Build a Platform, Sell a Solution

Build a Solution

Many startups struggle to establish a viable enterprise sales motion. They have built a brilliant technical platform or tool set and they are eager to sell the brilliance of their solution to enterprise customers.  They design excellent pitches describing their technology and why it is special. They speak of its capabilities, all the things it can do, all the things it will be able to do, what difference it makes.  Yet, this message falls flat.

The problem is that entrepreneurs forget to put themselves in the buyers’ shoes when crafting their pitches. They fail to analyze the industry into which they are trying to sell and to isolate the pain points that their potential customer is wrestling with right now.  So, they craft a general pitch.  They sell their platform, leaving buyers to figure out how this platform solves their problem. Buyers want solutions and it is well worth the effort for entrepreneurs to take the extra step needed to position their platform as a solution to a current problem. That solution is something the buyer will pay for.

This is not to say that entrepreneurs should dumb their product down or limit its applicability to a single use case.  They have built a brilliant technical platform that can do more than that. However, they need to show how they add business value now. Once this is done, they can work on expanding the customer’s use of the platform, solving additional problems (and generating additional revenue).

It is important to note, however, that this strategy will not work if the entrepreneur first builds a narrow capability to address a single use case and then tries to expand it to a platform. They must build a platform, even if their initial sale is a solution. Their design must incorporate the full vision of the capability or it will not scale and adapt to different business needs and it will have difficulty integrating into existing workflows and IT infrastructures.