How to Conduct Early Stage Sales

Originally posted on 12/2/19

Collin Gutman is a Co-Founder and Partner at SaaS Ventures, with over a decade of cumulative experience as both an investor and a startup founder. Prior to founding SaaS Ventures, Collin co-founded Acceleprise, the world’s first pure enterprise tech accelerator. Collin also has been an entrepreneur, having founded WorkAmerica, a social impact workforce development startup. Collin holds a BA cum laude from Yale University, and is an avid DC sports fan.

All too often, I speak to a brilliant technical founder who says “I’ve had trouble selling, so I’m hiring a sales guy.” I’ve never invested in one of those companies.

Sales isn’t a binary skill like coding –it’s not “you can do it or you can’t.” It’s a gray area. Professional salespeople certainly have their merits and are of course valuable. But they’re not magical.

In fact, the best person to sell a product is its creator. You’re the evangelist — you willed the product into existence with your vision to solve a market need that you saw. Who can better paint that picture better than you?

So the first sales should always come from a founder, not a hired gun. But who are those first target customers?

If you’re an evangelist to solve a problem, you likely know companies who have that problem. Your network and your second degree connections are bigger than you think — you can network your way to a lot of companies.

If you can’t network your way to 5 companies that have the problem you’re trying to solve and are willing to pay for your product, then you have a problem. Your problem isn’t your ability to sell, or a number of leads, it’s a lack of product market fit.

If you can’t sell it, nobody can.