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Show HN: Sales for Founders (salesforfounders.com)
149 points by louisswiss 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

Definitely a skill founders (CEOs) should optimize for. Reminds me of another free resource https://www.foundingsales.com/

Yes, +1 for Founding Sales. It’s super useful and comprehensive. Pete Kazanjy (the author) is a great guy and is very knowledgeable and helpful.

(I am the CEO of Sourcegraph, an enterprise software company, and Pete’s advice has been directly helpful to us.)

OP here. Interesting, thanks for sharing!

I haven't read the book you mentioned, but have come across it a few times previously.

If you're wondering how the S4F course is different from this book (or other sales resources, such as Steli Efti's amazing content on early-stage sales), maybe this analogy will help:

Most sales resources are like programming tutorials - they'll teach you how to write a for loop, for example.

The S4F course, by comparison, doesn't teach you how to do sales prescriptively, so much as helps you debug how you're already doing sales reactively.

This is (in my experience after several iterations of the course) much more effective at helping you get sales results - as the real difficulty isn't in working out how to do sales, but instead in diagnosing what has gone wrong in the first place.

Happy to answer any questions (also about sales more generally).

"... you can't find your first customers"

I think the biggest problem for most of us is not being exposed to actual burning problems which can be solved with a small budget, and not solved already by dozens of other startups or even free software. Even though I am a quite shy person, and need to learn a lot about sales, my biggest problem is not that I cannot do sales if I really have to, but that i donát have good business ideas which are within reach. (I am a developer.)

> and not solved already by dozens of other startups or even free software

That used to deter me as well. My line of thinking was: if the problem X is already solved by N companies, why should I launch yet another competitor? Now that I'm wiser, my answer is "because people are familiar with the problem, are already paying for the solution, which means there's a market for that". I can't stress the last point enough. The market that you choose to serve will determine most of your growth (some markets are harder to get into than others, though).

In essence, you swap an idea validation challenge with a sales and marketing challenge. If all you're looking for is building a small, independent, and sustainable business, I believe this is the most optimal approach to take.

For the context: I run a B2B SaaS in a competitive market.

I completely agree with this. Just because an idea already exist doesn't mean you shouldn't build a product for it. But you should try and build it in some better way. A lot of products exist but aren't very good or have not been "modernised". It's then A LOT easier to get that product off the ground because of the hardest things is idea validation.

My Entrepreneurial Engineer class I took said that. Investors regard 1) new IP, 2) new product, 3) new marketing channel as risks not advantages. Selling a better mousetrap is the ideal startup from that point of view.

I second a portion of that. Sometimes it is tough being both and idea factory, and a great engineer, but still to have analysis paralysis about which idea to build, because you are not sure regarding scale of need of need.

This is temporary, but it is a loop that comes again and again between projects.

Slightly tangential: Does anyone get fed up by sales people? Especially aggresive and pushy sales reps? When a car dealership a fun thing to go to?

As a consumer, sales people bother me to no end. I was in Delhi last year, went to buy a silk saree and people were going around left and right trying to sell this and that. I prefer going to a store in Paris and skip this noise.

IMO - I could be completely and utterly wrong/naive in terms of the actual effectiveness of hiring sales people, but personally & emotionally want to rally the world to end the traditional sales model. Sell to me in the right context and without intervention and attention seeking. Sales representatives are pop-up ads for the real world - I want an adblock and block all these people.

So, we wanted to buy Solidworks CAD license for our company. I go on their website: https://www.solidworks.com/how-to-buy -> I fill out the stupid form, then some asshole calls my cell, tells me to schedule a meeting to "understand my needs", we setup a meeting in person at our company. Got a conference room booked and he starts his dog and pony show. I wish I can get rid of him. He was probably a nice person but the situation is getting in my way of the goal - As a consumer, I am willing to pay for this software but I can't without these hurdles. That makes it painful. We decided to go with Autodesk's Inventor license because it does everything we want it to do - and their prices are transparent. No need to call any one. Just click, buy and we're done in about 10 mins: https://www.autodesk.com/products/inventor/overview

Fuck sales, I am sorry but that's how I feel. Sell your products in a "pull" model than "push" model. Don't piss off your customers. Ofcourse, I am ignoring the other side - what would I do if I were running a business. Not sure, and not the consumer's problem.

I use to think like that because I was always thinking about software the same way as I think about buying things as a consumer. Basically thinking about products the way I buy them from Amazon. Or buying a car as you mentioned.

But the reality of software sales is different. There are people at companies that get paid to hear software vendors pitch their solutions. Those are decision-makers who need to execute a budget and improve processes. They are dependent on finding the right vendors.

It's way different when you think about that way. If you're a decision-maker and have the power to buy software (and it's part of your job) you want to hear from salespeople. It's part of your duties.

If you have a problem in your organization and someone comes offering software that somehow solves it and you have the budget to buy this kind of software it would be irresponsible of you to not hear what they have to offer.

Sure when stakes are high, the sales people are of different caliber. It becomes a big team that's trying to find the best solution for the company - there are written project proposals, reviews and decision meetings. They don't use sleezy techniques and unruly ways to "get them". Or aggressively piss people off.

But that's not what this website appears to targetting: https://salesforfounders.com/

My perception is that 90% of the sales people I meet are unpleasant just like 90% of the ads I see are bad. Then you come across a cool Hermes advertisment that you want to sit through because its beautiful.

> They don't use sleezy techniques and unruly ways to "get them". Or aggressively piss people off.

That's definitely NOT what S4F is about.

One of the main reasons I made this course is that most founders - especially technical founders - still have this impression of sales as being sleazy or aggressive.

I'm sure that is still out there today - in the used car industry, for example.

But - in SaaS at least - sales has moved on.


Because it had to.

Simply put, when you are selling a SaaS product (with free trials, money-back guarantees, monthly billing...) it isn't worth making the sale if it's a bad fit.

Lying, pressuring people into buying something they don't need, being aggressive just doesn't pay anymore. Yes - they might sign up for one month - but then they'll churn and you'll have spent more acquiring them than they paid you.

Instead, S4F teaches you how to move to a 'team' mindset...

- how to understand your customer - how to align your goals with theirs - how to create a shared success plan (so they don't just buy, they actually get value from your product and don't churn) - how to nudge them along that path to success

I feel this comment deep in my soul, having bad experiences with mathworks licensing. It's crazy how much friction some companies have in the way of customers paying them. But that's the price you pay for not having one price.

I have just got the MVP ready for my 'analytics in a specific niche' SaaS product - I'd love to just pay someone cash to sell it for me and help me get from zero to one. I'd happily give recurring referral commission on top of cash. I can then work on refining the product with the first few customers.

What are my options? This looks promising but sadly I seem to fall under one of the "This course isn't a good fit for you, if..." points (last one). If anyone could direct me to other options I would be very grateful!

Sales recruiter here. If you want to scale your company, and attract the help of any salesperson worth a damn, you need to go out and get some customers on your own.

Being a founder / CEO is the closest thing to magic in sales. While it's certainly hard moving into a sales role, you will come across as far more credible than any salesperson you'll ever hire.

Hell, your first and third sentences basically sums up your pitch. It's going to be a lot more convincing coming from you, the person who knows the infrastructure and the product than a salesperson.

Good founders tend to be involved in sales for a while. Not to say you will be doing it forever, but if you can't close customers, you'll also struggle to close candidates & investors. Sales is a critical skill that you simply must learn.

> I'd love to just pay someone cash to sell it for me and help me get from zero to one.

I've seen quite a few founders try this, and it normally ends badly.

There are two main drawbacks...

1. The salesperson effectively becomes the CEO. They understand the customers better, have the relationships, and may not get all of this across to you - especially in the event they leave suddenly.

2. If you hire a salesperson without knowing how to sell your product (and some results already), you'll never know if it's your salesperson or your product that is underperforming. And you'll have no idea how to fix it.

I don't know what the best solution for you is, but consider looking into the Mom Test book to help you learn how to get from zero to one by talking to customers. It's a great book, and required (included) reading as part of my S4F course.

Good luck!

Sometimes the advice you don't want to hear is the best advice, so thank you for giving me hard truths!

I'll check out the book for sure. Good luck with the course.

Hey best of luck. It took me a while to get started but with practice, it gets better. You also learn a lot from speaking with people about what works and what doesn’t that you won’t ever get from hiring someone else.

It seems that so many of these resources focus on getting from "hello" to "yes". But I'm having major difficulties getting from a "yes" to paid invoices.

Anybody has good resources that would help with getting through legal, it, procurement, privacy reviews? How to help my customers get that new budget approved? How to efficiently find out what is the next problem that needs to be solved?

In my experience, this always comes with vetting the customer and asking the right questions. It's important to ask things like "what's your buying process like" or "what's the procurement process like?" for enterprise type deals.

If the direct customer doesn't know, ask for introductions to the people who might. This gets you ahead of any type of issues that could possibly pop up in these types of situations.

In the end, always start by listening to the customers needs and asking the right questions to understand everything you need to qualify the deal.

This is a really common problem!

The easiest way to overcome it is to reframe the problem.

Instead of asking "how do I go from yes to paid invoices", ask yourself "how do I change the default outcome from they don't buy my product to they buy my product".

This involves setting up a shared success plan with the customer.

Mark Fershteyn talks about how to do this in depth on a podcast episode we recorded last year: https://anchor.fm/sales-for-founders/episodes/How-to-close-y...

Thanks, this is interesting (although Mark was pushing his startup a bit too hard), making a plan for them sounds like a good idea, I'm actually already doing that, I'll start calling it shared success plan.

My problem is that my customers don't know themselves what the process for buying is (oh yeah it's probably over our budget so we have to talk to someone from procurement... last time we talked to Joe but that was 3 years ago and he doesn't work here anymore, I'll have to check with the procurement head). They just don't buy SaaS very often. So, I have to tell them you'll probably need this review and that agreement.

How would you modify these techniques to reach out to the press instead of selling B2B? I actually considered buying this course a week or two ago but I was not sure if i could apply it to non B2B scenarios

I focus less on techniques and more on strategy and mindset.

There are thousands of 'successful' cold email templates and guides out there for free, for example. You don't need another one.

But they probably won't work for you - any more than downloading the Uber app onto your phone will teach you how to build your own ride-sharing app.

Instead, I focus on the fundamentals of sales - how to approach finding potential customers, understanding them, and creating a shared success plan that results in them 'default buying'.

A lot of that will be very useful outside of B2B sales...

- consulting - hiring - applying for jobs - press outreach - pitching investors

I assume someone has already created a great resource on press outreach which would be higher impact for you than taking this course, but it would definitely help.

If you want me to read this book, why isn't there a prominent download link on the front page?

"If you want someone to marry you, why don't you just tell me that the first time you meet them?"

Same reasons apply here...

- I want to give you time to see bits of the course and learn about whether it's a good fit for you before making a (nontrivial for some people) purchase

- I want to make sure you're the right fit for the course too

- You're more likely to purchase after getting to know me and the course content, understanding the value, and overcoming your objections

Asking for your email address is the happy middle ground of "can I buy you a drink" between "saying nothing" and "asking someone to marry you".

I miss sales sooo much. I really wish there were more technical roles that involved sales.

Nice work @louisswiss... been following on twitter and appreciate what you're doing... keep going!

I think there are a ton, especially at consulting agencies and startups. Or, start your own agency and go sell. :)

Thanks, means a lot!

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