The First Penguin Symdrome

The First Penguin Syndrome

You had an idea – check

You pitched it to investors – check

You hired your team – check

You built your MVP – check

You sales calls – and no one buys your amazing product.  Boing!

After many sales calls with prospects, your uncover a sales objection that is a repeat theme.  The prospects realize that they will be the first to buy your product.  They want references from other customers, but you simply don’t have any.

That is what I call the Penguin Syndrome.

All the penguins gather at the water edge, as they are hungry.  They hunger for your product.  But, they also know that in the water, lurks the leopard seal who will eat them.


Oceana on Twitter: "One interesting behavior of the Adélie penguin is its  reluctance to be the first individual that enters the water. This species  is known to form dense groups at the

This is stalemate and there is nothing that you can do, until you have the first penguin (or a few) jump in the water, which will alleviate the fear.  After all there is safety in numbers.

So how do you crack this problem?

You can try a few options, depending on the size company you are dealing with, the appetite for risk, the buyers personality and your relationships.

In general, price reduction does not solve this issue.  As even if you provide this MVP for free, the fear and risk of a catastrophe that will get the buyer fired is the issue.

You want to find a prospect that has an acute problem, with a pain point so bad, that they will be willing to take the risk collectively.  As in, not only your buyer will say “let’s do this, we have to.”  You want to find a prospect with a compelling event.

Pragmatic buyers are NOT going to take this risk with you, so you should not spend time trying to convince them, and especially not with desperation tactics.  Save all your pragmatists for AFTER you have a few reference clients, or penguins in the water.

If you deal with a large corporation, you can tell if they have a compelling event by how they negotiate your pilot, or POC.  If they want it for free, there is no compelling event, and you may be spending time in their test labs – WITHOUT a clear path to a sale.

For all you know, they are evaluating their options, yours included.  They may be fishing for information, and may end up developing a solution on their own.

A free POC is a sign that there is no “need” for what you are offering, and it is something they want to tinker with now, but not BUY.

When you want to buy, you will have a project set, with a budget and personnel assigned.  Some of it, would be ear marked for a POC (proof of concept), or pilot.  No large player will just install you in live production without testing first.

So if you are invited to a free POC… without a clear line of sight to a sale – do not blame the prospect when they don’t buy at the end.  You were warned.

It is so alluring to be engaged in a project with a large brand.  To tell your employees and board that “we are doing a project with [enter brand here]”

But the time you will spend and funds burned are not coming back.  So if you have extra money and time to burn – go for it.

To solve the first penguin syndrome – find the right prospect, with the right need, and then you will have your reference account.

You SHOULD be willing to provide them a sweetheart deal for the risk they are taking.  You can provide discounts and free services when the deal is signed.

However, the project has to be paid, so you KNOW they have skin in the game.  If they do not, they are NOT the prospect who will help you solve this issue.

After you do all this, you hope this will be the picture:

Oceana på Twitter: "You jump, I jump. An interesting behavior of the Adélie  penguin is its reluctance to be the first penguin that enters the water.  This species is known to form