In the early days founders need to start by doing things that don't scale first. The value you derive from having deep relationships with early customers or getting a lot of face time with potential customers is invaluable. There is no other way to learn the intricacies of the problem you're solving, what people are doing to try and find a solution, how people actually view your product relative to alternative solutions, how they actually use your product, and how much value do they actually derive from it. All of these things are vitally important to building a high growth tech company.
That being said, this can often get taken way too far. Too often early stage founders view each sales conversation in total isolation from the broader market. By that I mean, many entrepreneurs fail to look at each sale as an opportunity to learn how to build a sales process. Every customer is treated as if they're the only customer you'll ever get. Entrepreneurs freely change their entire business strategy just to satisfy the needs of one customer, and fail to think about how to use that interaction to create and refine a process that can be leveraged for the next sale.
I think this sentiment is often reflected in entrepreneurs often describe their marketing strategy during investor pitches. Marketing and sales are treated as some kind of future event where it's almost as if the entrepreneur is implying "we'll worry about sales later" and "we'll just flip a switch and these untested strategies will bring in new sales faster than we can handle them." Instead what entrepreneurs should have ready when it comes time to pitch are proven sales and marketing strategies that are both repeatable and scalable.
It may sound obvious to say this but in order to build a large business you need to generate a lot of sales very quickly. That becomes an almost impossible task if each sale is totally different from the others. If each customer is different and/or if each customer requires their own custom product it means you cannot determine who your ideal customer is, what it is you're selling to them, how to sell them, how to process each sale quickly, or how you'll find more of them.
To build a high growth company you need repeatable, scalable sales processes in place. A repeatable sale is where you've found a cookie cutter recipe so that each sale looks 99% like the last sale. The customers are very similar, they have the same problem, they derive the same value from your product, they view your product relative to alternatives in the same way, the process of closing the sale happens in more or less the same way, and you can find more customers just like them through the same sales & marketing channels. When you have repeatable sales you can now build systems and processes for finding customers, selling customers, on-boarding customers, and keeping customers. You have the foundations for handling large volumes of sales efficiently.
For you sales process to deliver high growth returns to your business however, it also needs to be scalable. To be scalable means that you the entrepreneur can control the volume of sales depending upon how many resources you can throw at it. Perhaps the best way to distinguish between a repeatable and scalable sales process is to review an example of a process that is repeatable but not scalable. One of our portfolio companies recently became a vendor on a popular site for ordering overseas goods. The nice part about this sales channel is that it is repeatable; the sales are all very similar. The problem is that the company has no control over the volume. They are at the mercy of however many RFQs come through the website. There is no ability to say "spend $X more on advertising" or "dedicate Y more people to this" that will affect how many sales they can generate through this channel.
If you're running a lifestyle business where you're simply looking to meet a minimum amount of income each year then this isn't a problem. If you're trying to build a high growth business however it's a huge problem. You have no way of affecting your growth and no amount of resources or effort can change that. A scalable process is one in which you have that control. The volume of sales becomes a factor of how many resources you can dedicate to that sales channel. When you have a repeatable, scalable sales process you now have a greater ability to control your own destiny.