Sales for startups: how founder selling can go right

Startup founders have a lot on their plate.

Founder sales will be the first approach for most early-stage startups. It may seem like a daunting addition to your responsibilities, but sales is a critical step that can not be compromised.

The founders of Take the Interview were wearing fifteen to twenty hats when we began working with them at Skaled — and the biggest hat was sales.

It’s the typical progression of the lean startup method for startup founders to handle sales in the beginning. The founders know the product. They LOVE the product. So, it makes perfect sense that they’re the ones to make sales, as they can communicate that knowledge and that love to potential customers.

Unfortunately, prospects don’t care about the product like founders do.

Co-founders of Take the Interview Danielle Weinblatt and Ty Abernethy were doing a great job of selling their product, despite having to squeeze sales in between a billion other responsibilities.

Before we jump into their sales strategy, here’s a quick background on the company: Take the Interview is a service for conducting interviews that allows candidates to answer questions via video, eliminating the time consumption of in-person meetings. When Weinblatt and Abernathy were contacting businesses, they were building their sales pitch around the benefits of using TTI. The service would save them time and eliminate the need to meet with people who were obviously the wrong fit. It would systematize their hiring process and bring promising candidates to their office faster.

We decided they needed to take a few steps back and start focusing on the potential need they were filling in the world.

Who were they calling, and what did these people really care about? What problems were they facing?

We helped them start with building buyer profiles — identifying each type of potential customer and pinpointing their responsibilities and concerns.

Once these profiles were established, we outlined clear deliverables and a replicable cadence of calling and emailing with consistent touch points built into their lead generation strategy. We helped to implement a few tracking tools to better understand what was happening when we sent an email. Systematizing this process allowed the founders to approach their sales responsibilities more efficiently, and eventually, pass on the roll to full time sales hires.

There were certain takeaways from our work with Take the Interview that can be applied to almost any early-stage startup. Here are a few:

1. Focus on a problem you solve in the world

Make it easy for your prospect to connect with what you’re saying by identifying problems you solve in their world — even better if it’s a problem they didn’t realize they had. Once you’ve established some affirmative conversation, your product pitch will seem less sales-y and more considerate.

2. Build out a process

Having a replicable process in place not only makes sales more manageable for busy founders, it also ensures a seamless transition when you do have the resources to hire full-time salespeople. At that point, your process will be optimized and you’ll be able to outline specific responsibilities and deliverables with the insider knowledge of how it should work.

3. Lead generation is about consistent touch points

It might be time consuming, but lead generation is ultimately a numbers game. Consistently touching people with phones calls and emails will ultimately garner more results than spending all of your time crafting the perfect message. As long as your message is strong and consistent, you’ll get the meetings with a little persistence.

After developing a sales process with buyer profiles, creating problem focused scripts, and establishing a replicable process with consistent touch points, the Take the Interview founders began tackling sales more successfully. Not long after our work with them, they raised a Series A round of $2.1 million, and eventually brought on their first full-time sales hires.

Founders can optimize their time and money with a replicable sales process and in no time, they’ll be passing the responsibility off to others.

If you’re interesting in finding out how Skaled can help your startup with sales and business development, visit our website or contact Jake Dunlap at Jake.Dunlap@Skaled.com.

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