The Founder's First Job: Driving Sales Through Thought Leadership

Nothing is rarely more important than sales and how to do thought leadership

👋 Hello, welcome to the Startup Hustle! I’m your guide, Matt Watson. I share weekly tips from my 20+ years of startup founder experience and stories from other entrepreneurs from the Startup Hustle podcast.

I have really bad news for some of you today…

Some of you have already figured out how important what I am about to tell you is…

For the rest of you, today is the day you have to wake up and realize this.

Every startup founder has the exact same job.

It is a job that some of us hate. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us.

What is that job?

Think about all of these things for a minute:

  • Signing up your first customer

  • Finding a co-founder

  • Pitching investors

  • Recruiting employees

What do they all have in common?

They all revolve around the first job of every founder: SALES

I hate to break it to you, but nothing is rarely more important than sales if you haven’t figured it out by now.

The good news is that there are many ways to sell, and I am going to share some tips about using thought leadership for sales.

These exact strategies help me grow my business. Over 60% of our customers come from these strategies, which includes this newsletter!

If you want to hear the entire inside scoop, check out my recent podcast interview on the Modern Selling podcast:

Overcoming the Sales Aversion

It's a reality that many entrepreneurs struggle with, but embracing your role as the company's chief salesperson is crucial for early success. Without revenue, your startup won't survive, no matter how innovative your product or service may be.

Many founders, especially those with technical backgrounds, don't enjoy sales. I was no different when I started my first company at 22.

I was a software developer at heart, focused on building the technology.

I am a product guy who loves building cool things.

However… I also love telling other people about the cool things that I build.

What does that sound like? 🎯

All you have to do is harness that mentality!

I was the CEO of my second startup, Stackify. I quickly (ok, slowly) realized that none of the cool stuff I built mattered if I couldn't sell it.

Many founders experience despair as they struggle to figure out how to make sales and marketing work and scale. This is where most startups die!

I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and salespeople struggling to figure out sales channels that work.

I had to confront that harsh truth head-on.

Your brilliant product ideas and hard work will be wasted if you can't convince others to buy into them.

With enough experience as an entrepreneur, the light bulb finally goes off, and you realize that marketing and sales are the most important things. đź’ˇ

My career went from software engineer to CTO to CEO to marketing. Why? Because without sales and marketing, it doesn’t matter what I build.

I can hire anyone to write code, but I uniquely know how to sell the product.

Without a steady stream of customers and revenue, your startup won't survive, no matter how great your product. Embracing your role as the chief salesperson is not optional—it's a necessity.

Using Thought Leadership for Sales

Thought leadership is one of the most effective ways to drive early sales.

Do you like to build cool stuff?

All you need to do is brag to the world about the awesome thing you made and the problems it solves. You can even find investors this way!

By establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, you build trust and credibility with potential customers. People who see you as a knowledgeable and helpful resource are likelier to do business with you.

Let’s discuss some ways to do this. I use all of them!


Do you like talking to people?

If so, podcasting is a powerful tool for thought leadership. Hosting a podcast allows you to share your knowledge, interview other experts, and provide value to your target audience. It's an opportunity to showcase your personality and build relationships with listeners.

I host the Startup Hustle podcast, where I interview other tech entrepreneurs.

This not only provides valuable content for my audience but also allows me to connect with potential customers and partners. Many of the guests on my show have later become clients or collaborators.

I also regularly appear on other podcasts as a guest, sharing my experiences as an entrepreneur and best practices about what Full Scale does for others to learn from.


Blogging is another excellent way to demonstrate your expertise. Write articles that address your customers' pain points and offer solutions that position you as a helpful resource.

When I write blog posts, I often start by recording my thoughts using voice-to-text on my phone. Then, I use AI tools like ChatGPT or Claude to help create a polished article from my raw ideas. This allows me to efficiently create content that showcases my knowledge and helps my target audience.

AI has made it easier than ever to produce content quickly. Especially for people who are not writers. You don’t need to be a writer anymore.

You can simply collect all your thoughts and ideas in a nonsensical ramble and give it to AI to do the writing for you. By providing all your original ideas, it will create perfectly written content based on your ideas.

Don’t use AI to 100% generate the underly ideas behind the content.

Use AI to be the editor of your ideas and thought leadership that is uniquely yours. You will be amazed at how fast you can do it.

I could create videos or a course on how to do this. Want to know more? Reply and let me know. If enough people reply, maybe I will create an in-depth video!


By the way, this newsletter you are reading started with a draft written by AI from a podcast transcript, and I am editing it to make it my own. Thank you, AI, for solving the blank slate problem and getting me 80%.

Email newsletters are also effective for nurturing leads and driving sales.

By the way, thank you for reading mine!

By consistently providing valuable content to your subscribers, you stay top of mind and build trust over time. When they're ready to buy, they'll think of you first.

About 95% of people aren’t ready to buy whatever you have to sell.

Are you always looking to buy a house or car? Of course not.

But one day, you will. It is the same with whatever it is you sell. Only so many people are actively in-market buyers at any given time.

Content marketing and thought leadership are good ways to stay on top of one's mind when one becomes an in-market buyer.

This newsletter has about 20,000 subscribers. Regularly sharing industry insights, company updates, and helpful resources keeps my audience engaged and positions me as a trusted expert.

Trust is super important in the sales process of a lot of products. Thought leadership helps a lot in creating trust over time.


LinkedIn is what drives most of the leads for my company.

Why is it last on this list?

Because all the other things on the list create content that you can use to post snippets of on LinkedIn!

Every podcast, newsletter, or blog post that I do can easily be chopped up to 2-3 or more LinkedIn posts. I post every day on LinkedIn, generally 2-3x times a day.

Here is a secret: You can recycle old content every 30-90 days.

All you have to do is figure out the right topics that work and create 50 good posts. You can then repost them and mix in a few new things.

LinkedIn is among the most powerful tools for thought leadership and sales if you sell B2B products or services.

Over the last 18 months, my account has grown from 15,000 to 46,000 followers.

Consistency is Key

Consistency is essential to seeing results from your thought leadership efforts.

You can't just post on LinkedIn once and expect a flood of sales. It takes time to build an audience and establish yourself as an authority.

I post on LinkedIn two to three times daily, sharing content about my company, my podcast, industry insights, and personal anecdotes.

It's not uncommon for people to approach me at events or even at the hardware store, mentioning that they read my posts all the time.

Consistency also helps you refine your messaging and find what resonates with your audience. Over time, you'll get better at creating content that engages your target customers and drives sales.

Some key things to keep in mind when creating content for thought leadership:

  • Focus on providing value, not just promoting your product

  • Share your unique insights and experiences

  • Be authentic and let your personality shine through

  • Experiment with different formats (text, audio, video) to see what works best

  • Engage with your audience by responding to comments and messages

Scaling Your Efforts

How do you scale thought leadership?

One way to do this is by involving your team. Encourage your employees to share their expertise through blog posts, social media, and other channels.

You can also leverage paid promotion to extend your reach. LinkedIn's Thought Leader ads allow you to promote your personal content to a wider audience.

There are about 50,000 SaaS companies. I promote my content on LinkedIn to all of them with ads for a pretty low budget.

These ads perform better than traditional company-sponsored posts because people prefer to connect with individuals rather than faceless brands.

You can combine these ABM-type strategies to really scale.

Embrace Your First Job

As a founder, sales is your first job. Embracing this responsibility and leveraging thought leadership to drive revenue is crucial for your startup's success.

It is only one type of sales, and depending on your company, it may not be a perfect fit for you.

By consistently creating valuable content through podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and/or social media, you'll build trust, establish your expertise, and stay top of mind with potential customers.

When they're ready to buy, they'll turn to you first.

The good news is that you don’t have to talk to people.

I rarely talk to people at Full Scale. I create all this content and hand off most of the leads to our sales team.

My daily job is to tell the world how awesome our team is. It is an amazing job!

I've seen firsthand how powerful thought leadership can be in driving sales.

Remember, if you build it, they won't come unless you sell it.

Embrace your first job as chief salesperson, and watch your startup thrive.

Thought leadership is a powerful tool in your sales arsenal. Use it to build relationships, demonstrate your expertise, and ultimately drive revenue for your business… even if you hate doing actual sales.

Who is Matt Watson?
Join 46,000 others, and follow me on LinkedIn. I am also the host of the Startup Hustle podcast, which you can listen to on any podcast app or YouTube.

I’m the CEO of Full Scale. We help companies scale up their development teams with top talent from the Philippines at a 60% savings.

Want to be a guest on the Startup Hustle podcast? Apply here!

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