Are you selling to founders?

Are you selling to founders?
Photo by Carson Arias / Unsplash

When you cast your creation into the stream of new ideas, if it sparkles, founders will nibble. Which means your earliest pipeline (if you're tracking it) will be heavily indexed on founders that are more than willing to take your calls, entertain your ideas, and provide you with feedback.

This isn't bad. Founders have market instinct. Something inside them winces when they see something special. "Yeah, that could be big ..." Perhaps they secretly wish they had thought of that. High praise!

But once you attempt to reel them in, you'll discover that founder-to-founder sales are a purgatory between Eden and the Land of Fit because founders aren't a market. Founders are proxies for many markets and roles within an organization.

And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. Mark 5:9

Yes, founders are, for your sales intent and purpose, possessed.

If this sounds crazy, test it. The next time you're talking to a founder, on a sales call or otherwise, provide a gentle interrupt and ask them "When you say this, who are you speaking as within your team?" In all likelihood, they'll shake their heads slightly to exit the trance, and respond with "Oh, yes, I'm just thinking about the future" (Chief Strategy Officer) or "Yeah, just in the sense of a partnership" (VP Business Development) or "Oh yeah, I'm just thinking that our sales team could use this." (VP Sales).

This is so common and confusing that I've learned to start communications with my own team with "With my VP Engineering hat on ..." or "With my product lead hat on ...". Then they can understand the context of my thoughts.

Which are then likely to shift again five minutes later.

As founders, this is our job: to be everyone that isn't yet present. But that means if you're selling to me, and I really, really like whatever it is, you need to figure out who is the me you're talking to, say thank you, and go after them instead. That is, assuming we've even hired them. I may just be channeling a future team member that's as real to me as you are. Is that a problem?

For their value as proxies and mediums, absolutely use them. But you'll know you're getting closer to fit when you've successfully shed founders as sales targets and made them your champions instead.