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Element 8. Closable Customers > Practical Experience—This Deserves the Medium W...

Practical Experience—This Deserves the Medium Weight of 2

Can you close a sale today for a product that does not exist, owned by a company that has not yet been organized? Will you be able to write the first edition of your business plan with several customer contracts in the appendices? If not, you should be wary about your prospects for success. My pre–business-plan experience has been full of surprises. It seems that when I expect to close a sale early, something causes delay. Other times the sale closes quickly, because the customer has a critical need for the products.

Orion and PTAT both were able to attract customers before they existed, and in most classes I have taught over the past seven years we have had winners of my Champagne Award[2] for this seemingly impossible feat. The first one was at the University of Maryland, where a team arrived in class one day with a $16,000 check from Hewlett-Packard for the first copy of a Y2K software package that had been developed by the team’s engineers in China. Perhaps the biggest catch was the commitment made by NYNEX, Oxford Health, Barr Labs, and others for a telemedicine product developed by a team at Columbia University—$5 million—at a meeting organized by a team of brilliant MBA candidates who secured the commitment before they had written their business plan.

[2] I provide a bottle of real French champagne (unless another fluid would be more appropriate) to each team member of the first team to arrive in class with cash from a customer prior to the publication of their business plan.


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