B2B · B2B sales

First sales in B2B - ideal strategy for a solo technical founder?

Ellen Clarke Founder and Chief Scientist of Brain Evolved, PhD in Applied Cognition, worked with NIH, NIA, DARPA

July 30th, 2019

I know that the first sales are almost always going to require heavy involvement from the founder, but I'm wondering if it makes sense to also hire a specialist for B2B. I know that I could figure it out on my own, but it would take a substantial amount of time for me to learn the sales structure and cycles of other businesses.

Dane Madsen Organizational and Operational Strategy Consultant

July 31st, 2019

The first sales do not require heavy involvement from the founder; they require total involvement. Founder sales is nearly the most critical step in product/market fit. This is where you get the real understanding if you have a concept or a product, a tool or a feature, a company or an "experience". This is where you talk with your potential customers and get the feedback if they would buy, what they would pay, and what the expectations are.


Once you have 10 or 20 that say yes, then you might hire - not a "specialist" - but an "explorer". This person is to augment (not replace) your effort and direction from your experiences so you can get even more feedback as you retool the product and support the operations. Once they are too busy, you might add another explorer. Perhaps this is the B2B specialist you are referring to, but it is sales, with a strong bias to getting customer and prospect input into the product.



Andy Freeman Product Management and ... - Looking for new opportunities

Last updated on August 1st, 2019

The short answer is probably not. The issue is that you probably can't hire the sort of person you want. [Added] The problem is that the sort of person you want is very expensive. You can take a chance on an unknown, but if they're good, they'll leave as soon as they start proving themselves. If they're not, you're even worse off.

This is why co-founders are important. They're not cheap labor, they're good people who want to be all in.

Andrii Morozevych CTO, Smartphone App Dev: Limeapps.co.uk

August 1st, 2019

If you have a bit of resource, it is better to hire somebody, rather than spend all your time on things that you hate. In the same time, you can still be involved in this and learn quite a lot of useful technics yourself. Money usually creates more "healthy" relationship, then just finding a co-founder. But if after working for some time with a specific person you can see great potential, it could be useful to share some or a substantial amount of stock with them.

Leah Weinberger CoFounder & CBDO of Edgen Films, LLC. Digital Media Experienced interested in VR, AI and Haptic Tech

August 6th, 2019

I believe that you either Get Good or Hire Good. Your time is valuable and I don't see the point of learning an entire field just to get past this point. HIRE a solid sales person or bring on a Savvy Founder that can help this juncture. The point is to sell your product NOT for you to become a super sales person. Work from your strengths. Always.

Good Luck!

L

Paul Smullen CTO/Founder focused on data and integration

July 31st, 2019

Sales is the hardest part. The more I do this, the more I respect people that can close sales. The strategy initially is sweat your own network to land your first sale. Use and abuse it - get someone that trusts you to try for free then pay. It is really hard for a tech founder to sell sometimes. You need to cross that chasm or bring in a commercial co-founder.... You can get some great advice on marketing etc.but closing a B2B sale is not easy.

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business coach

August 7th, 2019

I can't really say it any better than @Dane Madsen already did. The founder, even though they may have many other responsibilities, none of them titled sales, is ultimately the primary salesperson for the company. That may not necessarily mean going out and closing deals forever, but it does refer to how people get to know your company, what you're about, what you do, why you're trustworthy, etc.


While there are quirks to B2B versus B2C, they're not dramatically different. And if you don't already know the sales structure and cycle of your potential clients, you should stop everything else and learn it yourself right now. You cannot proceed successfully without this firsthand knowledge.

Ken Weatherford Owner of WP Global Syndicate LLC

August 8th, 2019

It depends on the product/service, the marketing methods you plan to use (email, video, audio, website, etc.), whether the business are local or nationwide. There are several great marketing tools you SHOULD use, but it would be helpful to know what methods you are currently using or plan to use.

Ernie Tae Kim

August 8th, 2019

There are two folds to this. 1) You would need to make 3-5 sales by buying your projects and in return, you get to use their company logo and testimonials so you can established your credentials and go after paying clients. 2) In order to do this and you need someone who knows you and trusts you to try (not always but sometimes not-so-market-proven) product. Nobody wants to take a risk losing their job or taint their reputation within any firm by using an unknown solution/product; hence, it needs to be someone you are really close to. If you have it, you don't really need a sales/biz dev co-founder or a partner. But if you don't, you should find someone who can open these doors for you.

David Insro Founder & CEO, Serial Entrepreneur

August 8th, 2019

As others have said, you need to be the primary salesperson early on until you've learnt how to sell your product. If you need to learn about selling to enterprise, you may be able to get a mentor to guide you. But a word of warning. 90% of experienced B2B specialists have no experience of a pre-product market fit working environment.

Ken Weatherford Owner of WP Global Syndicate LLC

August 9th, 2019

I wanted to reinforce your need to learn your product(s)/service(s) and environments they are sold in. No B2B professional is going to know your business better than you. Only you can tell the story and define the features, advantages, and benefits of the product/service you offer. Once you have done your homework, you can request assistance from a marketing professional, if you want to.