Experiencing dismal sales, a company called a retreat to determine why its superior product was not gaining market share.
The first day resulted in walls full of flipchart pages of market research, SWOT analyses, industry developments and sales insights. The second day it was time to build a plan.
A facilitator asked the group a simple question: Why should people buy your product? Each response was inscribed on a ping pong ball and placed in a box. Before long, the box was overflowing with balls, reading things like: product features; technical points; research insights; competitive shortcomings; and service offerings.
When the contributions ebbed, one executive was asked to stand and pretend to be a customer. The facilitator proceeded to hurl the entire box of ping pong balls at the stunned executive. Nervous laughter filled the room as the executive caught a single ball, while other balls dribbled noisily throughout the room.
The lesson was clear: The company had not taken the time to distill its selling proposition into something meaningful, relevant, memorable, believable and simple.
Within a few hours, the team settled on a selling proposition with supporting proof points. They revamped their entire customer program to emphasize this message – from marketing literature and advertising to customer letters and invoices.
In a year, sales and margins were soaring. Employee morale and retention were soaring. Customer satisfaction and reorders were soaring.
Can it really be that simple? Could businesses perform better by attending to their sales proposition? Often, the answer is yes.
Pick any category and you’ll find seemingly hundreds of companies, products and services vying for the hearts and minds of the people you expect to buy your product. How does yours stand apart and above the rest? What makes it different, better or special? Why should they pick yours?
It seems we work very hard to develop our company or product or service. Yet, in our urgency to go to market, we often skip over how we’ll present that offering in a cluttered marketplace.
Imagine if Fedex never articulated its overnight delivery promise. Where would Amazon be if it failed to make online sales as easy as one click? What if Hallmark Cards didn’t tell people they help express feelings, instead talking up the quality of its paper or the speed of its printing presses?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you refine your selling proposition:
Remember, it’s always what the customer wants to buy, not what you want to sell. You are selling a solution to a problem they may or may not know they have. Keep your proposition focused on them.
Illuminate your planning through insights from real-life customers. They can tell you how to win their business, whether you are delivering on your promise and what will give you the edge over competitors.
Many companies are vying for the attention of your customers. People are too busy to wade through all the messages you throw at them. You need laser-like focus to cut through marketplace clutter. Remember, lasers are focused light and they can cut through thick steel.
Communicate in layers.
A simple selling proposition will suffice to engage prospects. Once you get a nibble, you can follow up with a marketing sheet or brochure. Another layer may involve white papers, market research or other supporting information. Access to your technical experts or executives may be a rare final step.
Integrate your selling proposition.
Your entire staff should know and be prepared to share your selling proposition. It should be included in everything you do. Eventually, your organization will realign to assure that your selling proposition is embodied in everything you do and say.
Buried in all the business plans, industry research and features and benefits, you have a unique selling proposition. It’s your responsibility to find it and present it to your prospective customers.
After all, it’s much easier to toss, catch and retrieve ping pong balls, one at a time.
Ron Arp is President of Amplify Group, a communications firm helping companies present their message. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.601.2991.