In the early days of a startup with a product in the market, it seems intuitively correct that you should hire some experienced salespeople to get you more sales. However, from many conversations with founders and early sales hires of B2B SaaS companies, I’ve learned it’s best to start with customer success first.
Retention is key. Early customers are the ones talking about your product to their peers. They’re the ones helping you figure out the product by providing valuable feedback. They’re the ones expanding revenue for you without having to acquire new customers. If you have a low retention rate, you won’t get the benefit of any of these things.
Then there’s the leaky bucket problem—when you’re trying to grow but need to replace a significant amount of revenue lost to churn, everything is much harder. You’ll need to hire more salespeople to acquire more customers. You’ll need to do more marketing. You will need to address customer success even if you ignore it at first.
Customer success also helps in the same way founder-led sales helps identify product problems. Helping users implement and see the value of your product can reveal opportunities to make it easier and make it clear how users are trying to solve their biggest challenges.
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As much as product builders want to be self-serve and low-touch, there will always be limitations and improvements to make. Sometimes a customer won’t understand how to use the product. Sometimes a customer will make a mistake. Sometimes a customer won’t be able to translate their problem into a solution.