There’s nothing that brings terror to the mind of entrepreneurs, business executives and salespeople than when they’re faced with the question, “So, what do you do?” from a qualified prospect. I see this every time I conduct sales training, do strategic planning or messaging work with my clients.
After some stammering, I get vague platitudes or long-winded descriptions of what is done. None of which creates a strong position for the seller, clarity for the prospect or the basis for an effective sales-related conversation.
This issue impacts far more than your “elevator speech,” as ultimately it translates to how you talk about yourself on your website, in your marketing materials and in how the market perceives your company and its offerings. In today’s Zero-Moment-of-Truth (ZMOT) world, the ability to succinctly communicate your value proposition without “being there” to explain it is absolutely crucial to success.
What Is A Value Proposition
A primary reason for this ineffectiveness is that oftentimes sellers aren't really clear on what a value proposition really is. Simply put, your value proposition is the promise you make to your market. It’s not about the things you do or even how you do them. It’s all about the results.
For example, FedEx’s value proposition was “absolutely, positively overnight.” The service was delivery. Microsoft’s value proposition was “maximized productivity.” Their products were Windows and Office.
What enabled FedEx and Microsoft to separate from their competition in highly commoditized markets was that while their competitors were talking about and explaining the products they offered, FedEx and Microsoft were talking about their promise.
How to Quickly & Effectively Create a Powerful Message for Your Market
A clear, resonating value proposition is at the core of creating an effective message that will create demand and shorten your B2B sales cycle. Frankly, it’s impossible to have an effective message without being clear on your value proposition.
While you could certainly spend weeks, tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars conducting marketing research, hiring consultants and doing focus groups to determine your value proposition and message, it really doesn’t have to be that hard or complex (or expensive).
Over the course of years, I’ve been involved in crafting value propositions and messages for hundreds of companies in a broad set of industries. I’ve developed a few quick steps that simplify the process to creating a powerful message.
Who is Your Customer?
As I’ve shared many times before, everything about your business begins by being clear on defining who your customer is. The single most important question your business can answer on a daily basis is, “Who do we want to be a hero to?”
Inevitably when I work with a company that is struggling with their message, they can’t clearly define who their target customer is, and who it isn’t. While executives almost always want to skip or short shrift this question, it is the single most important aspect of predictable success.
Defining your customer is about more than just choosing what segment you’re going to focus on. It requires defining your buyer personas fully as well.
In Plain English Describe What You Do
The next step is to define, as simply as possible, what you do. Pretend you were talking with a friend who wasn’t involved in any way with what you do. How would you explain it to them?
At this stage, don’t worry about differentiating or selling. Just describe it in easily understood language, clearly and accurately.
Answer The Question, “So What?!”
Whenever you’re communicating with someone there are always two questions that are going through their mind to determine if they will actually give you their real attention:
- Who cares?
- So what?
Your work on the first step will get you through the first step, now it’s time to get past the second.
Focus on the consequences of not working with you, and the opportunities that are gained when a customer does. At this stage, you’re brainstorming, so the more consequences the better. One important caveat, be honest here, if you exaggerate, you’re only lying to yourself.
Narrow Down To the High Impacts
With your brainstorm list in hand, prioritize them and select those few (typically no more than 3 – 5) impacts that really matter and resonate with your target customers and personas.
Lastly, translate those impacts into a simple sentence or two that highlights the results of working with you. For example, while we do a lot of things at Imagine our message is simply communicated as: We enable you to make sales growth predictable, sustainable and scalable.