Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales, Not Marketing

This piece was inspired by an article written a few days ago by Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y-Combinator, titled “Why Startups Need to Focus on Sales, Not Marketing”.

Most early stage startups, once they launch their product, tend to focus on marketing, thinking it is the most sustainable way to grow their business. Facebook posts, tweets every hour, reaching out to reporters to be featured on TC, looking into dashboards and analytics etc. While this might seem intuitive initially, I would argue differently. Learning curve is what drives sustainable business growth.

Think about it this way: You build a product for months. You know every screen and feature, find it easy to navigate and pretty confident about your value proposition. But you are in the trenches and can’t see the big picture. Most startups don’t get the user experience or even the need and value proposition right the first time. Do you really want to launch a product with sub-optimal user experience and a confusing messaging? Think about the impact of a clunky user experience or a messaging that is not tailored enough to users’ needs. You invest a lot of effort and resources into marketing and user acquisition/retention falls behind.

Instead, pick-up the phone/get on your email, schedule meetings and find a few early adopters. Observe their reactions as you pitch your product and as they test it for the first time. Spend the time to learn what other solutions they use, how your product fits and what are the additional requirements. Listen and observe their feedback. Don’t let an intern or someone junior do that while you focus on further building the product. Going on those meetings is what can most impact your business at this point.

By doing so you’ll achieve three key things:

  1. You will be able to better define the sales methodology and the circumstances around which customers will look for a solution.
  2. You’ll be able to optimize your go-to-market and specifically your messaging.
  3. You’ll be able to optimize user experience.

Whether your product is an app, a SaaS offering, a service or a device, the return of selling it yourself outweighs the return on pure marketing. 


About shanishoham

Shani is an entrepreneur, investor and business leader with technical background and deep understanding of dev tools. He is currently the President and COO of Testim.io. He built the business from inception to over 100 customers, increasing ARR x4 YoY, ACV x7 YoY, growing its lead base to over 50K/year, hiring over 20 team members and leading 2 round of financing. Prior background: scaling 5 B2B technology ventures and one VC fund to signifiant size. I’m an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of business - Sloan Master in Management program, a 10 months intensive program for 57 carefully selected experienced Executives and leaders from all around the world.

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