Selling at a Startup

I’m about half way through Guy Kawasaki’s Book ” Reality Check“.  Guy is a well known VC in the Valley and has some interesting insights about getting startups off the ground.

He contends that all you really need to get a startup off the ground is a great engineer and a great salesperson.  You need the engineer to develop a great product and the salesperson to sell it.  At the beginning that’s all you really need.  You can add the MBAs later in the process.  Having worked at a few startups myself I would tend to agree.

Guy’s theory about selling is interesting.  He says that good salespeople will focus on selling their product at the lower levels where people understand the product or service and have a good use case for it.  His contention is selling at high levels in an organization is a waste of time.  He points out that the higher you go in an organization you go the thinner the air gets.  The thin air causes a lack of oxygen to get to people’s brains disabling their thinking process.  So the higher you go in an organization you go the dumber people are.

Now, you have to admit, that’s  funny stuff.  I was laughing so hard I had to put the book down.

At some level I would agree with Guy because if you’re selling some new technology it is very likely that the executives at the target company will not understand the technology of the product or the actual use case.  Spending time there really is a waste of time.

Where I would disagree is that the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson is the ability to cross that chasm.  The good salesperson will sell the product into the lower technical levels of the company.  The great one will translate that success into a business value proposition for the executive team and achieve enterprise adoption.

That, my friends is a non-trivial sales task and is why there are few really great salespeople comparatively.

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