Jeremy Au was recently featured by Backscoop for his Asia Growth Forecast episode with Grace Sai and Ajay Bulusu. He delves into the transition from founder-led sales for startups. He advises against the premature hiring of senior sales personnel, suggesting instead the need for individuals adept at closing deals. Jeremy outlines a three-stage process for this transition: Firstly, developing a repeatable sales process, often with the help of a junior salesperson. This includes defining sales stages, customer personas, and key indicators. Secondly, he suggests hiring sales leaders with experience in similar products and pricing strategies, even considering poaching from more mature startups. The final stage involves comprehensive onboarding, with new sales staff shadowing and gradually taking over the sales process, backed by a probation period to ensure fit. Jeremy’s insights offer a practical roadmap for startups looking to scale their sales efforts effectively.
Here's the extract he talked about:
Finding the right hire for a growing team.
What makes founder-led sales work is the founder’s deep product knowledge and raw passion to succeed. And that kind of energy may be hard to replicate. Jeremy put it best:
“Founders succeed in sales due to their passion, deep product understanding, and hard work. However, this success may not be based on a scalable and repeatable sales process.”
It’s not about seniority. Don’t be too quick to hire a very senior salesperson and pat yourself on the back. Ask yourself if that’s what you really need at an early-stage startup. In reality, you need someone who is used to closing deals. As Ajay puts it “When you hire a very Senior Salesperson, he/she is used to managing revenue, they probably haven’t sold directly in a long time.”
The VC lowdown
For Jeremy, transitioning to founder-led sales is divided into three core chapters.
The first is developing a repeatable sales process, saying that "The best founders are intentional in documenting their personal sales process from end-to-end.”
They often bring in a junior salesperson to help support the definitions of the sales stages, customer personas, leading indicators, and more.
Next is hiring the right talent, where he advises founders to find sales leaders who have products with similar pricing and consideration processes. Don't be afraid to poach from benchmark startups that are several years more mature than your company. Keep an eye out for high initiative, hunger, and cadence of work.
Finally, he believes founders should heavily invest in onboarding.
“The founder has to continue the sales meetings with the new joiner shadowing and gradually running the process with new logos.”
There should be a mutually agreed probation period where either party can choose to walk away.
At the end of the day, making a successful transition away from founder-led sales will look different for every founder. But we hope that some of these insights and experiences will be helpful for founders making the transition today.