Startups don’t need a sales team right away. Founders know their product better than anyone, and that expertise can boost early startup sales strategy.


Founders struggle with this question all the time. 

As a CEO, you’re used to being a leader, innovator, and operations manager. No one can expect you to flawlessly execute each role. However, with any startup, a sales strategy is a must. What can you do to drive sales? How do you get new customers?

Key Takeaways: 

  • If your startup is in the proof phase, as a founder, conversations between you and your early adopter customer prospects are necessary.
  • The first batch of sales during the product-market fit stage will benefit from a founder directly involved in customer engagement tactics. 
  • It is only when you have defined the customer’s journey — and, in the process, the framework of your startup sales cycle — that you should think about hiring a VP or building a sales team

Simply put, successfully scaling your company to handle more sales depends on timing. Focus on taking the right action at the right time. 

Let Your Founder’s Perspective Fuel Your Startup Sales Strategy

Working on how to get new customers starts during the proof phase of your startup’s life cycle. 

Luckily, what a startup business needs to accomplish during the proof phase — finding the problem-solution fit and optimizing the product-market fit — naturally complements a founder’s main expertise. You don’t need a salesperson to do this job just yet.

What is the Proof Phase and How Does It Help Get New Customers?

The proof phase occurs sometime before or during the startup’s launch. Simply put, your focus should be on demonstrating why your prospects should buy your product. 

You may need to arrange exploratory meetings and demonstrations of your product to drive discovery and increase interest. However, proof of concept may not be enough. 

A hands-on introductory trial — likely in the form of a minimum viable product (MVP) — could be a requirement for companies in your target audience to finalize a purchasing decision. 

Why is a Founder’s Point of View Necessary to Develop a Startup Sales Cycle?

Eighty percent of business buyers say talking to a salesperson that doesn’t try to sell them what they don’t need is a critical aspect of their customer experience.

During the problem-solution fit or discovery stage of the proof phase, that’s exactly the type of conversation you should encourage. While in the proof phase, interactions between your company and your target audience should revolve on what real customer problem your product addresses, and how the solution it provides is more preferable than existing alternatives. 

As someone who knows the startup’s product better than anyone else, you need to lead these constructive conversations with prospects and early adopters. No VP of sales or seasoned consultant can come in and execute this more effectively than you, the founder.

Tell your startup’s origin story from a compelling and engaging point of view. Passion for your product will result in dramatic and dynamic conversations that will make it easier to make personal connections with your potential customers. Cultivating a close relationship with your audience allows you to gather useful insights and qualitative data to inform your startup sales strategy and point product development in the right direction.

Wait for the Right Moment to Scale Your Startup’s Sales Team

After convincing your first group of early adopters to buy your product, what comes next? You’ve already done more than you think. 

Because you invested in getting to know your prospects — and figuratively walked alongside them, from their initial discovery of your product to the eventual purchase — you are now also able to identify and track information that can go into defining a sensible and repeatable customer journey.

What is a Customer Journey?

This encompasses each company process and interaction — across all channels and touchpoints — that a prospect experiences throughout every point of the customer life cycle.  

Often, sales and marketing professionals use a visual representation called a customer journey map to easily get a sense of customers’ needs, pain points, and general motivations. It’s also ideal for illustrating concepts quickly and concisely to align the initiatives of varied teams within a company.

Once you have the qualitative and quantitative data to construct a customer journey, you can consider hiring a VP or expanding your startup to include a specialized sales team.

Why Hire a Sales Team Only When You’re Ready? 

Your first batch of sales — and what you learn from the experience, including the tools to craft a workable customer journey — is the foundation of what will eventually become your startup sales cycle

For a sales team to be effective and get new customers fast, they need the collected data from your proof phase. Sales experts can identify and implement standard initiatives to formalize your startup sales strategy. They will know how to project sales for a startup business, too.

However, founders must be aware that one of the most consistent reasons for startup failure is premature scaling. You’ve got to be certain that your product-market fit is established. Otherwise, you may end up burning money with a sales team selling to an audience that’s simply not engaged enough. 

Optimize Your Startup Sales Strategy for Maximum Growth

Is your startup in the proof phase? You should be focused on market validation and growth readiness to jump-start the kind of growth that will require you to hire a VP or a team of salespersons.