Developer Relations is one of the most strategically important roles for any company that wants to build a successful technology platform. We’re working with the community to create a Dev Rel Bill of Rights. In this article we explore article 8: A clear distinction from sales engineering.
Developer Relations needs to work closely with every other team in the organization, but its relationship to sales must be explicitly defined so that Dev Rel isn’t required to act as sales engineering.
The foundation of effective Dev Rel is a trusted relationship between Dev Rel professionals and the developers in the community they serve. Many times, one of the goals of a Dev Rel team is to increase the likelihood that those developers will either become customers of the platform, or that those who are already customers will expand their use of the platform, which is perfectly valid.
But a more complex consideration comes into play when a sales function leverages the trust that a Dev Rel team has built in a way that jeopardizes its effectiveness. One simple and common scenario to avoid is when people doing Dev Rel are shoehorned into being a resource for the sales team without either explicitly choosing to do so, or being offered the compensation structure that often comes with sales engineering. Similarly, the technical work that a Dev Rel team does should be guided by what helps them serve the explicit business goals of Dev Rel, rather than by developing a solution to help close any one particular sales lead.
In healthy organizations, sales and Dev Rel work hand in hand to inform product roadmaps, coordinate with marketing on communication and messaging, and to keep their shared community of users happy. But maintaining that balance requires vigilance in many organizations where Dev Rel doesn’t have as strong an advocate or executive buy-in for its purpose as many sales teams do.
Questions to ask:
- Does Dev Rel have a defined set of boundaries over which tasks the team will or will not do on behalf of the sales team?
- Are resources and responsibilities for Dev Rel separated in their reporting structure from sales leadership? Has management ensured that the sales team can reach its targets without relying on Dev Rel to fill a sales engineering role?
- Have Dev Rel and sales teams been given time to discuss the distribution of responsibilities for the customer base they’re both addressing, and to have the conversations that will build trust between both teams?