You’re reading an excerpt of Founding Sales: The Early-Stage Go-To-Market Handbook, a book by Pete Kazanjy. The most in-depth, tactical handbook ever written for early-stage B2B sales, it distills early sales first principles and teaches the skills required, from being a founder selling to being an early salesperson and a sales leader. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

I like to think of the sales cycle bucketed into several major stages: First, there’s outreach and engagement, where you’re engaging a prospect account with the goal of setting an appointment. Next comes pitching, where you begin a commercial conversation with a prospect with the goal of eliciting more information about the particulars of their situation and persuading them that your solution fits their pain. And the stages continue all the way to closing—getting the prospect to sign on the line that is dotted, and the associated pipeline management. Each stage has its own set of actions, and its own goals, which we’ll cover in depth.

cautionYou will be the one taking all of these actions. This is another place where early-stage founders get tripped up. They hope that they can just hire a salesperson who will figure this all out. Go to Costco, buy a bin of sales dust. Sprinkle some sales dust on product. Poof: IPO. This is simply not the case. Sales professionals are adept at taking a proven product to market with a proven message and a proven set of materials—with minimal variation. They are not there to prove those things out on their own.

importantThe selling you will be engaged in is what is known as evangelical sales—a mix of product management, product marketing, and sales. In evangelical sales, there is a tight feedback loop between your interactions with the prospect and modifications of both the selling materials (product marketing) and even the features of the product itself (product management). It will be an iterative approach, with a number of false starts. But that tight feedback loop is indispensable in tuning your go-to-market in a way that allows you to start winning customers and, later, to package your approach in a way that can be replicated by an army of sales professionals. But the only way you’ll get there later is by doing it yourself now.

In this chapter, we’re going to touch on the first part of that cycle, outreach and engagement, with the goal of getting appointments on your calendar. A little later, we’ll cover the mechanics of presenting to a prospect, demoing, and then working the deal as it moves down the funnel. Both are important, in that if you don’t do the first, you won’t have the opportunity for the second. And even if you’re somehow amazing at closing business from the first step, if you aren’t able to reliably fill the top of your funnel, you’ll struggle to acquire the number of customers you’d prefer. A .500 batter who only gets a single at-bat a game isn’t nearly as productive as one who has three or four a game. So let’s make sure you’re getting those at-bats.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

As noted above, there is a particular tempo to enterprise sales’ distinct stages. In this first stage, the goal is to set up a commercial conversation about the prospect’s business pains and how your solution could potentially solve them, a.k.a. a pitch or demo. The goal at this stage is not to sell the solution. You’re simply selling a conversation—the opportunity to learn more, and tell more—the same way that the goal of a first date is not to get married, but rather to get to a second date (assuming there is a potential fit!). You try to get married on the first date, it’s gonna be an awkward scene. Same with sales.

As a non-sales person approaching this, you have an advantage of sorts over pure sales professionals seeking to set appointments. Because your offering is early stage, and you are not a salesperson, you can often approach these conversations as research or customer development—trying to understand pain points, and how they are currently solved. There is a balance here, as it is important to make sure that these conversations always remain in the realm of the commercial; you don’t want prospects thinking this conversation has nothing to do with addressing their business pains and potentially solving them, for a price. But because you’re the founder, CTO, CEO, or what have you, you can use that to your advantage and in doing so reduce the friction of getting these meetings on the calendar.

Management and Early CRM

You’re reading a preview of an online book. Buy it now for lifetime access to expert knowledge, including future updates.
If you found this post worthwhile, please share!