Even though sales is everywhere, most people underrate its importance. Silicon Valley underrates it more than most.
The geek classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy even explains the founding of our planet as a reaction against salesmen. When an imminent catastrophe requires the evacuation of humanity’s original home, the population escapes on three giant ships. The thinkers, leaders, and achievers take the A Ship; the salespeople and consultants get the B Ship; and the workers and artisans take the C Ship. The B Ship leaves first, and all its passengers rejoice vainly. But the salespeople don’t realize they are caught in a ruse: the A Ship and C Ship people had always thought that the B Ship people were useless, so they conspired to get rid of them. And it was the B Ship that landed on Earth.
Distribution may not matter in fictional worlds, but it matters in ours. We underestimate the importance of distribution — a catchall term for everything it takes to sell a product — because we share the same bias the A Ship and C Ship people had: salespeople and other “middlemen” supposedly get in the way, and distribution should flow magically from the creation of a good product. The Field of Dreams conceit is especially popular in Silicon Valley, where engineers are biased toward building cool stuff rather than selling it.
But customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen, and it’s harder than it looks.
— Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters