This is a guest post by Mike Schultz & John Doerr. Mike and John are co-presidents of RAIN Group, a sales performance improvement company, and recently co-authored the Wall Street Journal best seller, Rainmaking Conversations. They blog about sales training and performance improvement for the complex sale. You can reach Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter and John on LinkedIn and Twitter.
The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr discuss the concept of a value proposition, and how to communicate your value to someone you are meeting for the first time. Read more about the book here.
Even when people know their value, many find it difficult to describe it.
Let’s say someone asks you the simple question, “What do you do?”
How do you answer? Of course, you need to get your value across, but as we note here, when communicating your value proposition, you don’t want to deliver the same canned speech for everyone.
What you need to do is first craft, then learn to deliver specific nuggets of information you can use to get your value across. Put all these nuggets together, and you have what we call a value proposition positioning statement.
A value proposition positioning statement is a compelling, tangible description of how a company or individual will benefit from buying from you.
For example, we might start ours with, “We at RAIN Group help companies to improve their sales performance. If you want your salespeople, professionals, and leaders to sell more, we can help.”
This is the umbrella under which we operate. It’s a nugget of information we use in the early part of conversations. And it’s an important nugget as it’s the ultimate reason why clients eventually hire us!
But there is always a set of factors and specifics that sway them to choose us versus:
- doing something themselves
- choosing someone else to help them, or
- choosing to do nothing at all.
Obviously, as the conversation moves along, we (and you) need to communicate more if we want to tip the scales in our favor.
To get a full picture of your value across, you need to be able to cover 6 areas, including:
- Target customers. Whom do you serve? What makes for an ideal customer regarding industry, location, size, type and so on? This allows the person on the receiving end to know if you work with companies and people like them. Know your target customer so you can craft messages that will resonate with them. In addition, the more you can position specialization for a particular buyer set, the more you typically resonate and differentiate
- Need/business problem. What types of needs and business problems do you address? How do you help? This helps prospects understand how and when they should use you
- Impact of solving need. What are the rational and emotional benefits of solving the need? Getting this right is a major factor in whether or not you resonate
- Your offerings. What’s your product and service approach, how do you run your company, solve problems and work with customers? Notice that company and offerings are a fourth here. Think buying first and selling second, and frame your offerings within the context of the needs you can help solve
- Proof of concept.How can you demonstrate that your approach has worked to solve similar problems for others? How do you substantiate your claims? How do they know that what you say will happen, will actually happen
- Distinction. Why is your offering preferable to other options for solving the need? Do you have something special about you that’s worthwhile to share? Is there some way to highlight how you’re distinct from others?
Once you’ve built all of these nuggets, practice it as one statement until you have it down.
Then forget it.
At least, forget delivering it in one slick mini-speech.
If you deliver all six of the building blocks in one big long breath, the person you’re speaking to will be thinking “elevator pitch…here it comes.”
Often they’ll tune out.
When you introduce yourself and someone asks you, “What do you do?” The best thing to do is start with a few important nuggets that can help you get a conversation flowing.
We started our example with, “We at RAIN Group help companies to improve their sales performance. If you want your salespeople, professionals, and leaders to sell more, we can help.”
We didn’t yet cover the target market, impact, our distinctions, proof of concept, and so on.
When it’s time, we can and we do! But we do it as the conversation unfolds.
We might start here and then ask the other person, “That’s us in a nutshell. What do you do?” and they’ll answer, often following our lead and keeping it short. Then we ask questions to learn more.
In the natural flow of conversation, we’re likely to learn enough to share (and customize!) relevant details that will continue to position our value. As well, ask someone something and they’ll often turn the question right back at you.
For example, you might ask, “Can you share with me any specific examples? And curious to know as well how it panned out.’
Then they’ll tell you the story and say, “What about you? Any examples in my industry?”
And you can hit the rest of the building blocks as you continue along in your great conversation.