Why Founder-Led Sales Is Important Pre Product Market Fit ๐Ÿ…

Why Founder-Led Sales Is Important Pre Product Market Fit ๐Ÿ…

Dushyant MishraDushyant MishraDushyant MishraDushyant Mishra

Dushyant Mishra

November 18, 2021

7

mins read

And more often than not, founders ask this question, โ€œWhen do I hire my first sales person.โ€ The answer is usually subjective. But the truth is, you already have your first salesperson. Sheโ€™s looking back at you in the mirror.
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These questions remind me of a very candid chat I had with Srikrishnan Ganesan, Co-founder and CEO of Rocketlane, where he explained how founders need to be the startupโ€™s very first salesperson.

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Founder-led sales is the cornerstone for almost every B2B startup. Not just because they drive the initial growth, but also because they accelerate learning. You have to talk to customers constantly, and their response helps you understand what works and what doesnโ€™t.


There is no better feedback for an organization than whatโ€™s happening on the front lines. At times, The larger the corporations get, the further management gets away from the trenches. Great leaders put themselves on the front line.
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Efficacy of founder-led sales at the very early stage is one of the biggest predictors of success, in our opinion. Part of it is learning the hard way โ€” by doing. Things like sales funnels, leads, etc. are great to theorise, but what works in DevTools B2B differs from Salestech B2B differs from MedTech B2B. In our honest opinion, founders have to learn things by doing them. Founders being empathetic, listening, collaborating, and building relationships โ€” makes a huge difference in the early stages of the companyโ€™s growth. And hence, founder-led sales is far more meaningful than having a Sales Director or VP Sales as the go-to person for everything around sales โ€” especially in the pre PMF stages.
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Founders who have done this and thus are savvy, are not just great at driving sales โ€” but are great at identifying the right โ€˜product-value guidanceโ€™ their future sales team might need. This will help the team to move quickly and develop strong selling skills faster. Itโ€™s almost a virtuous cycle. One of the most important skills in B2B sales is to sell the value quickly and take care of the details afterwards. Itโ€™s much easier to sell than to sell โ€˜valueโ€™.
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Think about it, if you are selling value, you are explaining why the deal matters. If you are selling value, then you are doing so with an argument.

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How to get started with founder led sales ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Inthe initial few days, be prepared to spend your days (and nights) teaching yourself sales by actually doing it. Set up one-on-one meetings with your prospects and go deep into the process. Thatโ€™s how people learn โ€” from meeting real people through one-on-one, one-on-three, one-on-four, and one-on-more.
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You will have to sit with your prospective clients and really work through every step in the buyer journey (i.e. what the customerโ€™s problem is, the solution, the pain points, the positive and negative case for buying, your solutions, differentiation, and how you position yourself). Then you just walk them through the sales funnel.

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The PMF you need before you get to the Product Market Fit

Product readiness

  1. Does the product create significant value for the end user?
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Market readiness

  1. Do we know the Buyer persona? (Is it the CXO OR Head of X OR someone further down the org structure)
  2. Do we know how much people will pay for your solution?
  3. Are we creating a new market or substituting the incumbents?
  4. Maximum pain point (sweet spot): Which geography? What industry vertical? What stage of the company?Do the clients have a budget for what you are selling (what P&L does it fall into? โ€” S&M? HR?)
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Feedback loops

  1. Are the existing customers bugging you for feature requests/ feedback?
  2. Do you have a process in place to extract the feedback?
  3. Are we tracking Inbound vs Outbound leads and scoring them?
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Set Goals ๐ŸŽฏ

  1. Your number one goal is to get a product out that solves a problem. Work with design partners to tweak the features and prove that your product delivers value.
  2. Your goal number two is to identify which cohort of customers are reacting positively to the product.
  3. Your goal number three is to increase your ToFu (top of the funnel) by reaching out to the right persona identified in the second goal.
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I am sure most founders are pretty clear of the first point when they start. The second and the third point is where feedback is needed because that drives two critical needles for the founder โ€” revenue and product roadmap. The worst thing one can do while reaching out to prospects is not tracking and tagging the background of the companies. Time is of the essence! โฐ
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At the initial stages, this should always be in an A/B testing format where you are experimenting with a target group across cohorts: early-stage, series A/B/C, enterprise. And across personas: Founders, Head of X, CXOs, others. Measuring responses and tracking conversion rates from these places would help identify better which target group is responding faster to demo requests, is willing to pay, and is actively seeking to grow with your product.
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Tools to get you started ๐Ÿ› 

We spoke to over 10 early-stage founders โ€” for whom outbound is one of the important pillars โ€” to identify the tools that they have been using to enable their outreach. Below is a comprehensive yet 13k-ft view of every vertical which can get you started as you approach founder-led sales. Some tools mentioned below overlap across multiple segments and we leave it to your requirements and needs to see what helps you best in your journey.
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๐Ÿ”Ž Identify Buyer persona:
Understand and track whom do you wish to sell your product to. The buyer persona should be crisp and as tempting as it may sound to anyone who can use product, it is critical to focus on which customers are providing you with maximum ROI.


๐Ÿ“œ Lead Generation and enrichment:
Next step is to identify the list of candidates that match with your ideal persona. This is an important process where you get your bullets ready before you get all guns blazing and start your outreach.
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๐Ÿ“ Writing assistants: There are tools out there to help you write better, set the tonality of the conversation. Do not miss personalizing your campaigns โ€” identify what form of your product-value communication works. In time, you will get better and better at putting your product in front of the clients.
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๐ŸŽฅ Video tools: Using video for outreach is proving to drive almost a 48% increase in the open rates for folks who used to traditionally only try email outreach. You can leverage tech to send personalized demo videos, personalized pitches and focus on a deeper level of engagement with your prospects.
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๐Ÿ“† Appointment scheduling: These are life saviours. A lot does not need to be said about this segment. Please use one of the tools to remove the scheduling friction.
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๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿฝ Sales enablement: Albeit used for a little larger sales teams but a value adding tool set to keep an eye out for. These tools help sales reps with ammunition (knowledge repository) that they might need while selling.
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๐Ÿชด Sales engagement: These tools supercharge your performance and suggest where are the places you can be better. They also come with a host of automations such as customizable email templates, multi channel sequences, best time of the day scheduling, org level rule based automation workflows. They sync with your other sources of data and provide insights, save time and leave you with the ability to have better personalization.
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โš™๏ธ CRM: At the initial stages, CRMs are going to be the source of truth as far as information about your deal is concerned. Be sure to chose one at the early stages that suits your needs best.
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๐Ÿ“‘ Contracting: Avoid friction while closing accounts by using some tools.
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Brief on how these tools might help you

We understand that starting the outreach process could be daunting at the start. Second-time SaaS founders often are aware of how they want to approach the process. To cut out the noise, some resources that might be of great help.
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Additional resources that you can go through ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿพ

  1. David Skokโ€™s presentation from a recent edition of SaaStr.
  2. Founder led selling maturity stages by Pete Kazanjy
  3. Christophโ€™s โ€œA better way to visualize pipeline developmentโ€
  4. Louisโ€™ Monitoring a Seed stage SaaS Business (video here too)
  5. Cold emailing templates (by Lemlist)
  6. Tips on lead prospecting, qualification and reachout!
  7. Brilliant piece on how to drive revenue in first year of sales
  8. Budget for sales by Dawn
  9. First Round Capital has compiled an excellent read for early stage founders on the tools they should be using at the early stages: Messaging, Email outreach materials , Sales presentation (deck) and demo & preso script.
  10. Help with SEO
  11. Anything and everything sales from Sales Hacker
  12. Interesting twitter thread on the topic: Jeff Chang @JeffChang30

-Dushyant Mishra

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