Founders, You Want to Sell Viagra

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Many entrepreneurs need to sell their products to businesses to have businesses themselves — B2B. They have researched the market and built products that solve a lot of pain. Yet, the companies they are trying to sell to are not buying, or are taking a long time to make a decision. Every day without the sale puts the founder another day further from traction, revenue and potentially, funding . “How could they not want this product and want it yesterday?!” thinks the entrepreneur. Maybe you need to sell them some Viagra.

I recently had coffee with Dick Hardt, who works on identity at Amazon and had written a post on exactly this issue many years ago. The lights went on for me as he described product categories as Vitamins, Painkillers or Viagra.

Vitamins — products that provide peace of mind. Buyers do not get any immediate results and if there are any benefits, they come in the future. Insurance and security would fall into this category.

Painkillers — they remove a pain the buyer has identified and thinks is worthy of the distraction and money required to make it go away.

Viagra — enables a customer to do something they have never been able to do before!

Start-ups should have a short term product roadmap and a long-term product roadmap. The short-term product usually solves immediate pain for the buyer (Painkiller) and the long-term product unleashes capabilities that enable companies to do something that has never been possible to do before (Viagra). So, do you sell the Painkiller or sell the Viagra?

I recommend you sell the big vision and start them immediately on the product that removes their pain. If you only sell the Painkiller, you get stuck in the ‘meh — maybe’ category, and if you only have the Viagra of the future, you have nothing to start them on immediately. Also, if you only sell a Painkiller, the amount you can charge is limited. Your pricing is capped by the costs you save, and your margins are likely to be squeezed over time. If you add the Viagra, you are dealing with an entirely different pricing model.

An example of this is Narvar, the first investment I made after joining Freestyle. I worked closely with Lori who heads up sales at Narvar. When I listened to her pitch a couple years ago, I realized she was ONLY selling the Painkiller. She explained to the retailers the ROI they should expect to see on their spend: aka, the percentage decrease of “Where is my stuff?” calls from customers. Not bad — it would be nice to see those expensive calls go down. But, also not particularly exciting, right?

She tweaked the pitch to address the pain-relief but more importantly, what they would unleash with this new experience for customers. Because a vast majority of customers click on the ‘Track my Package’ button, not only would the customer be delighted to see exactly when their goods are coming without having to work for it (sure beats going to ups.com) , but with retailers struggling with how to communicate with their customers (‘no one reads emails anymore!’) they could communicate to their customers during this experience and bring them right back to the front door. But wait, there’s more…Narvar would continue to innovate with Amazon-like speed in the post-purchase arena so that retailers could do so much more in the future. In her revised pitch, she explained the products that would be coming and what the future held.

There is nothing wrong with curing a customer’s pain, but it is even more powerful to build products that are Viagra, and when you do, sell it as such. Customers want to buy the power to accomplish things they never thought possible. It is way more interesting to them than just eliminating pain.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jenny Lefcourt’s story.