If you are a founder and don’t have much sales experience, the topic of Founder Led Sales probably fills you with a sense of fear and an overwhelming sense of dread. 

You probably want to wait until you really have to and your product or service is great before you go out and start selling. 

This is really the exact last thing you want to do….

In this article, I will discuss 5 ways you can quickly improve your approach to be more effective, feel less pressure and start winning more deals…

1. Create your ideal client profile and engage with them early

Regardless of the stage of your business, it’s important to have a clear understanding or a hypothesis of who your ideal client is. This helps you focus your demand creation efforts during your founder-led sales phase and ensure that you’re targeting the right people. 

One of the reasons founders find sales so scary is because they think their job is to sell and that simply isn’t true because no one likes to feel sold to.

Their role is problem solve and the main problem that needs solving is how I get my ICP to want to buy my product. 

One of the critical steps most founders overlook is to build genuine connections and relationships in the early days with your ideal customers, learn about their challenges, identify how the problems you solve impact them in their lives, and get a vision for what the ideal outcome looks like for them. 

Most founders wait until they have a product ready to take to market before engaging with the market but a genuine connection can take time to build with someone so it is important you begin this process as early as possible, even before you have product market fit or an MVP. 

People are more likely to buy from people they like or have a connection with and this is really important when you may have an incomplete product compared to your competitors in the early days of your business.

As the founder, don’t be afraid the adjust your ICP over time if you aren’t getting the sales results you need.

2. Aim to learn and become an expert and authority in your space

One of the most common mistakes that founders make is thinking the market has the same understanding of the problems their business solves. Often the market looks at problems through an existing lens that can limit the effectiveness or ROI of a new product in the market. To change this, the market needs to be educated and although this takes time, aiming to become an authority or expert in your space is a great way to bring attention to your business. 

We can actually see examples of this everywhere in founders like Gary Vaynerchuck of VaynerMedia, Elon Musk of SpaceX & Tesla, Steli Efti of Close.com and Marc Benioff of Salesforce. 

In fact, in Marc’s best-selling book “Behind the Cloud”, he goes into great detail about how he employed this exact strategy of becoming an authority in his space and how it propelled his business onto the world stage and today Salesforce is a market leader. 

Becoming an authority has three main benefits for your business and they are.

  1. It brings attention to you and your business
  2. It brings in new customers 
  3. Increases loyalty in your customers

This isn’t just luck on behalf of founders who become an authority, this is a carefully thought out strategy that takes a while to bear real fruit but will propel your business forward when you get this right

3. Piece together how your target clients would buy your product and create your sales process

I’ve been in sales for many years and there is one thing I know for sure about the sales process and that is there is no one size fits all process. Sure there are the blocks in the process like “lead generation” that every business must have, but every market is different. If one approach works for one industry, it might not work for another. 

That is one of the reasons a founder led sales process is so important in the early days so you learn what works in your markets and more importantly, what doesn’t. This is why thinking about sales as a problem or puzzle helps you piece the puzzle together bit by bit to create a process over time.

This is one of the reasons why developing a Go-To-Market strategy or plan first before engaging with the market first largely is ineffective and can waste your time.

The good news is there is a repeatable pattern of how everyone buys and you just need to apply that framework to your ICP or markets you want to enter and adjust to get the results you need. 

You can get a free copy of this buying framework in a book I wrote specifically for founders here about developing an effective sales strategy. 

4. Use your research and connections built to create your unique go-to-market strategy

As the founder of your company, you have a lot on your plate. You’re responsible for the big-picture vision as well as the day-to-day details and decisions. Continuing to base your sales strategy on a founder led approach will eventually become detrimental to your business and limit your ability to scale. It is imperative that you begin documenting what you have learned in the trenches of selling early so you can begin transferring that knowledge to a sales team at the right time. 

Once you find your sales strategy (and you will with consistent effort), you’ll be able to create your unique go-to-market plan based on real-world feedback and experience so you can begin transitioning to a sales team-led business. If we think of a sales process as a conveyor, it can take a B2B client a while to go from beginning to end but that doesn’t mean you can’t start documenting your GTM early once you feel you have that part of the process nailed.

5. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and learn

In the early days of your founder led sales approach, it’s important to move quickly and not be afraid to fail. This means that you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes. The best way to do this is to have a growth mindset and always be looking for ways to improve. Get rid of the notion that failure is bad or embarrassing – after all, if you’re never failing then how will you ever get better? 

Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve learned as an enterprise SaaS salesperson still make me cringe today but helped me learn some of my most valuable lessons which helped me become 20-30x better at my role. 

As Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn said, If you are not embarrassed by your first product release, then you’ve launched too late. This 100% applies to your sales approach as well. You must get comfortable with the fact you might get punched in the face many times but you’ll learn how to duck and weave. Don’t be afraid to fail and learn from those failures.

If you are a founder who is struggling with creating a founder led sales approach and want some advice or help on this topic, feel free to book a strategy call here and we can explore some ways to get you on track to start engaging with your ICP and creating your sales strategy. 

Gavin Tye.

Gavin Tye.

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