As founders of a sales enablement company, it would probably be rather shocking if we didn’t believe in the importance of founder-led sales. Afterall, we’ve spent years as sales professionals and our ICP is made up of outbound sales professionals. Sales is in our DNA as a company and we believe the founders need to embody that first.
The concept of founder-led sales naturally applies primarily to early stage companies. And while some founders might engage in sales due to the resource constraints of a typical startup, the benefits to a fast moving agile startup are immense. We’ve been long-time followers of Steve Blank’s lean startup methods and specifically the Customer Development Manifesto. The Customer Development model prescribes 4 activities that startups should engage in to obtain product-market fit: Customer Discovery, Customer Validation, Customer Creation, Company Building.
Early days of a startup require a lot of testing and validating. We spend a significant amount of our time testing hypotheses and understanding customer needs (Customer Discovery) and developing a repeatable, scalable sales model (Customer Validation). As founders we should be deeply involved in both of these processes as they’ll greatly determine how quickly we can find product-market fit. Sales brings us face to face with our potential customers and speeds up the feedback loop between Customer Discovery and Customer Validation.
Here are the reasons we do founder-led sales and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future:
- Customer development → we get to speak directly with our potential customers. Each conversation gives us insight into who our ICP is, how they work and their specific needs. The insights are used to develop the product.
- A repeatable sales motion → figuring out how to sell in one’s specific sector is hard. If you hire people to figure it out for you, they’ll likely fail. The founders are in the best position to figure out the initial sales model. Only once that’s been established and validated can the company start hiring for this motion.
- Cost effective → when founders lead sales they can delay having to hire for sales positions until there is product-market-fit. A reduced payroll in the early days of a startup is indispensable and makes it easier to allocate limited resources to product development instead.
- Establish authority → the founders are the best storytellers of their business. Prior to having fancy logos as customers or meaningful data points, the most compelling weapon a startup has at its disposal is its passionate storytelling. It’s easier to establish authority and credibility if founders are the ones telling that story.
We believe that founders should get their hands dirty, figuring out, even imperfectly, the initial motions of the company from product to sales and marketing. It’s much easier to hire for each role once you have a good sense for what works.