Quantify and monetize the pain: Make the VPs care

Dr. Fatma Kaplan
4 min readAug 15, 2021

At the Activate fellowship program, last week’s topic was the product-market fit and value proposition: How do we convince the VP to pay for our product? Among many amazing entrepreneurship programs at accelerators and business mentorship programs, none of them presented the value proposition the way the Activate fellowship program panel did. The panel’s take on presenting the value proposition was very different!

During customer discovery, our goal is to identify the customer’s pain point. For example, we might talk to the technical people within a company and identify a pain point. Now we know what to focus on for our product. But we also learn that technical people do not have the power to write the checks. Then we know we have to go and talk to the decision-makers who write the checks; VPs and C-suite executives.

The key insight from this panel was those check writers may not care about the technical team’s pain point and there is a disconnect. So, how do you make the connection between the technical team’s pain and the VP of the organization? The VP cares about the dollars that the technical team’s pain is costing. So speak the VP’s language and monetize the pain.

In Pheronym’s case, my cofounder Karl and I did our customer discovery at the NSF I-corps National program. We interviewed 164 ag professionals in the agriculture ecosystem in 2020 Summer and Fall. We found that growers’ problem with difficult pests has not been solved. There was a need for pest control for the difficult pests in the soil. Consumers were the drivers of eco-friendly pest control solutions. The government regulations were very important. After that, we identified Pheronym’s beachhead market, value proposition, and key resources like investors, manufacturing partners, or toll producers. We were also asked to find whether our customers can afford our product. We also determined our customers had money to buy our product.

In a perfect world, after the customer discovery and identifying the pain point, we would present our solution to a VP of an ag input company, a distributor, or an ag investor, who would then write the…