Every Customer is a Design Partner – Leading Your Sales Motion with Sales Engineering

In the initial phases of a startup, founders spearhead the sales process, engaging closely with customers to address a particular issue. These early customer engagements, referred to as design partnerships or founder-led sales, defer discussions on contracts and pricing until the customer perceives substantial value. This approach, essentially a form of sales engineering, undergoes a transformation as the company expands, generally shifting towards account executives (AEs) who specialize in contract closures, focusing on shortening sales cycles and augmenting contract value. The article proposes an alternative approach, emphasizing the potential advantages of transitioning sales to sales engineering teams rather than AEs.

  1. Benefits of Transitioning Sales to Sales Engineering
    • Product-Market Fit Validation: Ensures the value proposition is validated initially to ascertain product-market fit.
    • Informed Product Development: Facilitates a deeper understanding of the customer base, its segments, and intricacies, aiding in insightful product development.
    • Building Customer Relationships: Helps in fostering robust relationships with customers, positioning them as reference accounts for future engagements.
    • Technical Assistance: Offers technical support to customers to alleviate potential hiccups, including assistance with onboarding processes.
  2. Sales Flow in Technical Companies
    • Particularly in technical companies, especially those open-source, aspects of this approach have been realized through developer advocacy or relations teams.
    • These teams educate the market and assist in problem-solving before initiating the sales process.
    • A sales flow involving developer relations followed by sales engineering and then account executives aligns more closely with the founder sales trajectory, which progresses from awareness to problem-solving and finally to commercial terms.
  3. Comparison with Classic Sales Motion
    • Contrasts with the classic sales motion where sales engineering comes into play after the commercial discussion, following awareness and commercial terms stages.
    • This traditional approach may be effective for established technical companies where customer trust is already established, allowing for sales optimization for higher productivity, characterized by shortened sales cycles and larger contract values.
  4. Significance for Startups in Initial Stages
    • For startups still in the process of establishing value or adopting a more patient strategy, maintaining a sales engineering-led sales approach can be beneficial.
    • This approach extends the successful trajectory of founder-led sales until the startup builds a significant brand presence and gains market validation.


for those startups still needing to prove the value or with more patient strategies, sales engineering-led sales extend the successful pattern of founder-led sales until the startup establishes a brand & social proof in the market.

The above quote comes from, and this post was inspired by https://tomtunguz.com/leading-with-sales-engineering/

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