust me via the podcast was a main factor in them feeling comfortable purchasing. It's difficult to say exactly what effect it had, but probably over $10k in extra revenue so far.

      Think you'll stick with it, or make any changes in the future?

      I've had a month's hiatus, but am definitely sticking with it and season 2 starts this week!

      I'm actually doubling down on the podcast - better sound, better editing (still looking for someone to outsource this to) and I've put a lot of work into becoming a better host.

      Two things that have helped me do that most were...

      • appearing on other people's podcasts and seeing how they did things
      • listening to great podcast hosts (with @csallen and several BBC radio programs being my current favourite for questioning style)

      Moving forward, the podcast will be a much more important part of my marketing strategy than I originally thought it would be, even though it plays a different role than I initially expected.

      1. 2

        Hey, @louisswiss check out https://www.podcastedition.com/ if you are looking to outsource the editing. Have not used them/ no affiliation but am thinking of using for my podcast.

        1. 1

          Thanks, will check it out!

  4. 2

    What's your favourite or most recommended way for an Indie Hacker to keep organised with sales?

    1. 2

      I think it depends slightly on how your sales process works. If you have a lot of marketing/inbound, something like Hubspot can work well.

      If you're more sales focussed (calls, emails), I prefer a CRM like Close.io .

      When you're just starting out, I recommend paying for a simple CRM that allows you to send (templated) emails, record notes, and set reminders if you can possibly afford it.

      With Close.io being my favourite 'serious' option, and @patwalls excellent TryPigeon.co being a great lightweight, IHer-friendly alternative.

      You can use AirTable or Google Sheets to track a lot of this stuff too, but the extra time it takes keeping stuff up to date (and synching manually with your email client) normally outweighs the savings. Especially once you're 2-3 weeks in!

      1. 1

        Thanks for the shoutout!

        1. 1

          Pigeon looks awesome. What's your stand on the Google Gmail API verification? Have done it or not using services that requires it to be verified

          1. 1

            Thanks! I'm going through the process process right now!

  5. 2

    Hey Louis! Best social proof example on the web?

    1. 2

      Hmm, my personal favourite is Lambda School on Twitter.

      Most tech companies use social proof (too) late in the customer journey - to improve conversions.

      Lambda does a great job of using social proof to increase awareness at the beginning of the funnel. To make a great first impression...

      They do this by encouraging (teaching) their current students to share their success on Twitter. This is great for the students, and Lambda looks great by association.

      Most people's first contact with Lambda is from a trusted friend talking about how great it is - that gives them an instant trust boost and a massive advantage over other bootcamps.

      1. 1

        Interesting. Thank you.

        I wonder how they actually encourage that behaviour. How did they get the Hashtag going in the first place. I've seen Austin use the hashtag himself.

        Thinking of potentially digging more into this myself. Is it ok if I do a Marketing Example on this? No worries if not. Will credit yourself.

        1. 1

          I wonder how they actually encourage that behaviour. How did they get the Hashtag going in the first place.

          Simple - the main rules of social proof:

          • create a win-win situation where there's value for the student in sharing
          • educate the student on how to do it effectively, and make it as easy for them as possible
          • 'normalise' the behaviour. If other students are doing it, I'll feel more inclined to do it myself

          Thinking of potentially digging more into this myself. Is it ok if I do a Marketing Example on this? No worries if not. Will credit yourself.

          Of course! I've written quite a bit about this in the handbook already, but it won't be public/published until early 2020 :)

          1. 1

            Awesome. Cheers Louis!

  6. 2

    Hey Louis,

    I’m trying to find my next side project idea.
    I’m thinking about creating a premium database dedicated to sales people.
    I would love to focus on a specific niche, and I’m trying to find the promising one.

    Regarding your experience as a sale person and cold e-mailing, what kind of dream database you’ll have loved to have access through your journey?
    Or in general, what is your process to find e-mails for your campaigns?

    As example, I’m thinking that I could focus on finding e-mails of the last founded startups, and re-sell them to some other companies.

    Thanks a lot for your help & time.

    1. 1

      I’m thinking about creating a premium database dedicated to sales people.

      I would love to focus on a specific niche, and I’m trying to find the promising one.

      This seems like a risky way to go about creating a side project.

      After all, there's no guarantee that there's a specific niche out there with a pain which is best solved by 'a premium database dedicated to sales people.'

      Have you thought about trying to really understand a niche you enjoy working with first, identify a high priority pain/way you can create value for them, and turn that into a product idea?

      That's much less risky and a lot more fun :)

      Regarding your experience as a sale person and cold e-mailing, what kind of dream database you’ll have loved to have access through your journey?

      The only time I've used paid databases of leads is when working with/at VC-backed companies who need to grow fast at all costs, even if it isn't sustainable.

      As a bootstrapper I probably wouldn't use any premium database because it's a one-off, not a sustainable, repeatable way of connecting with customers. And - more importantly - I don't learn anything about how to find these leads myself.

      Or in general, what is your process to find e-mails for your campaigns?

      Close has some great advice/info on this, here

      Hope that helps!

      1. 1

        Thanks for your comment & time, your answer makes sense :)

  7. 2

    How often does a "new course" open? Would you consider that a dark pattern?

    1. 2

      How often does a "new course" open?

      So far I've had 3 launches:

      • April, live version of the course
      • June, partly live version of the course
      • September, earlybird access to evergreen course

      There'll be one more launch (although it's not a "new" course) in October or November. That's the 'final' launch. From then on, you can join anytime :)

      Would you consider that a dark pattern?

      It's definitely useful in creating urgency, but I don't think it's a dark pattern.

      Mainly because it isn't a 'manufactured' thing - each course was genuinely different and I could only handle so many participants each time (due to the live component). And I needed to have people start at the same time - hence the opening and closing enrollment.

      From November, this won't be necessary any more.

      Finally, I don't think it counts as a dark pattern in the sense of "tricking people into buying something they otherwise don't want/need" because there's a very generous, easy money-back guarantee.

      The last thing I want is people buying, wasting my/our time and then requesting their money back :)

      1. 1

        Thanks for the response.

        I just got an email "opens in two days" when I signed up, and I've been trained to be suspicious.

        How many users did you have in each of your live courses?

  8. 2

    Hi Louis - thanks for this.

    This is an issue I hope you can talk on. When I start selling a brand new product, it's often hard to come up with an exact price people are willing to pay. Yes I'll have people saying they would pay $X, but I'm not convinced until the money is in the bank.

    Basically, I like to keep pushing my pricing higher until I find that someone says no.

    Do you think this is a good strategy? What pricing strategies have you used in the past? Is there strategies you can use to figure out the boundary someone is willing to pay for a product?

    1. 2

      Other people have written great stuff at length on pricing.

      Here are some of my favourites:

      Broadly, I think you're on the right track.

      It comes down to value:

      • how much value does the customer expect to get from your product?
      • how much value do they actually get from your product?
      • how much value do they perceive they get from your product? (eg how much of the value you produce do they notice?)

      Depending on the product and how 'obvious' the value is, your pricing is capped at the expected value.

      But you shouldn't charge more than the perceived value (even if it's lower than the expected value, because otherwise they'll churn.

      So you need to work out how to increase the expected and perceived value. As you grow and work on your product, you can do that and increase your pricing accordingly.

      That's all very theoretical though - if people are paying it and not churning, try charging more until that stops being the case :)

  9. 1

    How do you handle the first digital follow up after you meet someone (say you got their business card)? What is your method?

    1. 1

      i follow up pretty quickly (within 24h) via email or text. Normally I try and include:

      • context (who I am, where we met)
      • a compliment
      • an offer of value. For example a link to something we talked about, feedback on their site, etc...

      I keep it casual and friendly, aiming for "yes, this is someone I'd like to grab a beer with."

      Note: This isn't my strength - I'm not a natural salesperson or people person

  10. 2

    This comment was deleted 3 months ago.

    1. 3

      Do you have any advice on how I can try to figure out what their pains are?

      Do you mean pains more generally, or related to these competing products?

      From what you say here, it sounds like the audience you want to help is pretty happy with the competing tools...

      but they look seriously dated / not well done.. I thought the tools must be causing some pain. So I went and had a few conversations online with people in the industry. They had nothing but great things to say about the tools...

      It's pretty common as an industry outsider not to understand your audience's priorities like this.

      If the people you're talking to are already using a competing product and are happy with it, that sounds to me like a signal that your assumptions are mistaken, and it's time to focus on either providing that audience with value in some other way, or finding a subset of that audience which isn't happy with the competing products.

      Hope that helps!

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 3 months ago.