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Why Technical Founders Struggle with Sales and How to Fix It

As a technical founder of a sales-led B2B SaaS startup, you understand product and engineering, but you probably struggle with the revenue generating side of the business. Sales can be a scary task, and it's not uncommon for technical founders to struggle with it. In this post, we'll go through the reasons why technical founders struggle with sales and provide practical advice for overcoming those struggles.

The Sales Challenges Technical Founders Face

As a technical founder, you have a lot on your plate. You need to build a product, support it, be head engineer. But you also need to build your business so you get enough cash to do all of the amazing things you want over time. Here are some of the key sales challenges you might be facing:

  • Limited sales experience and knowledge: As a technical founder, you probably don’t have sales experience and knowledge, making it difficult for youto know where to start and how to approach the sales process.

  • Difficulty in transitioning from product-focused mindset to sales-focused mindset: You started this business with a great idea and a great product. But you’re probably often more focused on building and refining the product than on selling it, which can make it challenging to shift your mindset and prioritize sales.

  • Sales is not their primary interest or expertise: You most likely never started your business to become a salesperson. But that’s what you need to become to really make it successful. You’ll be selling to prospects, investors, and potential employees. Technical founders are typically more interested in developing their products and may not have a passion for sales.

  • Misunderstanding of what sales actually is: Technical founders may have a misunderstanding of what sales actually is. Sales is about helping a prospect solve a problem, so in order to close a deal, you need to understand what the problem is and whether or not the impact is great enough for them to buy. Funny enough, isn’t that what started your product? A problem that needed to be solved?

  • Fear of sales:Technical founders often fear sales because they don't understand it. However, sales is very similar to product and engineering, just more social with people involved. This part always surprises founders. Yes, it’s similar. You create a “product” (your sales process), you take it to market, you get feedback, you iterate, and keep building on it.

The Impact of Struggling with Sales

The impact of struggling with sales can be significant on your SaaS startup. Here are some of the different ways you’ll struggle if you don’t prioritize sales:

  • Slow growth and missed opportunities: Without a successful sales strategy, your business may experience slow growth and miss out on valuable opportunities.

  • Inability to close larger deals: Struggling with sales may prevent you from closing larger deals with known brands with an ACV of $20k+.

  • Inconsistent revenue stream: Without consistent sales, your revenue stream may be unpredictable and difficult to forecast.

  • Delayed funding: Without a successful sales strategy, you may struggle to secure funding, which can be critical to the growth and success of your business.

  • Inability to invest in your own business: Once revenue starts, your main job as a founder is to increase revenue, not just develop the product. Struggling with sales may prevent you from investing in your own business, hiring, and developing more products or features.

Overcoming Sales Struggles as a Technical Founder

There are a lot of things you can do to solve this. Sales doesn’t need to be scary. Keeping it simple is key. Here are some practical solutions for overcoming sales struggles as a technical founder:

  • Understand how similar product/engineering and sales are: Once you realize that product/engineering and sales are similar, the anxiety around sales can go away. Both require problem-solving skills and a deep understanding of the customer's needs. You’re solving a problem for someone, that’s it.

  • Hire an early-stage startup sales coach to help fill knowledge gaps: If you lack sales experience, consider hiring a sales expert or coach to help fill your knowledge gaps and provide guidance on your sales strategy.

  • Learn how to communicate the problems your product solves effectively: To be successful in sales, you need to be able to effectively communicate the problems your product solves and how it can benefit the prospect. Pain drives the fastest sales cycles. People buy emotionally, justify rationally. Listen for emotional words like struggle, concerned, frustrated, headache, etc.

  • Develop a minimum viable sales process to increase efficiency: Develop a minimum viable sales process to increase efficiency and make it easier for you to close deals. Start with the basics and refine the process as you go.

  • Have a blueprint for each key conversation: Have a blueprint for each key conversation you have with prospects, including how you will qualify them, how you will conduct discovery, how you will demo your product, and how you will review a proposal/pricing. Winging your conversations will lead to a mess. Having structure and outcomes for each conversation will help you and the prospect faster.

As a technical founder, sales may not be your main expertise or interest, but it's a necessary aspect of running a successful B2B SaaS startup. By understanding the challenges that come with sales, the impact of struggling with it, and how to overcome those struggles, you can make sure that your startup reaches its full potential.

Remember, it's okay to ask for help. Seek out experts, hire a sales team when you’re ready (probably somewhere between $500k-$2M ARR), or work with coaches to gain a better understanding of the sales process. With the right mindset, approach, and support, technical founders can overcome their sales struggles and drive their startups towards success.

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