Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Should I Buy From You?

The single most important question everyone in sales must be able to answer is, "Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?"  The answer to that question is your Unique Selling Proposition or USP. (A tip of the hat to Jay Abraham who first taught me this term.)

The key is the word 'unique.' What sets you apart from your competitors? What are you doing that your competitors aren't? What will the customer get from you and not the others? The USP does not have to be difficult, time consuming, or costly. It doesn't need to be an action...it could be passive such as advice, knowledge or experience your competitors lack. 

A client recently asked me to help them think through their USP for a jet card program. It was challenging because their product proposal read just like a dozen other jet card programs.

To help them figure out a USP, we analyzed the competing jet cards, looking solely at publicly available information on their competitors' websites. We constructed a table listing every feature and everything identified in writing as a benefit. It was easy to see where the client's proposal matched one or more competitors' programs.

As we worked on our USP, we constantly referred to the table to see if we had found something unique. After many false starts, I asked the client's team to stop thinking about the features, and instead focus on the unwritten benefits to the customer. (My assumption was that if a benefit wasn't listed on a competitor's website, it probably wasn't being mentioned in their sales presentation.)

We finally discovered a powerful benefit that could be obtained combining a common set of features. What made this unique was that, as far as we could tell by comparing websites, none of the competitors had discovered, or hadn't mentioned, this hidden benefit.

Although your USP starts out being unique, there are very few things that cannot be copied. At least annually, your team should revisit the competitors' websites, build a new table, and see if your Selling Proposition is still unique, or if it's been copied.

If copied, make a decision whether or not to continue using your USP or whether to generate a new one. Base your decision on how well the current USP is working. If you are pleased with your sales results, and the prospects aren't pushing back and saying, "That's the same as brand X," keep using the current USP. Once it stops working, it's time to change it.

A final note of caution. If your USP is tied to a person, such as Billy Bob's personal experience or career accomplishments, start thinking of what you're going to use for a USP when Billy Bob leaves. Hopefully, he'll be leaving for something nice like a planned retirement. But suppose he gets hit by the proverbial bus; or takes a job with a competitor? Can you start grooming someone else today for similar experiences or training? Or will you need an entirely new USP?

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