What Flavor of Value Proposition is best?

When many people think value proposition, they think oh, that’s easy.  You pick some target audiences, then start writing about features and benefits.  And then you write some more about features and benefits.  Then make a nebulous claim that this is the only solution of its kind, or the best in its class.  Then add something nice about customer service.  BINGO, you’re done.

Of course, reality is nothing like that.  An effective value proposition must stand up both in marketing communications and sales conversations.  This is no small challenge.  It’s all well and good to create pithy, on-point marketing pieces that present your product or service in a manner that resonates with buyers, but what if your sales person is delivering a different message, or stressing different points?  A confused prospect rarely turns into a customer.

Salespeople will often claim that the messaging they get from Marketing lacks the punch needed for an engaging sales conversation.  The marketing collateral’s language and message may be fine for people who have the time and inclination to read stuff, but oftentimes, business needs to be worked on-the-go.  Salespeople are looking for messaging that will pique the buyer’s interest and curiosity, and lead to subsequent meetings.

In lieu of that type of messaging coming from Marketing, many times a salesperson will take matters into his or her own hands and try to spin that engaging message on their own.  A noble effort, perhaps, but one that is fraught with potential problems.  In an attempt to attract a prospect’s attention, the message gets dinged a little bit here, bent a little bit there.  Each time the message is tweaked, it veers further away from the original brand strategy.

Now, how big is your sales team?  If each salesperson is creating his/her own messaging, how many variations of your company’s core message are out there?  And what if a salesperson’s improvised messaging includes something that is untrue, or unproven, or even impossible?  That is not a good look for your business!

As you begin to create your value proposition, keep the voice of your salespeople in mind.  The messaging must sound compelling out of their mouths, not just on paper.  Ask them how they would phrase certain things, in an effort to make the messaging as easy for them to deliver as it is for the prospect to hear.  The value proposition messaging must be consistently on point.

There are three main types of value propositions that the business world has seen over the years.  Probably the oldest of these is the Offer-Driven one.  This value proposition says:

  • this is what we make
  • it has a bunch of cool stuff
  • we can make you a good deal

As more and more businesses began creating similar types of products and services, many value propositions became Competitor-Driven.  This approach acknowledges the top competitors in the industry, then draws distinctions based on some hand-picked attributes:

  • they give you that, but we give you this
  • they charge that, but we charge less than that
  • they make promises, but we deliver results

Then, some enlightened businesses decided to explore what exactly prompted customers to buy their products or services, which gave rise to the Buyer-Driven value proposition.  This option put the focus totally on the buyer by demonstrating:

  • strong knowledge of prospect’s business & industry
  • an understanding of prospect’s business “pain”
  • a focus on solutions rather than details of an offer

Each of these types of value propositions contain significant and relevant information that should not be overlooked or under-appreciated.  Yes, it is imperative to understand all the features and benefits of your product.  But that alone is not a true value proposition!  And yes, you must acknowledge your competition and have a thorough understanding of their offerings and how they compare to your own.  Given that buyers are driving the bus these days, this type may not be the most effective value proposition, either!

The Buyer-Driven value proposition understands that all the features and benefits and bells and whistles are only relevant if they provide a positive result to the buyer.  It’s really that simple.  The word “value” is defined each time by the prospect, not the seller.  Never lose sight of that fact.  Bigger and better and more do not always translate to the right solution for each prospect.  Furthermore, competing on similar offerings by pointing out their differences is a never-ending task of keeping up – you’ve got to scramble every time a competitor makes a change.  And competing on price differences is rarely a good idea for anyone.  So, while knowledge of product and competition are important, they don’t mean a thing unless viewed through the eyes of a prospect who has a specific matter that needs addressing.

The best thing about a Buyer-Driven value proposition is that it enables a salesperson to engage the prospects in a compelling discussion about their specific needs, and to contribute ideas to the conversation without pushing a specific solution or product.  Only after demonstrating that we “get” the prospect’s business challenges, do we then begin to offer some solutions that are specific to those challenges. By that time, we’ve demonstrated understanding, and gained some trust.  This is the best approach to get better engagement through consistent and clear messaging, differentiate the buyer experience, and land sales.

Want to learn more about Value Propositions?  Download the first free chapter of my book Value Propositions that SELL.

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