How to do founder-led sales
Do it the right way
This post is for founders doing B2B sales for the first time, or looking to brush up their sales skills.
I’m a strong believer that the founding CEO should be the company’s first VP Sales because it grounds your long term vision in the near term reality of your customers’ needs. I love seeing early stage CEOs prospecting for business, going on sales calls and closing deals as it builds empathy for the hurdles their future sales teams will face:
However, I commonly see 2 problems in founder-led sales:
Chasing revenue—It’s natural to want to do whatever it takes it get a deal done. After all, its hard enough to get in front of prospective buyers when you are small and every new customer is a proof point that helps with future sales, recruiting and fundraising. As a founding CEO this can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you can sell features and capabilities you don’t have yet, knowing that you can change the roadmap the moment you get off the call. On the other hand, these one-off customizations disrupt your plan, disrupt your team, dilute your value prop and create long term support debt. I see a lot of early stage B2B startups acquire an initial smorgasbord of SMB and enterprise customers only to get pulled in multiple directions soon after.
Educating instead of selling—Who doesn’t love referrals? It always feels great when an investor, advisor or friend introduces you to an executive at a big company. You meet, everyone says nice things about each other, it feels great, but no business materializes from it. But just know that big co execs love meeting with startups because it’s a refreshing break from their daily grind. They’ll usually pick up some insight from meeting with you that can make them look good with their peers without having to open their wallets for you.
So how should founders do sales without running into these issues?—The key lies in laying a foundation of focus and process and sticking with it. Here’s how: