B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1671 · 4 months ago

Founder Led Selling, with Jen Abel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Benji talks to Jen Abel, Co-Founder of Jjellyfish.

Jen shares the secrets of 0 to 1, Founder led sales. How do we identify early adopters and when is your company ready to start handing off sales to a sales team? This episode is a great chance for marketing leaders to get out of their typical scope and expand their insights into growth and sales motions.

Conversations from the front lines and marketing. This is be tob growth. Welcome into be tob growth. Today I'm excited to be joined by JEN able. She is the CO founder of jellyfish. That's jellyfish with to Jay's and Jen, we are so glad to have you here with us on B tob growth today. Benjie, it's a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for having me, for sure. So, Jen, what is the problem? Let's just start here. What's the problem that jellyfish helps solve? Yeah, we help start ups go from zero to one in the US market. So the specific problem is that's typically a founder's job, except most founders are technical and engineering sound trick and don't necessarily have the commercial skills to unlock that first million. So we bed alongside them as their co pilot to help them reach that initial milestone. Nice, because today's episode is hyper focused on the zero to one motion and the companies you work with are in, you know, those sort of early stages. You're allowed about the need for sales before marketing, which, just so you know, jen, we talked to a lot of marketers here on be tob growth, so I love your unique advantage point. On that we're specifically, should founders be hyper focused? What's this whole idea of sales before market? Yeah, so it's interesting. A lot of people have different definitions for what sales and marketing its. So let's start with just the definition of sales. So sales, in our mind, or our belief, is that's one to one. Right, you're in the room, you're able to get super deep, it's super personalized and you're able to unlock some real raw we call them earned insights. Right, it's that Oneton one. Marketing is more of that one too many, right, where you're reaching out to a group of people, and also it's tricky because you have to be spot on in order for someone to say, Hmm, that inspired me, I'm interested in learning more so, right, we believe, for founders, in order to get those earned insights, in order to differentiate themselves, in order to build trust, the quickest and most successful way to do that is through that one on one conversation. But, more importantly, those initial customers that a founders going to generate as their early doctors, those are recruited manually, right, those are the founder selling the vision, the value, the direct line into them, to convince these early doctors to take a risk on them. It's I'm I'm hard pressed to believe that a marketing effort is going to produce that level of trust that unlike a founder reaching out personalized to someone and pursuing it that way. So in the zero to one motion, you would say just hold off on marketing till a later time and let's really dive into founders. I mean well, before you invest the time, the money and the resources in marketing, you have to know who the hell you're marketing to, what they can wear, resonates exactly where they are, and the only way to get that inside in that data is through one on one conversations. MMM. So let's dive into that a little bit more. When you're saying founder lad selling, kind of detail that picture for us a little bit. One hundred one is one of the things you highlight there. Ye, but what are some of the things that you would teach and would be in that space? So one of the most important things about founder led selling is being super focused. Who is that initial core group of folks that are going to generate my first million from right? They're going to be the word of mouth they're going to be my references, they're going to be my case studies. Right, I know that I'm going to be able to solve their problem better than anyone else and that fly wheel to go from one to ten...

...now becomes even faster and less challenging. That that zero to one. I always say zero to one actually takes twice as long as going from one to ten. Believe it or not, I know that seems counter would I, but really what that means is the founder needs to scope out who is that initial ICP? Not It, who is the initial two to three ICPS? Who is that singular focus that I am the founder, am going to understand their problem better than anyone else, build the trust right, make sure my product is built for that problem and even more contextualized to that so that I can then convert more people in that group. Right, once you get one or two in a very specifical group, it's much easier to get your thirty, fourth, to fifth or six right and build that momentum. But in order to get that initial momentum you really have to be focused, you have to be specific and you have to understand, more importantly, that problem better than the market does. Because that's what's going to build the trust and inspire them to want to take a risk on you. So I could see one of the issues being founders get oh shiny object syndrome. Right, it's like, well, it would be cool to appeal to that Group and Oh, I could see our product also being beneficial for them and over time. Right. You could add ICPS, but you're saying singular focus. What are some of those other common hiccups or hurdles that you see founders sort of run into again and again? Yeah, the first and foremost is delegate it way too soon. Right. So founder, a lot of founders are allergic to sales. Right. They're like, oh, this is a smile and dial game, this is this requires a smooth talker. This doesn't appeal to me. This doesn't excite me as much. The reason why most companies fail. There's that CB in sites article that I'm sure everyone is probably read that's listening to this, where it says the number one reason startup fails most of the number one reason startups to bail is due to the market. No market need. That to me is completely avoidable. That means that you built the vacuum right and you went out and you try to be in search of a problem, right and founder led selling your you're almost building the product as you're going out and talking to customers. Your product should not be fully baked when you go out into the market because you really need to understand the problems they are, care about the problems that they are urgent to solve for but, more importantly, make sure you're not overbuilding right, like there's so much product that out there because people over build thinking all of these features and benefits are needed. I will say, after doing this two hundred times over, eighty percent of the value in the product that most founders build in Stage one. Eighty percent of the value comes from twenty percent of the product. MMM Right. So, if you think about it, this is what people people don't buy all in one solutions. They buy something that's small, tangible. All right, let's start here. We can always widen. So just understanding what that injection point is and again knowing that problem better than anyone else in the market, because that's what we'll get you that one. So I think when we were talking before this episode, you had brought up the art and the science of this early stage game. Is early stage selling game. So when you're thinking of the art of early sales, what's held in that bucket to you, Gen what does that mean to you as far as the art of the early stage sale? So the the the art piece to me is that that vision, that passion, that drive to just be in love with the problem. I most mostly saunders, being to be in love with the problem that they're seeking to solve. Right and be Yep, well, you can't hire for that right like that is something that is that is a competitive advantage founders have when they go out selling. No one is going to have the vision in the passion that you do. You'll outweig every sales person if you're paired up against, you know, competitor sales teams. Right. The science piece to it is sales as a machine. It's black and white. It's yes or no. Right, it's only maybe when you're not sure how to qualify properly.

Okay, you're not pushing the lead enough. So after every meeting, okay, you should know. Is this person a high fit, yes or no? Are they put a potential early adopter, yes or no? Had they tried to historically solve for this in the past? Yes, or no. Do they have a budget? Yes or no? Right, it's inputs and outputs, and the science piece behind it is the evidence collection, that piece of okay, once I can identify repeatable themes from that evidence, I now know where to double down. Right. So it's that falling in love with that process piece, right, and that art piece is much more of you know, once you have your process and now you lay or on top of it the vision and the passion, I mean you're unstoppable at that point. MMM. And that's why I believe under lets selling is the number one competitive advantage going through zero to one, and a lot of people give that up. They an't go out and hire someone right, and you're already decreasing your odds of success by doing that. HMM. Yeah, I imagine specifically on the art side for a second, because the founder knows the problem the the best. They also clearly are the closest to the entire creation of the solution and they're going to have the story, the narrative. We talked about that a lot from a marketing standpoint, but the founder sort of also has that. So they can become in the zero one motion. They are so critically important and then they can easily become the bottleneck as it grows because they have to figure out a way to hand it off. It's funny that you said some hand it off to early Oh yeah, because that's actually not what I typically hear. I hear they hold on too long. So I love that insight there. I would love for you to to maybe go into a little bit more on the science side. You said early you're tracking because you can. You're tracking early adopters, budget, evidence collection, anything else there that's sort of in that bucket? Yeah, I mean even just doing outbound cold emailing. Okay, okay, cold emailing from a founder, you'll get real time insights into what's working in not and where there's leakage versus at marketing right, like you'll know at a granular level. You know by that individual did they open your note, yes or no? Kay, did they respond? Right? That level of depth and those metrics are really, really hard to, you know, pick up when you're doing these broad based, you know, marketing campaigns right and, most importantly, if they respond yes or no, you have a chance to go deeper into the why and why I say cold emailing is so critical. It's that also that personalized piece. Right, you don't have brand equity when you're going through zero to one. Right, you typically probably don't have case studies, you don't have references. Right, you probably have a very small marketing budget. So, in order to increase your odds, right, if the founder of selling a note to someone that they know is high fit because they've defined their ICP very clearly, these are all the things that we are doing to increase our odds. Right. We all know the odds of early stage startups, you know, get into the next round is it gets trimmed and trimmed and trimmed. So how do you make sure you put this the the odds of success in your favor? And these are all of the things that we look for and have seen work successfully. These scale tactics or these shortcuts will quickly lead to failure. There is no shortcut to the stuff. It's hard manual work recruiting and and building that trust and selling that vision. That, I think is very, very hard to do when you're doing it to many versus doing it one on one. Hey, everyone, if you've been listening to be to be growth for a while, you know that we are big proponents of putting out original, organic content on Linkedin. But one thing that's always been a struggle for a team like ours is easily tracking the reach of that linkedin content. That's why we're really excited about shield analytics. Since our team started using shield, we've been able to easily track the reach and performance of our linkedin content without having to manually log it ourselves. It automatically creates reports and it generates dashboards that...

...are incredibly useful to determining things like what content has been performing the best, what days of the week are we getting the most engagement and our average views per post. Shield has been a game changer for our entire team's productivity and performance on Linkedin. I highly suggest checking out this tool if you're publishing content on Linkedin for yourselves or for your company. You can get a ten day free trial at shield APP DOT AI, or you can get a twenty five percent discount with our Promo code be toob growth. Again, that's shield APP DOT AI and the Promo Code is be. The number to be growth all one word for a twenty five percent discount. All right, let's get back into the show. These scale tactics or the shortcuts will quickly lead to failure. There is no shortcut to the stuff. It's hard, manual work recruiting and and building that trust and selling that vision. That, I think, is very, very hard to do when you're doing it to many versus doing it one on one. Let's talk about early adopters for a second. What are some qualifiers that can help us identify or start spotting those early adopters? There's three that I typically look at that are usually the leading indicator that an early adopter. First and foremost, do they give you a head not on the problem? Do they agree a problem exists? Yes, or now? Okay, so the stage gate one, stage stay two. Can they articulate why they haven't been able to solve this in the past successfully? Write? What I typically say is they must have tried to solve for it before if it's that urgent or if it's that intense. Right, so is that? If they having that's usually like, well, why not? Is it because it's not priority one through five? So the historics piece to me is is predicated of, you know, future intent and then the third piece is what's at risk if they don't solve for today? Right, can they articulate that. Well, if we don't solve it for today, here's how that compounds down the line or here's what's at risk, and it's those implications that help me understand how real and early adopter is versus what could lead to meeting exhaustion, because at the end of the day, an early adopter has a very different type of look, kind of what we just talked about, a specifically on the historics piece. Then any other lead and making sure that you you understand that on call one, don't waste your time. You have limited time and resources as a founder. Make sure you're spending it on the right people, and you mentioned cold email as one of the ways to do that, because obviously expanding your network to reaching outside of just those people. What's the strategy there? Is you're thinking of getting these meetings? Yeah, I would love to know, like, is it just I mean you, you are a big proponent of cold email, which I think is is interesting and smart, for sure, definitely coming from the founder to you probably have some good luck there. But yeah, what are some other ways? So I don't know other way to so, first and foremost, what I love about email is they can open it on their time. You don't have to time it perfectly, just unlike cold calling. It like if you hit them at the wrong time, it could be very ugly. So, yeah, hitting them at the time when they're when they're ready to read it right too, is tracking it. Do they open it? Do they forward it? Where do they open it? And understanding more the follow up that you can do from there. Do they even respond? Three is, I don't know any other a tool that allows you to it as personalized to that single person where no one else in the world could receive this exact message but this individual. Right, there's no other way to show effort like that. Right in that effort, it warms people's hearts in a weird way, right, like a personalized note. Even if it's a not fit, I'll still respond and say, Hey, this is not the right fit, but thank you for, you know, for spending the time you did on that note. And the last piece is cold emails generally are so bad. It's actually not that. It's actually not that hard to stand out right. So I think it's one of...

...the highest row eyes that a BEDB company can do is the cold email. And coming from the founder, I mean I don't know anything that's better than that. So you would say to make your email stand out, it's mostly about the personalization piece. That's how you raise the bar. Is there anything else that you think raises the bar of that cold email outside of personalization? Ye, informal, super short and sweet. You know, don't use jargon. What is the problem? You solved in one sentence. So Hyper Personal Eyes Hook Right, get them to open in bea think this is interesting problem, statement, call the action. That's it. Super Short, sweet, again from the founder. People are willing to respond to a founder. People are excited to learn. Our world is changing so fast. Everyone is always learning, and when you get receive a note from a founder and the problem is somewhat intense, they will give you their time. Right. People are motivated to give you their time if their feeling it, and if they're not feeling it will. You'll see that from the data of the cold outbound as well. So I actually wrote an article called the old the Ode to the cold email, the founder led cold email, and it just talks about the importance of doing this and the ability to track it measure. Again, going back to that science piece and knowing where to iterate right. If everyone's opening your email but no one's responding either, two things are at risk. Either it's not personalized enough so they think it's spam, or the problem statements not resoning. Well, that's really good to know. As quickly as possible, call the action. Typically what setting up a meeting? What like? What do you see as the most I would love to understand how this problem is manifesting, you know in your role. Would love to grab some time if you're open to it. Again, happy to share what we've learned as well about it. Okay, I like that. I wonder, like overall everything we've talked about so far, within founder led selling, how are you judging, let's go into like effectiveness, and will go into metrics here for a second as well. How are you judging the effectiveness of founder led selling? So the effect then, as a founder led selling really comes down to are you targeting? First of all, are you targeting someone that agrees a problem exists? So a head not effectiveness point. Correctly, Yep, right to is are they seeking to solve it today, and that is typically hidden somewhere in the historical piece, if they've tried to solve it unsuccessfully in the past. They're probably still trying to solve it today. Okay, so that you can start to begin to understand intent. And the third piece is what is the intensity or the frequency of that problem, which all sits under urgency right. So how intense is it? How much are they bleeding in money or bleeding in time, or how frequent is this problem coming up? And it's those three things where, if you get ahead, not right, that the problem exists, their historics of how they try to solve for it and they can quantify the intensity or the frequency around it. That's a qualified lead. And if you're having ten calls and only one is turning into a sales qualified lead, why is that right? And being able to understand that, if half are you know you're on the right track. If more than half, our double down as quickly as possible. Right. So you can build mental models about the market, and that's the beauty of again, being so specific and so constrained to an ICP. You will quickly see themes bubble up as quickly as possible and you will know immediately if you're on track or not. I always like to say rejection is actually redirection. When you get rejected. Great. Why Now? How does that lead you to the pulse right? So again that whole science piece of the it's always black and white. It's not this gray area that a lot of people claim it to be. It's either they have a problem and they want to solve it today or they don't. And now if they don't, you now have to decide as it makes sense to invest in them, to move them up the ladder to get to that point of intent, or we look in, you know, too far out, and then that's what marketing comes in. When those folks are below that, you can have marketing start to warm them up and start to advance...

...them up the ladder. So when you say you quickly see themes and readjust, I wonder, like, what is that actually look like in frequency? Is there like any cadence that is typical that you advised to founders to be to be readjusting? Yeah, so you know, when you're doing founder led selling, you need to know as quickly as possible if you're on the right track right, because you know, I will say every start up we've ever supporting, we've supported over two hundred. I have yet to work with one where they're on the right track from day one. But we've only a love that. Yeah, it's pretty sure. And what that comes down to is after three or four conversations with the same type of person, right same role, same rough team structure, the same maturity, if you're the same thing three or four times, that is enough of a leading indicator to say, okay, where do we turn now? Right, because at the end of the day it's all about speed, but speed without precision is deadly. So use this guidance as the precision to guide you to the right area and again, move there as quickly as possible. No, I think there's a lot of companies out there are a lot of ways to accelerate and speed up the process to product market fit and speed in itself is actually quite dangerous. You do need to make sure you're going in the right direction. I wonder anything you is say sort of in the handoff process, when it actually does start to happen from the founder to a team of salespeople, what in that should be handed like? How does it get handed off? Well, I guess would be my question. Gin. So when you know it's time to hand to go from founder led selling to now founder led managing, right, which is the next stage, right, which is the founder down manages a team of three or four, and then you can bring it ahead of sales and then vp of sales and all that. So when you go from founder led selling to founder led managing, these are the these are the kind of the outcomes to get there. Can you, if you're selling enterprise, can you, the founder, close the first ten deals? Okay, if you're selling mid market, can you close the first, you know, twenty? If you're going SMB, can you close the first fifty? Right, it's kind of just skills down there, and I roughly say the first million, whatever that looks like. Again, mental model. So that's stage gate. One Stage A to is do you have the skeleton process for how you did it? If you cannot show a nonfounder how to do this and how to hold them accountable, they will fail. Right, Ninety five percent of first hail sires fail, and they fail because they've never been given the process or because it was handed over too soon and there's no customers yet closed. So again, in order for these non founders to sell successfully they need a case study. So you have to get a few deals over the line and show the market that you're able to do this right, because now that you're not, now that you're handing a knock this off to your first sales person, they are they have the odd stacked against them, right because their salesperson, and who's going to want to talk to a sales person? Well, when they're armed with the right tools, they will be successful, and some of those are case studies, references, logos and then the process for how the founder did it. And you, as the founder, need to be able to say to x, first AE, I need you to write, reach out to you know, fifteen people a day or fifty people a day. Here's exactly what they look like. Here's the problem they care about. Now go out and scale. What we know is validated. So assume that in an salesperson is going to be good at following a process. They are a allergic to building a process. So do not rely on them to build out the sales process. This has to be on the founder. I'll recap what you just said because I like that. So founder. Obviously the number is going to change depending enterprise, whatever, but founder, close are first mill skeleton of how it's done. You got to have the processes in place. I look, I think it's so true. The tools, which is the case studies, something that's in their back pocket, to actually execute and show, okay, we prove of concept and then execute on actually handing it off in...

...a way that they don't have to create the process right. So I think that that's really key. I wonder, Jen, could you give us any examples? You've done this, you said, two hundred plus times, but anything that comes to mind in just practical examples force as we start to wrap up today. Yeah, I mean the founder, even after, even after your first million, you're going to still potentially need to be involved in the deals at some level, right, especially sure become more and more qualified. Okay, so what you now need to determine is, again the validation piece is critical, because they are going to be again the science. They're going to be operating against the things that are validated, all of the known unknowns. That's still your job to figure out, right. And the I call it founder lad managing, because that feedback loops still needs to be super tight. Right now that you've got the momentum kicking, how do you make sure that it's repeatable and then eventually become skillable and the further you remove yourself from it, the further again, you're increasing the odds of failure. So as the founder, still be deeply involved, still know how to hold these people accountable. Okay, Web and get to that granular level. You should know how many leads they need to reach out to on a daily basis, based off of the conversion you were able to do, just padded a little bit, knowing that they don't have the founder title. All right, and, most importantly, make sure they know who they are reaching now to. All Right, we've supported I don't know how many founders who have built the sales team and I asked the founders, I'm like, all right, well, who is your ideal customer? And they go, they go all the way out here into the Super Wide Net and I asked them. I'm like, why is this so wide? Right, you're now targeting three different ICPs based off of everything you said to me, and they're like, well, we're trying to hedge to make sure we at least find something, and I say this isn't a hedge game. This is a process of elimination. Start with one, you either check it off or you cross it off and you move on to the next. There is no hedge in here. So if you think you're going to build a sales team based off of hedges, be warned. That will lead to failure very quickly. So fun conversation. I love the switch up. It's great for marketers to hear this conversation because it just changes the YEP, the normal. What we get out of these these episodes. As we start to close, any final thoughts on founder led sales, Jen, anything you want to leave us with as we as we wrap up? It's manual, it's hard and and it takes twice as long as going from one to ten. If you can get through this milestone as the founder and show the proof of how it's done, you will be unstoppable. Just stick with it and it does. It does feel like it's taking too long, but again, building that momentum and building that trust in market is the hardest part. It's very easy to expand once you have your your core group closed and being delivered in a successful way. So just stick with that. Jen, thank you for taking time and being with us on B tob growth. For people that want to connect with you and jellyfish further, what's the best way for people to do that twitter. I am very responsive on twitter, DM more so than mail. Actually, believe it or not, even though I said email works for me, it's twitter DM. So Jen Double J underscore able abel fantastic. Well, we're always having conversations just like this here on Bob Growth, so if you have yet to subscribe to the podcast, be sure you do that so you never miss an episode and you can connect with me on Linkedin. I am not active on twitter, so connect with me on Linkedin. Just Search Benjie Block over there. We're talking marketing, business in life and keep doing work that matters. Gen, thank you for being on the show today. We're always excited to have conversations with leaders on the front lines of marketing. If there's a marketing director or a chief marketing officer that you think we need to have on the show, reach out email me, ben dot block at Sweet Fish Mediacom. I look forward to...

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