Series: Sales validation

Philip Morgan

Quick tophat: Do you run a small agency or dev shop and need help delivering strategy to your clients? A coaching client has something you might be interested in. Hit REPLY and I'll connect you with him. No obligation or pressure; you'd merely be exploring an option for partnering with him on strategy using an approach that he's developed that's much better than the Business Model Canvas.

(Readin' time: 4m 57s)

OK, we've covered the three ideation pathways that can help you generate ideas that fit within a proven specialization framework, and we've discussed introspective validation and the first two forms of extrospective validation. Now onward to the third of three extrospective validation approaches. (BTW, if you’re like “what the heck is this guy talking about”, I’m continuing a series that started here.)

The final form of extrospective validation is sales validation. I call it this because you're essentially fast-forwarding past more tentative forms of validation, and just going for the sale. This means you're going to do some of what's recommended for marketing validation, and you're going to add to that the creation of an offer of some sort (semi-productized), and you're going to try to sell that offer to somebody or several somebodies.

Your validation, in this case, will be new cash added to your bank account. There is no more persuasive form of validation than this. Cash does more to soothe the whiny, noisy voice of doubt in the face of risk than anything else I know of. Cash is king, they say.

But because of the extra work you're doing to define the offer and shop it around, this validation method is the least lean, or the most "thick"of the extrospective validation methods. It's likely to take the most time and effort, but if it works you'll be furthest down the road towards making money with your idea.

Sales validation

Here's the overall process described as a bulleted list, followed by some notes on the key points:

  • Define a service offering
    • A coaching offer is the least up-front effort for you, and therefore the most "lean"way to validate some ideas. Not suitable for other ideas.
    • A done-for-you implementation offer will be suitable for other ideas, but like with any productized service you'll need to think carefully about scope, value, and price in order to define an offer that doesn't kill you when it comes to delivery. The least risky way to define a productized offer is to standardize something you've done multiple times as already, so you know the basics parameters of scope, value, and price. In sales validation, you're possibly productizing a service you've never delivered before. This is risky, but it's also an intentional risk you're taking in order to get that cash-based validation.
    • Finally, you could define a training offering. This is going to be the most up-front effort because you need to think about what would make for a good training offer, and that's not always easy or fast. But! This can be a more profitable offering than a done-for-you offering because training has less opportunity for scope creep or unexpected unknowns.
  • Write a short email course. Yes, you're going to use direct response-style marketing here. That's usually the ideal tool for this situation unless you have an established business and a pretty deep network of previous clients, etc, in which case you could just make a PDF describing the offer, email it to your network, and ask them: "I made this. Do you want it?" OK, not quite so bluntly, but you get the idea, right? :) The email course is so you can efficiently propose your offer to strangers.
  • Get or adapt some social proof that your offer is trustworthy. Again, I'll drop in a link to this to add some context around this discussion.
  • Write and publish a page that describes the service. Be really specific about who the service is for. Don't try to sell the service via a buy button right there on the page, even if it's a fixed price service. But do make it super easy for folks who are interested to speak to you directly about the service. Remember, your twin goals here are: 1) cash and 2) conversations. The cash is a great form of validation, but conversations are also quite valuable because they can help you learn and iterate more quickly.
  • Hire an outbound lead gen agency ( or are good), or do the outbound work yourself. Again, your core message in this outbound sales effort is pretty simple: "I made this. Do you want it?" Of course, at the detail level there's a lot more to outbound sales than that, but at the conceptual level it really is that simple. Because your message is a closed-end "take it or leave it" proposition rather than an open-ended inquiry into what the market needs, it boils down to a numbers game. You're wanting to get your message in front of reasonably well-qualified prospects, but beyond that it's just a matter of reaching several thousand people with your message and looking to see if a few dozen resonate with the offer.

Validation, in the case of sales validation, is measured by sales and opt-ins for your email course. Simple!

And then the conversations this approach can generate will hopefully provide a lot of useful nuance that you can use to refine your offer.


Alrighty!! That brings this series to a close! The brief summary:

  • You're looking for patterns of need. These are your ideas.
  • There are three ideation pathways:
    • Look for ideas in your corpus of past client work
    • Look for ideas specific to a market vertical that might be new to you.
    • Look for ideas that are more horizontal in nature.
  • There are four validation methods for these ideas. They break down into introspective and extrospective categories.
    • Introspective validation
      • With this method, you're looking inside to see how deep your interest in the idea goes. Publishing daily about the idea for 30 days, or selflessly serving those suffering from the problem in question for 180 days are good introspective validation approaches.
    • Extrospective validation
      • With this method, you're looking to the market for validation of your idea.
        • Pure research validation is one of the three extrospective validation approaches. You're using research tools to validate the presence of the problem you think might exist.
        • Marketing validation is where you assemble a light "stack" of marketing assets, and see if there's interest in these assets. If so, you have evidence that you're connecting with something real in the market.
        • Sales validation, discussed above, is where you put together an offer, some very minimal marketing assets, and see how the market responds. This is the most high-effort method, and offers the greatest opportunity for a "swing and a miss", but if you connect with what the market needs, your validation is nearly indisputable cash in the bank.

If you'd like help implementing these ideas, hit REPLY and let's talk about it.