Selling Breast Milk. A Brilliant Business Model

selling-breast-milk-brilliant-businessOn my blog’s homepage I make it clear that anything is fair-game when it comes to my blog. I’ll write about anything that interests me and makes me stop and think. This post is business-related so it’s not completely out to lunch – ahem, so to speak.

The great article Liquid Gold: The Booming Market for Human Breast Milk by Judy Dutton (featured in Wired magazine) was a very interesting read. As it turns out, human breast milk is ounce-for-ounce one of the most expensive liquids available for sale. So much so, that many companies such as Prolacta are building significant business models around it.

Breast milk has numerous health benefits – people have known that for years – but now, research has shed additional light on the white “magic” liquid. Breast milk is now believed to improve the lifelong immune system, increase IQ, reduce infection and allow infants to grow up to be the best that they can be. What this means for mother’s that cannot nurse is they are missing out on nutritional benefits for their children, and for those with extra milk to spare: it means cash in the bank.

This reality has caused a number of markets to emerge to sell breast milk. In Europe, a mother can sell directly to other mother’s online. Independent mother’s make extra income and prices are usually cheaper than wanting mother’s would have to pay from a milk bank (yes, like sperm banks, breast milk bank’s exist too).

These systems are win-win. Wanting mother’s get what they need to feed their children the best that they can and nursing mother’s make some extra money on the side. There are concerns over the safety of online bodily fluid transactions, but so far there have been no reports of any issues. Naturally, the “professionals” are divided on whether or not these systems are beneficial. Some say “nay”, the dangers outweigh the risks, while others believe it is brilliant.

Companies like Prolacta, however, are competing with these private online sales. They instead perform nation-wide campaigns to encourage women to donate and, in return, sell this milk to hospitals for a tidy profit. Private companies like Prolacta are now heating up the market for breast milk. It is now currently a battle to obtain the precious liquid before mother’s start selling it themselves and take their profits off the table.

What do you think about selling breast milk? Is it wrong? Dangerous, perhaps? Most importantly, if you had a child and it could not be nursed naturally, would you think about it? Or strip your child of the benefits of arguably the most beneficial diet available?

Shorten the Sales Cycle with Relationship Building

I was having a conversation with my boss the other day when this idea for a blog post hit me. It seems like something that people have been discussing for quite some time but I like to dive deeper than the mumbo-jumbo like “build a relationship” , “play big”, “have confidence”. For a minute, let’s get nice and specific.

I will not say that my experience applies to all sales people but those in a similar situation can probably attest to what I have to say. Currently, I do B2B sales; selling very expensive business software systems. In this line of business there is very little that matters more than building a relationship.

When business managers think of building a relationship they are often focused on repeated business. In the B2C space there is little time to form a relationship before a purchase – particularly if the purchase is low-involvement. Before you even have a chance to build that trust consumers have already made up their mind – it doesn’t matter to consumers enough because they have little to lose. In these circumstances, it is most important to build good products, make the experience great and focus on ways to build loyalty after-the-fact. With high-involvement B2B sales you need to build a strong relationship long before your customer ever makes a decision.

In my line of work deals can take months or even years before a decision is made ,which is why it is so important to build a strong relationship through the process. In fact, the relationship is often the sole deciding factor. When there is little distinguishable difference between products, decision makers have no choice but to go with their gut and with the person they trust. The sales cycle in these businesses are long not just because the products are high-involvement but because a strong relationship needs time develop. Often decision makers have made up their minds many months prior to the closing of a sale but they need time to make sure their decision is the right one and ensure that they have left enough time to truly get to know the individuals within the company they will be working with/buying from.

So what can we learn from this? Focusing on relationship building is one of the most important aspects to shortening the sales cycle. That means making sure that your sales staff understand the importance of being honest and not pushy. Yes, you want to make a sale but you need to take it easy, present your information and try to be open and unbiased with them. If your products or services are not a good fit, be honest about – don’t try to make something happen that is not meant to be. Potential customers appreciate honesty and will look to you for advice and this will ultimately shorten the sales cycle and lead to loyal and trusting customers in the long-run.