More often than not experts struggle with value propositions. That is they struggle to explain what they do to help their clients and to make their case explaining why a business should buy their services.
Most experts really dislike having this sort of discussion. They’re much happier talking about the nuts and bolts of what they do. They’re much happier talking about their expertise.
In all honesty, many experts don’t actually have a value proposition at all, which is why they shy away from answering the question:
What do you do?
However, if you’re serious about being in business, this is a question you must answer well and confidently.
What exactly do you do?
It’s a tough question.
- Your services are complex.
- You customise what you do for each client.
- You find it really difficult to describe what you do in clear and simple language.
As a result, as often as not, you don’t answer the question in a way that’s likely to help you to start a useful business conversation with a new contact. Instead, you find ways of avoiding the question.
Do you make any of the mistakes below when you’re asked what you do?
You actually tell people what you do . . .
You explain how you investigate clients’ problems and issues by spending time on their premises. You explain that you look into the issues. You produce a plan which you present to senior people and so on.
You talk, reminding yourself of projects in which you have excelled, and the person you are speaking to loses interest.
You’re not helping yourself with this approach, so the next time you’re asked what you do, steer clear of this level of detail.
You tell people your life story . . .
If you work for an established firm, you launch into a narrative about when the business was founded, who founded it, what your firm’s specialisms are, who your major clients are and so on.
If you’re a solo professional, you offer a potted career history including why you decided to leave employment and set up your own business.
Again, this isn’t a value proposition. It’s just background information.
Avoid recounting history. It means less to your listener than it means to you, and it doesn’t really start to build that business relationship.
You mutter and mumble . . .
You’ve dreaded that question. You always know it’s coming, but you really don’t have an answer. Every time someone asks it, you mutter something. You say the first thing that comes into your head. You do your best to get away from the question by getting the other person talking.
In other words, you throw away an opportunity to start creating that important new relationship.
Recognise this is what you’re doing and rethink your strategy.
You deliver your elevator pitch . . .
Some experts, of course, avoid the above problems by learning off by heart an elevator pitch. That is they memorise a statement about themselves and their organisation that they deliver whenever they are asked the question about what they do.
The trouble is you actually need to tailor what you say to the situation in which you find yourself. A one-size-fit-all statement won’t do you any favours.
The statement you make at a networking meeting will be a bit different from what you say when you’re sitting across the table from someone at a business lunch. That means your elevator pitch won’t work in both situations.
People who rely on elevator statements often deliver them badly because they don’t like what they’re doing. They take a deep breath and then deliver the elevator pitch at a run. They speak as fast as they can because they want to get the statement over with – and, guess what, their statements sound dreadful.
None of the above approaches to answering the question about what you do really works.
This means you need to do something different, if you’re going to start building those important business relationships.
You need to think about developing a value proposition.
Your value proposition
A value proposition is more than a statement. It’s a series of reasons why a business should choose to work with you rather than with anyone else.
As such it takes time to get right and you’ll probably have a number of statements you use when you’re thinking about the value you deliver.
In the next post I’ll go into more detail about value propositions.
I’ll also outline a process you can use to create a value proposition for your own business.
What to do now
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If you’ve had difficulties with your value proposition, then leave a note below, or ask a question in the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer.
See you in part two of this series.