An attractive proposition

Friday, 01 February 2013
Effectively presenting your business value.

A well-constructed value proposition summarises the essence of who we are professionally. STEP membership is made up of practitioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues. When you describe what you do to someone stating that you are a trustee, a lawyer, an accountant, a banker, etc, it in no way describes your value. People may refer to us by these one-word professional references, yet each one of us is unique and the key to an effective value proposition is to ensure that it reflects your distinctiveness.

From a sales perspective, your value proposition sums up why clients choose you. To be truly effective, your value proposition needs to persuade a prospective client or referral source that your distinct value will provide a better service or solution than other competitors with similar offerings. It needs to instil a feeling about you with the buyer, because people buy feelings. When client needs are met, the price of your service really doesn’t matter, unless it is way out of proportion.

A wise man once said, ‘When you have a boat with a rudder, you can go anywhere. If you are rudderless you will never reach your destination.’ Think of a well-formed value proposition as the strongest of rudders. It will serve you time and again along your professional journey.

Later in this article, I will cite a model that you can use to quickly articulate your value to anyone. Being able to explain your value to everyone in a simple and practical way will lead to more referrals because you will have increased awareness of your offering. New opportunities will come your way when you can articulate your value proposition.

Use of your value proposition will not only confirm to your clients why they are dealing with you, it will also equip your contacts and referral sources with a clear statement why someone should meet you. An added bonus is that this will lead to better-qualified referrals being sent your way, because your referrers will understand what you do. At meetings, prospects will quickly understand what value you bring to the table. If people don’t really understand what you do, they are not likely to refer, because no one enjoys talking about something they don’t understand.

An error that many people make when asked what they do is to answer by describing how they do it. Let’s look at what I do as an example.

If I were asked what I do, I could say:

Good response: ‘I present sessions to high-net-worth specialists to build stronger and more profitable relationships with their markets. My approach is to equip people with models that create simplicity and efficiency that benefit all stakeholders. The models address both psychological aspects and practical methodologies.’

Or a not-so-good response: ‘I deliver training courses and coaching sessions on business development, interviewing clients, sales management, building a team of advocates, communication styles… sometimes I speak at conferences, and so on and so forth.’

Do you hear the difference?

Further, to develop a value proposition with impact, you need to be clear on who you are. Most firms employ marketing professionals to develop a value proposition. Although absolutely necessary, does your company’s value proposition describe you and the value you add? There are typically layers of value – the firm, the department or unit (if applicable) and then each individual. Regardless of how well you’ve done building your clients in the past, it is essential to stay fresh with your personal brand – now more than ever, because many of us are looking for alternatives in this competitive market. Can you think of a better way forward than investing time and thought into your own value proposition?

Marketing professionals often use the term ‘unique selling proposition’. Typically, it is one or two statements in length. For example, my tagline is: ‘Liberating people to create profit.’ This is not my value proposition, although there is value in the statement. Your value warrants more than a statement. Additionally, it needs to be concise and effective enough to garner others’ attention, keep their interest and confirm to them that they are on the right track.

I read an insightful article regarding the creation of a value proposition.1 The article quotes Investopedia’s statement that: ‘The ideal value proposition is concise and appeals to the customer’s strongest decision-making drivers. Companies pay a high price when customers lose sight of the company’s value proposition.’

The writers go on to say: ‘Thinking of a value proposition as a statement does more harm than good for consulting firms. With these definitions in mind, firms head down marketing messaging and communication paths that just aren’t helpful, leading to Quixotic and circuitous journeys by marketing and firm leaders to find a sentence or two that encapsulates value of the firm while at the same time is different from all competitors. They invariably end up with some pap about how they’re an experienced, client-focused, results-focused trusted partner, yadda yadda yadda.’

People buy feelings. When buying, their emotive drivers say they either need, want or would like to have what you offer. If your value proposition can help clients see, hear and feel what you truly bring to the table, then you are further along than someone who has a nebulous value proposition. If you are having trouble creating your value proposition, a good place to start is to ask some of your best clients why they value working with you. They may surprise you. Inevitably, their answers will always be tied to emotion. They might say something such as ‘I am comforted by your expert knowledge’ or ‘I can relax knowing that my affairs are being dealt with in such a professional manner’. It will serve you well to remind yourself every once in a while that it’s peace of mind that you are selling.

Imagine a time in your past when someone asked you, ‘What do you do?’ Did you quickly articulate what you do, highlighting the value you bring, or did your explanation get muddled in technical-speak? If the latter, how does that help you help a client with their emotional buying decision? In my experience, the successful practitioners are those who can explain technical aspects in clear language that the client understands.

A well-formed value proposition is one tool to help you build loyalty over time so you don’t have to work as hard. It’s as much for your existing clients and contacts as new ones. The building and maintenance of your practice is a mechanical process – but it is you that makes the difference. It always comes down to the individual – not the firm. That is why success varies within a firm from person to person.

According to my mentor, ‘The litmus test for a good value proposition is that your mother can explain what you do to her neighbour.’

MODEL: value proposition = one + two + three

One is the ‘emotional attractor’. Consider a recent purchase you made. Why did you buy that particular item in that particular colour from that particular salesperson? Did the salesperson have the feel-good factor? Did the item make you feel safe or successful, or look attractive? Clients are looking for service providers to give them comfort, security and peace of mind. Think about what you do that addresses these emotions. These are your emotional attractors.

Two is ‘be distinctive’. There is a lot of choice out there. You need to paint a picture in their mind as to ‘WHY YOU’, not ‘why you?’ Think of all the reasons you are different to your competition. Use those positives that your clients have told you. Be discriminating and set yourself apart.

Three is ‘prove it’. Buyers are sceptical these days, with high levels of mistrust. It is understandable, given that we are five-plus years into the financial crisis and past deeds in the financial industry are still coming to light. Demonstrate that you can deliver on your promises. Always be truthful, and provide evidence that you are good. The best proof statement is a referral from a happy client.

When making a decision to buy, the thought process goes like this:

  • If you do not provide the emotional attractor, prospects just won’t buy what you’re selling.
  • If you are not distinctive, buyers will press you on price or attempt to get your service elsewhere.
  • If you have provided the emotional attractor and they want to buy from you, and you’ve provided the differentiator so they perceive you as one of the few people on Earth who can do what you do, but you haven’t been able to prove what you say, they won’t believe you and won’t work with you.

Value proposition is the total of one + two + three

Conceptually, your value is made up of several reasons why people want to buy from you. Use this model with thought and energy, and you are sure to have a winning value proposition.

  • 1Mike Schultz and John Doerr, ‘3 Rules to Building a Value Proposition that Sells Like Crazy’, on
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Pamela Pitcher

Pamela Pitcher TEP is a Business Development Consultant at Pamela Pitcher Consulting.

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