StartUp Founders: Hire For Customer Success Earlier Than You Think

January 06, 2023 3 mins read

As a startup consultant, I am often asked what the most critical hire a startup founder can make is. And my answer is always the same: hire a customer success human before you hire a sales human.

Why do I say this? Well, it’s really quite simple. Hiring a salesperson too early in the game can actually hinder your success as a startup. You, as the founder, are the one who knows your pitch, your pricing, and how to articulate your message. You need to be able to negotiate and build relationships with your customers. After all, these companies are taking a risk on you, so it becomes much more relationship-driven. They are buying into your future journey, versus where you are today.

The best hire you can make, therefore, is a customer success person. Their sole focus is to ensure that your customers are achieving value out of your technology. This includes all the supporting things around customer success such as making sure your customer experience is fantastic, sales & after-sales support, onboarding documentation, and more.

One notable quote that reinforces my point comes from Lincoln Murphy, a customer success strategist, who said, “The success of your product is inextricably linked to the success of your customers.” This is absolutely true. Happy customers are the key to scaling your startup.

When it comes time to call in a favor, like asking for a reference, you need someone to go back to. You need customers that are willing to be advocates and talk about you. And this is where a customer success person comes in. They make sure your customers are happy, excited, and getting value so that when it comes time to ask for a reference, they say yes.

Another reason to hire a customer success person is that it lets another human into the conversation with a customer. As a founder, you are likely doing most of the sales, support and implementation yourself. Having another human in that conversation who can see everything that’s happening and think about how to automate or scale or fix these problems either in your technology or presentation is going to be so valuable.

The bottom line is this: you are more likely to deliver incremental value by hiring a customer success person than hiring a salesperson and hoping to get the closes you think you might get from that person. People often think that features are what make customers happy, but it’s not. It’s the relationship. It’s having a human who listens, someone to reach out to in those early days, and who can turn customers from just customers to deep advocates of your technology.

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