Startup Sales Insights from a 3x Founder, with Swapnil Shinde

Seller's Journey Episode 9
Transparent sales process - working together
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Welcome back to the From Vendorship → Partnership podcast, Season 2: Seller’s Journey! 

This season, we’re talking to B2B sales leaders about their experience building winning processes, coaching & scaling teams, and partnering with customers.

Our guest this week is Swapnil Shinde, CEO & Co-Founder of Zeni!

Zeni is an AI-powered startup bookkeeping and accounting service. Swapnil is a 3x founder and led Zeni’s sales for its first two years, closing over 100 customers single-handedly.

Listen to the episode here, and get the key takeaways from our conversation below.

🙅 What do people get wrong when it comes to sales at startups?

A lot of founders want to offload sales to someone else as soon as possible, Swapnil said, but it’s best for them to handle initial sales for at least the first few customers.

Founders are typically the best at pitching their own product, so by pitching to potential customers early on, they can start to understand their customers’ problems and hone their messaging before bringing on a dedicated sales hire to help.

👯 What do you look for when hiring your first few reps?

If you’re an early stage startup, Swapnil recommends looking for reps with an entrepreneurial mindset.

They’ll be selling a brand new product that’s relatively untested in the market, with an undefined or shifting process and messaging. Because of this, reps need the willingness to start from scratch, figure things out, and enjoy the journey.

Other qualities to look for are coachability, positive energy, and genuine excitement about your product.

💡 Lightning Round: Swapnil’s Fast Sales Insights

  • Book: Obviously Awesome by April Dunford – how to nail your product positioning
  • Influencer: Jason Lemkin
  • Biggest misconception about sales? The lower the price point, the easier it is to sell.
  • Hardest part of scaling early stage sales? Hiring an awesome VP of Sales!

About Swapnil

Swapnil Shinde is Co-Founder and CEO of Zeni, a 3x entrepreneur with 2x exits, angel investor, startup mentor, and proud USC Alum - Fight On!

Zeni unlocks real-time financial insights for startups through its AI-powered bookkeeping and financial management solutions. Prior to Zeni, Swapnil and his twin brother Snehal founded travel-as-a-service startup Mezi, which was acquired by AMEX in 2018 and today powers the AMEX app concierge chat for card members across the U.S. and U.K. In 2014, his first startup Dhingana was acquired by Rdio.