This summer I attended a two-day executive sales training in Atlanta. The training’s purpose was to teach us how to hunt and close transformational deals – deals that many only dream of. Imagine your career skyrocketing to new heights. Visions of Elton John’s Rocket Man dance in your head. These are deals that transform one’s career and forever change the course of a company.
What did I learn at said conference? How to better write a killer value proposition that wins business and changes our company.
What did I already know about value propositions?
I have not had much in the way of formal sales training in my career. I’ve worked for small companies that did not offer much support in the way of internal or external training. I was “lonely out in space.” Fortunately I have the fuel for success — my internal drive to be the best. Many of the skills, processes and strategies I use are self-taught. I’ve read books, blogs and studied the most successful salespeople on the planet. I’ve practiced, practiced again….and again. And failed a lot.
Each time I fail, I study the situation. What should I have done differently? And I return to the launching pad.
I’ve learned that companies that consistently “win” have a clear, concise and indisputable value proposition. Companies that make general claims like “We have great customer service,” or “We save you money,” or “We save you time” seem to crash and burn. The problem is that the competition offers all of this too – they are basic requirements needed to be in business. Nothing in this messaging tells the buyer anything specific about how to solve her/his specific problem. For example, if a company is purchasing from overseas, their pain point may be turn around time or freeing up cash flow from having to purchase three to six months worth of inventory. The buyer is not going to notice you if you tell her you are going to save her money. But, if you guarantee you will decrease the production time by 25 business days reducing the amount of inventory she needs to purchase by $128,000 with no price increase, she will take notice.
In my new role as president, I’ve spent a lot of time crafting our value proposition. I’ve spent hours researching our competitors, current clients, past clients, technology, industry trends, our buyers’ needs and what we can offer that is truly different than anyone else.
Here are my top five most explosive things to remember when creating a value proposition:
1) Identify the right buyers. Determine who is the real decision maker. Identify the person who will most often sign off on your agreements. This person (or persons) should always be on the executive team. Don’t spend your time and resources selling to the CMO if the buyer is the CFO.
2) Be specific. Avoid generic statements. Generic statements are easily overlooked and not taken seriously. If your value proposition uses percentages and numbers, using general numbers like 15% or 25% does not seem believable. Do your homework and know the exact percentages and hours. 2.3 hours or 23.45% shows that you have checked all the gauges and controls and are ready for lift off.
3) Identify the real need. Buyers do not often openly discuss their need. They frequently talk about saving time or money but are hesitant to share specifics. It’s the job of the sales person to dig through the surface for gems of information by asking “The Right Stuff”. Note: If the need is a minor one, kindly offer a bit of advice to solve their need and move on to the next client. Remember we’re looking for moon landings here. Balsa wood gliders need not apply.
4) Determine how are you different than your competition. Find out your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. Find a better way to solve your buyer’s problem. Make you value proposal easy to understand. No one likes to read through highfalutin gobbledegook. We are not rocket scientists.
5) Test run your message. Get feedback from your other clients. Ask probing questions:
- Is my value proposition clear, concise, feasible?
- In your own words, tell me what need you perceive I’m trying to solve?
- Where is my value proposition weak? Strong?
- What can I do to improve it?
I try to keep my value proposal to 30 words or less.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
Sarah Scudder: Over and out.
This article first appeared in the Print Solutions Magazine produced by the Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA).