Editor’s note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at email@example.com.
Q. I’m a first-time founder with zero sales experience, but I know I have to get good at it. How can I build my skills and confidence in this area?
—Founder in the enterprise software space
It’s good that you are thinking about this.
We’ve often backed founders who are product-centered and would like to offload sales ASAP. However, CEOs should invest in getting good at sales, because they are always selling. Not only are they selling to customers in the beginning, but they are selling their vision when attracting new hires, motivating employees, and captivating journalists.
Oftentimes, founders are also the best salespeople the company can ever have. They are the one who had the idea, who knows the product, and knows how to solve for the problem it is addressing. Most companies don’t start out with a sales team, which means that a founder has no choice other than to get used to selling. The good news is that you will learn by doing it. You will get feedback from customers that will help you hone your product as well as hone your pitch.
Of course, as the company grows, this is not scalable. You will need to bring on other people. It may turn out that you are the best—no one is better at selling the vision of Salesforce than founder Marc Benioff—but there will come a time when others can also do a phenomenal job, and they will have to. Hire very wisely as you add salespeople to increase your coverage. But your work in this area will never really be done. Even when you hire a head of sales, you may need to be involved in high-lift sales. Now is the time to get good at this skill—and luckily you will have every day to practice and become great at it.