1st Principles for Seed-Stage Enterprise Software Startups

Sep 11, 2023
1st Principles for Seed-Stage Enterprise Software Startups
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Building an enterprise startup is hard. But building an enterprise startup amidst this downtown is exceptionally harder. 

Given our focus on all things enterprise go-to-market for early-stage startups, we are in the trenches with our portfolio companies day in and day out. In that time, I’ve found myself repeating the same advice from founder to founder. 

Here are the 10 most frequent tactics I repeat, which I now call “1st Principles for Seed-Stage Enterprise Software Startups”:

  1. DEMOS: Ask prospective customers discovery questions first, then tailor the demo to them based on that discovery and prior research. Don’t click on every button or show them every feature. Be intentional about the limited time you have to engage and capture their interest. Read more about leveling up your discovery and demo calls here.
  2. "FILM" REVIEWS: Even with only a few sales reps, use a call recorder (Gong, etc.) for every sales call and create a library of recordings that your future hires can listen to when they onboard. Additionally, have your team listen to these sales calls and share notes on what’s working and what’s not.
  3. SALES REVIEWS: Review the deals you win and lose. While most founders focus on reviewing deals won, the objections heard by those lost customers can reveal valuable patterns that will help your team quickly identify where you’re misaligned internally and need to iterate on messaging.
  4. SELL VALUE, NOT FEATURES: Messaging values requires quantifying how the product will impact the customer’s bottom line - aka they need to reflect specific ROI metrics. Even in the earliest day, when these numbers may not be clear, do your best to quantify. Learn more on calculating early ROI with our Business Value Calculator.
  5. 100X SOLUTIONS: Customers are savvier than ever and are doing their homework on solutions in the market. If you cannot crisply articulate in one line why your product is orders of magnitude (not just a little bit) better than existing or competitive solutions, your customers will struggle to understand the differentiation too. Check out our Differentiated Messaging Template on how to zero in on your differentiation.
  6. CASE STUDIES: A lot of founders over-index on generating public case studies for their website, but anonymous or internal case studies are also critical for the continued learning of your team. 
  7. GIVE YOUR CHAMPION AMMO: Your champion will need to justify buying your tech to a handful of internal stakeholders. Proactively create and provide them the data, messaging, assets, etc. they need to make the case for your product/company internally.
  8. DEFINE SUCCESS: You may think that the customer knows what success looks like, but don’t assume this! You and your team need to drive the conversation and define to prospects what success looks like - what metrics are to be used and what are the benchmarks. This conversation will help justify contract renewals, future upsells, etc.
  9. DRAW A ROADMAP: Write your Series A fundraising deck right after you raise your Seed. It may feel premature, but having a clear game plan, targets, and narrative of what the next 18-24 months should look like will give founders and teams a North Star.
  10. HIRE GREAT PEOPLE: There are a lot of hard things about startups and a lot of them can be addressed when you hire really great, smart people. Continuing to level up talent at your company is one of the hardest and underrated things that founders can do. Who was a great team member at Seed may not be the best fit to lead at Series A - and being aware and honest about that is critical.

We’ve been collating all these learnings in our Enterprise Playbook Series! Check it out if you’re looking for additional or deeper dives into the above GTM tactics.

If you’re an early-stage enterprise founder or operator — connect with us directly or check out our events page to get involved with our Work-Bench community.