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

After 14 years of General Management and incubating/scaling new businesses & organizations for enterprises (established a $55M mobile business and a $100M/400 employees global division), I became an investor Today I’m a board member/mentor with 5 incubators & micro-VCs and involved with many other private & public incubators around the world. I also founded a VC firm named 2020 and I'm a member with a number of angel groups so i get to see & work with many startups, innovation centers and other parties across the ecosystem. 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: