In the early days (<10 customers) of a startup, the founder typically is expected to do
most all of the selling to get the early adopters. This helps solve the problem of understanding the customer’s buying process which aids in hiring the right sales person for your startup.
If the startup is founded by several people together, I’d advocate a single person running and managing the entire sales process. While its true that in a startup everyone’s selling and every person is trying to help sales, there should be one person who dreams, sleeps and eats getting customers.
The main reason for having one person for the role is accountability. That person’s sole purpose of being is to get customers and track their progress towards that end. If you are a solo founder, I’d recommend you hiring technical consultants or contract people to develop and architect or build your product, but do the initial sales (or customer development) yourself.
So the question is who is that one person who should be responsible for selling when you have multiple co-founders?
Usually I hear a variation of “My co-founder likes to talk a lot, so he’s taken responsibility for sales”, or “My co-founder is a better developer than I am, so I took responsibility for getting customers”.
For most parts I think that is a sufficient enough filter. If you have an inclination towards selling or are not as good at some other function, you ought to be helping play a critical role and I cannot think of a more critical role than getting early customers.
Even if you are the deemed “sales person” in your startup, you will realize quickly that you need more than 1 person to help you sell.
Sales people are (initially) mistrusted by customers who believe the salesperson’s sole purpose is to a) sell them stuff they dont want to buy and b)lie to overstate the capabilities and value of a product.
So the best situation to be in is to split the roles into 2 – the deal maker and the solution architect. The deal maker is still responsible for the entire process end-to-end. They will have to bring in the solution architect as required to help with the product aspects of the sales process and be responsible for the technical feasibility.
When you are ready to hire your first sales person here are some tips on filtering sales resumes for the right hustlers, process jocks and relationship sales professionals.