This is an expansion of this thread posted by the wonderful David Miranda. I posted a response but David suggested I expand further.
The original challenge was focused on developers. And yes, it may well affect many developers, but I can relate to it as a non-engineering founder.
The following is purely anecdotal and based on my own experience and what I've seen.
Here's why I think it's so hard to sell and market software:
- Sales requires a skillset and knowledge that requires us to see things differently
It's no longer about us. It's entirely about the customer.
When you're ramping up your sales and marketing efforts, you'll need to understand what your prospect's life looks like and the problems they're juggling. How much of a priority is solving this problem for them? How do we communicate in a way that is familiar to them? What really resonates vs what will they turn a blind eye to?
When it comes to product, we can say that we understand the user, but we're never going to know until we get feedback on a product or conduct user testing. With sales and marketing there's a much faster feedback loop. If people are ignoring you, it becomes apparent pretty quickly. When building a product, it's easy to spend months without getting any rejection or pushback.
How are you going to deal with the switch of being in your customer's world and not your own?
- Many ways to approach it - can lead to analysis paralysis
So how do you want to start selling and marketing your product? Inbound or outbound? Are you going to do a major launch event? How about paid social? Or more of an organic focus on content marketing and SEO? Maybe some LinkedIn outreach? How about a ProductHunt launch? Maybe use a lead generation agency? Oh, you fancy cold calling? Ah, you're planning to use affiliates? Shouldn't you build a community around your product?
The above is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the options available. It's no wonder that we get stuck deciding which way to move forward.
And what's the easiest thing to do when we get stuck? Just ignore it.
Why not add a new feature, add to the product, change the website? At least we know what we're doing.
The key is being able to excavate through the mountain of options and select what is a good fit between you and your market and begin experimenting.
And it's an experimentation process... so naturally if your first experiment doesn't work, it's time to go back to the drawing board and figure what you'll test next.
- You lose the feeling of control - the market decides
When it comes to product, it feels like we're in control. We decide what the roadmap looks like, what we'll work on. How the UI will look, the experience we want our users to go through.
When it comes to sales and marketing, you have no say over how your prospects will or won't respond.
What a horrible feeling! You've gone from being in control of your baby—building, shaping and designing it exactly how you want it to look and feel. Now it's live, you feel helpless. Especially when you've not found a channel and/or message that really resonates.
It's important to differentiate between our true sense of control and our perceived sense of control.
Knowing that you have many options, there's lots you can experiment with and it'll take multiple rounds of experimentation before you may find a winner can help regain a feeling of control over the situation.
And of course, if you're a founder/business owner who wants to talk through these challenges, help you prioritise and figure out what to focus on, book a session here. I won't tell you what do, but I'll ask you questions, challenge your thoughts and make sure you end up with a clear action plan.