Selling when people look at you like you’re crazy

2 min readFeb 24, 2020

If you’ve ever done sales for a technical product in a new domain, you’ll appreciate this quote from Takeover!: The Inside Story of the Yahoo! Ad Revolution, one of the few books about Yahoo’s early days of creating millions of people’s experiences on the internet.

“When we started selling [internet ads], we… thought we could sell ads like network TV, but quickly realized that nobody understood the internet.

We had to change roles from salesperson to evangelist.

Sales people needed to become experts at evangelizing the wonders of the internet and experts at pitching new technologies.”

This reminded me of the early days selling crypto custody at Anchorage, and consumer DNA tests at Prenetics. The sales challenges were opposite to each other in that one involved selling a complex product to meet a burning need, while the other involved selling a simple product to clients that had yet to see a need.

At Anchorage, we sold a technical product that had never been seen before, exposing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in principal funds held by investors. The problem was complex, and the solution needed to be as well. Key to our success were: personal relationships, a bona fide quality product (esp vis-a-vis the competition), and a burning use case.

At Prenetics, we sold a value proposition to insurers that had never been proven before, making guinea pigs out of tens of thousands of customers. Central to winning our earliest sales were: a savvy understanding of what makes corporations tick, the grit to pivot again and again, and the skill to paint a compelling vision with a limited palette.

The book was written by David Shen, Yahoo!’s #17 employee. He was in charge of User Experience at a time when “cross-browser compatibility” wasn’t a thing (!) and TV/print ads were the only media advertisers understood. His sales-biased narrative really drives home the difficulty (and fun) of cracking the puzzle of selling something so new that it sounds like crazy-talk to your clients.

Have you sold products in a way that went on to define the category? What was most important to your success?

#sales #earlystage #crypto #healthtech #disruption




I do business things and nerd things. Also crypto things. Twitter: @michlai007