Founders Need to Lead Sales
I interviewed Jen Abel about why founders should lead sales as long as possible
One of the biggest mistakes I see founders make is not doing sales themselves.
I get it — sales can be uncomfortable if you don’t have a background in it. But as a founder most of your job is sales:
Selling candidates on why they should join
Selling investors on the vision and potential
Selling customers on how your startup will improve their lives
You simply have to get good at it. Introducing middlemen between you and your customers leads to slower learning and faster failure.
Yes, there will come a time when you simply don’t have bandwidth to do all sales yourself, but you should fight against that for as long as possible. I’m currently doing all demos for Megaphone, for example.
And if you spend a lot of time on X like I do then you’ve probably seen some hot takes from Jen Abel (co-founder of JJELLYFISH) about how startups do sales — including that startup sales talent doesn’t exist.
She’s one of my favorite, underrated follows on X and this week I interviewed her about some of her spiciest and most on point posts from the last few years.
Read Time: 05 minutes
Founders Need to Lead Sales
Q: Why Does Doing Sales Make Your Startup Move Faster?
The market is most excited to learn from a founder.
In the absence of brand equity, founders alone have the social credibility to get meetings that other people would get turned down for.
Potential customers want to talk to founders because they know founders can make something they may want.
This short feedback loop increases velocity through the entire company and also avoids a game of telephone that can lead to bad decisions.
Q: Why Do Customers Buy Half-Built Products?
When the pain is severe and unmet by existing solutions, people are willing to take a risk on a new approach.
If you’re building something the market really wants then they’ll forgive imperfection.
The greater the want, the more imperfection they’ll forgive.
If your industry is regulated, abide by those — but otherwise apply this philosophy.
As a note from me, this is exactly how I’ve been building Megaphone. At this point I’m trying to ship features fast enough to keep up with demand — but every step of the way our users have forgiven imperfection.
We’ve had a janky, Typeform-based onboarding flow for months. Not ideal, but forgivable in the short-term if the product delivers results.
The key is finding the things that really move the needle and trusting your customers to understand the imperfect parts can and will be smoothed out over time.
Q: Why Focus on Sales Instead of Marketing?
Y Combinator’s co-founder Jessica Livingston says that if you can’t inspire the market in a one-on-one setting, how can you expect to inspire them in a one-to-many setting?
In marketing, the more specific you are the more trust you’ll build. And you’ll only get to that level of specificity in your message if you go out and learn in one-on-one settings.
This is highly related to your startup’s economics — the more specific you’re able to get, the lower CAC you can achieve.
I highly recommend reading Jessica’s full blog post (it’s literally one-paragraph).
Q: Should Sales Ever Lead a Startup’s Product Roadmap?
The market has no idea how to solve the problem your product is trying to solve.
Having sales lead product means their interpretation of what the market admittedly doesn’t know guides your resource allocation.
If the market responds poorly you’re either targeting the wrong market or overbuilt something that hasn’t been validated.
The answer is a shorter feedback loop, not a sales-driven roadmap.
Q: Why Does 0 to 1 Sales Talent Not Exist?
The vision you start with isn’t what will take you to PMF — it’s nearly impossible to be entirely correct that early on.
And when your solution isn’t validated yet, there’s nothing to sell.
Sales requires structure, a process, and the ability to define a good lead vs. a bad lead.
Until that’s built, it has to be founder-led sales.
Q: When Should Founders Hire a Salesperson?
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