Why Today’s Business Reality Dictates a New Approach to Design Partners

In the nascent phase of a startup, the onus of sales predominantly lies on the founders who collaborate with customers, also termed as design partners or pilots, to address specific concerns. These early collaborations, however, are primarily focused on the product, overlooking the crucial aspect of market readiness that complements the ‘product-market’ synergy. This neglect can culminate in a situation where, despite having a polished product, the startup struggles to align with the market dynamics, necessitating additional efforts for market adaptation. To circumvent this common pitfall, the article introduces the REAP™ methodology and highlights the MarketReady™ Design Partner Program as a contemporary approach to fostering fruitful design partnerships.

  1. Preliminary Phase in Startups
    • Founders initiate sales engagements, working hand-in-hand with customers to tackle particular issues.
    • Conversations pertaining to contracts and pricing are postponed until the product demonstrates significant value to the customers.
    • The initial sales led by founders are more akin to sales engineering as opposed to being driven by account executives.
  2. Shift in Sales Leadership
    • With the expansion of the company, founders often transfer sales responsibilities to account executives (AEs).
    • AEs, with their expertise in finalizing contracts, aim to reduce sales cycle durations and augment contract value, aligning with their incentive structures.
  3. Advocating for Sales Engineering-Driven Sales
    • Suggests a pivot towards a sales model steered by sales engineering rather than transitioning the responsibilities to AEs.
    • This approach seeks to:
      • Verify the value proposition initially to ascertain product-market fit.
      • Retain an insight into the customer base to influence product development positively.
      • Cultivate strong relationships with customers, potentially serving as reference accounts in the future.
      • Provide technical aid to customers to facilitate a smoother transition during onboarding processes.
  4. Role of Developer Advocacy and Relations Teams
    • Technical enterprises, particularly those in the open-source domain, have partially embraced this strategy through the implementation of developer advocacy or relations teams.
    • Advocates for a sales flow that transitions from developer relations to sales engineering and finally to account executives, a process that closely echoes the founder sales trajectory compared to the conventional sales motion.
  5. Applicability and Efficacy of the Proposed Approach
    • The conventional sales mechanism, which introduces sales engineering after initiating commercial discussions, might be apt for well-established technical companies with a considerable brand trust.
    • For startups still in the process of establishing their value or those adopting more patient strategies, a sales process led by sales engineering can prolong the successful trend of founder-led sales until a notable brand presence is achieved in the market.


You can build the best product and even identify a sizable addressable target market and still fail egregiously. . . . attaining success out of the gate requires getting many things right

The above quote comes from, and this post was inspired by https://dlavenda.medium.com/the-marketready-design-partner-program-26dfa19446c

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