Jill Konrath’s Guide to Writing and Using Powerful Value Propositions: Part I

Editor’s Note: Perhaps you’ve heard of Jill Konrath — intergalactically-recognized sales kickoff speaker and sales expert, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. Her mission is to help salespeople, entrepreneurs, and business professionals increase sales to the corporate market by showing them fresh sales strategies. We are honored to post a three-part series by Jill on the power of the value proposition. Here is Part I:


Part I: Understanding the Value Proposition

Why the Value Proposition Is Important

One of the biggest reasons businesses struggle in today’s market is because they have weak value propositions. Over and over again, people who sell deliver ineffective statements about the value customers get from working with their organization. It doesn’t matter if these sellers are from big companies, small firms, or are independent professionals. They just aren’t saying things that get prospective buyers to say, “Come on in. We need to meet.” Here are some nice statements that won’t work:

  • We offer one-stop shopping for all your (fill in the blank) needs.

  • We’re the industry leader in (fill in the blank) and have been recognized for our exceptional (fill in the blank).

  • We specialize in (fill in the blank) and work with well-known clients such as Microsoft, Best Buy and Kraft.

And the worst thing is that many of the products or services these people sell have extremely high value to corporate accounts! But their failure to articulate it in words that appeal to corporate decision makers is their downfall. Instead, they limp along trying to drive sales but unable to even get in the door.


  • Strong value propositions pique curiosity and entice.  When prospects hear them, they want to learn more.

  • Strong value propositions create a stark contrast from the status quo.  When prospects hear them, they’re willing to consider making a change.

One of best ways to waken a prospective customer out of their “everything is okay” slumber is to “jolt” them with a statement about the significant difference your offering can make. And the bigger the jolt, the better.

The Value Proposition Defined

Selling is easier with a strong, customer-enticing value proposition. But what is a value proposition?

People have a lot of misconceptions about value props. Some think that it is supposed to convey information about their company, product, or service. Some think that it’s a touchy-feely description of your passion and uniqueness. But a strong value prop is neither.

A value proposition is a clear way of conveying the OUTCOMES realized from using your product, service, or solution. A value proposition tells a prospect the reasons why they should buy from you instead of your competitor.

Your prospect cares about one thing — what you can do for them. That’s what a value proposition is designed to convey.

What a Value Proposition Is NOT


A Value Proposition Is Not an Elevator Speech

A value proposition is often confused with an “elevator speech” or a “unique selling proposition.” It’s essential to understand the difference between these terms because their purposes and sales impact are very different.

An elevator speech is a short, 1-2 sentence statement that defines who you work with (target market) and the general area in which you help them. About 10 seconds long, it’s used primarily at networking events to attract potential clients and stimulate discussion. The following elevator speeches show you how some people describe what they do:

● I work with small businesses who are struggling to sell their products or services into large corporate accounts.

● We help technology companies effectively use their customer information to drive repeat sales.

● I help small-to-medium sized manufacturing companies who have difficulties with unpredictable revenue streams.

In short, an elevator speech is the foundation of a value proposition without the specifics that are needed to sell into the corporate market.

A Value Proposition Goes Beyond the Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

A unique selling proposition (USP) is a statement about what makes you and your company different from other vendors. Its primary value is to create competitive differentiation. A USP is often used in marketing materials or in talking with customers who are ready to buy.

Here are a few good USP examples:

● We specialize in working with financial institutions. (indicates a specialty)

● We guarantee service in 4 hours or your money back. (a guarantee)

● We use a unique tool called DynamicMetrics! to analyze your critical needs. (unique methodology)

Both elevator speeches and USPs are valuable exercises to go through prior to writing your value proposition. Both the elevator speech and the USP are cousins of the value proposition, but lack the punch of a value proposition when selling to the corporate market.

Helping customers understand your USP is imperative when they’ve already decided to make a purchase decision. But USPs have absolutely no impact when customers are satisfied with their situation or when they’re frustrated but haven’t yet decided to change. USPs are far more effective in the business-to-consumer market than in business-to-business sales.


Getting Started with a Value Proposition: Ask Your Clients!

Do you know what results your clients get when they use your offering? Have you asked them? You need to know this in order to help you sell to others.

A strong value proposition moves your prospects to move — toward you and away from the status quo. The status quo is your biggest competitor. Making a change from their current path is more work for them, and more stress. But if you can find a way to convey strong benefits for considering you instead, they will be curious about what your offering can do for them.

There are many ways you can find the benefits customers are looking for: phone, survey, interview a principal, email. Don’t ask for hours of time. Instead, invest your time and you energy in making it as easy as possible for them to tell you what you need to know.. Some tips on questions:

  • How is your business different because of our product/service/offering?

  • What specific metrics have you been able to identify that demonstrate our value to you?

  • Have you recommended us to others?

  • What has been the most helpful outcome of using our product/service/offering for your business?

Most people are generous with their opinions, and appreciate being asked for their help. Like every business action you take, it pays to be considerate in the way you ask for assistance, and in the way you follow up with your thanks.

Asking your customers about how they view you and your brand has other advantages:

  1. You find the language of the customer. The customer may speak in completely different terms than your marketing team. As you correlate customer responses, try to “translate” into their terminology.

  2. You uncover customer stories and comments you can use as testimonials!

Next Tuesday, Part II: The Three Components of a Value Proposition

Jill Konrath is a leading sales strategist, best-selling author, popular speaker, and renowned thought leader in B2B sales. Her sales expertise (based on a tremendously successful sales career) has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and many more media outlets. Recently, Konrath started Sales SheBang, a web resource and conference for women in sales.

Photo credit (elevator): Fairlyoddparents