What Founders Must Do Before Their First Sales Hire with Mia Murphy


In the bustling world of startups, the journey from an idea to market dominance is fraught with challenges, not least of which is building a robust sales process. 

Collin Stewart sat down with Mia Murphy, Co-founder, and Chief Revenue Officer at Tontine, to discuss her transformative journey through the sales landscape. From her initial steps as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) to her strategic pivot towards co-founding a startup, Mia’s story is a masterclass in overcoming the sales hurdles that many startups face.

The Outsourcing Dilemma

Many startups, constrained by tight budgets and the allure of quick scaling, turn to outsourcing their sales efforts. Mia recalls the early days of Tontine, where the startup relied heavily on external firms for sales and prospecting despite having a groundbreaking product. This, she points out, was a double-edged sword. 

While outsourcing can offer temporary relief, it often comes at the cost of disconnecting founders from the most crucial part of their business: understanding and selling their product.

Sales as the Startup Lifeline

A recurring theme in Mia and Collin’s conversation is the critical importance of sales in a startup’s lifecycle. Collin expresses frustration with a narrative he often encounters: founders claiming they lack the bandwidth to focus on sales. He challenges this notion, asserting that sales should be seen not as a secondary task but as the primary artery pumping life into a startup’s heart. 

Mia’s experience at Tontine reinforces this, showcasing how internalizing sales efforts and building a dedicated team from the ground up was pivotal in steering the startup toward stability and growth.

Overcoming Fear and Embracing Sales

Diving into sales calls and strategies can seem daunting for founders without a natural inclination toward sales. Mia touches on this fear, suggesting that it often leads founders to distance themselves from sales activities. Yet, her journey illustrates the power of embracing sales head-on. 

By understanding the nuances of sales processes and actively participating in building and managing a sales team, founders can significantly amplify their startup’s chances of success.

Understanding the sales process is as critical as your product.

Collin and Mia continue to unpack the vital yet often overlooked aspect of building a robust sales function, likened to adding a cash register to an innovative idea. It’s a compelling reminder that a great product needs an equally strategic approach to reach its market potential.

The journey into sales, particularly in startups, is fraught with challenges, especially when the excitement of product development overshadows the grunt work of sales. 

Founders might excel in innovation but falter in translating their passion into sales success. This disconnect hampers growth and can be a startup’s downfall, underscoring the need for founders to dive deep into the sales process, understand their audience, and articulate the product-market fit compellingly.

A critical insight from this episode is the transformative power of direct sales involvement. Effective sales aren’t about the hard sell; they’re about engagement, understanding customer needs, and aligning your product as a solution. This consultative approach to sales fosters a deeper connection with potential clients, moving beyond transactions to build lasting relationships.

Challenges of Outsourcing AEs

Outsourcing sales functions, especially critical roles like Account Executives, comes with its own set of challenges. 

While it may offer short-term relief in terms of bandwidth, it risks diluting the product’s passion and understanding, which are crucial for closing deals. Instead, the strategic use of outsourced Sales Development Representatives for market fit analysis and data collection can provide invaluable insights, setting the stage for internal teams to drive revenue growth effectively.

Understanding the True Indicators of Sales Success

The episode also touches on the importance of meaningful metrics over superficial dial counts. It’s not just about the number of calls made but the quality of connections and meetings booked. Early indicators of success, such as pipeline development and meeting bookings, are crucial for building trust and fostering long-term partnerships.

Traditional metrics like dial counts have long been the standard for measuring an SDR’s productivity and mindset.

However, this approach is rapidly becoming outdated. The objective measure of success lies not in the number of calls made but in the quality of those calls and their impact on the sales pipeline and revenue.

Redefining Productivity

Through her experience managing a sales team, Mia observed firsthand the limitations of focusing solely on call volume. She found that a lower volume of high-quality, targeted calls led to more qualified meetings and, ultimately, better sales outcomes. This approach challenges the conventional wisdom that more calls equal success, suggesting that a deeper engagement with fewer, well-chosen prospects can be far more effective.

The Limitations of BANT in Cold Calling

Once a cornerstone of lead qualification, the BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) framework is scrutinized. In the initial stages of contact, such as cold calls, expecting prospects to provide detailed information about their budget or decision-making authority is unrealistic. 

Instead, the goal should be to spark interest and open the door to deeper conversations. Effective sales development involves identifying and nurturing potential interest rather than qualifying leads based on criteria they might not yet be ready to discuss.

Building Trust Through Genuine Engagement

Building trust with prospects is akin to feeding squirrels in the park: a gradual, patient process. You wouldn’t throw a whole pizza at a squirrel expecting it to come closer; similarly, bombarding prospects with aggressive sales pitches from the get-go will likely drive them away. 

A more effective strategy involves starting with small, meaningful interactions that build trust over time, setting the stage for more substantial discussions.

The Long Game in Sales Development

Successful sales development is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves cultivating relationships over time and patiently nurturing leads through the sales funnel. Immediate sales are rare; more often, the groundwork laid today will pay off in the future. 

Persistence, strategic follow-up, and a focus on building genuine relationships are vital to moving prospects closer to a sale.

The Road to Profitability

Mia recounts her pivotal role in steering her company, Tontine, away from the brink of financial collapse. Initially hesitant to dive into direct sales, Mia found herself at a crossroads when faced with the imminent threat of losing funding. This dire situation compelled her to lead from the front, undertaking a herculean effort to rejuvenate Taunteen’s sales strategy amidst looming budget cuts.

From Reluctance to Determination

Mia’s journey underscores a critical lesson for startups: the indispensable value of embracing sales roles, especially in times of crisis. 

Despite the initial reluctance, her decision to take charge of sales calls, even at unconventional hours to accommodate global clients, showcases the determination and flexibility required to navigate financial adversities.

The Impact of Genuine Customer Care

One of the most striking aspects of Mia’s strategy was her focus on genuine customer care, contrasting sharply with the previous team’s pressure sales tactics that contributed to customer churn. This shift in approach helped retain clients and establish a foundation for long-term profitability and trust. 

Mia’s experience highlights the detrimental effects of neglecting customer relationships to pursue short-term gains, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach that values client satisfaction and loyalty.

Strategic Sales Development and Customer Success

The episode also sheds light on strategic sales development practices, with Collin emphasizing the importance of respecting customers’ timelines and nurturing leads with relevance and empathy. This approach aligns with the broader theme of prioritizing customer needs and building trust, which is crucial for converting prospects into loyal customers.

Mia illuminates the path for D2C (direct-to-consumer) Shopify brands navigating the complex landscape of online sales. Tontine emerges as a pivotal solution for brands wrestling with the nuances of customer behavior, the dilemma of high abandoned cart rates, and the elusive quest for untapped revenue streams.

A Comprehensive Solution for Revenue Optimization

Tontine aims to empower Shopify brands through meticulous A/B price and content testing backed by real-time traffic segmentation. This strategy covers a spectrum of sales triggers, including subscriptions, shipping thresholds, and various product offerings. 

By taking the reins on implementation, data analysis, and strategic test launches, Tontine alleviates the burden on brands, allowing them to focus on their core offerings while ensuring their pricing strategies and content resonate with their target audience.

The Critical ‘Add to Cart’ Phase

Mia highlights a commonly overlooked aspect of online sales – the ‘add to cart’ phase. Tontine’s approach to conversion rate optimization goes beyond mere numbers, delving into the psychological and design elements that influence a customer’s decision to purchase. 

From the layout of product pages to the presentation of bundles and kits, every detail is fine-tuned to enhance the shopping experience, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion, regardless of the season.


The heart of startup growth lies in a deep, strategic engagement with sales. 

Mia’s journey and Tontine’s turnaround remind us that genuine customer connection and understanding are essential beyond metrics and strategies. For D2C Shopify brands looking to optimize their sales process, Tontine offers a beacon of hope, proving that with the right approach, every challenge is surmountable. 

Discover how Tontine can transform your sales strategy and help you unlock your brand’s full potential. Explore Tontine’s innovative solutions now.

Are you aiming to refine their sales processes and drive growth? Let us help you craft a sales strategy that’s not just effective but predictable. Learn more about how Predictable Revenue can elevate your sales journey.


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