Doing sales isn’t typically one of the favorite things of most startup CEOs (and by extension, startup founding teams). Certainly they want sales (because sales = $$), but they don’t want to actually do the sales. This is a huge problem for startups.
Startup CEOs need to be very close to their prospects and customers
Startup CEOs need to understand why people are buying and why people aren’t buying. They need to understand the buying and decision-making processes.
Even technical startup CEOs or technical co-founders need to be actively involved in the sales process. Ultimately this is going to make them better founders. It’s also going to help with product development, and the communication within the startup.
Startup CEOs are the only salespeople you need
At least initially, the CEO and founding team are the salespeople. If you outsource sales (whether that’s through hiring or through a channel partner strategy) you can very quickly get into trouble. Setting targets is easy, but understanding why you’re hitting them, or more likely not hitting them, becomes almost impossible if you’re not doing the actual sales work.
Figure out sales first, then hire others to execute
Startup CEOs need to understand the sales process through-and-through so that they can, as quickly as possible, create a genuine sales strategy. Once a sales strategy is in place, you can hire others to execute that strategy and measure their success.
Most startup CEOs aren’t natural salespeople. It’s probably not a significant part of their work history. But if you can’t do sales for your own startup you’re going to end up relying too significantly on others for your startup’s overall success. You won’t be able to communicate appropriately with your Board of Directors, investors and employees on how things are going — because you won’t really know. And you won’t be able to communicate with your customers either; you won’t understand their needs, challenges, frustrations, etc. well enough to respond accurately, intelligently and quickly. Reports from salespeople aren’t enough. Startup CEOs need to “get their hands dirty” in sales.
Startup CEOs: Stay close to your prospects and customers
Don’t make the mistake of outsourcing sales to others while you’re busy doing a million other things. I know you’re up to your eyeballs in millions of decisions and running like a headless chicken, but make active sales participation a priority.