Are You a Painkiller or a Vitamin

Last week, I wrote about a keen messaging trick you can use to sharpen your presentations when first hitting the road.  A lot of first-timers try to sell everything they can in those first meetings.  Most of those conversations end up going nowhere.  Check out the article in INC.com.  If you like it or have thoughts – go ahead and use the social share links or comment and let them know what you think.  This is the first article as a weekly Contributing writer for INC.com.

 

The idea has germinated and some code has been written–you’re confident that your business idea has enough shape to be shown to a few customers and friends. Maybe this is day five, or maybe it’s month five. At any rate, you are now ready to take your work outside of the safe confines of your office.

So, what are you going to tell these potential customers? Please, don’t just give them the demo and “see what happens next.” Your meeting has to have a point.

You give it a point by figuring out who you are. I like to view it through this lens: Is your product a painkiller or a vitamin? The differences are critical to establishing your baseline messaging. First meetings, like first impressions, can set a critical tone going forward.

The Painkiller

A painkiller is a product or service that solves a business problem. Painkiller discussions, then, tend to look back. They start with probing questions, including:

  • Do you have the pain?
  • How big is the pain?
  • Do you want to lessen the pain?
  • What have you done to address this pain in the past?
  • How much have you spent on pain relief?

Your entire talk track needs to be about producing answers to these questions. Why? Because if you don’t ask the questions in some form, your potential customers might not even understand that they have a problem. And that makes you unnecessary. If your customers don’t recognize the pain and want to make it go away, a demo of your wonderfully conceived solution will kill your meeting.

The Vitamin

A vitamin is a product or service that juices some segment of a customer’s business. So vitamin discussions are more of a look forward, and the relevant questions could be:

  • Do you have enough leads for your campaign?
  • Is your website converting enough visitors?
  • Is your management team communicating effectively?
  • Are you leveraging your assets across key selling channels?

Vitamins inspire you to dream of better days. They are innately positive; they send you down “what if” talk tracks.

That’s fun, but it has a danger of its own: A vitamin is more a want-to-have than a need-to-have. And it can be hard to sell something that a buyer merely wants. That’s why your questions need to be designed to reveal everything possible about your potential customer’s strategic goals. Ultimately, it will always come down to the question of whether your solution fits their needs.

So, what are you–a painkiller or a vitamin?

 

Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

1 comments On Are You a Painkiller or a Vitamin

  • We’re going through our 2nd round of customer development now and the lesson within this article is an invaluable (wish I had read this before doing it the first time!). If you don’t ask the right questions or answer the right questions, you’ll be left with questions when things don’t materialize.

    (P.S. Inc’s comment system was glitching out)

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