During discovery and product validation there should be no significant sales & marketing function. Hiring sales and marketing execution talent without validating traction will be a frustrating burn. I have been on both sides of that.
The founders, evangelists, magicians or whoever leads your customer and market discovery will need to validate if the proposition will be sales or marketing led. Leslie’s Compass: A Framework For Go-To-Market Strategy has a clear explanation based on complexity and value as a foundation for next step investments.
Establishing early market validation and traction can be super-tough. It depends on risk tolerant visionary early adopters. They must understand the problem and be looking for a solution, without the need for references.
If you are creating a new enterprise market it’s going to take a stack of education and evangelism to create the pool of awareness to fish in. Usually, it’s the founders who publish, speak and network like crazy: “the harder you work, the luckier you get” strategy. Adwords are unlikely to be the answer.
If it’s an existing enterprise market without a great network to exploit, the fastest way to get going is to hire a business development rainmaker with a hyper connected rolodex in your target market. Expensive, but are you just playing or actually competing ?
For a lower value marketing lead solution in an existing market, I read that Adwords and an online funnel can be enough. I have never been that lucky with high value enterprise b2b propositions. “Trust your high value critical business process to my unproven new solution” is a tough online conversion.
For sell-to and sell-through channel or partners, until end user demand is proven, they will be difficult to engage. If you can’t sell it why would they ? Outsourcing your own high value critical business process for initial customer validation and traction to 3rd parties is a rather hopeful strategy.