Why Having a Unique Value Proposition Is Overrated (& What to Focus on Instead)

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Bill Cates
Bill Cates



Marketing experts always talk about how we must have a unique value proposition or a unique selling proposition. They believe this helps us look different in the marketplace or accentuate what makes us distinct.

Sometimes we need to define and accentuate our differentiation to catch the attention of our prospects and others who are important to our business. But differentiation, distinction, or being unique isn’t the end game.

The end game is moving someone to take action: To respond to our email or voicemail, grant us an appointment, to do business with us, and to follow our recommendations. 

Every part of your unique value proposition should serve two purposes that continually work together.

  1. Relevance: What makes you different isn’t worth a hill of beans if you aren’t relevant. How many times have you had someone tell you about their product or service, but never took the time to know if what they offered was relevant to your world -- or at least make an attempt to learn your world first to tailor how they communicated their value? Have you ever been guilty of just talking about your value before getting to know the receiver of that message?
  2. Compelling: In this context, compelling means move to action. We cannot move someone to action until our message is relevant to them. Then, we must continue to ask questions and talk about our value in a way that results in action -- otherwise we just create polite interest without meaningful action.

Relevance Is a Two-Way Street

How we talk about our value should be designed to attract the right prospects into our world and simultaneously repel the wrong prospects.

When you craft your value proposition, narrow your message to the extent that how you talk about your value carefully qualifies who you want to enter into your world and disqualifies those who you don't. (Let someone else serve the prospects and clients who are not a fit.)

How we craft a relevant and compelling value proposition is inextricably linked to our ability to meet more new and qualified prospects through referrals and personal introductions.

4 Characteristics of the "Ultimate Value Proposition"

If being unique or different isn't what wins you the business of a new client, what is?

Being the right fit is. Your prospects must perceive you as the perfect fit for them or they’ll keep looking. Like I said, being a little distinct can draw someone to you at first, but if they don’t continue to see the relevance in your solutions, you’re history.

Here are the four characteristics of a successfully designed value proposition that'll win new business.

1) Targeted

In just about every industry we could name, generalization has given way to specialization. If you haven’t already done so, get super clear on the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your ideal client. A targeted value proposition is at the heart of all the elements that follow.

This targeting, or narrowed focus on who you are trying to attract into your business, creates what I like to call "macro relevance."

2) Attractive

It goes without saying that we want to talk about our value in a way that attracts people toward us. Being targeted helps, because the prospect will think, “This gal understands my world” or “He gets me.” Probably the most important aspect of an attractive value proposition is your “personal why” or “personal mission.” This is where you become real to your prospect, which is what makes you attractive.

3) Authentic

Have you ever heard someone talk about value in a way that may have been “different” but just didn’t seem genuine or “real?” Tricky, trite, or cheesy value props are often associated with the elevator pitch. Having a short, concise, and interesting way to communicate our value is important. But if what we develop does not feel genuine to us, we won’t use it (nor should we).

4) Micro-relevant

This is probably the most important of all these elements, and you can probably surmise that the first three feed into this one. More than anything else, your prospects want to know, “Why are you the right fit for me?” Meaning… “Why are you, your value, your solution, and your mission most relevant to me?” How do you create relevance?

There are two phases to being Micro Relevant. First, before you contact a new prospect, learn as much as you can about that prospect before you even reach out to them. When you look at your prospect’s LinkedIn profile, their Facebook page, their bio on their company website and what you can learn from your referral source, you become super relevant to that prospect.

Do you want to look different in the marketplace? Do your research before you contact a prospect. You will find your emails get returned and your voice messages get answered.

Second, when you meet with your prospect, have a conversation rather than immediately go into presentation mode. Give them some context of you are and what you do, but mix in high-value questions that teach, provoke, and peel back the layers of the onion. I don’t believe that “sales calls” should ever be a pure presentation, nor should they be a pure inquisition. You want to create a conversation that brings value to both your prospect and to you. 

At some point in your sales process, if you sincerely believe you are a good fit for the prospect’s situation, tell them that and tell them why. Tell them why you believe your offering is relevant to them. They want -- no, need -- to know that.

Don’t ever assume buyers will come to that conclusion on their own. Be confident and make a recommendation for the next logical step -- whatever that might be.

If a value proposition does not compel someone to take action or create movement on the part of your prospective clients, then it’s fatally incomplete. And the first and foremost way for your value proposition to move someone to take action is to be relevant.

When every question you ask and everything you say is relevant to your prospect, you are attractive, authentic, targeted, and distinctive. You will appeal to the emotional component of the decision making process and will win the new client.

If orange is the new black, then relevance is the new distinction!

Topics: Sales Closing

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