#38: Unique selling point

There are a lot of questions you’re inevitably going to get asked in business; “What is the aim of your business?”, “What are your key values and how do you meet them?”, “Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?”. Some of these you might find fairly easy to answer, maybe you have been asked them multiple times before, but some questions require a lot more thought.

One such question is when somebody says to you, “What is your USP”? It’s a horrible question to get, but sooner or later someone will ask you.

What makes you different? Why should I use you? USP in marketing terms is either unique selling point, or unique selling proposition. In today’s world I think that if somebody else is prepared to throw money or people at it, most USPs can almost certainly be replicated unless you have a secret formula.

I believe the definition of a USP is that it’s sustainable, defensible and genuinely unique, but if you look around today’s market there are not many products or services that hit those criteria. Nevertheless, if somebody says to you “What is your USP?” you need to have an answer. For most people the USP will be you, something about you and the way you transact business.

The next one is fielding the question: “How can you prove you can do what you say you are going to do?” This is a hard one to handle. Ways you can deal with this include:

  • Do you have relevant qualifications that are evidence that you can do what you say you can do?
  • Can you offer some sort of free trial which will make people comfortable?
  • Can you get testimonials and references from either satisfied clients or, to buy you time in the early days, business contacts from your previous employment?

That brings us on nicely to sales methodologies, the first of which is the Sales Qualification Process.

This is one used by a former client of mine in the storage business.
The key purposes for this company were:

a. To profile the customers they wanted
b. To weed out any potential bad debts
c. To weed out any potential time wasters

A few remarks on each of the components:

  • Source of lead or referral – where did the opportunity come from? Is it from a trusted source, who you know would only pass you a qualified opportunity, or is it a less trusted resource that may be passing you a problem?
  • Potential size of transaction – if it’s huge, don’t just rub your hands together with delight; think about whether you can actually deliver or whether you would embarrass yourself if you could not cope. If it’s tiny, don’t decline out of hand; think about whether you are being tested, and if you do a good job will you get something more substantial down the line.
  • Size of company – in days gone by the larger the company the more likely they would be there to pay you when you finish the work, but the current economic climate has indicated this is not necessarily the case. With smaller businesses you may want to check their ability to pay. There are credit checks you can do by using agencies that have access to the same databases that the banks have; they normally do debt recovery also! This is obviously for business to business.
  • Identification of decision maker – nothing is more frustrating than pitching to the wrong person. If you have identified the decision maker – great; if not can you positively influence the person who is representing your interests to give a good account of your proposition? Make sure you understand the decision-making process
  • Identification of budget – find out if your prospect has a budget. If the prospect has not allocated a budget, then how serious are they?
  • Clarity of requirement – are you clear in your mind what the client wants and whether you can deliver it?
  • Urgency of requirement – Is this mission critical for them or not? If it’s not, then if they get busy could it cease to be important?
  • Finally, why are they talking to you? What has prompted them to contact you? Are they serious about getting a quote or are you just there to make up the numbers? If that is the case, you do not want to waste your time if there is no chance to win the business.

If you have gone through the qualification process and are still talking, and neither of you has “deselected” the other, then your prospect is going to be surprised if you don’t ask for the business.

Posted in: Start-ups

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