Founder Selling

Founder Selling

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I’m currently writing a Micro Credential in Founder Selling for University of Galway with Professor Jonathan Levie. I was delighted to be his first guest on the Founder Selling Podcast.

What is different about founder selling, compared to someone who has chosen sales as a career?

Founder selling is what do you do when you need to sell, so you have a great idea, maybe you’re building a product or putting together a service proposition. But you have no brand, no marketing backup, no track record, no reference customers and you are not yet confident that your product or service even works. 

Founder selling is different from professional sales and sales management, and research shows that founder selling is critical to new venture development. Yet, entrepreneurs are often unprepared for this challenge. I see this all the time; companies don’t spend enough time understanding who their customer really is and how exactly the product or service they are going to offer can solve customer’s problems. Most don’t understand the value of building a relationship with the customer. I’m also mindful that Founder Selling is part of a bigger juggling act, because as a Founder you wear many hats to get the business started initially or start to scale it. 

Working on the Sales Apprenticeship, I see the difference between someone specifically working in a sales role because they are all consumed by it. Sales people also tend to be hired when a business is up and running, having secured the first few customers and at a time where the company is actually making money.

When you look back at your own founder selling experience, what would you do differently now if you were starting over?

  1. The first thing I would do is spend time clearly understanding customer needs; my first website talked about how great I was, it listed the features of my services, what I should have done was talk to my customers, describing the solutions to their problems that I provide. Knowing and understanding this would mean I wouldn’t waste time or resources.
  2. The second thing I would do differently would be to accept and embrace the ‘no’s. It’s so disheartening to be rejected, especially when you’ve invested time into a proposal or a customer meeting. But it does get easier, and you become less emotionally connected to the no, which can only be a good thing.
  3. The third thing I would do differently is to get networking and build relationships early on. You have got to get yourself out there, not just the brand- but you. I often talk about the brilliant book by Kelly Hoey “Build your Dream Network”, it talks about hanging out where your customers hang out. There’s no better way to build your sales pipeline and it supports customer discovery and lead generation.

What can someone who is starting their own business expect to gain from the NEW micro-cred in Founder Selling?

In a nutshell, we look at the sales process for B2B and B2C ventures. In order to do this, we explore who your first customer or core customers are. The clearer the vision and understanding here, the easier everything else is. So once you know who you are targeting we look at the 4 founder selling stages: Opening the Sale, Building the relationship, Objection Handling and Closing the Sale. You’ll learn that these four stages are about having conversations not just pitching your product.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have experience or if you’re shy and introverted, this microcred will give you confidence to sell. I’ve worked with lots of people that have never done anything like this before. We understand the pressures and stresses of starting or growing a business. We discuss getting rejected by potential customers and that the no’, it is not a ‘no’ for my person but for my proposition, so I do not have to take it personally. 

Towards the end of the mircocred we also look at the importance of after sales service and continuous selling for the business long term. Then we also look at moving to the next stage from Founder Seller to Professional seller and what that looks like for your business, which could of course include your first sales hires. 

It is such a useful course, you’ll get to practice, talking about your product or service and by the end of the course you’ll have built a sales strategy that you can use and implement. 

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