April 17, 2024

Founder-led sales 101: Actionable strategies for early stage startup founders

Discover folk - the CRM for people-powered businesses

As an early stage startup founder, you are in a good position to build a strong user community. Using the right founder led sales tactic is key. In this blog post, we look at why founders should be involved in sales during the early days, the impact building a personal brand can have, some proven founder-led sales tactics and when the right time to transition out of this sales strategy is.

Should founders be involved in sales?

The short answer is yes. Founding sales is a proven business strategy where an early stage startup Founder directly engages in the sales process. This tactic works in both B2C and B2B sales. By acting as a sales rep or sales leader, a founder can use their unique position to leverage their product knowledge, rapport building and passion to convince potential customers to buy the product or service. Later on, it can also be used as case studies for your future customer success team and benefit your future sales team.

If your business is relatively new, you can take an experimental approach during your early stages. As you pitch to more investors and customers, you become more aware of who your target market and target audience are, and what works as your unique selling point, product-market fit and value proposition.

How to build your personal brand as a startup founder

A founder's personal brand is intimately tied to that of their company. As for how you build a strong personal brand, Cybele Negris suggests starting with questioning what you want to be known for, and what you are uniquely an expert in.

What would you like to be known for?

Is there something in particular you've achieved in your career that sets you apart from other founders in your space? Negris suggests developing your storytelling around these experiences and also sharing any awards to build credibility. But don't make your stories strictly about your business. People like relatable things such as what values you share in common, mistakes you've made along the way and lessons you've learned from them.

What are you an expert in?

Don't be intimidated by other experts in your field. Every successful founder always has a unique story and perspective that sets them apart. This helps you share strong thought leadership pieces. You might be a tech startup founder and also someone who is passionate about helping to build more inclusive workplaces. This can be part of your personal brand.

Who is your target audience? Where do they hang out?

To prevent your social media posts from confusing your potential audience, targeting the right people is key. While your audience might vary from this, as an early stage startup founder it might include other CEOs, leaders in your field and fellow entrepreneurs. Once you figure out your target audience, the next step is to see where they hang out so you know where to distribute your content.

What is the difference between a target audience and a buyer persona?

According to Semrush, a buyer persona is a profile that represents an archetypal member of a target audience. This should have a detailed idea of who you're addressing. As your startup matures, you may find that your target market and target audience changes. This might be a shift in demographics, age and more. Successful startup founders are able to pivot quickly and change their target customer as part of their strategic planning.

A buyer persona example by Semrush
An example persona by Semrush

In other words, if you're targeting other CEOs, an example buyer persona might be:

Rebecca, age 35. CEO of a B2B tech startup well known for their strong values and inclusive workplace. Based in London, UK. Has a remote team who relies on a strong tech stack. Looking to build an offline community. Currently building it in public. Struggles with entering new international markets.

Social based selling vs context based selling

Knowing when and how to leverage both social based selling and context based selling will help you boost your founder led sales efforts so that you can build a strong long term strategy.

Social based selling

Social based selling is about using social media platforms such as LinkedIn, and creating a social selling strategy that helps you gather insights about a potential client before reaching out. This way, your first interactions feel personal and you can nurture a long term business relationship. We go into more detail on that including exactly how you can get started here.

Context based selling

Context based selling is about addressing the problematic feeling of overwhelm that today's buyers are experiencing. This can be due to a huge influx of outbound emails they receive, social campaigns they see, ads and cold emails that make the direct sales process feel over familiar and unpersonalized. We go into more detail on this and share some tips on how to generate new opportunities with a context-based strategy here.  

6 proven founder led sales tactics to get you started

Now that you have an idea about how to balance social based and context based selling strategies, let's look at some proven founder led sales tactics you can use to build on this.

1. Build a personal brand

Investing time to build a strong personal brand on platforms such as LinkedIn, where your target audience is likely to hang out, is invaluable. Done well, it can boost your organic reach. If you're worried about what stories to tell, take some time to figure out your content pillars. Personal branding isn't about oversharing, but sharing the right stories. Jodie Cook, Founder of Coachvox AI suggests thinking about the topics you already know about, then matching these up to three of the six content marketing themes based on how the topics can make your audience feel.

2. Get valuable customer feedback

Constructive feedback, whether positive or negative can be helpful for both sales teams and marketing teams to prioritize the right feature updates on the product roadmap and gain a better understanding of the customer lifecycle. Especially during early stage sales calls. So it's vital to ask for feedback.

As for the best time to ask for feedback, this could be after:

  • A prospect's free trial ends: to get insight into their experience of the product such as on user experience and learning curve.
  • A demo call: to gauge how they think the product can be improved.
  • A month of using the product: a chance turn positive reviews into case studies and get constructive feedback from negative reviews. This is also a chance to turn positive feedback into reviews by setting up a Trustpilot page to build credibility and adding testimonials to your website.

3. Fix common sales objectives

Similarly to constructive feedback, if you often come across common sales objectives this is an opportunity to understand how you can fix them. Depending on what they are, it might lead you to address your product's:

  • Product-market fit: which means you need to find the right target audience for your product.
  • Value proposition: ties in closely with product-market fit as it explains how a product fills a need.

You can then create content to address how your product fixes a common problem your customers have.

4. Leverage technology to save time

If you send a lot of follow-up emails after demo calls, you can leverage the email sequences feature in folk's CRM to save time and build an email journey. You'll have access to 'Magic Field' which is an AI feature that helps you save time personalize emails – and you won't have to guess whether or not it's working or what you need to improve along the way because of its handy built-in analytics feature. If you're not sure how to get started, folk has a free email writer that can help you get started.

Mail merge in folk's CRM

If you're new to sales as a founder and wondering whether or not you're doing the right things during discovery and demo calls, Gong is an useful AI tool that can help. It can show you how well you performed, how engaging you are throughout the call. And you can keep notes on how each call went with prospects directly in their profile on folk.

5. Build in public

Sharing your story and what you've learnt on social media platforms such as LinkedIn is a great way to build your startup in public. Take our Co-Founder, Simo as a great example. He often shares stories about what he's learned as he gets involved with sales, like the post below.

Our Co-Founder, Simo Lemhandez uses LinkedIn to share what's happening here at folk.

This is a great way to build meaningful business relationships with people and showcase your expertise. It can also be done by any founder.    Doing this can help you generate inbound leads, build a community of early stage startups and build your personal brand. We've got some tips on how to setup your inbound sales process here.

6. Focus on building relationships instead of selling when you network

If you often go to networking events as a founder, stop selling as soon as you meet someone there. Instead, use this time to focus on building business relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders. Get to understand what pain points other entrepreneurs are struggling with, and focus on building a community. This is a great way to accelerate your founder-led sales and business growth and is a good long-term strategy whether or not you're in your early days, a B2C or a more mature B2B SaaS startup.

How to use a CRM to nurture business relationships when you network

As you expand your network, little details you learn about someone can make a huge difference in the strength of your business relationship. But finding a way to remember all that knowledge can be challenging without using a CRM. That's where folk comes in handy.

folk CRM

folk is a customer relationship management platform with key features including:

  • Contact management: So you can sync all your contacts from social media accounts to work and personal emails into one place.
  • Pipeline management: That can be adapted to mimic your sales process and can make notes from calls with prospects.
  • Reminders: So you know exactly when someone should follow up and assign the right person to.
  • Mail merge: So you can build email sequences and use their AI feature, 'Magic Field' to personalize emails to multiple recipients, so that every touch point is cared for.
  • and more!

The best thing about folk is how easy it is to use and how it can be used by solopreneurs and teams. Once you're ready to scale you can easily invite new team members to your folk platform. Prices start from $24 per user, per month on a monthly plan. If you're after an annual subscription, this comes to $18 per user, per month. We've got more information on price plans and features here.

When to transition out of founder led sales

Being a busy founder at an early stage startup, you're probably wondering when the best time is for you to transition out of founder led sales. The short answer is, when you're ready to scale and make your first sales hire. But adapting to changes that are bound to happen once your new sales colleague is on board can be challenging. While you may want to share your sales strategy, the key is to find a balance so that they have room to learn from what works well, and build on it with their own strategies.

However, to maintain a smooth transition, you may want to have fortnightly touch points so that you can stay up to date with their:

  • Sales conversations.
  • Sales targets.
  • And any direct feedback they may have received.

So that you still have a deep understanding of what's going on but can avoid micromanaging them.


Prioritizing founder sales tactics is crucial for your long term business strategy. Leaning on technology such as folk can help you build effective communication strategies and long term business relationships with potential clients. All of which are crucial for sustainable growth.

More resources