Show Me the Value!

Image courtesy of dallashangerphoto's photostream

Change is hard. People get comfortable doing what they’re doing, regardless of whether or not it’s the best way to do it, and they can get downright defensive when someone suggests doing things different.

As a partner to your clients and prospects, it’s your job to show them why it’s in their best interest and worth the effort to make a change. I experienced a great example of this the other night when I received an unexpected call with an offer I initially refused, but now am seriously considering.

In 2008 I bought my first brand new car, a Chevy Aveo. Through the years it’s served me well and, though I’ve racked up quite a few miles and done a fair amount of damage because I’m the worst driver ever, the thought of trading it in anytime soon hadn’t even crossed my mind.

The Chevy representative on the other end of the line opened our conversation with a question.

“Are you still driving your 2008 Aveo?”
“Why not trade it in?”
“I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”
“It’s a four-year-old car. We could get you in something brand new, like a Sonic or a Cruze.”
“I don’t really need new things.”
“I’m looking at the numbers here, and it looks like we can lower your monthly payment up to $100. For a brand new car.”
“But I’ve grown kind of attached to my car.”

At this point my objections were sounding just plain silly, even to me, so I politely said I would need some time to think about it.

And think about it I did. Not only did I visit the Chevy website to check out both of the suggested models, I also started looking at my own car with a more critical eye. It is pretty boring, and it’s starting to make troubling noises.

So, what secret weapon did this salesperson use during our two-minute conversation to take me from 100% uninterested to building my own virtual Sonic?

It’s called a “value proposition,” and it’s one of the most misused and abused terms in the business world. It seems everybody talks about them, but very few understand what they truly are.

According to Jill Konrath, best-selling author and public speaker who focuses on helping salespeople win more business:
“A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. The more specific your value proposition is, the better.”

Basically, when you get on the phone with a client or prospect, they want to know one thing and one thing only: What’s in it for me? So if your pitch goes on and on about your product and service offering, your “robust” technology or your industry presence without ever specifying why they should care, chances are they’re going to tune you out really fast.

A strong value proposition is exactly what the dealer used to pique my interest. He didn’t talk about the “latest and greatest” features of the newer models or Chevy’s most recent rankings. He gave me a clear statement of the tangible results I would get from making a change:

A brand new car for $100 less than I’m currently paying every month.
Konrath identifies three “must-have” components of the best value propositions:
• Business driver – this relates to a key objective measured by your prospect (i.e. cost savings, turnaround time, customer satisfaction). It should be as specific as possible. In my case, there were two business drivers – the satisfaction of driving around in something shiny and new and the cost savings of a lower monthly payment.
• Movement – will the change you’re proposing decrease spending? Speed up delivery? Raise satisfaction levels? These verbs show movement toward achieving a favorable result (i.e. lowering my monthly payment by $100).
• Metrics – how will the success of the change be measured? In dollars, percentages, time frames? Here Konrath notes that specific numbers are more powerful than general figures (i.e 19.2% savings vs. 20%).

Like many lessons in life, this one can be summed up in one phrase: Keep it simple, stupid! Tell your clients why they should be excited about the change you’re proposing by plainly stating what they will get out of it. Then sit back and enjoy as “no” becomes “maybe” and “maybe” becomes “yes.”

To learn more about developing a powerful value proposition, visit to read the Sales Blog and download the free Value Proposition Tool Kit.

AboutMichelle McCafferty

Michelle joined the Proforma team in 2008. As the Manager of Business Development for Major Accounts, she helps Proforma Owners win new and grow existing programs through proposal and presentation development, as well as periodic Relationship Reviews. Before joining Proforma, Michelle attended Cleveland State University where she earned a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication.

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