The Most Crucial Skill Any Startup Founder Should Have.
Who would be selling your product or services in this startup ?” as I shot off my first and the last question to the pitching founders, I waited for the answer with bated breath. It is after all a make or break question for them and for myself.
Having been an angel investor in startups and a salesman myself, I have often been asked what is the most important question that a founder must answer when they pitch to any investors. My reply had always been, ask them, who amongst them would be selling their startup product or services and if it’s a lone startup founder, who he or she be willing to do the sale.
Sales is market validation
Sales is where the rubber meets the road. It’s a tough job to convince people who don’t know you to part with their money to buy your product or services for what they really are.
Selling the idea or startup to investors doesn’t count, as we, the investors, have a stake in the startup. We may not be that interested in the product or service provided by the startup as we are in its potential. Therefore, investors are not a good gauge of the offerings. However, clients have none of that; their interest is purely on how good the product or service is able to serve their needs.
Often, startup founders would convince us with product validation by surveying a group of potential users or by data from existing similar products in the market. Unfortunately, correlation is not a direct representation thus it is not convincing enough.
When a customer buys from an unknown, unproven startup, it points clearly to one unequivocal fact; the product or service meets his needs and he is buying purely on the merit of the product or service.
Sales prove your PASSION for your startup
Time and again, we hear founders telling us that they are passionate about their startups but yet none of them has done anything to prove it. Actions speak louder than words. Through selling their own products, they are telling us in a clear and loud way that they care and they will have the grit in them to lift the startup from certain death as 99% of startups fail. A scintillating power point presentation may look like an attempt to dissemble the reluctance to put in the sweat, time and endurance required of them.
Now, we do acknowledge that there are some founders who are less of a “people-person” but we still do expect them to sell but in a different manner. They should be able to show us, the blogs that they have written, the postings on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn or even the speeches that they have made about their startup. In these days of the Internet, selling can be in many forms and it is imperative for us to see founders sell in some form or another.
In conclusion, in all the talks that I have been privileged to be invited to share about entrepreneurship and startup, I have always ended my sharing with the advice for anyone who is harbouring an ambition to launch a startup one day; to try a bit of sales work first. For that is where you will know if you have it in you to be a startup founder.
Ivan Yong is an organizational psychologist, engineer, author and a startup angel investor. He is also the Founding Vice President of Solidarity (Social Projects) for the European Mentoring & Coaching Council, Asia, a member of the Hong Kong Society of Economists and a published author with the book titled, “ Department of Startup : Why Every Fortune 500 Needs One” by BEP New York. Last but not least, he is a big fan of history and a polyglot, fluent in 5 languages.