The question I always ask next is, “Why do you ask?” This is sort of a snotty response, and it doesn’t endear me to the sales team, but it has a purpose.
In my experience, too many sales people simply take the value proposition given by marketing and restate it to the prospect. This is the worst use of a value proposition. If you are in Marketing and you enable your sales team this way, then you are not helping.
A value proposition is a list of reasons why a prospect might benefit from buying your product or service, and it usually contains a number of elements. The first is identifying a need, the second is some sort of differentiation, and the third is some sort of proof.
For example, “If you want fine flavor, then the smooth taste of Camel cigarettes is what nine out of ten doctors recommend.” Parsed, the need is fine flavor and health, the differentiation is smooth taste, and the proof is that doctors recommend them.
While value propositions are good for internal dialogue and evaluation, as you know, simply stating the reasons why you should buy a product or service is bad sales form. It’s also lazy.
When a prospect asks you, “What’s your value proposition?” They are simply saying, “I don’t have time for this… just give me the Cliff’s Notes version, and I will decide.”
But the process they are going through is: 1) Do I really have this need? 2) Is this really any better? And 3) Do I really believe this, or do I trust you? There is no way that a single “Statement” or “Value Proposition” will ever do justice to a prospect in answering these questions. But if you fail to answer any of these, your sales and marketing efforts will falter.
So instead, slow down, and go back to basics. Take your Value Proposition and turn it into a set of questions to determine whether the prospect has the need you believe your product or service can fill. Then determine the prospect’s perception of the value to satisfying that need. If it’s worth solving, then look at what their current vision is for solving that need. Only then can you begin to explore an alternate vision and differentiation. Your differentiation may be simply that you are not spouting a value proposition, but guiding the prospect through a process of discovery and helping them see things differently. Proof doesn’t come until the prospect has a vision of capabilities they might need.
But please don’t just give your value proposition. You might as well sit back, light up that Camel, and wait for good health to flow your way.
Do Great Things!