Startup Sales: The Friction of Communication Model

Varun 1 year and 5 months ago
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These thoughts come from the perspective of an early stage company selling a product or service, but easily apply to finding investors, marketing established companies, personal job searches, and more. Keep that in mind as you read on.

The Problem

We had a common startup problem. I was having a hard time growing Disqovery’s customer base: which companies do we focus on? How do I talk to them? What does it take to close the deal and move on? Part of this was resolved by using our previous successes to build a set of reusable templates and processes. However, we were still missing a simple framework for putting all of the pieces together.


Inspiration can come from strange places. As an SLP NYC Fellow, I attended a session on pitching and communication a few months ago. Adaora Udoji was one of several speakers. She listed four main reasons that people communicate.

  1. to build relationships
  2. to persuade
  3. to influence
  4. to explain something

These reasons stuck with me, written in that order, as going from easiest to hardest, at least where working with customers is concerned.

The Solution

Pyramid of sales friction Pyramid of sales friction

This structure forms a pyramid of lowest to highest friction for making the sale. High friction customers require more work, and are not a good place for a startup with limited case studies and sales resources.

The worst starting point is a Clueless customer. This is someone you will have to explain the problem, influence their thinking about potential solutions, persuade that your offering is the best, and finally build the relationship necessary to close the deal.

The best starting point is a Courtship customer. They are aware of the problem and ways to solve it, and they are already bought into the type of solution you are offering. At that point all you have to do is build the relationship and grow your business.

The Model in Action

An easy scenario: some time ago I was introduced to a company as a lead for Disqovery. These people wanted to improve their employee engagement and retention (check), had tried random ideas like yoga and gym memberships (double-check), and had already come around to the idea that career development and personal growth are the path to solving their problems (triple-check). Since one of our beta users works there, even the courtship process was accelerated.

A curious scenario: Last year I met with a senior manager at a great company; she was interested in chatting, and I learned a lot about her and what her firm is up to. It quickly became evident that though engagement was on their list of priorities, they had yet to think about what is out there, much less consider the value of employee growth and development. This put them squarely in the curious category, which was too much work for us at the time. We stayed in touch but my attention was better focused elsewhere.

Path of Least Resistance

Table 1

If you use a CRM tool like StreakCRM or Asana, it’s super-easy to put these tags or categories in place as your reach out and develop leads. Categorize your customers and when starting focus on the ones that require fewer flavors of communication; you’ll get to the others later once you’re a sales-closing machine.

Disqovery’s app makes career development both fun and useful. We work with companies to improve employee engagement and retention. Check it out at and say hello.

Download the Sales Friction Diagrams (PDF) if you’d like.