I’m amazed at the number of sales people that continue to think their value proposition is a pithy sentence that you say to a customer that all of a sudden causes them to pull out and sign a purchase order.
Everyday, I get calls from sales and marketing people asking for help on their value propositions. After a few minutes of questions, they always seem to be looking for the same thing, “What are the few sentences that we can tell the customer that express our value and differentiation?” Most of them recognize they have to adapt those sentences to the customer–both the industry space, enterprise, and persona; but all are looking for those magical phrases the encapsulate the value, causing the customer to buy.
They struggle when I respond, “That’s both improbably and unimportant.”
In reality, our value proposition is less about what we say, but more about what we do with the customer. Of course we have to articulate what we are doing, but it’s never encapsulated in a couple of pithy sentences we deliver toward the end of a buying process.
Our value proposition is really about how we engage and work with the customer on a day to day basis. It starts long before we ever meet them and continues long after we’ve gotten the deal.
How we present ourselves in their space is part of our value proposition. Our knowledge, our reputation, the customers we work with, the problems we solve, the knowledge we share with customers long before they are customers, but early when they are just starting to learn.
Our perspectives on the industry, the issues and challenges organizations face, things organizations should be concerned with or thinking about begins to establish our credibility. Having a point of view that prospects and customers find interesting, that they can learn from—even though they may not agree. But helping our customers think about what they are doing, where they are going, opportunities they may be missing, alternatives they may consider are parts of what creates value for them and why they may be interested in engaging us. Again, much of this may happen long before our first encounters.
Engaging our customers in challenging conversations. Getting them to think more deeply about what they are doing, getting them to challenge their own assumptions, strategies, and methods. Helping them understand the importance of change and providing them direction that is both inspirational and confidence building is where we create great value and differentiation.
It’s conversations, dialogs, reconsidering positions, exploration and discovery. These are never encapsulated in a few pithy sentences.
It’s helping the customer consider change, to take action, to embark on opportunity and problem solving journeys to improve. It’ helping them define what they want to do, where they want to go, assess the risks, challenges and returns in doing so.
Helping our customers learn how to buy, where they may not know how–afterall, they don’t buy this stuff everyday. Helping them align agendas and priorities.
Assuring they gain support of executive management both by aligning with their priorities and providing business justified solutions and implementation plans are critical elements of the value proposition.
It doesn’t stop with a favorable decision, but continues afterwards, assuring the customer realizes the value they and we claimed. This is the part that is, possibly, the most risky for the customer. At this point, we’ve gotten the order, but the customers’ jobs are on the line.
Did they make a good decision? Are they achieving the results they committed to management?
Assuring our customers realize the value expected and committed is probably the most important part of our value proposition. From the customers’ point of view it’s all about their success.
From our point of view, it’s about our future–can we build and expand the relationship with the customer? Are we building a reputation and references that we can leverage with others? Do we create real value or empty promises.
It would be so much simpler if value propositions could be reduced to a few pithy sentences that we can deliver at the right time in a compelling manner.
The reality, fortunately, is that it is so much different. The reality is this difference creates the real ability to distinguish ourselves in ways important to the customer.
Is your company, are you creating value for your prospect, community, industry, market, and customers?
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