10 Tips for Selling to Developers

To win over developers, you need to prove a genuine desire to be valuable.

Developers like developing software, not buying it.

It’s like selling bread to a baker. They’re going to find something to fuss over. Why? Because people are skeptical of buying what they can produce themselves.

The same is true when you’re selling software to developers. You’re likely to face a string of objections: Your code isn’t that high quality, your software has more bells and whistles than they need, they already have a legacy program in-house that’s almost as good.

Developers Don’t Trust Non-developers on Software-Related Topics

Developers are typically not open to sales and marketing pitches.

But developers influence the budget now more than ever, and they don’t have the option to build everything they need in-house. As much as they may dislike it, they need to engage with vendors.

So, what can you do to ensure your pitch delivers to this skeptical, selective group? My role at Devada is to engage with developers on our developer community, DZone.com, and also work with some of the top tech companies in the US who are marketing to developers.

Here are 10 tips I’ve collected from working at the intersection of these two groups.

1. Keep your demos light.

Developers place an extremely high value on their time and are loathe to sacrifice it to anyone, least of all, vendors. So, when you get them signed up for a demo, keep your demo under 30 minutes and consider the cognitive heaviness of the content. Are you speaking directly to their use case? Or are you trying to see how many features you can show in 30 minutes? Developers are smart, they can hold a lot of information in their heads, but they’re not computers. They get tired and tune out like everyone else.

2. Consider removing yourself from part or all of the demo process.

Static demos led by a salesperson or solutions engineer work for some audiences, but developers respond better to hands-on demos. Give them something to play with instead. Sophos does an excellent job here, providing interactive partially-guided demos for each of its security products.

Shopify also gives developers an opportunity to build stores and test key features and API integrations before purchasing with free access to their partner dashboard.

3. Consider making your SDK/APIs public.

A public SDK (software developer kit), can be tremendously helpful in the evaluation phase of software purchase because it increases visibility on three key buying questions: Does this solution fit my needs? How intensive is the integration process? What level of support is available?

Bynder is widely praised for their in-depth, open SDK. Similarly, Slack, well-known for their developer-friendly, enterprise-chat product, has an equally accessible and usable open API.

4. Give developers a pre-purchase sandbox.

When selling a solution to developers, it’s not uncommon to find that your product is competing with a piece of in-house legacy code. While your product is likely superior to the in-house solution, you still have to win over the key influencers — many of whom may have worked on the original code.

In this situation, the old “show don’t tell adage” is employed by many leaders in the space. eBay provides an always-free sandbox to developers, enabling them to experiment with eBay’s public APIs to access buying and selling features.

Similarly, Google provides all analytics users with an analytics demo account —  a fictional data-set for testing data manipulations that doesn’t put customers’ actual data at risk.

The goal is to get a client to their first success with the product as quickly as possible, so be sure to keep the process light. Don’t require any data migration, integration, or extensive form-fills. Stripe has an unrivaled approach here with their copy-and-paste code samples.

5. Provide an integrations gallery.

RingCentral uses a gallery style exhibit on their website to show all of the brand name partnerships and integrations available.

Not a big player in your space yet? That’s not a problem. Similar benefits can be achieved with a blog post, or series of posts, on interesting ways your customers have customized your tool or built integrations.

6. Keep your subject matter experts front and center.

Developers don’t trust salespeople. They trust developers. Indeed, developers recently named software engineers employed by the vendor they’re evaluating as the most trustworthy source of information (Evans data).

So, how can you leverage the influence of your subject matter experts (SME) as often as possible?

Ask your SMEs to run tutorials or live coding sessions on YouTube, GitHub, or even Reddit to increase awareness of your products, specific features, and use-cases. Guest posting on developer-centric sites, such as DZone.com also increases your company’s credibility.

7. What if I don’t have access to my SMEs?

If you don’t have consistent access to your SMEs, another way to get developer-to-developer trust is to pursue advertising partnerships with developer-trusted media sites. Display ad impressions on these niche sites often sell for less than Google Adwords and other referral sites, and they are more targeted.

8. Hire a community manager.

Developers love to share their knowledge. But if you’re not a part of the conversation, you’re missing an opportunity to engage your developer community around your product.

Good community managers help you build relationships with key customer influencers and also guide the conversation around your product.  The outcomes from this investment compounds. Companies like LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Unity all prioritize developer engagement and maintain formal communities for this purpose. Here is an example of how Unity is using AnswerHub.

9. Use content to educate, not sell.

Unless a user is on your pricing page, they’re not looking for a sales pitch. So, use your content as a channel to help prospects understand your product and put it to work for them better.

At DZone.com, we test and publish a lot of developer content – around 13,000 pieces in 2018 alone. 2018 alone. What was evident through all of our testing was that developers love to learn new things. Cater to this desire by stocking your blog with tutorials, how-tos, opinion pieces, and unique research. You can see the full report on writing for developers here.

10. Eat your own dog food – and turn it into a case study

Facebook does it. Uber does it. REI sales clerks do it. In the consumer sector, they call it “drinking your own champagne.” But this has long been a tactic for B2B business as well (trading under the somewhat less glamorous title: “eating your own dogfood”).

B2B organizations that use their products – and are vocal about it – see several key benefits. Not only are their sales teams more informed on their products and empathetic to the user experience, but they gain credibility with customers – especially when selling to notoriously skeptical audiences. Why should they trust your product if you don’t?

Add your own company to your list of case studies and ensure all new salespeople are well versed on this story.

Developers have long been considered critical influencers in high-value B2B technology deals. And, as the field matures, you should expect to see more developers moving into decision-maker roles. Developer purchasing power has trended up in recent years – up to a quarter now hold budget according to Evans Data.

So, to win their endorsement, you’ll need to prove that you’re genuine in your desire to be valuable to them. Focus on giving them the tools they need to explore your solutions and use your content to add context to your solutions — not to sell.

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