Should a startup founder handle sales when first getting started?

echojason@gmail.com'

JASON LEMKIN

The answer is yes – 95% of the time.

The “best” sequence for building a repeatable sales engine is roughly:

  • The CEO/founder should close at least the first 10 (or 20 or whatever) customers. That way, she knows. She knows the process, what works, what doesn’t. It’s OK if you are “terrible” at it. What matters is that somehow, someway, you still get those 10 >paying< customers closed.
  • Then, hire first 2 reps. Not just 1. To reproduce what CEO did, managed by CEO. If you only hire 1, you can’t run an A/B test and really learn what works at the rep level.
  • Ideally, hire your Head of Demand Gen around now. Even though you may not have that much revenue or that many leads, he will help you get more leads and maximize the experience of the leads you do have.
  • Then, once you have 2 reps that can hit quota (even a modest quota) — you are ready for a VP of Sales. Because her job isn’t to figure out how to sell your product. It’s to scale a tiny engine into something bigger. To hire reps 3–300. To go bigger, stronger, faster. But not to figure out if you really have a repeatable sales process.

This is the “best” process because it’s the fastest and most efficient.

But, sometimes a founder is >so< terrible at sales, so awful at it, that literally it’s hopeless.

In that case, hire someone to do sales for you before you’ve even closed 10 customers yourself.

But it’s super risky.

How can you figure out who to hire, if you can’t even close 10 customers yourself? Really … you can’t.

View original question on quora

Published on September 23, 2016
  • Jason, two questions:

    1. When you say “hire your head of demand gen” … is this generally head of marketing in your eyes, or would a head of Sales Development qualify if you’re focusing primarily on outbound? Or does it just depend if the leads are generated primarily via inbound/ outbound? I assume this person is a notch below “VP” level and is actually generating demand (leads) themselves, correct?

    2. If the founder has enough bandwidth to close deals and you can only make one hire to start scaling up sales, would you first hire the closer (rep 1 and 2) or hire a sales development rep and have the SDR pass off to the founder to close? I’m thinking hire SDR and/or Head of Demand Gen first, since it’s easier and cheaper than hiring a closer?

Share This