Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup

As Mark Cuban says - the market size is almost immaterial

The next in our series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn't teach you for rebel sales in a software startup” where we discuss ignoring market share and simply focus on selling and your customers.

Do you watch Shark Tank? If you are in sales at a startup, there is probably no other television show that is as relevant to your life as Shark Tank.

Shark Tank is the television equivalent of a VC conference. Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five extremely wealthy people and try to get them to invest. In a startup, if you are not personally responsible for talking to investors, your manager probably is doing it.

My company, Agile Stacks, where I am the Chief Revenue Officer, will never go on Shark Tank. Not because we don’t want the attention of these well-connected investors, but because we are already too well-funded and too large to consider them taking a substantial portion of our company which they prefer to control.

There is one consistent sign that the entrepreneur is going to be rejected by the Shark Tank panelists. It is when the founder starts to talk about how massive the market is for their product. Mark Cuban is usually the first to pounce on this aggressively, and often it is his reason for not funding the startup.

If you are brand new and haven’t sold a single product, then regardless of your targeted market, your market share is 0.00000000% (take that out to an infinite number of decimal places). As soon as you start to sell, the number of decimal places gets fewer, but through most of the time as a startup, you still have well under 1% of your market. You can have an incredibly successful startup and have a meager market share.

Almost every day, the companies Uber and Lyft are in the business pages. They are the big guys in the peer-to-peer ridesharing market. But they are incredibly small in the drive-to-some-destination market (which is dominated by people that get behind the wheel and drive to a destination). On most American streets and highways, not 1 vehicle in 100 on the road is a rideshare car (obviously this varies by city).

Until Uber convinced their first customer to get into a car with a stranger, the peer-to-peer ridesharing market was tiny. It didn’t matter though. What mattered was that the founders thought they could build a company by making it easy, convenient, and affordable to get paid for driving people around in something other than a taxi. They built a product that they thought people wanted, and then they went out and convinced people to try it.

Market share simply doesn’t matter. What matters is getting those first customer purchases and making that customer happy with your service and product. Then get the next purchase (and the next, and the next….). It is only customer purchases that matter and the satisfaction of your customers with your product. 2019 for Agile Stacks is all about traction, I’ve come aboard and inherited a sales team. We rarely discuss market size on my weekly pipeline calls. My drive is to focus the team on working the deal to close. That is what’s important to my leadership and my Board.

Nothing else matters. Just go sell something.

Topics: Startup, Sales, Business Development

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