Understanding Sales people & the Sales Culture
Startup Codex

As Mark Suster reminds us in the post featured here, the majority of technology startups are created by product people or business people. Founders who rarely have sales skills or sales culture in their DNA.

Myself, I didn't have this culture at all when I co-founded my first company. My friend and associate was fortunately a natural in this field and managed all sales activities.

Over the years I have seen how sales requires a real mastery of processes and fundamentals to have a chance of success.

Founders with no sales background can obviously sell and even seriously start their business with a good product, a market, their instinct and their enthusiasm. But when it comes to really scaling up and exploding the numbers with a more massive commercial rollout, it becomes very damaging not to have the right methodologies.

But beyond the methodologies comes another important aspect that few founders have when embarking on their first venture. This is the knowledge of the sales people.

Based on his own experience, Mark Suster gives us a clear picture of sales people and the balance of power that must be harnessed to get the best from them.

I have personally experienced up close and personal each of the points Suster makes. Both in my own companies and in those of the founders I work with. I think that every entrepreneur who does not have a real sales background should be aware of these elements to better prepare for this management which is so specific, but vital for the development of any company.

Sales people:

  • Are motivated by cash. Founders think in options. Don’t confuse the two. Sales people want the stuff they can spend today.
  • Are more mercenaries than missionaries. That doesn’t make them bad — it just means that they know that they are “hired guns” and they act accordingly
  • Many great ones don’t thrive in the early phase of a company where the sales is more consultative or evangelical. They like a solid product, well defined pricing, good references to sell against, a clear quota and well defined competitors. This is why I tell startups that most seasoned sales execs aren’t right for startups.
  • They are as good at selling you as they are at selling your product to customers. That means if you don’t understand the way they work you’re susceptible to being blind sided.