Founder-Led Sales Strategies For Startups

Ryan Staley is the Founder & CEO of Whale Boss — a consultancy that helps founders and revenue leaders implement seven and eight-figure sales operating systems in as little as three months. His experience in sales extends over two decades. Along the way, he has successfully created his own go-to-market strategies and execution plans in addition to transforming struggling business units into top performers generating up to $30 million in annual recurring revenue.

He joined the Predictable Revenue Podcast to break down the strategies founders and start-ups need to adopt to amplify revenue.

What Are The Most Important Metrics For Start-Ups?

After you’ve established a product-market fit and have your demand generation in order on the marketing and outbound sales side of things, it’s important to ensure that your reps have their calendars full depending on the deal size. Once that’s solidified, founders should be looking at “the average deal size, the speed — how fast the deals are going through the sales cycle, not just in total but by stage — and then on top of it too is the conversion rates,” Ryan explains. The conversion rates should also be tracked “at each step in the process, all the way from first appointment to close”

Creating Exponential Growth Through The Perfect Customer Profile (PCP)

“If ICP (ideal customer profile) had a baby with Pareto’s Principle, that would be the outcome of what the PCP is.” A simple sports analogy helps to drive the point about PCP creating exponential instead of incremental growth home. It’s like a professional sports team, whether it be in football, basketball or baseball, drafting first-round talent with every pick in every round of a single draft. Bringing it back to sales, many companies map out their ICPs but don’t take it to the next level. But imagine only having ‘first-round caliber talent’ in your pipeline. “It’s like having the best of the best — the 20% of your customers that create 80% of your revenue but that’s all that’s in the pipeline.”

Three Core Operating Systems For Start-Up Revenue Leaders

The Whale Scale Operating System

This first operating system is about applying the 20/ 80 PCP rule mentioned above to your targeting. Then from there, you need to execute on doubling your average deal size year over year. “It’s really stacking strategy, process and then execution all the way down to what you say, when you say it, who you say it to, and the order you say it in so that it’s fully comprehensive.

The whale scale operating system enabled Ryan’s team to 100X their deal size by utilizing PCP and then leveraging the strategy, the process, and the execution. It allowed them to “move from deal sizes that were $30 – $70K to $700K – $20 million over a period of four to five years.”

The Exponential Expansion Engine

Most SaaS founders have developed an excellent primary sales engine to cover the front end. They may have retention rates in the mid to high 90s but then don’t have a secondary sales process in place where they don’t speak to their customers. Not only does it help to provide better support and improve feedback but it also allows you to provide value while you’re selling.

Customer service is more of a nurturing process where you “take care of customers after the fact. But if you seed and sell the entire time that you’re doing that, you’re not only providing value to the customer but then you’re really truly understanding what the biggest problems they have are and then continually solving them. And then what it’s going to do is basically massively amp up the amount that every average customer spends with you.”

Increasing the revenue your existing clients spend with your company annually, can lead to explosive growth without the addition of many new customers.

The Referral Operating System

Referral is the single best way to double the size of your company repeatedly. “We got that Amazon Whole Foods deal. It was through a referral. That was a $20 million deal that changed the entire direction of the company.” Companies like Tesla, Slack, and Dropbox have been able to drive significant growth through referrals.

“I created a four-prong system on scaling customer referrals and the beautiful output of it is that deals will close in sometimes 75% or half the amount of time as a normal deal.” And it’s all because of that transfer of trust from a colleague or trusted peer. What’s more, this inherent trust that’s already brought in can lead to deal sizes that are 125% or 150% larger.

The four simple steps are pathways, customer emotional peaks, the sales process, and persuasion. Here’s a breakdown of the steps below.

The Four-Step Referral Framework

  1. The pathways — the type of incentives you have. They’re essentially carrots. Things like modules if you’re selling SaaS because there’s no cost to that or a knowledge pack of the biggest mistakes customers make after implementing your software are great referral incentives.
  2. The emotional peaks the customer has. “If you think about the emotional experience of the buying process, especially when you’re dealing with bigger deal sizes, you know it’s going to go up and down.” The key is to understand those peaks and then align with them accordingly.
  3. The sales process — the behavior design that determines how you align the customer emotional peaks with the sales process. “It’s super simple and easy to implement.”
  4. Persuasion. Humans have mental shortcuts and 90% of decisions are made through our subconscious. This step is about tapping into that subconscious and the mental shortcuts that people take through an influence strategy. People will think you’re amazing and organically start to ask how they can help you. That’s when you go in for the referral.

If you’re a founder or part of a start-up and need help amplifying your sales revenue, reach out to us for a free assessment call. 


Listen On:



Experience and a lot of testing have shown us that it is possible to create email templates that people actually resonate with.

You don’t have to figure it out alone, whether you’re starting off as a sales representative, looking to improve your game or providing your team with expert advice, we have your back!

Free Download!


We’re not just a cold calling company.

Read The Best-Selling Award-Winning Book!