How can you tell if you have a weak value proposition? One telltale sign is that virtually no one responds to your emails or gets back to you on the phone.
Another key indicator is that prospects quickly brush you off with statements like “We’ve already got that handled” or “We’re working with XYZ Company.”
Aargh. You can’t sell if you can’t get in the door. You can’t inspire buyers to take action if you don’t focus on what matters to them.
You’d think it would easier … but without the right words, it’s downright impossible.
What's a Strong Value Proposition?
Several years ago I worked with a large corporation that introduced a new system into the printing market. They were ecstatic about its extraordinary capabilities that far exceeded anything else out there.
They just knew that printers would jump to order it. However, sales stalled out after the early adopters made the conversion.
I was asked to help on a relaunch. In the process, I interviewed a number of their customers.
One printer had metrics on every aspect of their business. In our conversation, I learned that by using this new product, his company was able to:
- Cut the prepress staff by 33%, while still handling the same workload.
- Redeploye these skilled workers to other areas, cutting overtime costs.
- Reduce turnaround time by 2-3 days, a significant competitive advantage that helped them pick up new clients.
- Balance their workflow, enabling them to delay the purchase of an expensive new press.
This was my client’s true value proposition. It was strong. Really strong. Within one year of leveraging their true value proposition, my client reached 50% market share.
Get the Inside Scoop from Your Customers
As you can see from the above example, one of the best ways to discover the value of your products or services is to ask your customers.
This is especially important if you’re struggling with sales, working in a new industry, talking to different buyers or launching a new product.
The WORST customers to interview are your long-term, super happy clients. They can’t remember the issues and challenges they faced before switching to your company’s product/service.
Instead, chose customers who’ve switched in the past 6-12 months. They know the difference you’ve made. They can tell you how it’s impacted their business results. While they may not have exact numbers, their “guestimates” can be very helpful in understanding your value.
Going into these conversations, remember that you're simply there to ask questions and learn. Don't sell under any circumstances. Even if an opportunity drops in your lap, put it aside till you've asked all your questions.
How to Come Up with Customer Interview Questions
You’ll get the maximum value from your conversations if you plan your questions ahead of time. Below are some starter ideas, but you’ll get better data if you customize your questions to your product/service offering.
Explore both tangible and intangible values. If your customer shares a tough-to-measure result such as improved communications, brainstorm with them (or your colleagues later) to figure out how to make the business value tangible.
Here are 11 Customer Interview Questions to get you started:
- Before you started using our offering, how did you handle things?
- Why did you decide to change or to use our service?
- What problems were you hoping it would solve?
- What objectives where you expecting it to help you achieve?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our offering in terms of helping you reach your desired result? Why did you select this rating?
- Did you realize any positive results that surprised you?
- What were the three most important benefits you received as a result of our product (our work) together?
- What value did our offering provide to your company? How would you quantify the value of these improvements?
- How did it impact __? What were its ramifications on __? What was the effect on __?
- What improvements did you realize? How did that help your bottom line? With your growth objectives?
- What did our solution enable you to do that you couldn’t before?
- What is that worth to your organization?
- What other areas in your company benefited because of our work together?
- Can you help me quantify the pay-off your firm realized from using our offering?
Ask these same questions to more than one person in your customer’s organization. Their different perspectives can lead you to a much stronger value proposition.
Make sure you interview multiple clients too. Some will give you much better insight and information than others.
Be curious. Explore your customer's answers in depth to learn the extent of the value you provide. Be inquisitive and interested.
Also, make sure you take copious notes so you don’t forget anything. You can review them later, comparing what you learned from various individuals within one company or in the aggregate.
Watch for what’s mentioned most and for areas of highest business value.
A FINAL NOTE
Knowing your value – as stated from your customer’s perspective – is essential for your sales success.
Remember, no one wants to buy your product or service. They only want what it can do for them.
The more clearly you can articulate your value proposition, the easier it will be to set up meetings, create momentum and close more deals.
Best of all, you’ll know that what you’re selling makes a difference. Ultimately, that’s what gives you the incentive and confidence to keep on selling—even when times are tough.
Go get ‘em!
Read the Rest of the Series: