Many companies that actually aren’t credited with thinking about sales and distribution early did so. Google is a great example where Omid Kordestani (who was with Netscape before that) got hired into Google as a senior sales and BD (Business development) executive very early in the company’s life. Back when it was primarily a consumer site, and they hadn’t really thought about how to monetize it.
Many of the companies that we think of as really impressive, era-defining companies are the ones that focused on sales and marketing early. Then there are other examples where people went into the enterprise a bit too late in their life and never built the sales team. Now, some of these companies have done amazingly well, but it’s possible they could have done better—like GitHub before it was acquired by Microsoft, did an amazing job of organic market traction. But they hadn’t really focused on enterprise sales very effectively. I think that created an opening for GitLab, for example, to really emerge as an enterprise-sales-centric product company. I think at the time it was an opportunity to lose and they lost many years of execution by not focusing on it.
The founders need to become obsessed and personally go drive sales. Often, founders come and ask me what kind of VP of sales they should hire in the US, who is going to help them and my view is that you
should approach it like, I am just going and starting my company all over again. If you approach it like a market that you are trying to hire a sales leader for, it won’t work. But you have to say whatever company I built was the wrong company, so let me go start it again, that kind of stuff.
Hiring a VP of sales comes later. I feel it’s better to hire a consulting firm. There are some of these sales consulting firms, actually, there are some decent quality sales consulting firms that can help you understand how you are pitching, what you are doing, and help you refine that for the market. They are more useful than hiring a VP of sales I feel. In fact the first two people I hired in sales, both never worked out. I thought they were from the industry and it would work out but it was totally useless. I had to do the initial things. Then a little later we hired somebody in sales.
MANY OF THE COMPANIES THAT WE THINK OF AS REALLY IMPRESSIVE, ERA-DEFINING COMPANIES ARE THE ONES THAT FOCUSED ON SALES AND MARKETING EARLY.
– ELAD GIL