The worst solution is often the one chosen in software marketing
In many ways, the ideal solution for the early commercialization of a truly groundbreaking product might be the team approach, combining the product communicator, i.e. the documentation writer or some other person with product specialist knowledge, with a salesperson.
Together, they may be able to cover the six requirements for software sales success (see posts below). Like the other approaches, this one is not free. Dedicating two headcounts to the sales process is an investment that is often significant for a startup or small company. Among its advantages is that the results, good or bad, should begin to show within 12-18 months. So you might label it “high-investment, quick return.”
In contrast, hiring just one sales professional will carry a lower price tag. The results, however, may not show until after the professional has acquired most of the six key skills. From experience, that often takes 24-36 months – which is a long time to wait to see if something pans out. So it’s a lower investment per month up front, but with a longer time to payoff also.
The real drawbacks in the salesperson-only method are:
- That in addition to personnel costs, valuable time is lost while the sales professional learns the target industry and the product’s benefits in detail,
- That time is lost if the sales person ultimately is not the right one for the job, and
- That an even greater loss is incurred if the conclusion is, after 36 months, that the sales person is the right one, but the product is wrong.
The worst outcome is unfortunately one that is seen quite often: that the founders/investors lose patience with the process and the salesperson after 12-18 months. Firing and hiring a new one is quite expensive. But what is probably worse is that no firm conclusions are reached regarding the product, the way it is marketed, nor in most likelihood the salesperson’s true abilities. The software vendor might have had the right person, but didn’t allow for the complex learning process to unfold.
Or, the software company may go forward, over and over again, trying to find the right person, and the right way to market a product that, worst case, could be an answer in search of a question.
Fortunately, our worst-worst case above happens rarely. 9 times out of 10 the product does perform tasks that are valuable to the targeted customer - as most developers have a good sense of what will fly.
But the second-worst outcome is almost more cruel: watching an excellent product underperform revenue-wise year after year...