Any good CEO must be an effective salesperson. To achieve success, a CEO must be excellent at selling to three groups: potential customers, potential employees, and potential investors. A founder’s success is very much dependent on their ability to effectively connect with and tell their story to these three groups.
For B2B companies, the founders of a startup must be personally involved in all three types of sales at the beginning. In all of these interactions, the founder has to tell a compelling story about themself and their product which can inspire people to take a risk and trust in their vision. Investing in, working for, and working with a startup always feels like a risky proposition, so audiences must be logically and emotionally convinced of a massive value proposition to take the leap. While all three three of these types of “sales” are critical, I’m going to focus on a CEO’s role in selling to customers.
To achieve the level of growth necessary for enticing investors and necessitating new employees, a startup must first achieve revenue traction.Therefore, burgeoning CEOs need to (1) become very effective salespeople, and then (2) learn how to successfully delegate the sales process to others.
Most founders I talk to would love to skip part one of this equation, and think that part two will be easy. Ignore or minimize either of these steps to your peril!
Founders are often strong salespeople from the beginning because of their passion for and intimate knowledge of the product – but really good ones layer in structures to ensure they track and measure the whole sales process. There are a lot of strategies you’re probably already using, like qualifying prospects and categorizing objections, that could be more efficient if done in a more deliberate, organized way. But if you just wanted to be a successful salesperson, you wouldn’t have started a company. So we need to get beyond founder-led sales!
If only it actually worked to just hire some random SDR firm, give them the product specs, and start the flywheel! Most founders understand that they need to delegate sales but find it’s much harder than they expected. They hire and fire salespeople. They spend months and months trying to close large contracts. They strain from the weight of being on every sales call and not having the time to devote to other parts of the business. But every startup that successfully grows has to figure out how to build an actually scalable, repeatable sales process.
While I can’t give you five easy steps to creating a repeatable sales process, I can give you five not-necessarily-easy steps to get you started: