Are you just the same?
Image by Szilárd Szabó from Pixabay
Listen to your customers, listen to your employees, do what they tell you.
John Sall, cofounder SAS Institute
Good advice. What if your salespeople tell you your customers don’t see any difference between you and your competitors? Well in our experience, this might be true but it’s unlikely. How can we say that?
Most organisations and most products deliver benefits. Let’s imagine you can list 10 benefits that you deliver to your customers. Some organisations would give this list to their salespeople and tell them to go and sell. What’s wrong with that? This is called an “all benefits” value proposition. Another way to describe it is as a shotgun value proposition, fire all 10 messages and hope that one of them works for your customer.
What’s different to your competitors offer?
One problem with the shotgun value proposition is it’s likely that most of the 10 benefits are similar to your competitors. So, if you use this approach then your customer will probably see you as just the same.
Another problem is that your salespeople will not simply list the 10 benefits because they know the customer will be bored because they don’t have time to listen to find out what’s relevant to them. So, sales people will pick three or four benefits and talk about these. Will all salespeople pick the same four benefits? Unlikely, so different messages will be given to different customers and the market will get different messages.
So, what should you do? Well first identify from the list of 10 benefits which ones are you better than your competitors? Normally, when you do this exercise you will find there or only 2 or 3 benefits where you are better than your competitors. Managers and salespeople get uncomfortable when they realise that most of the benefits are the same and there are only a few differences.
However, the key point here is that you are not just the same. So, you can use these few benefits to create a value proposition that answers this question for the customer:
Why should we buy from you instead of your competitors?
But, what does the customer care about?
Answering the question about why should they buy from you instead of the competitors is a good start. But what does the customer care about? What’s important to your customer?
A 2006 classic Harvard business Review article, Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets, by James C. Anderson and others, encourages you to find the one or two points of difference plus one benefit where you are similar to your competitors. These three benefits should deliver the greatest value to your customer. When we say value, we mean financial value.
Too many managers and too many sales people stop at general claims of benefits. If your message is clearer — saving your customer time and making your customer money — then your message is far more compelling. Your message should be so compelling that you can answer the Owen Corning question:
How does the customer know if they make more money with working us instead of our competitors?