Founders, It’s Time to Hit the Road and Sell Like Your Startup Depends on It—Because It Does!

My co-founders and I built Apartment List by doing what now feels old fashion and out of style – hitting the road and sitting down with clients. But now, As a seed-stage VC at Range Ventures, I’ve watched countless early-stage founders get tangled in the web of GTM “experts” who preach a gospel of overcomplicated processes, an army of SDRs and software tools to “optimize their cadence”.

So, here’s my unfiltered take: Cut through the noise. Your first 100 deals won’t come from the safety of your office. Those early deals are more about relationships than funnel metrics. Your product is new, your brand is unknown, and you’re asking customers to bet on you. That trust isn’t built through a cold call; it’s earned face-to-face, where handshakes happen and partnerships form. And don’t even get me started on the chance your SDRs email is the 1 out of 100 that day that makes an impact…

I (along with my co-founders) built my company by hitting the pavement, shaking hands, and having dinners across the country. I wasn’t racking up points on some dashboard; I was racking up miles for meetings that mattered. Each deal was a story, a conversation, an understanding reached over shared experiences—not a scripted pitch.

It’s seductive to think that a well-oiled GTM machine will churn out sales while you strategize from headquarters. But let me be clear: In the early days, your place isn’t behind a desk. It’s out in the field, listening to your customers, learning from them, and selling your vision with a passion that can’t be transmitted through a Zoom call.

Forget the GTM playbooks that prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach. Your startup is unique, and your early sales strategy should be as bespoke as your solution. Go to the conferences, set up the dinner meetings, and show up where your customers are. Be the relentless founder who not only believes in their product but also goes the extra mile—literally—to get those pivotal first deals signed.

This isn’t just about selling—it’s about storytelling. It’s about sharing your vision in a way that resonates on a personal level. No BDR or SDR can replicate the authenticity of a founder’s conviction. You are the best salesperson your company has. Use that to your advantage.

I challenge you to book a flight today, not to pitch investors, but to land customers. Seal your first 100 deals with a handshake, a shared meal, or a chance encounter at an event. Create those foundational stories that will define your company’s ethos.

To the founders ready to roll up their sleeves and hustle, I salute you. Your journey will be one of the most challenging adventures of your life. But remember, the best victories are the ones you fight hardest for.

P.S. While you’re out there, remember to listen. Every objection is insight, and every piece of feedback is gold. Let those early deals shape a GTM strategy that is truly your own.