Myth: A Founder Is Not A Salesperson (Busted!)
Sales is an art. It is one of the most challenging things that you’ll ever have to do as a founder. You might think that your team can easily handle sales since you’re already juggling your startup's technical and foundational aspects. Well, you’d be wrong.
Every founder needs to be a brilliant salesperson - think Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk; they built successful companies not just because of their technical skills or their vision but because of their ability to sell their vision to the audience. People will not trust you or your company if you can't convince them of your vision.
As a founder, you will find yourself in situations where you will be required to sell your startup vision to people around you. What are these scenarios and why are they so crucial to your startup’s success?
Read on to find out
Pitching to friends and family
Traditionally, the earliest investors have been the 4Fs — Founders, Family, Friends and Fools (add Favcy to that now, haha). Making them believe in your idea is crucial at an early stage because they provide the much-needed support in the initial days and invest when nobody else might. Pitching to your friends and family not only helps you polish your pitch but also gives you a fair idea of how to sell your product when the actual time comes. Take their inputs into account (albeit with a pinch of salt) and incorporate them to make your elevator pitch.
Pitching to investors
Pitching to your friends and family to invest in your startup might be easier than pitching to potential investors. They are seasoned individuals who hear aspiring founders on a daily basis and know exactly where they want to put their money. Likability is key over here because, no matter how harsh it sounds: investors spend money on people, not simply on ideas. If you can sell yourself as a competent and trustworthy founder at the idea stage, investors will be willing to invest in your startup idea. But if you're stumbling over your vision, unable to adequately – and concisely – explain it, you can say goodbye to that sweet funding.
Onboarding your co-founder
As a founder, you might think you are capable of achieving success on your own, but having someone who complements your skill set can expand your prospects even further. For the success of your startup, it will be crucial to find a co-founder who buys into your vision and maybe even expands it. And to achieve this, you as a founder must be able to convince your future co-founder about what you are building.
Hiring the initial team
The initial group of people will help you lift your startup idea off the ground. Their attitude and vision can make or break your startup at its initial stages. These people need to believe in your startup idea, which can only happen if you know how to make them see what you see. Think of this situation as a modified customer-salesperson interaction. Instead of selling your product, you’re selling your vision. You will have to be incredibly persuasive as a founder, which you can only master by being an incredible salesperson.
Acquiring the initial customers
Here comes the “real” sales part: actually selling your product to the public. Getting the initial traction requires resilience and grit. You don’t have the help of tools like "hear say’ or ‘word of mouth" because no one knows you yet. It all boils down to how effectively you can convince people to buy your product, which will only happen when they trust you. Building this trust is a tough process, as it requires you to learn to accept rejection, the hallmark of a good salesperson.
Keeping the team together
It is the responsibility of the founders to make sure that everyone feels heard and understood, that their conflicts are settled, and that everyone is integrated and prepared to work toward the shared vision for your company. As a founder, your team will naturally look up to you as a leader. They will also need your guidance as your company expands and grows. Aligning your team around a common goal at regular intervals is essential to keep them together in the long run. The success of your startup depends on how successfully you can constantly sell the vision and mission of your company to your employees.
Founder, if you can take back one lesson for today, take this - invest in developing your sales skills. You'll need this skill set at every stage of your startup, from ideation to the point it goes public. If you think you lack confidence, bite the bullet and take some to build the skill - a good salesperson is confident but humble, target-oriented but empathetic, unafraid of rejection but mindful of it.
Now go ahead, and be that person.