The Joy of Sales: The essentials for selling as a startup

5 min read
Bianca van Dulmen
Venture Partner at

Key take-aways

  • Start thinking about sales early on, even if your product is still developing.
  • Define your product-market vision clearly, including your target market, how you will go after your market, with what pricing and channel strategy?
  • Set up a lead pipeline and track progression.
  • Celebrate every step of the sales process, not just the final close.
  • Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand. Remember to consider the importance of marketing in your sales strategy.

Many new technologies have the potential to change the world for the better. Startups are learning and developing daily to make the world faster, more efficient, and more sustainable. Realizing this positive impact means that the technology must be sold. Sales is how businesses make money, but it can be a challenge for tech-minded entrepreneurs. That's why highly experienced people like Bianca van Dulmen can help accelerate a startup's growth. Bianca is a venture partner at and a sales expert, having built and managed international sales teams at MuleSoft and Salesforce. In this article, Bianca shares vital startup sales processes and advises where to begin.

Setting up a sales strategy

               1. The first steps of creating a sales strategy

Bianca says a few steps are vital in setting up your sales strategy. The first step is defining a product-market vision. How? Bianca explains that there are three main essential elements. Start with a clear definition of the product: What does it do? What problem does it solve? What value does it create for your customers? Next, research and create a comprehensive overview of your target market. Remember to include any geographic constraints of niche customers. Last, determine how you will go after your market.

Tracking progression is what makes or breaks your strategy. Bianca: "Always, always set up a pipeline. The sales process has many stages, and tracking the progression in your  pipeline will help you focus on multiple deals at once and keep finding leads to fill your sales funnel."

               2. When to start selling as a startup?

Let's get straight to the point here: the ultimate secret to a successful sales strategy is, says Bianca, to start as early as possible. Very often, innovative startups will need to establish a market for their product because of the novelty of their technology. You don't know what you don't know - and if the market is still unfamiliar with the innovative product, it might take time to persuade the customer that they need it. So, it's essential to kickstart your sales strategy without delay. Bianca explains: "A great benefit of starting as early as possible is that it allows for validation from early adopters and helps align your product with the market's demands. Don't stay in your bubble to develop a solution; go out there and get input from your market."

That also means that in the early stages, Bianca advises not to worry too much about determining the right price. At first, the sale is most important because it will provide referenceable customers. In turn, they will provide valuable feedback and references, which helps gain market trust.  Only when you have made more steps toward a product-market fit should you evaluate your pricing and base it on how much value you bring to your customer - with a healthy margin.

               3. It’s not all about sales

"It's not all about sales," says Bianca. Though it seems a pretty bold statement from a sales expert, she explains: "Sales goes hand-in-hand with marketing and should not be underestimated." A good website and product marketing materials create awareness and a positive signal in the market.  Second, the purpose of marketing is to play a pivotal role in lead generation. You want your customers to come to you, too. It's an effective way of selling, especially compared to cold emailing, calling, and LinkedIn outreach methods. Bianca: "I'm not saying you should create an amazing website and wait for customers to buy your product. But, marketing helps tremendously in gaining trust, showing expertise, and making potential customers interested in your solution."

               4. How do you know if you have a good sales strategy?

If you have a good product-market fit, your product will sell. Bianca explains: "I think you have achieved that when there is a standard product you can sell to new customers." In the earlier stages, it is expected to customize or personalize products for (pilot) customers, as your solution is still developing. So, achieving a standard product that new customers can use immediately will make sales easier. "Remember that the world changes constantly," says Bianca. "There will be new competitors, emerging trends, or economic changes. So, continuously test and validate your product-market fit to stay ahead."

               5. How to become better at sales

Even after this extensive article, sales may still seem like a daunting task. However, Bianca has some tips to make it easier: "Celebrate every step to see the joy in sales. Every progression of a lead through your pipeline is progress you can be proud of." According to Bianca, sales is a skill that most people can learn: "The most experienced salespeople will tell you that sales is more a science than an art; if the sales process is well-defined and well-managed, success will follow. However, not everyone will enjoy converting a lead into a customer, embracing the 'constructive conflict' you might need to create to convince a customer of a different way of thinking and running tough negotiations. The most important quality is that you are intellectually curious. You want to ask customers questions to understand their specific situation. That intrinsic curiosity will help you understand their problems and how you can help solve them".

Recommended reading

Bianca recommends the following reading material to deepen your sales knowledge:

The Challenger Sale

By Brent Adamson and Dixon Matthew

The challenger sales methodology is very applicable for startups with novel technology. In this process, you challenge your client’s status quo before you present them with a different approach to solving their solution. 

The Culture Map

By Erin Meyer

If you plan on selling internationally, the cultural element is massively important in your sales process. The book offers practical frameworks and real-world examples to enhance cross-cultural communication.

We at are extremely happy with the support Bianca has given our startups until now. And it is clear that she has helped them see the joy in sales: 

Bianca is a force of nature that helped us greatly improve our sales processes and professionalize our commercial operations in a record time. Our team learned a lot -and had a lot of fun doing it. Her energy is contagious!

 - Matthijs Rijlaarsdam, CEO and founder of Quantware

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