One of the greatest football coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, said, "Most people fail not because of a lack of desire but because of a lack of commitment." In order to find success, salespeople need to be committed to what they're selling.
As a salesperson, you need to have the utmost confidence and belief in the product or service you're selling. If you don't believe in your product, it's likely the prospect won't believe in it either.
So, how can you speak confidently about your company and product?
The answer: a well-crafted and rehearsed unique selling proposition.
What is a unique selling proposition (USP)?
A unique selling proposition, or USP, is a tool used by salespeople to communicate the key factors that separate your product from the competition.
An effective USP communicates your brand’s values and differentiates what your company offers through what you stand for and how this benefits your customers.
As you craft your company’s USP, you’ll want to include the following elements:
- What products or services you offer your customers.
- Your offering’s benefit to customers that they can’t get from the competition.
- Who your target customer is.
- What problem you are solving for your customers.
It's used in the early stages of the sales process (e.g., prospecting, cold calls, and trade shows) when prospects ask questions like, "What company are you with?" and "What do you do?".
What's its purpose? It's to inspire some level of curiosity in your prospect and to bridge the gap between "I've never heard of you before" to "Okay, let's hop on a quick call."
In sales, a USP should be used as a verbal tool — the unique selling proposition is best used in conversation with a prospect. The unique selling proposition is an exclusive value proposition to the prospect you're talking to, and it should be created with that specific person in mind.
How to Write a Unique Selling Proposition
So, you're ready to create a unique selling proposition. The first step is to think about your audience and which of the product's benefits are most valuable to them. I recommend creating a variety of unique selling propositions depending on who you're talking to and what they're looking for.
Since the unique selling proposition is a verbal tool, it should only be written when you're getting ready to rehearse it. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when creating a USP.
1. Lead with your differentiating qualities.
If you create a unique selling proposition that a competitor could use for their product, it's time to go back to the drawing board. Your unique selling proposition should be entirely unique to you, your company, and the product or service you're selling.
The USP will include the strengths and benefits of the product that distinguishes it from the competition. For example, at Hoffman, one of our unique selling points, as a sales training program, is live practice plays. Salespeople learn how to engage with prospects, then test their skills by live cold-calling to prospects and customers as an in-class exercise. This separates us from normal training programs and it's the type of distinguishing factor to include in a unique selling proposition.
2. Present your talking points clearly and confidently.
Unique selling propositions should not only be unique to the company, but they should also be unique to you. You're showcasing yourself and your product or service. And your enthusiasm and authenticity should shine through during your USP.
The unique selling proposition will fail if it doesn't seem to come across as if it's unique to you. Rehearse the unique selling proposition. It gives you confidence and, in turn, the prospect will be confident in you. They'll walk away from a successful USP excited to work with you and to learn more about your product.
3. Include hyperbole.
Your unique selling proposition should be rich with hyperbole. For the USP, the hyperbole is a hyper-exaggeration where all parties, yourself and the prospect, know it's an exaggeration.
Use words like, only, greatest, best, first, favorite, etc. to describe your product. When used appropriately, it's a tool that communicates your enthusiasm and belief in the product.
For example, instead of saying, "We help customers," say "Our customers demand the best and that's why they hire us" instead. The second phrase says more about what you're offering.
Salespeople are often hesitant to use hyperbole because they're fearful it'll be too sales-y. But when you give your unique selling proposition you need to communicate the pride you have in telling it. Hyperbole is an appropriate communication device in this situation. Don't be afraid of it... unless you can't back it up.
4. Focus on the benefit to the customer, not the product itself.
Great salespeople don't sell just a product or service — they sell the post sales environment.
What does this mean? It means your unique selling proposition should be about the world your customer enjoys or the reality they'll see after they purchase.
For instance, the process of buying a new car can be tedious and less than enjoyable. But, people like the experience of driving a brand-new car. A successful salesperson communicates the benefits and value the prospect realizes once they buy the product or service.
You'll know if your unique selling proposition worked well if the prospect laughs, smiles, or asks a question. This often means they engaged with the USP and believe in what you're selling.
If the prospect says something along the lines of, "Oh, I see" or "I understand" and they don't express their interest in what you're selling, then the unique selling proposition wasn't effective.
Let’s put this all together using HubSpot as an example.
Here are a more few unique selling propositions to inspire you. Remember: the unique selling proposition loses its punch if you communicate it via email. It should be delivered to your prospect over the phone or in-person. And it should be developed with your specific audience in mind.
Examples of Unique Selling Propositions
- Hoffman: I got you live on the first call. When you hire us, we'll teach your sales reps how to do the same thing.
- Ben & Jerry's: We make the best possible ice cream in the best possible way.
- Yokel Local: One person can't do it all.
- Page Eleven Paper Goods: This is not your ordinary datebook.
- Away: Thoughtful luggage for modern travel.
- Death Wish Coffee Co.: The world's strongest coffee.
- TOMS: Pick your style. Pick your stand.
- ClassPass: Sweat in good company.
- Thrive Market: Belong to a better market.
- SheaMoisture: A better way to beautiful.
- Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast.
1. Hoffman: I got you live on the first call. When you hire us, we'll teach your sales reps how to do the same thing.
Hoffman is an industry leader in sales training and a leading consultant for industry executives. This unique selling proposition was used when talking to a Vice President on the first outreach call.
I've created a quick recording of the USP so you can hear it from the perspective of a prospect.
2. Ben & Jerry's: We make the best possible ice cream in the best possible way.
What's the unique selling proposition for this ice cream company? Ben & Jerry's stands out from the competition by providing, "the best possible ice cream in the best possible way."
The mission of the company is to create high-quality ice cream in a sustainable way and have a positive impact on its employees and surrounding communities. If you're a salesperson for Ben & Jerry's, these are the key differentiating factors that would help you create your USP.
3. Yokel Local: One person can't do it all.
Yokel Local intimately knows their buyer persona: marketing managers who are overwhelmed with everything that they have to learn, execute on, and manage. That's where the benefit of hiring an agency lies. Yokel Local is able to offer a team of experts in an array of disciplines to take that stress away. Their website goes on to say:
"We partner with overwhelmed marketing directors and business owners to take the burden of developing and executing a successful online and social media marketing strategy off of your shoulders."
- Yokel Local
4. Page Eleven Paper Goods: This is not your ordinary datebook.
When someone is buying a planner or datebook, they may be thinking about the size, layout, and price. However, Page Eleven stops website visitors in their tracks and reframes the buying process by asserting their product is more than that. It's designed to be a tool for setting and achieving goals. Here's what they have to say about their product:
"It is a reflection of where you have come, the direction you are thriving towards and the path where purpose meets intent."
- Page Eleven
5. Away: Thoughtful luggage for modern travel.
Away provides its customers with premium luggage for the modern traveler. The company says:
"Our pieces aren’t 'smart,' they're thoughtful, with features that solve real travel problems and premium materials chosen to be resilient and beautiful."
- Away Luggage
Not only does Away offer high-quality luggage options at reasonable prices, but it also believes that "to be a great business, you have to be a good one too." And the company strives to have a positive impact on its customers and their communities. This sets them apart from other high-end, luggage companies.
6. Death Wish Coffee Co.: The world's strongest coffee.
Death Wish Coffee Co. uses hyperbole to make a point about its product. It's the world's strongest coffee.
The goal is to fuel customers with the best tasting, highest quality, and strongest coffee. The company even goes as far as to say,
"We strive for the best tasting and highest quality organic and fair-trade beans in every bag. If this isn't the strongest coffee you've ever tried, we'll gladly give you a refund."
- Death Wish Coffee Co.
7. TOMS: Pick your style. Pick your stand.
This shoe company does things differently from its competitors. When you purchase a pair of shoes from TOMS, you can pick an issue area that you'd like to stand for.
The mission of the company is to change lives for the better. And since 2006, TOMS has given shoes, safe water, and vision to more than 94 million people. It's a business that's creating change for a better tomorrow — for its customers and the people they're helping.
"We’re in business to improve lives."
8. ClassPass: Sweat in good company.
ClassPass makes group fitness accessible for its customer base through partnerships with fitness studios all over the U.S. and virtual class offerings.
They have changed the way consumers participate in group fitness by working with small businesses and studios to introduce them to a new market of consumers who want to make healthy lifestyle changes.
"We lead people to live inspired lives every day by introducing and seamlessly connecting them to soul-nurturing experiences."
9. Thrive Market: Belong to a better market.
Online grocery retailer Thrive Market has a membership-based business model and aims to make healthy food and household products affordable and accessible.
They offer premium and organic products for wholesale prices and for every annual membership purchased, they donate a membership to someone in need.
"Everyone should have access to healthy products, reliable information, and affordable prices."
- Thrive Market
10. SheaMoisture: A better way to beautiful.
Beauty brand SheaMoisture provides hair and body care products formulated without harmful ingredients at an accessible price point.
SheaMoisture invests proceeds from every sale towards their community commerce fund which supports small minority business owners.
"At SheaMoisture we invest proceeds from every purchase into the community. When you purchase SheaMoisture, you are investing in women globally. Our educational and entrepreneurial programs are designed to create an inclusive and thriving society."
11. Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast.
Podcasting is a growing fast-growing medium. Apple Podcasts reports there are over 500,000 active podcasts, and this figure is expected to continue rising.
Podcast hosting platform Anchor is up for the challenge, providing easy-to-use hosting and publishing software that makes launching a podcast easy, and cost-effective. Through their platform, users are able to create, distribute, and monetize their podcasts for free — a unique differentiator from other podcast hosting companies in the market.
"Our mission is to democratize audio. We believe everyone should be able to have their voice heard, regardless of background or experience level. Our goal is to make podcasting easy and fun, without sacrificing the quality every podcaster deserves."
With a carefully crafted, unique selling proposition you have a greater chance of moving forward with the prospect.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.