Four sales truths that B2B founders need to learn ASAP

By David Frankel

😍 At least one founder needs to love sales

👶 That founder doesn’t need to have sales experience

❄️ Sales can take many forms

〽️ But avoid being seduced by sales alternatives

Let me explain…

😍 A founder needs to love sales

The rise of Product-Led Growth (PLG) leads many founders to think they can scale a startup without ever talking to customers. This is a low-probability notion. Someone on the founding team needs to be an evangelist (with a quota).

Even where the product seems to “sell itself,” I can assure you that kind of effortless sales motion only occurs after someone has made it their mission to find new pools of customers, reach out to them, and build sales processes around their preferences.

The “build it, and they will come” mantra has killed more startups than co-founder-infighting and better-funded competitors combined. Someone needs to *own* sales from day one.

👶 You don’t have to have sales experience.

Some of the best sales-focused founders I’ve worked with have stumbled into the role out of necessity. Often, they learn on the job. But they love the work, and they’re well-suited for it.

You don’t have to have carried a bag for a big company. Still, you need some extroversion, an aptitude for listening, the bravery to sell a half-finished product, and the resiliency to keep at it after hearing “no” a dozen times in a row.

This person doesn’t have to fit the high-pressure, used car-salesman stereotype, but someone on the founding team must be energized by engaging with customers. You cannot punt sales. If a co-founder doesn’t enthusiastically accept this mantle, you need another co-founder.

❄️ Sales can take many forms

Your ACV will drive the kinds of sales programs your startup can entertain. A $5K ACV means you do inside sales. >$50K may let you put reps in the field. $500K lets you do some wining and dining.

Whether your model is self-serve, B2B2C, or through channels doesn’t matter. Each model has pros and cons, but it’s up to someone on your team to be a passionate believer in one of them and become a champion of it.

The first step in building a successful startup sales culture is finding an advisor who can help you think through the different sales models and which would best fit your product and personality types.

〽️ But avoid being seduced by sales alternatives

Beware efforts that feel commercial with little quantifiable output. Open-ended branding projects are a common diversion. Overthinking your sales “process” when you have a single rep is another pitfall.

Don’t indulge in sales-adjacent activities that don’t generate revenue in short order. Of course, you shouldn’t avoid marketing, but if you have 3–4 people focused on MarCom, customer service, etc., and only one account exec, don’t be surprised when revenue stagnates.

Sales can’t be a part-time project. While this clearly depends on product complexity and business type, after the company’s first year or so, sales vs. product resources should start approaching a 50/50 split.

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Our mission is to be the most aligned VC for founders at seed. #ProudInvestor in @Uber @TheTradeDeskinc @Buzzfeed @Cruise @Diaandco @PillPack @SeatGeek & more.

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Our mission is to be the most aligned VC for founders at seed. #ProudInvestor in @Uber @TheTradeDeskinc @Buzzfeed @Cruise @Diaandco @PillPack @SeatGeek & more.

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