has a superb, thought-provoking article regarding value propositions.  If you have read The Hire Sense of late, you know this is a topic we are exploring in many facets of sales.  I have to confess, this author’s take is completely different (irony there) than the other points I have read on this topic.

Here is the gist of his commentary:

So be different: Stop listening to the continuous pleas from consultants, marketers, and textbooks to be different… one of a kind.. .a shining beacon of newness in a sea of same-old same-old.

Focus instead on actually delivering the value to the market that you say you deliver (which, in and of itself, can be uncommon if not unique), and find ways to create a conversation with buyers around that message.

Well stated for sure.  He provides an example involving two oral surgeons which I don’t think carries as much weight.  The reason is that in sales you have to have some differentiation when you approach a prospect.  His example involves a committed prospect (toothache patient) looking for a solution.

But what if the prospect was simply a person who had a dentist they had been going to for 10 years and were relatively pleased with them?  Simply claiming you deliver on what you say you deliver is probably not going to be enough to get the prospect to change – you must bring unique value to them.  This is where his approach breaks down.

Nonetheless, he still makes some excellent points about this topic.  I particularly enjoyed how he unpacked this common-sounding copy:

Some firms seem to take the quest for differentiation literally, creating a spate of “we’re different” messages. Consider a top Boston law firm with the following message:

At [FIRM Name], we practice law differently. While our attorneys agree that results drive our business, building relationships with our clients and providing value-added service is the key to our success.

This firm might be amazingly good—and, from what I know of their reputation, they are. However, results’ driving business, building relationships, and providing value-add are pretty par for the course—both as firm goals and marketing copy.

I suspect that copy sounds a bit too common to some companies.  Finally, there is this list of how clients buy (emphasis mine):

So what is it that clients are, indeed, looking for? In my experience, and according to research such as How Clients Buy, most buyers want to tell service providers the following:

  • Reliability. Do what you say you are going to do, and be on time about it. (This is listed first, because it’s so important. If only the service providers I’ve worked with in my life were better at keeping their commitments…)
  • Accessibility. Be there when I need you.
  • Impact. Help me buy the most helpful and impactful services from you, and help me translate your services into success for my business in my industry.
  • Fit. Be a good fit for the specific needs that I have. If you’re not the best fit, help me find a provider that is. Don’t shoehorn your service into something that, in the end, won’t meet my needs as well as something else would.
  • Importance. Make me feel like we are, as a client, important to you and your team.
  • Service. Deliver great service as well as great services.
  • Prudence. Be careful and do your homework before you suggest a course of action for me.
  • Research. Stay on top of the developments and trends in your industry and in mine.
  • Listening. Understand my business, my team, and my clients so you can come up with ideas relevant to me.
  • Teaching. Help me understand what you’re doing. I might not be an expert in your area, but I’m pretty bright and I make the decisions here. Help me understand what’s new in your area of expertise so I can apply that knowledge in my business.
  • Business management. Run an efficient operation and constantly improve so I don’t pay for your inefficiency.
  • Relationship management. Be pleasant and fair, and work with me through communication or other breakdowns on your end or mine. In essence, treat me like a person.

As they say, read the entire thing.

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