Ah, but that first “yes” is glorious

Yesterday, I mentioned how hard Lean Startup can be in practice. It’s one thing to have the abstract knowledge of what to do – it’s quite another to do it. It sounds so simple to find ten people who will buy your product before building it. But that doesn’t say anything about the emotions you’ll experience when you talk to people who won’t buy you’re product. “It’s a great idea, but it’s not for me” is longhand for “no.”

Undeterred, I continued to make my pitch to potential customers. At lunch with some friends today, I got one of them to a maybe – he would have purchased it 3 months ago, but his situation doesn’t warrant it today. If his situation warrants it again next month, he would strongly consider it.

And then I found the right customer – one who said “YES! I want that!”

Oh … my … GOD!

If all those initial no’s had the familiar sting of rejection, that first yes was simply AWESOME. I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight because I’ll be digesting some of the specifics I learned from these conversations – and because now I have a specific customer to think about – what would it take to please Tom?

I still have only one person who said they would pay – I need TEN. I’m going to learn different things from all of them, but hopefully I will see patterns emerge that inform the next step in this journey.

One really important detail I learned today is the TYPE of customer who is perfect: account execs. My perfect customer (at least based upon the first one that I’ve found) has the title of Account Exec. That gives me a useful new focus for Customer Development. Before I was just talking to anyone in business. Now I know a specific type of businessperson to focus on – that should make finding nine more customers easier (we’ll see).

Sorry to be so abstract about my idea. It’s not because I’m secretive – I just don’t want encouragement (on the specific idea) from my non-customer friends at the moment. I need the discipline of finding ten real customers before I move on to the next stage. For me, that stage will be creating a 30-second marketing video, as VC Dave described. I COULD do that now, but again, I think I would get too much encouragement from friends who wouldn’t actually be willing to pay – I want some buzz, sure, but one negative of this particular product idea is that it’s expensive compared to alternatives (due to a higher cost structure). Once I get ten people willing to pull out their wallets for my product, then I’ll let you know what it is and get all that wonderful encouragement (and criticism).

Before you can get to ten, you have to get to one. That first one is glorious … Tom, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Smile with tongue out

The second installment of my Startup 101 column in Visual Studio Magazine came out today, and it’s on this very subject – talking to customers. Let me know what you think.

Have a question about your startup or want to practice your pitch? Register for the next Smart Bear Live with Jason Cohen!

2 thoughts on “Ah, but that first “yes” is glorious

  1. Ricardo

    Agreed. The first Yes is awesome but do not get too encouraged about it – focus and keep working on your idea! (that is what I tell myself anyways)

    People tend to be complacent when talking to other people, specially when you talk to them about potential business ideas, etc… at some point you do have to get something out there for the real test… getting people to give you hard cash in exchange for your product or service.


    1. Patrick Foley Post author

      I completely agree. One or two isn’t enough – I need at least 10 before moving on.

      It’s funny how people tend to be so encouraging – that’s a positive quality, but if someone is interviewing you for CustDev purposes, it’s really important to be honest and say “no” if that’s what you’re thinking.


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