How founders can master sales
Selling can be scary, but not for Armand, a literal sales wizard. 🪄
His hustle at Carta got him promoted from Account Executive to Director of Sales in less than 2 years. Armand later joined Pave as employee #9 and took their ARR from $100k to $10M+ in another 2 years.
These days Armand is the founder of 30 Minutes to Presidents Club, a revenue-focused media platform that shares hyper-actionable sales tactics. 30MPC also hosts the #1 sales podcast in the world.
At Hustle Fund, we believe deeply in the power of a world-class sales process. But we also know that great sales people aren’t born great. They have to learn.
So, we interviewed Armand to learn what he sees as the biggest sales gaps for early-stage startups. Here’s what we covered:
Let’s dive into the most common mistakes in each area and learn why #3 on process is the hardest concept for founders to grasp.
#1 – Prospecting
Prospecting is the act of finding leads and qualifying them.
Now, a legendary salesperson may be able to close 80 out of 100 calls. But what if they don’t have 100 calls on their calendar? What if they only have 5? That’s what we in the biz call “a huge problem”.
Sometimes this can be solved by increasing motivation: How can you encourage your reps to get on the phone more or send more emails?
Other times your sales reps are already trying their best, but aren’t having success. Your job as a founder is to figure out what’s blocking them.
- The sales reps could be sending a lot of emails but the messaging is terrible. You can experiment with different copy and A/B tests to increase their conversion rate.
- The sales reps could be sending only a few messages, but they convert really well. Ain’t nobody got time to spend three hours writing a single email. Find ways to keep the conversion rate high while talking to more people.
Luckily prospecting is very mathematical.
[success rate] = [# of emails/calls] x [conversion rate %]
To have a better success rate, increase your volume or your conversion rate. Boom.
#2 – Discovery
Armand sees the discovery phase as where account executives (aka AEs) struggle the most.
Imagine Armand is trying to sell a sponsorship for 30 MPC’s sales podcast. Different sponsors will have different motivations for buying that sponsorship.
A massive org like Salesforce might want a sponsorship to box out its competitors. But a small, early-stage startup may want to sponsor the podcast to acquire new users.
Armand can’t hit them with the same sales pitch because their problems are so different.
So, what’s the strategy? Before you sell, get the client on a discovery call and just listen.
Seriously. Stop talking so much.
Great salespeople are the best listeners. A few simple questions can help them discover the problem their client is facing. And once you figure that out, your job is to amplify that problem by telling stories that resonate with the client.
So on a sales call, Armand might spend 90% of the call listening to the client’s problems. The other 10% of the time he’s either asking strategic questions so he can discover the problem, or telling stories to demonstrate how he’s helped other companies solve the same problem.
#3 – Process
Process is the sales bucket where the majority of founders mess up.
Imagine you’re trying to sell a deal to Shopify. You might spend 3 months talking to their manager of recruiting ops, only to realize that the VP of talent has no idea who you are. Or the Chief People Officer has zero intention of ever considering your product. Or maybe this recruiting ops manager is a low performer in their company and has no say in the decision.
But you’ve built a relationship with someone at the company. That has to be progress, right? 🥺 In reality, all this work you’ve done isn’t actually moving the needle.
So how do you avoid this? World-class process.
Process is making sure that the right people, activities, and timeline occur in a deal.
The most common mistake founders make is getting the wrong people involved in the deal.
- Founders don’t know how or when to make the big ask of bringing key stakeholders to the table.
- Founders do too many demos that don’t lead anywhere instead of a demo that specifically solves a problem in the client’s #1 use case.
- Founders let the timeline get really, really, really, really long (which often kills deals) because they’ve lost control of the situation.
Here’s how to fix this before the problems snowball.
Who’s your daddy?
Don’t ever say this … in a sales meeting (or maybe ever? lol).
Let’s say you’ve built a good relationship with a marketing manager and now you need to involve the VP of Marketing in the conversation.
But how do you do this gracefully? You don’t want the marketing manager to think you’re going over her head. Or that you don’t think she’s “powerful” enough to make a decision (even if that’s the case).
But the truth is that marketing managers usually oversee one part of marketing. Like content marketing. Or brand marketing. Or demand generation.
If you’re trying to sell a 30 MPC sponsorship, you need more buy-in from just the content person. So you can say something like,
“Hey Jane, every time I’ve sold this, there are three different people that sometimes feel left out in a decision. I’ve seen it happen so many times where you and I will have six calls and the deal gets blown up at the end because people were surprised and felt they weren’t part of the conversation.
So how do we get Tanya involved in this? How can I work with you being our champion to carry this message to the right places in your org? Could we partner up and do this together?”
The angle is not: You’re not important. Let me speak to your boss. Don’t waste my time.
The angle is: We’re on the same team. We are working together to solve your problem. I want to give you everything you need to be the hero of your company.
Armand is speaking later this month at our virtual summit, Getting to $3m in ARR. He’s going to break down how you can go from selling your first deals, to building a repeatable "golden path playbook" to predictably win deals, to everything else it takes to build your early stage sales motion.
He'll dive deep into actionable steps you can use — whether you're doing founder led sales or already have your first sales hires — to close deals faster and more consistently to create that hockey stick revenue trajectory.
No charge to join, just sign up here to attend live or get the recording.