Why it is hard to sell to Developers?


As someone who's been in the trenches of software development and consulting, working with many startups, I've seen my fair share of pitches and product demos aimed at developers. And let me tell you, selling to developers is no walk in the park.

Why is it so hard to sell to this particular group? Let’s dive in.

Understanding the Developer Mindset

First things first, developers are problem solvers at heart. They spend their days (and more often nights) debugging code, optimizing systems, and creating solutions that doesn't exist. This immersion in problem-solving makes them inherently skeptical of easy solutions or products that claim to be a panacea for all their challenges.

The DIY Ethos

Developers have a strong Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethos. They believe in building their own solutions. Remember the old adage in software engineering - “Don’t reinvent the wheel” and how no developer follows that?

Developers often think, "This wheel isn’t perfect for my vehicle. I have to build a better one so that I have complete control and customizability?" This mindset makes them less likely to adopt a solution that they could build themselves, even if it would save time.

This is evident from the numerous comments on "Show HN" posts in Hacker News on how they could build something over the weekend. Even Unicorns like Dropbox and Slack were ridiculed when they launched.

Credibility and Trust

Credibility is king when selling to developers. They respect knowledge and expertise. If you can’t talk the talk, and more importantly, walk the walk, good luck getting a developer to buy into your product.

They value products and services that come from credible sources, often those that have been battle-tested in the real world or endorsed by a respected member of the developer community.

Customization and Flexibility

Developers love to tinker and customize. A product that’s too rigid, no matter how well it’s designed, will often be a turn-off. This is why open-source software is so popular among developers. It’s not just free – it’s modifiable. When a product allows developers to adapt it to their unique requirements, it speaks their language.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

In the world of software development, the proof is always in the pudding – or should I say the code? Developers want to see how things work under the hood. They’re not impressed by glossy presentations or sales jargon. They want demos, trial versions, detailed documentation, and most importantly, evidence that your product will solve their specific problems effectively.

Avoiding the Hard Sell

Let's talk about the sales approach. Developers despise the hard sell. You know, the pushy sales tactics that are all too common in other industries. They prefer a more consultative approach, one that educates and informs. A developer is more likely to be swayed by a webinar that deep dives into a product’s technical aspects than by a flashy ad campaign.

Speak Their Language

Literally and figuratively, you need to speak their language. I mean, if you start talking about synergies and paradigm shifts, you've lost them. Get into the nuts and bolts. Talk about APIs, integrations, latency, scalability – the things that matter in their daily work.

The Community Influence

Developers are community-driven. They rely on forums, social media groups, and platforms like Stack Overflow to get insights and reviews about tools and products. A strong community endorsement can be far more effective than traditional marketing techniques.

Time is Money

Time is a precious commodity for developers. If your product requires a steep learning curve or involves a lengthy setup process, it's going to be a hard sell. Developers want tools that streamline their workflow, not complicate it.


So, what’s the takeaway for anyone trying to sell to developers? Understand their mindset, speak their language, and offer real value. Show them how your product can make their life easier, not give them another set of problems to solve. And always, always back up your claims with solid proof and genuine expertise.

As we wrap up, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Have you tried selling a product or service to developers? What worked and what didn’t? Drop a comment below and let’s discuss!