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Ask HN: How to learn sales?
865 points by northpoleescape 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 231 comments
First time entrepreneur here. I am creating a product that will solve address a large potential. The more I think about it and read about startup, I am finding that a key to early and often success is Sales.

I am been engineer by choice and engineering manager by profession. I have never done sales. I understand you learn by doing similar to driving. I am a bit talkative but sometime I have hard time not getting bogged down by emotions.

How do I get started? Can you share books, videos, tutorials, prior recorded sales call references?

Where can I learn about metrics to track? Any ideas?

You need to separate sales from marketing. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast. Marketing gets the phone to ring, sales takes the call and closes the deal.

For B2B sales resembles project management: the goal is not to convince everyone to buy your product or service but to diagnose their needs and only engage with firms that will benefit.

For larger deals you "sell with your ears" as much as you talk.

I find Neil Rackham's "Spin Selling" very useful. Peter Cohan's "Great Demo" embeds a lot of discovery advice and suggests that a good demo is really a conversation driven by mutual curiosity about customer needs and software capabilities.

For B2B customer development interviews (those early market discovery conversations) I have a short book you may find helpful. See https://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2020/01/30/40-tips-for-b2b-cus... (there is also a link at the bottom for a PDF version).

Two final books I would suggest, while not exactly sales books, are "The Innovator's DNA" by Clayton Christensen and "The Right It (Pretotype It)" by Alberto Savoia. They cover a number of techniques for finding the right problem to solve and determining if your solution is a good fit for customer needs. I mention them because it's not uncommon for a startup to have a product problem that manifests as a sales problem.

Great summary on sales and marketing but neither is a monolith.

Sales can best be distinguished by indirect sales and direct sales.

Direct sales is where you go out and find clients.

Indirect sales is where you go out and find partners to bring you clients.

You don’t buy Coca Cola from Coca Cola. You rarely by HP from HP.

Companies tend to be more successful when they find ways to grow using “channels”.

This is a good summary of finding your path toward channel sales:


This is a good kit to start a channel sales program:


Has anyone had success doing B2B SaaS sales using cloud marketplaces like AWS marketplace, GCP marketplace, Azure, etc.? I wonder if that qualifies as "channel sales".

IMO, they are failing to be good distribution channels overall, but as currently done, can be a nice vehicle for early POC/trialing phases.

Good distribution channels solve three aspects:

- Logistics: Technical delivery - pretty good, as it's cloud as usual, with the bonus of solving how to run on the customer's side of the trust boundary (vs. normal centralized saas), + pricing features like app-defined utility fees

- Marketing: Cloud marketplaces fail to do demand gen (low-traffic search, no promotional campaigns, ...), as opposed to engaged partners who will

- Sales: Trialing is better than an on-prem thing but they harm success by not having a person involved nor allowing you to know who your users are, so overall, hurt closing. They are good-ish on solving procurement/invoicing

So again, pretty bad as an overall distribution channel, but for handling the paid POCs of a sales/marketing pipeline defined elsewhere, they can be nice.

Long-term, I think these can be massive, but they're currently immature/underinvested/etc. Ex: hw fee + 20-30% sw fees for such a poor distribution channel is quite unattractive for most serious b2b partners (distribution partners normally take 5-15% and do much more work, not ~50% for so little), so looks like a symptom of PM fiefdom politics vs senior leadership investing in these to be big. They could take Stripe's 1-3% payments fees, add 5% hands-off reseller fee, opt-in for special programs for another 5%, and poof, multiple $B businesses.

I did a bit with instances of an Open Source deep learning server of mine, for three years+ now. Made up to 1.5k/month, lower now but it's on my plate to revive it. It's provided side money to our service/ software business.

Keep in mind there's a 30% cut from AWS, plus if you're in the EU, you need a tier like payoneer to channel your revenues back into the EU.

I think any third party taking a margin off your sale to help facilitate the transaction constitutes a channel.

Stripe isn't a channel though. The third party in question needs to actually do some work to bring you traffic / leads, not just do the mechanics of processing the transaction.

> You need to separate sales from marketing. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast.

Close, but not quite.

Marketing is the brand, the image, points of differentiation, etc. It's the message.

Advertising is the broadcast. It's how the message is communicated. It's the medium.

Marketing + advertising = prospects and leads.

Sales is the last mile. It takes the results of marketing + advertising (i.e., leads and prospects) and guides those to closing.

Contrary to myth, successful sales is about listening, not talking.

Sales is

> Contrary to myth, successful sales is about listening, not talking.

I've been in pre-sales for about 8 years now. From the vendor and reseller side. Mostly on the technical side (SE) but I also know the process side of the account executive (AE) very well at this point.

Yes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer. If a customer is always telling me what they need from me then I'm not providing any value. And, honestly, it's very rare to find a customer who's ahead of a good sales team. We have full access to PMs, internal business units and access to far more insight to our bits and pieces than any reseller or customer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying customers can't be experts. But I'm here to know and bring things to the plate that they just can't.

Understanding your customer is often times more valuable than listening to them outright. I've found paths for the customer that has helped them avoid making mistakes, saved them money or improved their operations through paths they hadn't considered or didn't know existed. Good sales teams work hard across the board through strong technical positioning as well as strategic deal creations.

There are sales teams that rinse and repeat for every interaction and then there are sales teams that are looking to help their customers, trying to find where the wins are for the prospect. I've walked away from deals by telling a customer we weren't a fit for them. Sales gets a bad rap, but there are some of us out there that walk into every conversation not with the only intent of closing quota, but trying to make a positive impact.

> Understanding your customer is often times more valuable than listening to them outright.

Listen is a big word, one has to take all meanings into account.

> Yes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer. IYes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer.

But you don't know where the customer is trying to go...you don't know their pain...you don't know their priorities...

Without listening.

I realize this. Which is exactly why I said that "Yes, you need to listen". The parent comment responded to implied that was the only way.

If you don't listen you can't do what I stated above. And if you can't do what I stated above then you're not going to be able to help the customer and, ultimately, not be all that successful in sales.

Case in point... I had a customer years ago about to spend roughly a million dollars on a remote site upgrade architecture we had been jointly working on for about 6 months. In the background I was tracking a new product that would make their initiative cheaper and had both better ROI and performance specs due to refreshed hardware.

I made sure to present this, get all the information in front of the customer, engage in discussions using our PM and derive a strategic deal that would save them money over the three year term for buying a new product early.

They didn't do it. My counterpart appreciated the option even though it would have slipped their project by 2 months. Him and I are still friends even though I've moved on since then, but the moral of the story is he still brings that up because, in hindsight, he said he should have trusted our proposal. They spent more, got less and had to upgrade earlier due to unforeseen circumstances. Part of it was bad luck, the other part was a cognizant decision he made against the sales team better judgement.

I listened. I knew the customer very well, in fact. But I had knowledge and experience with the products that outstripped his for navigating this situation. That's how a good sales team operates.

I wasn't disagreeing. Simply trying to summarize.

That definition is very—let’s say—unique. In my 7+ years of marketing I have never met anyone or read anything that put advertising outside of marketing. It’s even in the academic “4P” definition of marketing (“Promotion”).

The funny thing is that in most consumer faced products advertising is generally outsourced to a media agency that does all the work: both creative and media buying (say TV ads, press).

Obviously for software and B2B it is a bit different, because budgets are often smaller and there is more pressure for A/B testing if there is any Return on Investment.

For me "promotion" is more like "price strategy", but they put the word into the 4P since it fits nice.

Marketing is the message.

Advertising is how that's communicated.

Using a billboard or a TV advert is not marketing.

Of course, marketing needs to be advertized. Else you'd just be sitting around a confernce table all day. Sooner of later the (marketing) message will need to be...advertised.

And yes, the medium can be the message. But a magazine advertisement is not a brand style guide. Tradeshow swag is not a tag line.

It not a question of placement - inside or out - it's simple proven definitions.

You’re welcome to dream up your own definitions, but then don’t patronize others: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising

Note the opening five words:

"Advertising is a marketing communication..."

Your tone is unnecessary and off-target. The above quote from line one is exactly what I said.

You don't just wake up, roll out of bed, and advertise. Well, you can but waste a ton of money. In any case, that message needs to be crafted. That's marketing. Advertising is how you disseminate that "plan."

Logo - marketing, not advertising.

Style guide - marketing, not advertising.

Positioning of the brand - marketing, not advertising.

And so on.

Marketing is the plan. How you wish take and place your brand / product to market. Advertising is the communication of that to thd market. Advertising is what happens when the meeting ends and its time to engage the market.

Marketing = what we have to say and who we wish to say it to.

Advertising = Got it. Let's see what tools we have to best make that happen.

No dreams. That is how it happens.

Folks are getting bound up in shallow semantics in this whole thread and are missing the nuance in your distinctions.

It's not shallow semantics when what they're saying does not reflect the way these terms are used by many (most?) professional marketers.

Putting advertising outside of marketing is not a nuance.

Advertising is part of marketing.

I never said otherwise. What I did was distinguish it's definition. That is, just because you are spending momey on advertising does not mean your are properly marketing. That is, one P does not a Four P's "cycle" make. Full stop.

Futhermore, of course marketers will say they control everything (i.e., including advertising). Now let's go ask an advertising agency if they agree. Let's go ask a promotions agency if they agree.

I'm speaking about the process and activities; devoid of typical biz structures and models that manifest those. It's a fool's errand to discuss the latter without first understanding the the basics, the foundation. The fact this thread is off target proves that point precisely.

They're reading what they want to read and have failed to substantiate their position otherwise. One link to Wikipedia? Which only confirmed that was said.

It's simple. It's called Advertising for a reason. The outputs are called Advertisements for a reason. Whether that's within Marketing's "power grab" or not is not really relevant.

A conversation involves both listening and talking. Good sales people know that they have to "diagnose before they can prescribe" which means they must elicit symptoms and confirm need and fit with product capabilities. Really good sales people recommend other products when theirs is not a good fit. As the deal size goes up you do much more listening than talking.

Many firms that don't advertise--or do very little advertising--and are still able to generate leads, that's why it's normally included in marketing as one of many channels.

Effective marketing people also talk and listen to customers.

Sales is also graded by level of "touch". For example, selling IT services contracts is very high touch. Signing a deal could involve weeks of written correspondence (RFI, RFP), in-person pitching, contract negotiation, etc. Low touch could be fully automated with simple, non-negotiable pricing. There are lots of levels in between.

Weeks. I wish.


My first job ever I befriended one of the senior sales guys at an after work drinking event. We built software that integrated into and with a range of embedded devices of which many were medical. He was one of the guys that worked closely with our EMEA customers who were notoriously slow to sign.

Three years later he drove in to the office lot with a brand new Porsche 911 which was a portion of his commission for closing the deal after something insane like 33 months.

He was happy to have that deal done.

I’m two years into brokering a deal between a client and two blue-chip behemoths. It has been endless cycles of documentation, specification, certification, auditing, horse-trading, rescoping, consulting, wargaming, ratifying, and many of the faces have changed over the last two years.

It’ll be a big deal for all of them, but just getting everything in place for them to all agree and sign is just insane - my longest sales process before this was maybe 4 months, 400 hours - this has easily eaten tens of thousands of man hours so far.

One thing I’ve observed is that the deal almost becomes secondary - by this point, there’s an entire self-sustaining bureaucracy around the deal, many of the deliverables the deal specified are already in place and money has changed hands, hires have been made, everything has essentially happened as though the deal has gone ahead - yet I’m spending this afternoon rejigging information security roles and responsibilities to make the interfaces more on parity with the security team of one of the blue chips, because until the contract is signed, the deal isn’t done, and all parties are just merrily swimming out into deeper waters together, growing technical and operational dependencies around each other with no legal agreement. At this point, the businesses are just getting on with stuff as though the deal is done, the counsels are screaming because nobody is interested in moving the boring paperwork forwards, and I’m charging by the hour. Buys a lot of popcorn.

Sales is weird.

Edit: just realised we might be talking about the same healthcare customers.

I’m not in sales at all, but learning SPIN works great to make a case for something in a structured way. It’s like a funnel to bring people into agreement with my viewpoint.

> diagnose their needs and only engage with firms that will benefit.

I have done technical sales-like engagements and this is the number one pattern I see from relationships that went well. The customer determined, for whatever reason (rightly so) that I could solve their problems. So they opened up and explained what the problems really are. If you can't get this, you can't help someone.

Came to say exactly this. As a first time entrepreneur its important to learn how to spread ideas. Sales comes after.

Hey, I worked in sales for years. So did my mother. I started B2B sales when I was 16.

Don’t “learn” sales. A lot of reading material and courses could actually negatively effect you by causing you to overthink things. At best, you will come across as calculating and at worst you’ll lose deals due to getting lost in the weeds.

Here’s two things:

Whenever you deal with someone, try to conceptualize yourself as a consultant and not a salesperson. Great sales people are more like matchmakers, people have some kind of problem and you have some kind of solution. People are pretty sensitive to in situations where they could be persuaded. Conversations should have the feelIng like you are trying to convince a friend to watch a really cool movie rather than high pressure, ultra confident wolf of Wall Street closing.

Two, if you really want to learn the actual craft of it then put yourself in more situations where you can talk to a salesperson and put them through their paces. Start taking calls from telemarketers and instead of hanging up tell them you would rather they send you an email. Go to a car dealership and tell them the car you want is too expensive. This is a decent way to get experience.

agree. previously more than 10 years work on software engineering, and this year pointed as Sales & Marketing.

B2B to be precise. I am positioning my self as a consultant rather than salesperson. building trust and develop close cooperation with potential users/clients. not a easy way for geek like me, but trying is better than do nothing.

Keep that mindset. Hardest part of B2B is getting people on the phone and dealing with secretaries. Everything else is a cakewalk, literally, if you can come across as casually confident and helpful.

I’ve had so many different approaches over the years but I find that being lovable and genuine works best (but you still have to close those deals, it’s not all roses.)

About wolf og wall street: if you look at some john belfort material online in reality (or what he chose to put online) he does what you suggest. (Of course not in phone cold call selling)

I would argue against this comment... it is very useful to actually learn the culture and the techniques. Not that the general advice here is in poor taste, just saying that simple concepts won't help you fully understand something that is inherently complex.

And I would disagree with your comment on similar grounds. There is undoubtedly a lot of nuance and experience in sales, technical requirements depending on the industry, but forgive me, I’m not going to outline everything in a comment.

I am arguing that a book won’t cut it and may do more harm than good. Advice from great salespeople must be taken with a grain of salt. Because the core of sales, making deals, is more feeling than logic.

I’ve seen people sell extremely well with zero experience as well as seasoned pros who are inherently terrible at the job. Salespeople overthink the strategy and lose sight of what really makes money: making that motherfucker say yes. If you want to do that then you need to really embrace your role properly and forget about being a shark or a shooter or whatever. You are helping someone or some organization either make more money, save money, or do their job easier than before. Everything else is bullshit strategy for guys who don’t actually believe in what they are selling.

Edit: that reply could be misconstrued as aggressive but I’m set in my ways, which I know work best.

If OP doesn’t want to mentor under a sales manager in a business and learn the job that way, then as a practical suggestion:

Skip the self help books. Zig Ziggler and how to make friends and influence people, etc etc. Skip all that.

Get a College textbook on being an Entrepreneur. Something that will help you with the nuts and bolts backend stuff.

> Salespeople overthink the strategy and lose sight of what really makes money: making that motherfucker say yes.

What if he's not a motherfucker but actually a motherlover? How does that change your sales technique?

They are usually pretty agreeable and say yes at the end of a pitch.

The way you say it, I can't tell whether you do sales or stick-ups.

First time founder here who came from sales at a big consulting firm, and then and then had to develop the whole marketing and sales stack for our startup.

Most of the books recommended in this thread assume that you're working for a established firm, with product / market fit, etc.

Clearly that's not the case for a start-up.

Read up on what Pete Kanzanjy publishes https://www.foundingsales.com/ - it covers the the "founder-led sales" phase.

How I did it:

- you interview as many prospects and customers as possible

- you understand what keeps them up at night, what specific pain points they have, the language they use to describe their situation

- you shape your messaging to solve those specific pain points, using their own language

- wrap your messaging into a story - the worst you can do is "problem / solution". people don't buy that way. people buy change, and you use the story to communicate that change.

I wrote a totally too long Medium post on the whole topic:


as somebody else pointed out on this thread - be read to deal with objection! You'll likely collect 9 "No's" for each "yes!"

When you get to larger firms, there's a lot of support of sales (marketing but also engineering) that involves creating awareness, building the funnel (leads etc.), supporting sales reps in various ways, building products that customers actually want, etc. But none of those things actually involve directly asking for a PO, working on customer relationships, and so forth.

+1 to Founding Sales — it's great, and Pete is great as well


> you interview as many prospects and customers as possible

Did you do that before or after completing your product / service?


this is 4 years ago, the market we were going after were the cloud warehouses like Redshift, BigQuery and Snowflake.

In the beginning, we just had an idea for a specific product / service. but we knew that the customer would be the lonely data engineer in charge of building the analytics stack.

I started with cold outreach via my network and linkedin. I would use pretty broad language around data warehouse usage, to cast a wide net with terms like "usage, performance, metadata, etc.", and cover all potential use cases. Engineers are always short on time, so you need to be affirmative, authoritative and present a clear ask that shows what you want and how the engineer will get value out of spending 30 min with you.

Of course I pulled the founder card, and that does help. I made it clear that we don't have a product, but working on building one. Turns out that most people are helpful, and want you to win!

The first signal that you're onto something is when they reply to your message, and are intrigued.

we built our first product around that feedback. Companies like Postmates, WeWork and Udemy bought version 0.5!

I made a point out of keeping in touch with every customer, and do a quarterly check-in. What's changed? What are your plans? For this coming week, month, quarter and year. Where do you want to be in 2 years? What problems are you trying to solve for your company? What are the expectations for you and your team? What tools are you using to solve that problem? What tools have you looked at and decided to not use them, and why? Etc., etc.

I rolled around in THEIR situation, trying to walk in their shoes. We'd talk for sometimes 90 minutes, often in person here in SF, over lunch. We'd often not cover our product until the final 5 minutes.

Of course, that's a huge chunk of time out of your calendar. Huge opportunity cost, in particular for a founder.

So here's actually something I'd do different. We hired our first sales reps after our first 10 customers. That was a mistake. Our product was very technical, it's not like selling email software. So you need a technical rep. Our first rep was a class act, but let me tell you, it was a goat rodeo for him.

Rather, I should have hired a customer success person, and have them do the quarterly check-ins. That way I could have kept selling. Then let the customer success rep also write (technical) blog post, customer stories / case studies, and documentation. You're building out (credible) marketing materials that build the top of your funnel.

> Rather, I should have hired a customer success person

Also called a Field Application Engineer in some circles.

> Then let the customer success rep also write (technical) blog post, customer stories / case studies, and documentation.

Also sample code, sample scripts.

Spot on, that’s exactly it.

Wow. Thanks a lot. That’s very specific and actionable. Any other thing you would do differently this time around? I’m in the middle of starting something new myself.

BTW: feels like you could write an entire book about your experience ;)

#1 thing - I would raise less money for our seed. We raised $4.2M incl a note that converted from the angel round.

Too much money gives you a false sense of security.

Is this how you substitute experience in an industry? As in the “we built this because we needed it, and it turns out a billion other people did, too” story?

It sounds like everyone ‘improves’ their offering based on feedback - but some folks seem to ‘just know’ what they are going through, and that somehow resonates with others.

I’ve always wondered if there’s a difference between approaches or if it’s all just window dressing.

Was about to post Pete's book too. Go read it!

Heads up. The foundingsales website took my username and password but did not give me access to the material. Instead its putting me through a "Buy the Book" or "Register to Read" cycle.

That’s odd. There’s a couple dozen people on the site right now.

What browser are you using? Sounds like maybe a Memberspace issue with a config you have?

Check to see which of these chapters you can access: https://www.foundingsales.com/table-of-contents

I just tested this with a new account and it’s working fine from mobile Chrome. It returns you to the home page on registration so perhaps access one of the chapters? Like this one to start: https://www.foundingsales.com/1-mindset-changes

I have the same isssue. I think it may be a Safari issue. Works fine for me on chrome not Safari.

That’s super annoying. Are you able to access this hyperlink while logged in in safari? https://www.foundingsales.com/10-early-sales-management

It might also be that the redirect after registration goes back to the home page, and the chapter buttons are below the fold if one doesn’t scroll down. Probably would be better to redirect to table of contents after registration. I’ll see if that can be configured through Memberspace.

Looks like it’s an issue Safari being configured to block third party cookies. Memberspace, the registration software we use, cookies you to validate registration. You just have to allow third party cookies: https://help.memberspace.com/article/115-how-to-fix-log-in-i...

Having problems with Firefox + Linux. Works ok on Chrome + Linux.

I had to allow third-party cookies for those 2 sites

As an engineer turned founder, your instinct to jump in and start doing it is correct. It’s hard to learn from books. I never did, neither did the successful engineers turned sales people that I know. The key is learning to read each situation so you can apply the right approach. You also seem self aware which will help you learn faster.

My biggest advice is get a coach/mentor/consultant who you talk with once per week to get feedback. This is how professional sales people learn in practice (eg from a sales manager). This will accelerate you learning by a factor of 10 versus doing it yourself. They will help you read each situation and push you to focus on the right places. Otherwise it’s easy to flounder on the wrong ones.

RE metrics- closed business is the only one that matters! Do whatever gets you that as fast as possible.

I wasted a year when I first founded Amplitude trying to brute force it myself and closed a grand total of two contracts for $36k. After that I ended up working with a guy named Mitch Morando and got from $36k to $1M in ARR in less than a year. He cost me $5k a month and increased our market cap by $20M, it was well worth the investment. I’m happy to make an intro if you’d like.

Good luck on the journey ahead and I’m excited for you!

"guy named Mitch Morando and got from $36k to $1M in ARR in less than a year"

I am very curious as a bootstrapped founder myself. Would you be willing to tell us more on some of the high level things Mitch Morando helped with ? What bottlenecks did he solve that you didn't/couldn't know ?

I'm also a YC founder (Py) and worked with Mitch. He's been an invaluable mentor to me not just in sales but also in general COO advice. Could not recommend working with him enough. It is a Privilege to get to work with him. He has a wealth of experience that make his monthly rate easy easy ROI.

We went from literally $0k ARR to high 6-figure ARR in 8 months before getting acquired. He taught me everything I know about SaaS sales.

Mitch was recommended to me originally by Peter, CEO/Co-founder at Segment.

Out of curiosity, how did you land on the concept for your business?

The short version is we saw a big gap in the product analytics market when we were building a consumer app. We were going to work on building a company no matter what and it was the best opportunity we found. B2B was much easier than consumer for us. All you have to do is build what your customers ask and then they’ll pay you money!

I just did a podcast on it if you’re curious: https://theboostvcpodcast.simplecast.com/episodes/ep98-the-e...

Awesome, will check out the podcast, thanks! Congrats on the success btw! Just picked up Mitch’s book on Amazon, as I’m always keen to add to the sales toolbox.

What did you learn from Mitch that you could not do yourself?

Most people's vision of a salesman is a smiling guy who talks a mile a minute, won't let you get a word edgewise and won't take no for an answer. There are even courses that teach you how to be that guy. Sorry the reference is dated but a Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati type of guy.

The best mental picture of a salesman is as a consultant. You're there to solve their problem, hopefully using your product. But if your product isn't their best solution send them to your competition. You do it by asking them questions, then stopping to listen to their answer which prompts more questions.

If they don't have the problem, apologize for wasting their time and leave. I remember one of Gary Vaynerchuk's DailyVee videos where he flew to Chicago for a single hour long meeting. In less than ten minutes he realized he wasn't going to get the sale, said goodbye and headed back to the airport.

The other thing to remember is to always be asking for the order. I can't tell you how many times ten minutes after getting there I threw away the rest of my questions and wrote up an order. It is entirely possible to talk yourself out of a sure sale, when I was starting I did it multiple times.

I know a lot of introverts think they can't do sales but sometimes they make the best sales guys. That's because they have less of a problem talking all the time. Ross Perot was definitely more of an introvert yet he was once IBM's top salesperson in the country. He once made his entire yearly quota in a week!

Hey there, my friend Waseem tipped me off to your question.

Your situation is why I wrote Founding Sales: https://www.foundingsales.com/

The full text is available online on that Squarespace site.

I wrote it after selling my last company - it chronicles what I learned going from a PMM / PM at VMware to a business generalist founder, who then had to learn how to sell, and then manage sales people.

Also, this deck will be useful to you: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1pcSy-zV-776abGmZ8WJ7...

Hope that helps!

Came here to suggest this. It has good tactical advice, but also good big-picture strategies. And it will give you vocabulary to talk about experiences you may have had but were not able to fully understand/contextualize.

Sounds very interesting, but if I cannot buy a PDF of it, I am not going to bother.

It seems there is a PDF version of it available, is it the same version? https://www.holloway.com/b/founding-sales

Something important to know is the difference between an actual sale (i.e. closing) and a sales process. If you want to be a good sales person, you focus on the sale, but if you are building a company, you need to figure out a sales process (which usually includes marketing on one end and onboarding on the other, not just sales).

It doesn't matter how good of a sales person you are if you are not getting any leads. Conversely, you can be a bad sales person, even with a bad product, but with enough leads, eventually they will buy - you can see this with crappy restaurants at airports for example.

Successful startups are very aware of this and they setup processes to generate enough leads so their sales people can close them, to generate their target revenue. Also, the sales person's responsibility is to close the people that "come through the door", but it shouldn't be their responsibility to bring those people in.

This is important and is largely what I wanted to add. At my company we have sales, who do the traditional listening to understand customer needs and working with them to build a deal that addresses those needs. But then we also have demand generation / sales development, focused on cold calling, getting leads, other marketing, etc, to get people through the door and you say. The OP needs to consider which of these (could be both) they want to build up their skills in. Reading about how to do sales will not help if you dont know how to get in front of people in the first place.

The Sales Acceleration Formula by Hubspot Sales leader Mark Roberge is a good book for this. He was an engineer by training.

This process is very nicely defined in Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler.

Has jumped into that boat with the identical background a couple month ago.

Here some resources I found useful to do first B2B sales and get a general understanding of the process.

1. Peter Levine course of sales for tech entrepreneurs https://a16z.com/2018/09/02/sales-startups-technical-founder...

2. Steve Blank's 4 steps to the epiphany https://www.amazon.com/Four-Steps-Epiphany-Steve-Blank/dp/09...

3. Close.io SaaS Sales Book https://close.com/resources/saas-sales-book/

4. The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1119047072

Also I advice you to fasten you educational feedback loop as mush as you can. The last boo can help you with metrics as well.

What is an educational feedback loop and how can one accelerate it?

study -> try selling -> fail -> study

or the better one:

study -> try selling -> success -> study even more

My claim is you don't have to do, say, MBA to study sales.

This is honestly THE BEST, all-in-one resource I found for the exact same question I had - https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57daf6098419c27febcd4...

Secondly, follow Close.com blog, there is tons of great sales insight, and download their Startup Sales Resource Bundle - https://close.io/resources/startup-sales-resource-bundle

Thirdly, watch Steli Efti's keynote about startup selling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55z5yl_naco&feature=emb_titl...

You're all set ;)

wow that was a wormhole. thanks for these. spent half of my day, but i have a much better understanding now what I'm dealing with.

What are the key benefits of your product to your customer? Who exactly is the customer? You need to work these two out first for sales.

Most early stage startups don't have a product as beneficial to anyone as they think. So really need to work out the value and make it stand out, increase the value. They say 10x better because of this. Chances are an early stage product's value is mildly beneficial. Mildly beneficial = No sales.

Work out the audience. Go to a slightly less-than-ideal customer = Too much effort to sell or no sales.

OK So once you are at this point you are already equipped to sell. A nice product whose key benefits are clear, and we know exactly how the buyer will use it and benefit from it. I will bet dollars that you are not there yet.

Now all you need to do is help and enable the customer (e.g. integrate your product, make them see the magic by configuring it for them, or give them samples). You must not be salesy, but act as if you are an assistant that works to make the product's value realized for the user. At this point before spending the resources (time) double check this is a serious buyer with budget.

At this point as the user has seen the magic, you can ask for payment. Sales #1 complete.

Do 50 such sales and then you can care about metrics, efficiency etc.

I just did a short thread on how we went from $0 -> $2m ARR with founder-led B2B sales.


There was a lot of interest, so I wrote a longer-form version that I'm sending out next week, and I'm happy to send to you if you email me.

The biggest things are: learn by doing + learn via mentorship.

Feel free to email any specific questions and I'll do my best to help answer.

I moved from the cubicle as a coder with a 30 person company to senior executive in a Fortune 500. Here is what I have found.

You are correct that after the product is ready the rest is ALL sales (closing deals) and marketing (getting the word out).

Sales people are a unique breed of human. You can tell them to F off and they will show up the next day with coffee, just the way you like it. :)

My recommendation is do the job yourself to bootstrap the company, get some revenue coming in but then transition to find an experienced person who can be your "head of sales". Then you can focus on product and general management. (Unless you want to become a sales professional). A good bonus structure for bringing in new deals is essential. Sales people are motivated by the hunt and payout for success.

There are some good inexpensive cloud CRM tools so that you can stay on top of your sales people, who they are visiting and what they are saying. Weekly meeting with checkups against their sales commitments and their "pipeline" of sales reviewed and pruned by you, is also essential but then let them run.

Small business is like a three legged stool made of Product, Sales (which is external relationship management) and Finance. Almost no founder has all three strengths. Make a team that compliments you and make lots of money.

How'd you climb the ladder to exec?

I'm noticing a situation where stepping away from hard technical skills (i.e. Coding) creates a more ambiguous professional career path. It's completely thrown off what would be my previous reference points for career progression.

It was not planned. I was extracted from the cubicle at the small company by the head of sales because I kept challenging the founder on what projects were important to make money. :-) Was moved to managing sales and marketing when the web became practical and shifted all efforts to online marketing. (We made products for engineers so that was a no-brainer strategic shift)

The move to Fortune 500 was because of an old friend a glass of wine and accidentally saying the right things. He took a chance on me for a marketing role. After that I had to deliver the goods which meant motivating a team of people, innovating the product (within corporate limits) and good luck due to a need for the service.

So not all me. Luck and "who you know" played a role too.

What does finance do? Related to accounting and keeping books?

Those are the parts of it. In a perfect world finance is a strategic partner. Tracks and manages the use of money. Sets projections for future revenues. Manages tax minimization. Optimize the cost of loans. Negotiate with bankers. Creates business cases for sales on big projects.

Many years ago I took the Dale Carnegie Sales Course. It and the Xerox course were the ones everyone talked about back then (90s). It was practical and I used the material each week (I was also a company founder, but by the time I did that we were doing a couple of million a month).

The students included a couple of guys with a T-shirt stand on the beach, a woman who sold ADT security systems and a couple of people, who sold semiconductor manufacturing equipment. I didn’t just learn a good model and get practice with it but the fact that much of what we learned applied to all the sales cycles (from 3 minutes to 3 years) was itself quite enlightening. I still use today what I learned back then.

Also, later: I “carried a bag” meaning I had a mortgage in Palo Alto, a wife whose visa didn’t allow her to work, and lived on commission. Really taught me to sell!

Like riding a bike, you can get tips from books and video but you just have to get out there and sell.

(I have never become comfortable with cold calling, though I can do it)

Engineer turned B2B founder here. I've sold to a lot of large $100M+/year businesses at this point, so feel decently qualified to answer this question. The top three things that helped me:

1. Listen to yourself pitch. Ask people you talk to if it's OK to record the pitch and then listen to it repeatedly and take notes. It will be painful, and you'll notice so many things you hate, but you will get better. This is the number one thing that helped me get better.

2. Understand your customer. Really understand them. What are their hopes with buying your product? What are their fears if they make the wrong choice, or no choice at all? The stuff that's really at the core of these questions-- it's deep, personal, often embarrassing stuff people won't just tell you. Getting at this sort of thing is a skill. If you do it well, you'll not only sell better, you'll have a better sales process, and probably a better product.

3. Read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28815.Influence) by Robert Cialdini. If you're a former engineer, you'll especially love this book. It helps you understand how people tick, including yourself, and some of the techniques your competition are probably using.

Finally, don't be an asshole. It's so easy when you get good at sales to view the sale itself as the goal. It shouldn't be. The goal should be solving the customer's problem. Getting the sale is the first step, but make sure you only get it if you can genuinely help the customer-- if the customer will be thrilled they bought from you a month from now. The world has too many assholes willing to sell people the wrong thing for them. Don't be another one.

Both my wife and my ex are very successful in sales. Both worked in B2B sales for large companies you probably heard of. Both had science degrees but are not overly analytical. I currently work in Finance supporting the Commercial team for a division of a $20B business. Here’s what I see that makes people successful:

1) wife and ex are not what you would think are first glance as sales people. Far from pushy, one a bit shy, neither big networkers. However, when It comes to the job, they always do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, the way they say they will do it. Their customers (well most anyway) love working with them because they get a prompt response and follow through on commitments. When a problem occurs, my wife is on it and doesn’t rest until it’s fixed.

2). You need to make it about your customer, not you. The sooner you realize helping your customer helps you, the more successful you will be. I’ve worked at large companies where salespeople only do what’s in their goals and bonus. Unless you are lucky, this will backfire.

3). Be interested in who you sell to. I work at a company that sells chemicals, some of which they could get elsewhere. The relationships the sales team build are amazing. They know everything about their customers personally and I’m impressed with the little details our commercial team remembers.

4) know everything about your product, from how it’s made to who makes it, what’s it cost to make, how does your accounts payable team pay bills for you materials, how does sourcing buy those materials and from who, etc. no question is too detailed!

First thing to do is to realize that sales is a much more metrics driven endeavor than engineering.


Bob Moesta's new book has some good pointers on it, it's currently on sale on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Demand-Side-Sales-101-Customers-Progr...

I just finished this book and I think it's the most down-to-earth approach towards selling. It even suggests an alternative title for "salespeople" that wants to help others make progress, which would be "concierge."

Looking forward to digging deeper into the Jobs-To-Be-Done theory with Clayton Christensen's book on "Competing Against Luck"

This book is great.

Bob’s background is in engineering and it feels far more accessible to me than other sales books as a result. I’ve been trying to get my head around this stuff for over a decade. The ideas in this book have made me feel comfortable about selling for the first time.

You don't need to be good at selling.

If you are first starting out then what you really need to do is find/build a product that your customers want. You can't sell a product that no one wants. If you are a master seller and if you somehow manage to sell something no one wants then it won't scale.

Try to have calls with potential customers who are interested in your product. If your product is solving a problem then it should be easy to have calls and the customer will ask to buy it. If not, try to understand what they need and iterate.

Maybe this is just your way of procrastinating. I procrastinate from building a company because I tell myself I'm not a software engineer, but I could find a way to do it if I really really wanted to.

If you still feel like you want advice on selling, happy to offer it since I've been doing for my entire career at startups.

How I raised myself from failure to success in selling - Frank Bettger. It's a classic.

I think sales can be broken down into:

1. Foundation of being perceived as an authority

2. Lead generation

3. Persuasion and conversion

4. Re-sale

Breaking it down makes it easy to become better at the sales process.

+1 for the book recommendation. Probably the simplest book ever written on sales.

As an engineer/YC founder turned B2B go-to-market/sales leader, I can attest that it's hard to learn sales without jumping in and doing it. That said, a few things helped me along the way:

1) I found a mentor that I could relate too, one that did exactly what I was trying to do (an aside, I ended up joining a company called Boomtrain and learned how to sell while helping him build product -- this hybrid role evolved into starting and running their Solutions Engineering team.)

2) Be OK with being uncomfortable; a lot of sales is about putting yourself out there -- you're going to get rejection, but you start to learn how to place your bets and work in the opportunities that have the highest likelihood of closing (and therefore can be well-forecasted.) This is where a sales methodology helps. Calvin (the CTO of Segment) wrote this amazing blog post about about what we use on our Sales team: https://segment.com/blog/how-to-sell-a-b2b-product/

3) Spend the time building a defined process, whether it's generating top of the funnel/leads, moving deals through sales stages, and even a deal-desk process for inking MSAs/contracts. Invest in a CRM (I suggest Salesforce) to log everything and provide visibility on your business, while helping to manage the pipeline.

Happy to share more details about my journey so far.

Oh boy - I didn't realize a question could be so topical. Another first-time founder here (engineer turned founder) that is currently in the middle of learning how to do the b2b sales process (which I'm assuming is what you're doing, if you're interested in b2c, I'm not sure how much of this translates). Needless to say that: (1) I'm most certainly NOT an expert (just someone figuring this out as well); (2) I'm super-duper interested in the responses here.

First things first, I think before selling, my understanding of sales was largely grounded as an "art", and by far the largest turning point in my understanding has been that sales has a pretty large "science" component to it as well, by which I mean tried and true repeatable steps that can be applied consistently.

As a founder, before sales, you need feedback. Assuming you don't have product-market fit (which you almost certainly don't know, because you don't have users), it is MOST important that you talk to customers to get a handle on what they need. The two books I found most valuable here are: - The Mom Test - Talking to Humans

(The Lean Startup has a good section on this as well; if, like me, you haven't reread it since starting a company - I would highly recommend doing so, you grok so much more than when you first read it without any experience to ground it to.)

Once you have some intuition around your market and that your product is actually tackling the right problem. I would read Founding Sales (https://www.foundingsales.com/). I was recommended this book by a founder-friend who told me "Literally stop whatever you or your team is doing and take the next two days to read this book" and I'm glad I did that. The book has given me a solid anchoring, vocabulary, and makes a compelling case that founder-sales are fundamentally different than regular sales: regular sales are what happens AFTER you have a repeatable process, founding sales requires much more of a product mind to rapidly integrate feedback and live-iterate on the product.

From there, you'll realize you have two skills you really need to learn: marketing and sales. Broadly: marketing is about getting leads, sales is about closing them.

Marketing: There are a whole bunch of books and articles I've been recommended on marketing (Traction being one of top recommended ones). However, after having done a lot of this I'm not convinced that this is a good use of time as a founder. So much of what I've heard / seen is that your first few customers WILL be warm intros from within your network. So a better use of your time may be a LinkedIn subscription and to go through the network of: your VCs, any former companies you've worked at, any school you graduated and shamelessly ask for intros. A good article that popped up on HN recently was: https://stripe.com/atlas/guides/starting-sales. (Also, for the theory of marketing, I personally found Crossing the Chasm a solid book to contextualize what phase of selling I was in and how it might change over time.)

Sales: Is hard. The best advice I've received is: remember it's about them. Not about you. When someone is gracious enough to take a phone call with you, do not immediately pitch them. That makes it about you. Instead, ask them about their process and the pain point you address. This helps both: you discern if it's a real painpoint, them realize that they have / the magnitude of that pain. Two frameworks that have helped me are: - BANT: https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/bant - MEDDIC: https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/close-more-deals-with-meddic...

Also, something that's been really helpful here are mentors. Finding other founders who have successfully navigated from seed -> series A usually have good advice on how they did early sales (also, some sales people that have been at early companies have been particularly helpful, especially when they first acknowledge founder sales is a similar but different animal than they may be used to).

Other than that, there's only so much you can read, just go ahead and try it! I believe that a lot of this probably takes practice above all else, and you're not going to sell your product without talking to anyone!

Best of luck! I'm happy to talk to you about your product - and thank you for posting a question that's been on my and my cofounder's minds for weeks now. And, as I said at the top, I am not an expert--just another person trying my best to figure it out. I've already found a bunch of the other responses useful :)

thank you for sharing this helpful information

The first book I read about sales emphasized inquiry before advocacy. Let's get real or let's not play by Mahan Khalsa.

I read it at a point in time for my startup when we had done as many Customer Discovery interviews as we could in our local market, and were trying to achieve a first sale or pilot project with customers in more innovative markets. The inquiry phase of solution selling connected with and reinforced the customer discovery process, but provided some indication of how to move forward, and cautions about moving forward too early with a proposal.

The key to sales is solving problems. You claim to have a product that addresses a large "potential" - what problem, and for who, does it solve? Can you measure the impact of the solution?

If you have a product that solves a problem, what is the least intrusive thing you can ask of a potential customer for you to identify if they perceive they have that problem, and if they recognize the impact of solving it?

If you cannot mutually identify the problem and impact of the solution, a prospect may only entertain your talkative nature to solve the problem of looking busy to their superiors.

Track the observable characteristics of your prospective customers that are the best indicators of if they have the problem you solve, or not.

Figure out how long it takes you to identify if they have the problem, or not.

I've posted this a few times, but my favorite book is just an ebook from Fog Creek (makers of FogBugz, Trello, Stack Overflow, and more) http://docshare01.docshare.tips/files/20324/203241714.pdf

It's 24 pages, so it's a quick read, and it's from the perspective of an engineer who has to do sales for the first time. A lot of the ideas are taken from Frank McNair's book "How You Make the Sale" https://www.amazon.com/How-You-Make-Sale-Salesperson/dp/B01G...

The other option is to get a job as a Sales Engineer, Customer Engineer, Solution Architect, etc. These are all pre-sales engineering roles where you aren't responsible for closing sales, but are exposed to the process. I know you're already an engineering manager, but Solution Architect is a very entrepreneurial role. IMO, it's a tough skill and tough process to learn by reading, so getting a job with real life experience could be worthwhile.

Read the “challenger sale” book. I’m 20 years in tech sales and it’s easily the best way to get started.

Also - sales is 1:1 conversations. Marketing is 1:many. That’s the easiest way to figure out the difference between the two.

The biggest difference between sales and engineering is the concept of closing.

Engineering or research work is never completed. We are always improving and perfecting the machine.

Closing needs to be thought of binary. This doesn't necessarily mean via contract. Good sales people will close the sale well before anything need to be signed. An expert sales person understands the customer's psychology and leaves them thinking of no other option than to purchase from you.

In technical sales it pays to be knowledgeable and understand the customer's objectives. But even smart buyers and not immune to subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, closing techniques. If you don't employ aggressive closing strategies at the right opportunities, your competition will beat you to it.

I worked in tech sales for couple of years and did just OK. My style was a little too far on the consultative side and I realised I lacked the killer instinct to close hard often enough. Possibly not all industries are as competitive as the one I was in (PCR equipment/reagents). But I decided my personality was just better suited to tinkering so I became a coder instead.

I don’t understand what you mean by “good sales people will close before anything is signed” any good sales person will tell you that before you have money in the bank the client can still not pay they can even sign something and back out.

Obviously the difference is between 'customer has placed order' and 'customer will buy'. Great salespeople will use their energy and skill to achieve the latter with high probability of conversion. They do not need to hound the customer about signing/paying. They have closed and move to the next.

I'd advise you to get back into sales and learn it fully before giving advice here because if someone says they'll buy, you can't take it to the bank and cash it therefore you haven't made a sale. You need to make money and close, maybe that's the "killer instinct" you were talking about

I think the skill sets needed are highly dependent on the type of sale. The approaches used for a cold sale and technical consultations with leads that are already qualified (demonstrated interest in a product/service) are very different.

However, I would start by taking a look into concepts like building rapport, reflective listening, and active listening. You can even look to concepts like social engineering, e.g., priming, elicitation, etc. Most, if not all of these topics, are covered in various books on persuasion/influence.

Be careful though, as you can cross the line towards manipulation really easily easily. That’s not an inherently bad thing if the user wants/needs your product. However, it’s an entirely different story if you are persuading someone to buy something they don’t want/need. For example, a person who comes to buy a car would not be taken advantage of by selling them a car within their budget. It would be taking advantage of someone to persuade them to buy something that they didn’t ask for, was more than they needed, and was more expensive than they could afford.

Another example is the use of the principle of scarcity. While companies/people routinely pressure people into sales via statements like, “I can give this to you for 10% off, but your contract needs to be signed within 5 days due to our end of quarter goals” (yeah, I’m looking at you, Salesforce). The issue here, is that A) Chances are, they’re lying and you could get the same deal on day 6, and/or B) pressuring a customer, in my opinion, is a bit too close to making a light threat intended to spur anxiety in a customer. Everyone has their own levels of moral flexibility, though.

Anyways, I digress. Here are a couple of book recommendations: “Influence” by Robert Cialdini, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, and “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.

Pretty much came here to write this. If one really wants to dive deep I'd add Rhetoric by Aristotle to that reading list.

Hah, funny you mention that. I frequently start by evaluating the pathos, ethos, and logos aspects of my argument when developing a pitch.

Interdisciplinary degree programs certainly have their strengths!

Sales isn't hard. You just go do it, then you iterate and adapt. With an engineering background, you'll be a better sales person in a week than your average sales person probably in their career.

Why? Because you will observe what works and what doesn't; you'll listen to what the customer says and understand what they're looking for; you know your product and will have great answers. You'll quickly hone your message and most importantly, you'll constantly adapt what you say to the next customer learning from the last. Basically, your sales pitch is going to improve exponentially.

Believe me, I've experienced this. As an engineer with no sales training, I agreed to help a friend sell his product at a week-long major "show". Turns out sales is just another system, a system with rules, which makes it an engineering problem to be solved.

Good luck!

You have to do it.

Years ago, I only did software development and realized I was terrible at marketing. I tried reading and watching videos, etc. It didn't really change for me until I sold my consultancy and did developer evangelism at a little company. It was 25 people at the time but everyone was sharp and happy to teach and experiment.

Later when I realized I was terrible at sales, I tired reading and watching videos, etc. Again, it didn't change for me until I joined a company to do technical training to sales engineers & reps. After a year or so, via osmosis and following the best ones around, I picked up a ton and can now do the basics relatively well.

Yes, it takes times. Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, it's exhausting. But it works.

There are a few movies that inspired me when I started learning sales: Glengary glen ross is one of them. The boiler room. Wolf of wall street. Not sales lessons per say but that'll get you into a state of mind and motivate you devour sales books.

Selling is 60% about knowing all the details of a product and 40% about how it's going to address the customer's needs. And not taking it personal when you don't make a sale, of course.

There's very little wiggle room in convincing someone who doesn't need a product that they actually do need it, unless the product is exceptionally good and solves at least some of the customer's problems.

I've found over the years that courses and gurus that promise you the ability to sell anything to anyone are mostly bullshit. Find people who know a lot about the product within an industry and learn from them. Pay them for their time if necessary.

I'm a Director of Sales and the first sales blog I recommend to everyone is gong.io ... they ran thousand and thousands of sales calls through AI and have quite a lot of data-backed observations that will help you win

The best thing I ever learned in sales is people must be comfortable to be successful. Find something relatable and that will often lead to comfort which will lead to a productive conversation/chance at a sale.

Hire someone. Or, if you don't have money, bring on a co-founder.

All the books and suggestions could make you better. But if you've never sold, there's probably a 10% chance that you'll _ever_ be good at it. And if you had an interest, you probably would have done some SA/SE work earlier in your career - given that you haven't, your chances are probably lower.

Finding a good salesperson is also no easy task. Best advice is to recruit someone who has sold you something. You have the relationship already, and you know that they are able to build trust and win business.

The answer depends on what you sell. If you sell an enterprise product to big corps then the patio11's guide [1] would be a good starting point.

Otherwise, selling is simple - just solve the customer's problem as if it was your problem.

What's really hard is marketing. And you will need marketing because marketing generates leads and without a stream of leads you can't do sales.

[1] https://training.kalzumeus.com/newsletters/archive/enterpris...

It shills a little hard for Salesforce IIRC but "Predictable Revenue" was very helpful for me.

"Never Split the Difference" is good even if it leans a little hard on a single rhetorical device, and it offers really easy to practice stuff in an ontology that makes sense to engineering brain for every day life.

"Barbarians at the Gate" is borderline academic but unbeatable for understanding how all deals, no matter how big, are shaped by personalities and emotions. Huge huge time investment but worth it if you have serious entrepreneurial ambition.

Source: I’ve been in biz development and pre-sales for almost 10 years.

I like the Sandler sales methodology as a simple and cooperative process.

Cooperative in the sense that you’re continuously moving closer to a signed deal _with_ the prospect’s commitment and understanding.

It helps you not to waste time with “tire kickers”. By focusing on a “pain” to solve. If someone wants you the spend your time with them educating them at length about your problem and don’t have a clear problem they’re trying to fix then stop immediately and get them to engage with marketing.

What I don’t like about Sandler is I feel if their coaches are so good at sales then they really shouldn’t work on Sandler. Essentially Sandler shouldn’t be a sales company, but something else instead, if they’re so good they should for instance be a car dealership.

You can learn about the theory of sales, I’ll leave the others to post it. Long time sales specialist here: Sales is situational and hard to generalise. There is an important social aspect to sales. You need to know your customer and be able to read their reactions. All individual customers are, well, individuals. They react differently, have different expectations and bring different experience and behaviour to the table. You need to adjust during conversation and be prepared for the worst case scenarios.

Steli, the founder of Close.io has some really good suggestions on how to get better at Sales in this podcast episode. (https://smashnotes.com/p/the-startup-chat-with-steli-and-hit...) It's definitely not a complete guide, but a good place to start, especially for a startup founder.

A big part of sales is handling rejection. There are books that help you detect buying signals and shape conversations in your direction, but dealing with rejection is a big, big part of sales.

If you want to start selling on your own, I would have a goal to talk to at least _x_ people per day about your product. Ask questions more than you talk at them. A LOT of people will think that you’re crazy, but some will entertain your ask and might even give you useful information.

If you want some help, you should hire (or ask) a salesperson and go out on cold calls/pitches with them. Observe more than you speak.

As far as books go, “The Little Red Book of Selling” is a classic along with “Spin Selling.”

Last thing I’ll add here: if conversation with people that you don’t know is difficult for you, that is the first thing I’d focus on. People need to trust you to buy from you; that trust is built through rapport. 2020 is a terrible year for this since the best way to practice conversations is through meeting people outside, but when things stabilize, I’d go to Meetups, conferences, and the like and try to meet x people per day, just like the goal above.

Source: Me selling myself when pick-up artistry was a thing, then using those same skills when I built my (failed) startup. Eventually landed me jobs in consulting.

Three simple rules to get you started:

- Sales is a numbers game that requires touching 'x' per day to achieve 'y' results, ideally by phone and not email. For a busy founder plan on 20 outbound calls per day. Email, marketing, automation, in-person... all great, but nothing beats a quick phone conversation. There are workarounds for that phone call outside the scope of this brief reply.

- The first few sentences of your sales pitch make or break. Research your clients pre-engagement to understand how your product can really help -- in their vernacular. The qualification/Q&A usually suggested is fine, but it assumes your prospects have the time and inclination to follow your sales workflow.

- Prospects who tell you they are interested AND who do what they say they will do are worth continued effort. Break contact (move to nurture) prospects who say one thing and do another & expend more time on outbound calls.

The only metric that matters, aside from # of outbound calls per day, is actual sales. I do look at proposals, engagement, website stats, etc., but for reasons outside the scope of this reply I've come to learn after 20 years that near real-time factors outside your control drive many buying decisions in ways too difficult to reliably measure.

The first thing to learn is that sales is a very wide of range of activities that require different skill sets and aptitudes.

Selling an EMR to a hospital, selling pharmaceuticals to a doctor, sell used cars, selling insurance at circuit city, or selling customer software development are all sales jobs but put someone who is successful at one into another job and very likely they would struggle.

Even selling software is very different. Some important attributes to consider are

"who you are selling to?" Selling to Walmart is very different from selling to Joe who runs his own plumbing company. They make decisions differently, what they care about is different, how many people you need to convince to make a sale is different.

"how much does what you sell cost?" This will determine what sales strategies are viable. If you are selling something that is $100 sales is closer to "marketing will tell you to give me a call" vs selling something that's $100,000 will allow you to pursue more hands on strategies.

"why would someone buy your product?" The big reasons people buy things are to drive up revenue, drive down cost, or reduce risk. How and who you sell these things to differs.

All opinions are my own

It depends on who you're selling to; it seems like you might be doing more enterprise/b2b sales?

Starting in the early aughts I transitioned from being solely technical to having been a key stakeholder (either as a Solution Consultant equivalent, Account Manager, Product Manager) in selling millions in professional services and saas offerings in enterprise b2b sales. I've also created products that lead to and millions in direct to consumer sales. (I get that this isn't a LOT compared to some folks, but I've been exposed to the problem space for a while.)

If I had to start all over again, I would start with the Value Selling Framework. While I've mostly aligned to this any time I've sold things they get a few key things right that make it so much simpler to sell once you understand how you provide value to your customer. It also addresses identifying key stakeholders and ensuring you're talking to the right people.

If you're selling direct to consumers with no conversations to allow for problem/needs discovery, you can still use this. You'll know what you need to do to address the value your offering provides and common objections in your sales collateral.

Finally, if you are selling to businesses, it's important to understand your customers BUYING process. Certain level of expenses require different levels of signoff, so you can get more business sometimes just by lowering your prices a few dollars because it doesn't require a more arduous approval process. Certain features in your product may make the buying process take much longer. Understanding this at the outset can be key to sales success.

Good luck!

Lots of good, more specific recommendations, so here's some broad and cliched advice:

You have two ears, one mouth. Focus on what your potential customer needs, their problems, pain and goals, and how your product can help. It will help you get out of your own head.

Don't take rejection personally. If you can't sell the product then you can at least sell yourself as someone trustworthy, friendly and helpful.

Remember that people are not purely rational, and often have hidden motives, biases, and incentives. You may win or lose a sale on factors totally out of your control, or because of reasons that are not at all clear on the surface.

Charm is a real thing. I can think of a few times I've bought something solely because the salesman was doing SUCH A GOOD JOB of making me feel special, cared for and considered. Even consciously recognizing what was happening didn't change that I wanted the experience to run through to its natural conclusion and to complete the ritual.

Something interesting I found reading Caro's LBJ biographies is how much of a Jobs-like Reality Distortion Field the man had. People who worked with him describe how he'd wind himself up mentally and emotionally while working on an issue. He'd hit some inflection point where he truly believed whatever he was selling, even if he'd been very opposed to it only shortly before. Once he was there, the emotion and energy would overwhelm resistance and he'd get his way.

I'm not saying either of those men are to be idolized, but they do reveal something about the power of exposing your emotional side during a sale. I mention this because you said they can bog you down. Consider how you might turn that to your advantage.

Very useful tips!

Shifting from engineering to sales requires a shift in mindset, from scarcity to abundance. Engineering = scarcity: time-bounded sprints, finite teams, large backlogs of features and tickets, strict prioritization. Sales requires you to think in terms of abundance. There are always more leads, more channels, more tactics.

Also, it's debatable whether being talkative helps sales. Listening is far more critical.

While there are very technical elements to sales (prospecting, funnel management, pipeline review, sales compensation design) that can be measured and tracked, they are relevant for managing salespeople but not for the sale itself.

A sale happening or not depends almost exclusively on whether you can get your counterparty to trust and like you.

The first thing you should focus on is improving your emotional intelligence as this is pretty much the only skill that matters for a successful sale.

Although tons of people believe that you are either born with it or not, I think that EI is highly trainable (unlike IQ) and progress in learning it is scientifically measurable. (except if mental conditions are present like autism or psychopathy)

You probably want to start with doing the EQ-i test to find out where your gaps are. Specifically the metric on personal relationships is highly relevant to improve as soon as possible.

Then you can read great negotiation books like never split the difference and books on sales like the challenger sale.

The theory is not really useful until you've mastered the basic EQ to understand how to execute them.

Jordan Belford. Don’t waste your time on non customers, and don’t lie. Help your customers, even if it means referring them to a competitor.

Cultivate a following, and they will follow.

And don’t lie, when they ask you to sell you a pen, ask if you are in the market for a pen, and what company you represent and what pens you have to offer. Never lie about the pen being in space, everyone knows scummy sales people lie.

Engineer here, who has learned marketing and sales on the job.

Marketing in 1-to-many. Sales is 1-to-1. So sales generally only makes sense in the context of B2B, not if you are selling $30 B2C software.

Sales isn't that hard (afterall sales people can do it!). Talk to the right people, find out what they want, ask for the sale (if appropriate). Don't take it personally if they don't buy.

Talk to the right people is key.

Qualification is one of the most important skills to hone in sales. Are you wasting time with a tire kicker? Someone without actual purchasing authority. Wants to buy but doesn't have budget this fiscal year. Do you know the customer's fiscal year? Do you know the purchasing process at the client? I have seen many deals fouled by procurement and legal even though the buyer is ready to go.

I was an engineer as well early in my career. As an entrepreneur now, I've been doing sales for the last 8 years. I've never been formally in any sales role prior to running my own business, so I mostly learned on the job and on my own through trial and error.

I think when most people hear the word sales, it usually has an adverse reaction. Someone mentioned here that being a consultant is a good way to approach it and I've found that to be true.

I've recently heard of a great acronym that helps you think of how to approach sales: S - Serve - go in w/ a service mindset A - Ask questions - don't go yapping about your offerings just yet. Find out what their pain point is. This way you know what to offer and what to skip L - Listen intently. I think a lot of times, I'm very guilty of "waiting to speak" vs listening. E - Emphathize - with the customer and their pain. This is why they are coming to you. S - Summarize in your own words what you heard.

Then you can "do your thing"

Hey! Excellent that you have an idea that you're excited about and are taking action on it, well done. At the risk of disagreeing with a lot of the content on here, I'd suggest the first thing you want to look at is 'how you want your customer to buy', and design from there, because there are really big differences in strategy you want to address up front. For example, Product Led Growth (PLG) is really effective for a lot of startups (like Spotify for example), but it requires a very different sales model than you would use for a higher ticket B2B solution. You can learn about PLG here https://openviewpartners.com/blog/what-is-product-led-growth....

So I'd suggest you keep it REALLY simple to begin with, don't worry about the differentiation between channels and direct, marketing versus customer success etc. Talk to a few sales people you know selling in similar markets, or best of all, ask some potential customers you know to recommend sales people they like working with. Approaching a sales consultant for a free consult could work, but be careful to protect your intellectual property at this stage, and be aware that many sales consultants have a single area of expertise, like for me, it's B2B sales. If someone asks me about B2C, I'll have an opinion, but there would be much better people to talk to than me! If you're planning to bootstrap initially and aren't working with investors, don't think that precludes you from approaching VC funds to ask for advice or attending briefings in incubators, and building a relationship before you actually want investment is a really good idea too. An amazing source if advice is other founders / entrepreneurs, many of whom (as long as you pick wisely) will actively make time to help other entrepreneurs if they feel they can help you.

I am a software engineer who is learning sales. The one, perhaps most important thing I can share is this:

Practice Sales. Do not just read about it.

It is just like software engineering, if you only read and do not type, you will not be able to connect the dots. The brain has a way to learn and it is through doing. Remember, there are way more people you can sell to (assuming even a few are willing to buy) than you think. Even if the first 500 people have super low conversation rates, do not worry. There are perhaps 50K more people for a niche idea.

It does not matter what strategies you apply - but be persistent, and measure the results. Keep making small experiments and see for yourself. Put them in a Spreadsheet if you have to. Everything from timing of a message or email to the description of the person (on Twitter) you are reaching out to matters. And do not feel SHY or awkward to sell. Engineers really suffer from this. Do not push, be when you know your solution can really help, then ask them to try it out.


As someone who wouldn't in a million years buy anything from anyone who was trying to sell me something, how do I learn sales?

Come on now, you buy things every day.

The secret isn’t making everyone say yes but to have as few people as possible tell you no.

I never thought I'd do sales. For B2B, read: - The Challenger Sale - Value Based Fees - Pitch Anything

+1 for The Challenger Sale https://www.amazon.com/Challenger-Sale-Control-Customer-Conv....

It really made me better at handling customers, even as non-sales

You can't till you over come this mental barrier. There is this great book called To sell is human. Try giving it a read.

Having shadowed some great sales execs in my earlier career and having done some enterprise sales as a startup founder here are my pointers to get started and what perhaps matters the most. I'll address what matters most first:

1. The ability to take a NO without getting burnt out. Try to keep the emotion out of a sale as much as possible, even though it's your company and product. 2. The ability to have a sense of humour and make conversations enjoyable. No one wants to talk to a sales guy who is boring. 3. The ability to understand when have you earned the trust of your customer. Essentially your customer has to be comfortable talking to you and one of the best signals for earning positive trust is how much your customer makes casual funny comments or small talk. 4. Once you've earned your customer's trust - a sale is more or less guaranteed. Once you've learned how to earn trust - I mean once you've cracked that algorithm it's rinse and repeat.

To get started: 1. Make random conversations with people of your customer's persona either at events, through cold calling or cold emailing and be very very sensitive to the pulse of people you talk to. Do they engage in conversation, are the conversations ending with one words rather than continuations. 2. Have a very precise pitch of what you are selling. Pitch the customer once they are relatively in their comfort zone. 3. You won't be able to sell to busy execs SVPs and above - no matter how good you think you are. So it's better to reach out to someone in the lower rungs of the ladder. 4. If you play golf or some sport where decision makers hangout it'll certainly help to make conversation. 5. Sales is typically a male dominated field unfortunately. So you have to be conversant in sports/politics of that region to make some headway.

To summarise, sales is all about making conversations and earning someone's trust. It has very little to do with 'what' you are selling.

I helped run a small startup a long time ago. I helped shape some sales strategies and went on client pitches. Our main approach was to find the "pain point" of an executive in the company (we were B2B) and break through to them that way. To find the pain point you have to ask questions, which helps engage with the person you are selling to. Sometimes you shape your questions to get the client to think about potential pain points that your product solves.

We kept crafting our message over time, using email and cold calls, and used a lot of copywriting books to find messaging and pitches. I think the best one was The Copywriter's Handbook. Straight and to the point book. It's more about advertising, but messaging is key for sales, too. A headline is basically your elevator pitch. I think we also used the book Spin Selling.

To start, you should purge everything you think "sales" is. Good sales teams are process and data oriented, talk to customers about solving real problems, and have great long-term relationships with customers. I think your comments about being talkative and being emotional are really just about the phases of sales you'd worth most about which are the introductory meetings and final pricing stages. You can hire plenty of people that can coach you through that.

Whatever culture you are building for you company should be adaptable to your sales org as well, so I'd say you start there. Work the opportunities yourself, start tracking them in a spreadsheet, do write-ups for the company about the wins and loses, and use your founder hustle to get started. It won't be as daunting as you think.

Here's how. Hit the street and try to sell something to passers by. Hot day - maybe coupons for ice cream. Rainy day - maybe some umbrellas at a major bus stop or transit station. Keep leveling up from there. Find a problem and sell folks the solution.

All the book recommendations in the thread are solid.

Whenever I hear someone saying the market is huge I think of this classic Thiel talk. Sounds like its definitely something you should watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fx5Q8xGU8k

A lot of good recommendations here.

I think that selling, especially the selling you’re talking about has a lot to do with mindset. I am also an entrepreneur and I have found for my own sales process that mindset and a bias toward action have produced more results and a more comfortable, natural selling style that fits me personally rather than trying to sound like someone else or use someone else’s techniques.

For this I highly recommend “sell or be sold” by grant cardone. Ignore the macho bravado, and take the mindset of sales that he has. Really helped me a lot in selling myself and selling my company rather than selling a product (although it la good for that too). I also recommend “if you’re not first you’re last” and “the 10x rule” also by grant cardone. Good luck!

If plan to sell to corporations I highly recommend "How Winners Sell" (https://www.amazon.com/How-Winners-Sell-Strategies-Competiti...) Its theoretical enough that you will understand why you have to do somethings but practical enough that you will know what to do.

For sales motivation, I love the "Little Red Book of Sales" (https://www.amazon.com/Little-Red-Book-Selling-Principles/dp...) for when you need to kick you own behind...

- You just get in the middle of sales in every possible way. - Find or build something that gets you excited to sell. - Find your passion, plan how to monetize it and start talking with all potential customer personas who would buy it. - Your goal always should be to get another meeting until it's closed and paid. - Optimize your social media to unfollow all BS things and follow just everything that is quality about sales. Then you will get recommendations on more and more groups, pages, profiles to follow and get into that. - Read books by reading intro and conclusion and if it's boring leave it. If it's interesting read it and write it down and then organize your own process of selling.

Lean into and leverage your genuine curiosity about the worlds of the people whom you’re building for, and keep coming back to it.

Be willing to explore your curiosity for the problem(s) your product will be solving, and the natural/unnatural impact interacting with you and your software has on these groups of very real people, who cooperate under the conceptual guise of “Companies”, who you will call “Customers”.

Be careful about the temptation to confuse the very empty sweet/salty snack-bite sized “this is how sales works” mantras put out by all the pundits on twitter. Most of them are 10% truth, 90% “look at me”.

Talk to real people who have spent meaningful time in their careers in Sales and Sales leadership in the space you’re interested in.

- Sales and Marketing go together, but the paths diverge once you know the importance of each function. It is good to get a broad idea of both. You can do some courses on coursera/MooCs, and try to get hands-on with running some marketing campaigns. - "The Challenger Sale" is a fairly easy and good book to read in general. - Have a look at SaaStr channel, there are some nuggets there https://www.youtube.com/c/Saastr/videos

All the best. Try out a lot with short feedback loops so that you can course correct suitably. Always respect the customer and their needs.

It really depends on the industry and the stage of the company. Without knowing that, I can't comment much.

Founder sales is very much marketing+ sales. As much as you're selling the product, you're selling yourself. Chances are the early adopters who are going to buy your product are actually buying into your vision and YOU!

I think the question you're asking is how to get the market responds to your product aka product market fit. In the early days, sales is about understanding the market, finding your early adopters and let them help you shape your product. I would recommend you reading "Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers".

Crossing the Chasm, The Little Red Book of Sales, To Sell Is Human, and The Challenger Sale are great intros to sales, especially for those coming from a technical background.

I like HubSpot for tracking / metrics. They have an always free tier too.

Don't get bogged down with process, jargon etc. Spend as much time as possible with your potential customers trying to understand the problem and understanding their work. 90% listening and 10 % nudging them to tell u more. Once u understand the problem you then start exploring solutions in partnership with them, that might solve their problem - help them do their job better, meet their objectives. The goal is convince them that you understand their problems and you and they can jointly create a solution that meets their needs.

Once you have success with early customers then you can think about formal sales process etc.

I remember subscribing to a newsletter which was trying solve this gap. I have not read all the content though.

Check it out here: https://salesforfounders.com/

You can't get real sales or business experience from a book. I would say start from the basics in terms of 1-on-1 sales. First, develop a tolerance to rejection; sell something people almost never want like chocolate bars or magazines door-to-door thousands of times. Then, learn to qualify and overcome objections. Without the interpersonal skills of selling, data is worthless and analysis is procrastination. If someone can't hustle, it doesn't matter how great their good or service is because no one will know about it.

Another consideration is to find an equal cofounder who is a superb hustler. Hack + hustle = win.

I personally have sold over $20 million in online marketing and website development services and have a business with 180 full time employees. The parents advice in this post is absolutely correct. The only way to learn to sell is to do it.

You have to sit with hundreds of prospects and learn to listen to what they are saying. To read their nonverbal cues. To respect what they are saying and customize your offerings to match. To leave your ego at the door.

You need to prepare for tons of rejections and even more ghostings. You need to be ready for people to tell you every reason imaginable why you aren't good enough... Then you need to pick yourself up and explain to them clear and politely why you are their best option.

Most importantly, never give up. Just trying over and over again until you are sick of hearing yourself talk is the only way to master sales.

Since you're creating one product, you should focus on the branding of it. I found this book very helpful in getting my startup to focus:


Also depends on your target client base. Are you targeting a large general market or a specific type of market? If it's specific, be ready to do one-on-one sales pitches and be wary of potential clients that may want you to pivot your product away from your strategic goals.

Similar background to yourself as an engineer, not in sales but as a co-founder often find the sales process a big part of my job.

We've implemented Strategic Selling see https://www.amazon.com.au/New-Strategic-Selling-Successful-C... which provides a great structure for us and a unified language inside our organisation.

Maybe not as useful if you're just trying to get started but does provide a structure to understand the sales process and why a sale closes or doesn't close.

You are better off partnering with a professional who has sales background.

I have many years of sales, operations, business and finance experience in the Internet infrastructure industry. I'm an engineer by training, albeit from two decades ago. I want to partner with highly technical co-founders to build and take a product to market.

I had earlier tried routes such as going to Meetups but with the COVID-19 situation that looks not feasible. I would like to meet technical people interested in areas such as 5G, hybrid multi-cloud, Blockchain/Cryptography, IoT, Machine Learning etc.

My email is in my profile. Please contact if you are interested.

Besides al the tricks and books that others recommended, I love to: 1. Enumerate the limitations of my product with brutal honesty, that is obviously against my interest as seller. 2. Put clearly my interest as seller to make a sell so I tell to my customers that my opinions and advices are deeply flawed. So this way clearly I can lose a customer but almost always a I win a friend, and I always end with more info from my customers that my competitors and I close more difficult sales. Is not Advice that you find in the typical sales book but it gives you a lot of power over your customers

Sales is a psychological game.

Try selling a product, it doesn't have to be related to your current concern. If you're willing to put in the work, canvassing door to door might be the best way to learn. You can see your audience's reaction immediately. There are subtle details you'll miss when selling in other mediums. Nothing will help you understand consumers better than talking to them in person.

After going door to door, writing sales copy and understanding your funnel will be much simpler. From there you can use your technical mind to optimize the process with multivariate testing etc.

What pricetag do we talk here? Its also different ppl having the power to order. Generalising broadly, here it is:

- up to 1000$, engineer can directly orde - up to 10k manager needs to get involved - 100k manager manager needs to get involved - above 100k CEO, and if government than official request for tender needs to be issued

Depending on what tier you are different approaches and different time frames need to be considered.

For me everything above 100k needs around 2 years from the moment the customer (who will later use it) says: 'this is great, we need that' to the purchase order beeing on the table.

In the 00 years I started my first company with a product called "Search Engine Optimized Distribution of Pressreleases and -communication over Blog and Web 2.0 Networks".

Today we would call it Corportae Blogging.

I created a product, a blog CMS (very poor on the M) and wanted to convince companies of SEO and blogging. Non of it where anywhere on their radar.

And 0 sales experience from my side.

I fail and realized I needed sales experience. So I applied and became a key account and a slazy company which sold crappy websites to estate agents.

Worst job ever. Learned a lot.

If you want to really learn sales, start selling. Just change your job for a while.

Way of the Wolfe by Jordan Belfort. Bar none best pure sales book out there. It really did make a big improvement on my sames abilities. And yes, the guy is scummy, but damn his book works.

Pretty much a good place to get started so you have something actionable is:

1. find out who your users are, and go talk to them

2. your marketing usually will fuel your sales

3. you'll do a lot iteration with 1&2

4. figure out how long your sale cycle will be

5. Usually sales is a full time job, so delegating it to someone might be useful

Advice in this thread is pretty good. im gonna need to write about it later here to remember: https://www.whatwhatgoose.com/product-management

Someone posted a link on Hacker News with an interesting collection of resources collected around this subject: https://github.com/goabstract/Marketing-for-Engineers#-twitt...

I'm still working through it, tbh. It's helped a bit, but YMMV, as the saying goes.

Not because of the info, as it's as prescritive as such a guide could possibly be.

It's just because of the nature of selling stuff.

Lots of good info in here. Some thoughts from a current B2B software sales guy:

* The successful B2B sales folks I’ve encountered aren’t what the general public would deem your typical salesperson. They listen more than they talk. They’re looking to help. They aren't pushy.

* You can’t control whether someone says yes or no or even if they respond. Figure out what you can control (whether or not you ask, how many people you reach out to, etc.), and focus on that. The other stuff will follow.

* Predictable Revenue has been mentioned. It’s a good ideal to strive for. I’d argue it’s overkill for a company in its infancy. For a new business, I’d suggest something simpler. Find about 100 potential customers, reach out to them, talk with them, and see if there’s a fit. Go from there.

* Sales is solving problems. What problem(s) do you solve? What problem(s) do your potential customers have? Is there a fit? “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

* Some folks to follow on Linkedin Sarah Brazier: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sjbrazier/ Sam Nelson: https://www.linkedin.com/in/realsamnelson/ Sahil Mansuri: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sahilmansuri/ Scott Leese: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottleese/ Trish Bertuzzi: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trishbertuzzi/

* The Entrepid How to Sell pdf is making the rounds, and for good reason. It’s solid. Here’s the link again: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57daf6098419c27febcd4...

Anyways, this is my $0.02.

I'm a developer who hated sales and was pushed into it because all the other members of the team were developers who hated it more than I did.

Some great tactical recommendations have been made here, but the author who got me to re-think what sales was and to see it as honourable and helpful was Zig Ziggler.

His books are old-school, but reading them will make you enjoy selling.

I'd recommend "Secrets of Closing the Sale" to start, but all of his early work is good. His later books get a bit self-helpy.

It is a mix of a lot of things, such as - listening and asking the right questions.

I don't think one book or guru can give you all the answers. You pick things up along the way by learning and doing.

Couple of my favourites:

1. “When someone says no, I ask the same question a different way.”. Ryan Serhant 2. Sales is a process and when you don't have a process you have a problem. - My Co-Founder 3. You have to listen more than you speak, you have two ears for a reason

Bonus - Sell the sausage, not the sizzle.

As a new salesman, your main issue is getting over rejection. If you don't learn how to do this properly, you'll end up not explaining your product properly, hesitating to present to marginal prospects, and changing your product too readily from criticism.

So just go about doing the usual sales thing of describing your product, finding prospects, and talking to them. A lot. I think density of rejection is actually key to thickening your skin.

I have no idea how to develop those skill.

I've been in some form of programming for 30 years. I know myself well enough to know I couldn't sell water in the Sahara desert. I just don't have it.

I can recognize good sales people, though. They are much less "true/false" in thinking than a good programmer. I didn't realize it for quite a while, but it's a symbiotic relationship-- programmers need sales, sales need programmers.

Good luck.

I’ve been in sales for over 20 years and the one thing that helped me the most and continues to set me apart is the 6 terrible months I sold cars at a Honda dealership.

It’s the worst kind of sales, but it teaches you the sales process, and most importantly it’s humbling when someone you consider intellectual inferior outperforms you time after time. Sales is not about intellect, it’s about building relationships and solving problems.


“Selling, to be a great art, must involve a genuine interest in the other person's needs. Otherwise it is only a subtle, civilized way of pointing a gun and forcing one into a temporary surrender.” -- Percy H. Whiting

By far the best and most concise information I've come across is from this podcast episode:


In a text form:


It’s hard to shift your mindset to emotions but by and large that’s what sells, not features. So as others have said it’s all about listening and then finding the pain they have at an emotional level and seeing of your product can solve it. A productivity tool doesn’t sell on ROI calculated by hours saved, but on “freedom” and “self actualisation by doing more meaningful work and less tedious work”

> A productivity tool doesn’t sell on ROI calculated by hours saved

But isn’t that exactly how mega-successful (but awful) products like Blackboard and WebEx get sold? Or any product where the purchaser is not the user but actually from the procurement department?

Yes the whole procurement process is designed to recenter the equation on the economic benefit. That’s why you need a champion on the side of the company you’re selling to, who will help you overcome the hurdle because they are really invested in your product

The audible book: The Psychology of Selling - The Art of Closing Sales, by Brian Tracy, is very good in helping overcome the fear that some of us might have before the sales call/meeting, handling the rejections, and moulding your approach/attitude towards selling. There are many more great tips in this book. Recommend the audible, not the print.

Highly recommend https://www.amazon.com/Triangle-Selling-Sales-Fundamentals-G... - as an engineer and first-time founder(Glisten AI - YC W20) it gave me a great framework to approach sales calls with.

surprised it isn't mentioned:


Key strategic partners for distribution, sales, brand, advertising. They are the highest ROI on your time by a long shot.

Big partners will negotiate for a Large cut. This is a cost you can absorb early on because the scale effects of partners set you up for success in 6, 12 months.

Email me if you'd like to know more :-] charlie@vannorman.ai

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How to enable "winmove" ?

@northpoleescape This is quite a open ended question.

Great answers here but I feel the most important aspects were not covered.

I'm happy to jump on a call to help. I find this to be a very interesting problem.

I've worked along side sales for years and helped startups define their sales strategy.

Maybe I can write a blog post if we chat goes well for others to read.

My mentor recommends The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It's Not About the Money It's About Being the Best You Can Be


Be interested in solving real problems by providing real solutions. Make your pitch, answer questions. Then stop talking or else you'll talk your customer right out of the sale. Above all, be human and be open with others. They aren't buying your product or service, they're buying YOU.

Book: To sell is human. Daniel Pink

#1 Remember who will be paying your wage; your clients. #2 Remember the Pareto Principle (80/20) rule. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

You will find that #2 applies to MANY aspects of life. Good luck!

Learned sales by doing and w/ help of a friend as a first time founder. B2B. Happy to pass it forward to B2B first time founders. Book a 20 min mtg w/ me if you like. https://meetings.hubspot.com/boris40.

A great resource to get you thinking along the right lines: the book Spin Selling[1]. This book is about doing selling involving long sales cycles, where it could take you a good amount of time to close the deal. This is often the case with enterprise software.

An example of a great concept from this book that has shaped the way I approach things: You've heard of the concept of closing, where you ask the customer to buy the product. Spin selling extends that concept in the realm of a longer sales cycle that involves many steps such as demos, consulting sessions and so on. Every interaction you have with the customer has some desired outcome that eventually leads to the final sale. For example, your initial contacts with the prospect, the goal of those initial interactions is to get the demo scheduled. Or perhaps it's to introduce you to someone closer to the decision maker. In each interaction, you keep a goal in mind and close towards that goal.

Three other books that were amazing and formative for me are below. These aren't about sales in particular but about making your own business in general, which includes sales in various degrees: 2. Good to Great 3. Crossing the Chasm 4. The E Myth

Also an honorable mention goes to this book, which is more about marketing than sales: Winning Through Intimidation. The book isn't actually about intimidating people, but it's about branding, image, and approach. Despite the evil sounding title, it's an amazing resource.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Spin-Selling-Neil-Rackham/dp/05660768... [2] https://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Some-Companies-Others/dp/0... [3] https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Chasm-3rd-Disruptive-Mainstr... [4] https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-About... [5] https://www.amazon.com/Winning-through-Intimidation-Victor-B...

Here's one more recommendation for "Founding Sales" (https://www.foundingsales.com). It's the best book about sales for startup founders I've ever seen.

I haven't done sales, but look up Brian G. Burns on LinkedIn. Dude does a lot of short videos on sales (many of them generally applicable, though) with really good insights. How to communicate better, move towards action, etc.

Great sales is a byproduct of a great product. Focus on the needs of your customer (talk to them) and build a product that solves their problems, saves them money, or helps them make more of it.

TBH, having witnessed the work of some great salesmen as a VPE of a successful startup, I think with training you could do a _passable_ job of it, but you're unlikely to be amazing at it. So do what you can in the interim, but spend an unreasonable amount of effort trying to find that magical sales guy/gal who can sell ice to people inhabiting the polar stations. Such salespeople exist, and they're worth their weight in rhodium.

There are two schools of thought, one says "work on your weaknesses", another says "play to your strengths". As I get older and gain more experience, I'm firmly in the second camp. Learn enough sales to have a good bullshit detector, though.

Everyone needs to sell at some point though, even if to just get though the interview process to land a dev job.

That is true, but you don't need to be a genius at that. The bar is really low - most people don't even negotiate their pay.

I think the book "Spin Selling" may be worth your time.

Selling to someone is as simple as saying, "I can sell you this for this much, sound good?". Why they say "yes" is up to the product being sold, and the person being sold to. The better you understand that relationship, the more it makes sense.

Try selling a 100$ bill to someone. You could say something like "Hey man, I can give you a really good deal on this 100$ bill, you interested?". "90$?" "I can give you an even better deal! 75$ bucks and this 100$ is yours!" "Ok, sure."

That's sales. The 100$ bill is be the product you're selling and all it takes is for the buyer to see it like that.

Founding Sales is a great choice! covers almost everything that you need in your entrepreneurial journey.

Referral from our investor—pete is a great entrepreneur, very funny also

In sales you listen about your customer and solve their problems. It may or may not be with your product. But hopefully your product solves their needs.

Check out “Founding Sales” by Pete Kazanjy. It’s written for people in your exact situation and 99% of it is available for free online.

From memory, the Fog Creek blog had some good stuff on sales for beginners, but that seems to have died with the Twitch re-branding.

You should definitely hit me up. Google me my name is Vlad Mkrtumyan, we’re learning the opposite skill sets. currently I’m on my 3rd bootstrapped startup and I wanna learn programming to make my CTOs life easier.

I’ve sold everything from $500 a month CRMs (our 2nd venture) to 120k website projects, marketing campaigns, consulting, etc.

I’ve generated over 500k of revenue in my life, not a top 1% salesperson, but decent and on track. Next I’m trying to learn how to manage a sales team.

If you wanna get traction read: Traction by Gabriel Weinberg. If you wanna learn sales the easiest thing I would say to do is just start. Practice, go find something you believe in and do it. Get good at learning common problems on what you’re selling and showing people the Solutions as well as how to listen to them.

Make no mistake it’s definitely a skill like coding that anyone can learn if they tried it just takes a lot of patient and effort, but once you get past being emotional and caring so much on every detail it can be fun.

In terms of what to track it all depends on what you’re selling -but the basics would be: 1. Calls made 2. Where clients are in the pipeline 3. Revenue generated this month.

In terms of books you can google those, I think you should simply pick 5 and dive in, those 5 will help you find the next 5.

nice one:


Presentation shown to new Mercedes salsman in the late 1980s and early 90s. Covers lots of sales tips and techniques to help put the customer in the driver's seat of a new Mercedes.

Depending on the instrument, e.g. On piano start with c major, but on violin you're better off with g.

Hi there, my 15 years of experience was : developer / Sysadmin / tech consulting / management consulting / sales for a consulting firm / entrepreneur (many startups and non profits)

Sales for a startups depends of course of the product b2b vs b2c is one dimension and venture backed or bootstrap is another.

For b2c I would recommend lean startup (the product should ideally sell itself / marketing is key)

For b2b you need a list of contact and you need to reach out it’s a volume game to conversion like in b2c the difference is “you are the add” you should equally test different message and tweak them and the product for conversion (assuming the product is good)

Venture capitalists / angels also need a sales pitch. The pitch is closer to a story telling each of them is expecting something different and the beat way to get in is via warm intro (works also for b2b)

Nothing mind blowing here as on how to train for it I would suggest to join a software company and do sales (b2b or b2c) it’s easier to start with a known sales pitch and a known product / market than having to work on figuring it out on the way.

I will end with a funny comment yet important I think it was from union square venture who said to be careful to invest in a startup with a great sales person as it might send a false positive on growth (startups especially b2c should grow via marketing not direct sales as for b2b if the founder is an amazing sales person it might be hard to scale that)

Hope that helps

Spin sales is probably the best book I have read on complex sales cycle. Terrible name though.

This is such an excellent question and the responses are invaluable. Thank you for posting it.

> Ask HN: How to learn sales?

Try, a lot. Saying thin without a slightest note of sarcasm

Take a professional 4-5 day sales course offered in a conference room at a local hotel. Xerox used to have a terrific one; perhaps it still exists. Here is a summary.

1. The key to selling is listening. Your goal is to listen for buyer requirements and then to support them actively with specific products features that meet THEIR needs. (Certain features of your product that your company is proud of, but your prospect is not interested in should never be dwelt upon. Don’t sell features not needed; it shows you’re not listening.)

2. Few products are sold if the customer has nagging objections. It is the job of the salesman to elucidate those objections, which may be guarded or hidden, and to handle them, showing they are either actually unimportant in real operation, or that the product handles the objections in operation.

3. Elucidation of objections is done by open probes: questions that do not have a yes or know answer.

4. Every salesperson must at some point explicitly ASK FOR THE ORDER. Not ASKING FOR THE ORDER is bullshitting with the customer, not selling.

5. There are various ways to ask for the order in a non aggressive, non-confrontational manner. This is called a TRIAL CLOSE. Natural or experienced salespeople are fluid and good at this; rookies need training hence the sales course.

6. At some point, the prospect may give a buying signal. Behavior is very important at this point. The customer must be subtly or not so subtly be supported in his putative decision. Some concrete auxiliary act, such as writing up the order, discussing installation or delivery terms, opening a customer account, even initiating a credit verification, is often done to CLOSE the sale.

7. A good salesperson NEVER SELLS A PRODUCT TWICE. Once the buyer indicates he will order, all product discussion must be kept to an absolute minimum, and engaged only if new objections, perhaps from others in the organization, surface. Sales are lost when a salesperson incorrectly gushes on about his product, only to himself open up new questions and objections inadvertently. It use to be that salespeople did a lot of qualification: finding out precisely who has the authority to buy. This is still very important. But you may have to sell one or a number of technical people, with the decision made by a committee. Every situation is different.

8. Every race, gender, creed, body mass index, personality, and social style can be successful in sales. Sales is a professional activity, not a personality. You can forget all the snickering and stereotypes about “salesmen” right now.

9. Finally there is the urban legend of the highly successful, wealthy salesman, who, in each call would initially be so nervous he would drive around the block 3 times before having the temerity to park and enter the reception area. For 25 years. Keep that in mind and happy selling.

Pro-tip: HN does not recognize ordered lists. You need two line breaks between list items, just as with regular paragraphs.

I've fixed the formatting. Thanks.

Check out the blog Sales Tips for Startups, www.salestipsforstartups.com

Lean Customer Development by C. Alvarez.

Solution Selling by M. Bozworth

Just start, cheques = good, talk = bad.

> How do I get started?

Try to convince some kid to give you a dollar for saving other kids from whatever. From zombies?

Zig Ziglar audio books.

I am exactly in your shoes. Doing marketing as I write this.

The best way is to take one of those day gigs selling anything under the sun: magazine subscriptions, American Airlines credit cards, Joe Biden fundraising, etc. Getting over the fear of the “no” is critical, and getting the occasional “yes” is also important, and these sales gigs teach you both.


How Donald Kendall, legendary salesman as PepsiCo’s boss, sparked the cola wars https://archive.vn/Sa8rQ

Learn people.


Why the downvotes for an innocent joke?

The classic explanation on this is an old comment by scott_s:



Basically it's that people overestimate how funny their jokes are, and that sort of internet humor grows like kudzu, so HN users are sensitive to the need to contain it, a bit like weeding a garden. Non-obvious witticisms do fine on HN—they're just rare.


Isn’t sales mostly learning how to wine and dine people?

That's waitering.

I can teach everything you need to know about sales for just $399.99.

Lesson one: end that price in a .95

Or respect your customers and make it a round $400

Yeah but I’m 5c cheaper so that makes you the bad guy!


Exercise regularly. Gym is not necessary but hour long walks daily will raise Testosterone levels considerably, add to overall calmness and dull your emotions.

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