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Your Value Proposition, it's not a features/benefits list

At the recently concluded AfricaCom event in Cape Town I had the opportunity to attend some of the panel discussions and streams. It was by attending these that I noticed the visible difference in the content delivery by the panelists. Many were very slick about weaving their messaging into the general discussion, but equally some floundered.

I do understand that many have most likely paid a fee to be on the panel in the hope of making some positive sales impact for your organisation sometime in the future, but there is a fine line between making a contribution with your message around the topic and purely delivering a sales pitch.

A particular session struck me how an executive totally missed the point. When asked for a comment on the panel topic, he thanked the MC and then immediately launched into sales pitch mode. Unfortunately for him, he also did this by using an outdated style of selling trying to convince the audience of his message with features and benefits he perceived vs his competitors. The exact opening was: "At company x our value proposition is a, b, c, d" and almost scripted he rattled off a list of bullet points. This he then felt the need to qualify his success by quoting a recent deal he had won as a way to validate his bullet points. 

Firstly, as panelist (even if you paid for your seat) you need to remember that you are there as an industry expert and need to bring perspective on the topic to the assembled audience who are most likely interested to explore the topic further but are not necessarily subject experts themselves. The audience are most likely there to get an industry perspective so they can assimilate this into their own business planning. However, whilst imparting your general thoughts and insights, a skilled presenter will subtly weave into their message a strong statement linking them to their organisations key or competitive advantage.

A value proposition statement never, ever contains the words "value" or "proposition"! Clearly this executive has come from a product led (push) background and will struggle to compete against organisations that have embraced a customer centric approach.

A value statement is not a table of feature and benefits that you rattle off in comparison to your perceived feature and benefits of your competitors, but rather a statement that highlights to your customer their pain and how your solution or product will solve that pain. If you are on top of your game, you will be highlighting a pain that the customer never knew they had until you pointed it out, as then you are adding value to their organisation. In addition your value statement should be appealing to the needs and desires of what your customer is trying to do or achieve and most certainly not a thinly veiled comparison vs your own competitors.

Your value proposition needs to begin its existence as the bullet points when internally you begin defining your organisational strategy, but the final value statement needs to be a fluid business statement summarising why the customer should buy from you. This statement should also quantify for the customer why buying from you would add more value or solve the problem better than other offerings.

The ideal value proposition is concise and appeals to the customer's strongest decision-making drivers.

In defining your value proposition you convert the "idea" into the product or service package with your differentiators. It should also be answering a need that exists in the market or within your existing customer base - remembering that a competitive advantage does not need to be something your can defend in perpetuity but at least something that makes you different right now. In B2B tech markets, you need to be blatantly highlighting the critical problem or pain points as opposed to aspirational messaging employed in consumer marketing. You also need to be able to validly quantify the pain and gain for your customer, otherwise you will not shift them beyond their current acceptance of status quo.

Once all the pieces are in place to deliver upon your competitive advantage, your value proposition is a positioning statement that stitches together what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. A product with a successful consumer value proposition is directly linked to a product's actual and sustained performance versus competition.

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