Tag: value offering

The pitch you want to give, yet need to create

The pitch you want to give, yet need to create

This post originally appeared on my company blog series “Skinned knees—what an MBA didn’t teach you for rebel sales in a software startup”. In this post, let’s talk about the challenge of doing a sales pitch for a product that has never been pitched.

Every day at a startup has challenges. You know this. That’s why being a founder or a member of the founding team can be very exciting. Having been in your shoes, I find that developing the sales pitch can be both heartbreaking and exciting. Starting from scratch and being ready to take on the world is noble, yet the downside is having absolutely no historical examples to jumpstart the creative process.

You may be lucky. Your software startup may be biting at the heels of one or more big competitors. If this is the case, you simply position yourself against their value proposition and say that you are better at something then the big guys.

Maybe you are also cheaper than the big guys (I hope not because pricing can always be lowered due to competitive pressures). Creating a value proposition that is “cheaper” may not be enough to differentiate you in the long run, but there is no question that it can be an advantage if your cost model still allows you to be profitable.

Do Not Internalize Doubt

But what if you need to create a unique value proposition and you cannot copy the value proposition of anyone else? What if your offering is so unique that it is hard to find another company and copy their idea?

First of all, if you are so unique that no one else is doing this, are you too unique? Is there anyone to actually sell to? Did you identify a missed goal that no one else can see, or is it a market that isn’t really there? Do you have a solution looking for a market, or are you in a market looking for a solution? This is really important, and I discuss it in my book, Eliminate Your Competition since competitors prove your need to be in the market. If you have no competitors, you may not have anyone to sell.

By the way, these questions come from many of my successes as well as failures. In my career, I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors. If you have them too, see if they can do a thirty-minute coffee break with you. Ask them your questions. They may not have the immediate answers you seek, but they will have encouraging words that may lead to somewhere you had not yet considered.

Another consideration is to find peer founders at your incubator or accelerator. An obvious cautionary tale, please rephrase your questions so as not to give away any intellectual property or competitive advantage. Polling your peers does have the advantage of boots-on-the-ground knowledge. Having founders who are in the thick of operations and execution will get you another perspective.

Do Something About It

Before your first customer order, you need to use the time-honored practice of A/B marketing. Whereas, my prior suggestion focused on opinion gathering, now I want you to put some of that knowledge into actual use. You should have enough material by this point to create a compelling story.

The downside of A/B sales pitches is that you run the risk of completely blowing a sales pitch to a prospect you desire. That is fine as it is almost as important to understand what NOT to say as it is to understand what you should say. After all, we all grok that “No” is never final and you can always go back to that rejection and explain that you didn’t explain it well and ask to speak again.

Once you have closed a few deals, then you need to have positive feedback from those early adopter customers. To ensure you are truly addressing a need that no other company is solving, you need customers to part with their precious cash in return for your product. Nothing else will prove your value proposition as well as cash.

After you have those first 5-10 customers, ask them what your value proposition should be for your company and product. They are probably not marketing folks with exceptional abilities to write concise and pointed value statements, but they can give you the essential words or philosophies. Hire a copywriter to take those basic statements to craft a message that is unique to you and epitomizes your message.

This method was recently discussed in an article on First Round. The article is about the email marketing success of Watsi. Grace Garey of Watsi explains: “For the longest time, we had it in our heads that people donate on Watsi because they are moved by a patient photo or story and they act on impulse. When we started to see droves of people sign up to donate continuously through the Universal Fund, we realized that users’ motivations were really varied and there might be new ways to reach them we hadn’t ever thought about. We didn’t expect that people really bought into a much broader vision for what Watsi was about — that they didn’t want to just help the person whose profile they were looking at, but underserved patients in general.”

Watsi found a value proposition for their fundraisers by listening to their donors (customers). They were able to learn from those successes to fine-tune their value proposition. You can do the exact same thing with your startup.

By the way, you should seriously check out Watsi. 100% of your donation funds life-changing surgery. It is a great organization, and you can donate here: https://watsi.org/crowdfunding. I don’t have any relationship with the charity, but I am seriously interested in making the world a better place.

Header image Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

There are three components to the benefits to every sales transaction. Those component benefits are the product that you sell, the company that you represent in that sale, and yourself. It is easy to understand the benefits of the first two, the latter can be more difficult.

Invariably, we all see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. It would be very difficult to do our job if we did not have a positive impression of ourselves but we cannot let that impression get in the way of our sale.

Create a standard Ben Franklin “T” chart on your Benefits and Detriments. On the left side, record all of the Benefits that you bring to your customer. On the right, put your Detriments. Make sure that each statement is in benefit format NOT feature format. You should be able to say each statement verbatim to a prospect and they will not respond with a “So….”

A bad example would be “I have been selling this service for the last 8 years.” A more appropriate statement would be “My 8 years of experience with this service allows me to guide a prospect through the decision-making process.” An example of a Detriment may be “I don’t understand the business drivers of my prospect’s industry.”

After you have created the chart, you need to use it. Make sure that all of your Benefits have been communicated to your customers and prospects. If you ask them the benefit that you bring to them, would they say any of the items on the list?

More importantly, look at your Detriments. How are you going to get them fixed? If this was a problem with the product or the company (the other two components) there would be a committee formed and people would be working hard to fix the issues. You need to do the same – sit down with your manager, your peers, and your trusted existing customers. Find their perspective on how you can improve the items on your Detriment list. You may even want to sit down with your significant other and let them guide your thoughts.

Another worthwhile endeavor in this process is to sell against yourself. Argue with yourself as to the true worth of a Benefit. This will make you defend its importance and develop a stronger case. Similarly, by internally berating a Detriment, you may discover how to make it a positive or at least diminish its negative influence.

This exercise only works if you are 100% honest with yourself. This is not your resume. You are only going to share this with 3 people: “Me, Myself, and I.” Use this list to focus on your Benefits and to take corrective action on the Detriments.

Photo by MinaLegend

You are the most important value offering that you sell

You are the most important value offering that you sell

What are the various “value offerings” that you sell or that your prospects buy? If we break it down into broad categories, inevitably it is three high-level value offerings:

  1. Your product that gets the prospect to their goals.
  2. Your company that produces and supports the product.
  3. You.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions all fall into these three big value offerings. The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product. They want to know all about the pricing model of the product. They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product. They want to know how long your company has been producing the product and what the roadmap is for your company. They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable about the management of the company.

During all of these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering that you bring to them. They are learning about you as a person. Are you reliable? Are you knowledgeable? Does the prospect trust the words that come out of your mouth? In short, they are trying to figure out if they should buy from you or, in essence, can they buy you.

Yes, you are for sale if you are in sales. You are a part of the value offering that the prospect considers in the evaluation. At a minimum, do you offer enhance value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub, you are the most important value offering. Not the product and not your company. They are secondary to the importance of you as a value offering.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, is your product that much better or worse than the competition? When you answer questions about your product, aren’t 90-99% of your responses positively answered regarding the customer’s concern? How many times do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you will give that answer at times, but in those cases, you probably are not a good fit for the customer and will lose the deal immediately. If your product doesn’t have that required feature, then you are not talking to a qualified prospect for that product.

Isn’t your competitor’s product in a similar situation? Don’t most of their features match up fairly well to your own product’s features? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a little better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead even tie. Worse yet, your prospect probably can achieve their goals perfectly well without buying the best product on the market (yours) because the second best or third best product will accomplish the goals. They don’t need the best; they simply need the product and company to be good enough to accomplish their goals.

Similarly, how many times do you have to explain to your prospect that your company isn’t very good at supporting the product? Do you ever really lose a deal based on company longevity or commitment to the market? Of course not and neither do your competitors.

As a Sales Trapper, I continuously advise salespeople that features that do not differentiate do not matter. Does the car salesperson spend time explaining the value offering of the accelerator on the floor? Of course not, all modern cars have them. Does the TV salesperson explain that the remote will change the channel and volume? Of course not, all TVs have remotes with a value offering that do that. In both cases, there was a time when those were unique and differentiating features but not in today’s competitive market. The TV and automobile manufacturers have added those features as standard, and the features no longer differentiate the products. Since none of these features add a differential value offering, there is no reason to “sell” these features to the prospect. A salesperson that spends a lot of time talking about the value offering of these benefits is simply wasting valuable time.

So why do you spend so much time talking about your company and your product? Obviously, you need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the check boxes, but that is all you are doing. All you are doing is showing that your company and your product are good enough to match the competition. As soon as you achieve that parity, you need to sell the one benefit that only you can provide.

You need to sell you. You need to prove to the prospect that you offer more value than your competitor. You demonstrate this value offering by the information that you share with the prospect. You demonstrate this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her personal skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, then it is likely that your competitor’s product can do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You, personally, are the only truly differentiated benefit to the prospect, and you need to make sure your prospect understands this benefit (and the associated value offering).

You know that you have truly won the deal if the prospect says they would buy either your product or your competitor’s product from you. You were the most valuable part of the sale. Have you ever heard those words from a new customer?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net