In the early days of a startup, you should have a one-track mind: Everything you do is helping to build your company.
"Honestly, everything is selling. Everything is marketing, everything is support when you're at an early stage," Toutapp CEO Tawheed Kader said at a Senator Club Meetup Thursday night in San Francisco. The event drew about 70 attendees, mostly sales professionals from startups. "If you think about it in the holistic sense like that, you'll start succeeding."
Toutapp is a three-year-old sales communications SaaS company. Crunchbase reports that it has raised a total of $4.6 million from notable investors such as Esther Dyson, Dave McClure, and Eric Ries. Though Kader got each of them on board under quite fortuitous circumstances, he says his overall success isn't attributable to luck.
Throughout his presentation, Kader, a solo founder, offered tips that could help you replicate some of the scenarios that opened doors for his own company.
1. Ask, what will get you 1,000 signups?
Often very young B2B startups will spend their energy trying to attract one big corporate customer. Kader says that at this stage in your company's short life, that's really hard to do. Instead, he recommends finding early adopters elsewhere--specifically where you already know they exist.
Toutapp's target audience, sales professionals, spend a lot time using customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Kader saw his opportunity to meet them there by partnering with Basecamp (formerly known as 37Signals), creator of a popular CRM system called Highrise. Three days after Toutapp's template emails had been integrated with Highrise, Toutapp was signing up its own customers.
2. Say yes to everything.
In Kader's experience, saying yes a lot paid off. His newfound philosophy of openness is what led him to Toutapp's angle investors. For example, at the annual South by Southwest event, Kader reluctantly decided to get dinner with an acquaintance. When he realized they were waiting for a third guest, Kader asked who else was coming. That's when he found out they were waiting on investor Dave McClure.
"So we ended up getting dinner with Dave McClure! And he ended up investing in Tout," Kader says. "You gotta be open to saying yes because you don't really know how you're going to get that deal."
3. Keep a diary about the ones that got away.
You'll no doubt have good insights into your company's own startup story and growth strategy if you document it. When your company has matured a bit, and you've hired employees to help you with sales, encourage them to keep diaries. "If you win a deal, write one paragraph why. If you lose it, write down two paragraphs," Kader says.
4. Manage your fear and stress.
Once you've started to make some revenue, you have to remember to congratulate yourself--for your own sanity. "This is probably the hardest part of the business so far, going through that stage. And making it through. And getting up in the morning and saying, 'Let's do this,'" Kader says. He admits he sometimes has trouble enjoying the company's successes. Even when Toutapp was doing relatively well, he developed problems sleeping.
"Celebrate every small win," he says. Kader designed the Toutapp signup system so that each time a customer buys Tout's service, Kader's phone goes off with a cash register ring. "It will go off at 3 a.m., but there's a little smile on my face," Kader says.