The Power of Value Propositions

By Heather Baldwin

If someone told you they could help you double your sales within six months, you’d probably be pretty interested in what they had to say, right? The same goes for your audience. If you tell your audience up front, using hard numbers, exactly what your product or service can do for them, chances are they’re going to sit up and pay attention to your presentation. This kind of statement is called a value proposition – and it is critical that you state your value proposition at the outset if you want your presentation to have real impact, says Jill Konrath, founder of SellingtoBigCompanies.com, a Web resource that helps small businesses win big contracts in the corporate market.

It also is critical to understand the difference between strong and weak value propositions. Strong propositions are financially oriented and “speak to critical issues a customer is facing,” says Konrath. They are not about what you are selling. They’re about the tangible results — increased revenues, a faster time to market, decreased employee turnover — you provide the customer. Weak propositions are vague and nonspecific, such as: We improve communication and morale. Or: We sell the most robust system on the market. Weak propositions mean nothing to the listener – who no doubt has heard the same line from a dozen salespeople.

Not sure of your value proposition? Sit down and brainstorm with colleagues. “Talk about what you say to customers to get their attention,” says Konrath. “If you’re not talking tangible results, keep asking each other: So what?” As in: So what if it’s efficient? So what if it’s high quality?

Konrath worked with a company that thought the primary value of its new product was its extraordinary color matching capabilities. When sales were sluggish Konrath started talking to some of the company’s customers and learned that a customer using the product was able to cut staffing in one area by 33%, reduce project turnaround time by days and decrease the number of customer changes at a savings of $2,000 per change. “This was my client’s true value proposition,” she says. “But they weren’t aware of it because they had never looked at their product beyond its attributes. Great color was nice, but it didn’t sell. Customers needed tangible business results to justify their expenditures.”

So figure out your value proposition, state it at the beginning of your presentation and watch attention remain rapt right through to the end of your presentation.