“How often do you change your value statement . . . AKA . . . your ‘Elevator Pitch’?”

I ask that of people I meet with in workshops and in passing conversations.  Those who say they “rarely change” fall into 1 of 2 camps:

  1. they’ve not given the subject a lot of thought, or
  2. they’ve found something that works and they’re not going to ‘fix what ain’t broken’

But most of the time I hear, “I’m always changing it — when I find one I like, I’ll let you know!”.

The Search for a Good Elevator Pitch Never Ends

While I’m all for having a short, targeted statement that resonates with someone who may find the value proposition you offer is of interest, it’s just a the ‘first move’ in a larger game of marketing ‘chess’.

It may help you capture the attention of a potential prospect, but it’s not going to close a sale. In fact, there’s a long way between your ‘opening gambit’ and the ‘checkmate’ move that ends the game!

What you may want to give as much (if not more!) thought to is what is your value proposition?  That’s not necessarily something that fits the one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it something that you can give out as quickly and easily as an elevator pitch.

Your Value Proposition Is Not Your Elevator Pitch

If your elevator pitch is useful in ‘opening the game’ — like a good serve in tennis or a solid drive off the tee, your value proposition is what sustains the game to a decisive conclusion.

Your value proposition is the ultimate basis for a qualified prospect making a decision to do business with you.  Or, not.  The latter being true if you’re not a good fit for one another.

How Your Value Proposition and Elevator Pitch Differ

An effective elevator pitch must answer two questions:

  1. “Are you relevant . . . to me?”
  2. “What benefit will I enjoy . . . as a result of working with you?”

The relevance issue . . .
is easily addressed by defining or communicating WHO . . . is your ideal client.  One of my clients likes to say, “I work with business owners who are 55 years old or older . . .”.  That’s pretty clear and, I can tell you from her feedback, it’s pretty effective in quickly engaging the attention and interest (or, curiosity) of people who are over 55 and own a closely-held business.

The benefit issue . . .
is easily addressed by pointing out, in a very tangible way, what someone stands to gain (or, avoid losing) as a result of using the problem-solving expertise, products and/or services of the person who’s answering the questions, “What DO you do?”  Another client describes the beneficial difference he makes in a client’s life this way: “I help my clients achieve their 5 year plan goals in 3 years or less”.  Again, a measurable outcome he offers as a meaningful benefit that attracts the attention and  engages the interest of someone he’s just met.

If your elevator pitch is a one-size-fits-all statement of WHO and WHY, your value proposition is more of a custom-tailored response that perfectly addresses the questions:

  1. “Why You?” and
  2. “Why Not?”

Why YOU? . . .
The fancy-schmancy marketing term this suggests is ‘positioning’ or ‘differentiating’.

It goes to the issue that, all other things being equal, what makes you the preferred provider of the beneficial solution to the problem that you used your elevator pitch to capture my attention back when we first met?

If you’re no different — or, better — than other providers of the solution I may (now) be interested in . . . any competitor with a clear and compelling reason to chose them over you could . . . beat you out at the box-office.  So you’d best find out why you’re not only different but better than the alternatives.

Why NOT? . . .
In sales, there’s an old adage that says, “A decision to do nothing, is still a decision”.  I’d argue it’s the default decision that each of us must assume when talking with a prospective client.  They’ve been doing something before we showed up and they may feel that’s good enough UNLESS . . . they learn of a compelling reason to do something different.

This raises the issue of ‘risk’.  No one likes to make a mistake.  So they make a decision to do no thing that will change their situation — for the better or, the worse.  It’s a big reason behind why people don’t take actions that could, potentially, benefit them.

You probably hear of many people who didn’t jump back into the stock market after the big crash in 2008 out of fear of getting ______’ed again.  But they lost out on the recovery, too.

You’ll need to manage the risk of action vs. inaction in the value proposition you offer someone or they may just decide to ‘stay put’.  And that, for both of you, may be more costly than either of you like.

The 3 Keys . . . To a Successful Value Proposition

If you want to build a value proposition that will move people to make a decision about working with you, consider what you must address with whatever and however you communicate it . . .

Interest . . . you must focus your prospect’s attention on WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).  Everyone has more choices for investing their time and money than they have time and money to invest.  Unless you’re talking about what your prospect cares about, you’ll be talking to yourself before too long!  So focus on the benefit you offer and hit it . . . hard and quickly.

Competitive Position . . . despite what your mother told you, you are not the only game in town.  You have competition.  You know it.  Your prospects know it, too.  So embrace the obvious.  The ‘elephant’ in the room. How?  By acknowledging your prospects’ alternatives to you.  Reference your competitors and position who you are, what you offer and how you’re better . . . relative to your alleged competitors.

Avis rental cars claimed, “We’re #2, we (have to) try harder”.  By adopting that position, they re-positioned the #1 car rental company (Hertz) very effectively . . . “They’re #1 . . . they don’t have to . . . (give a _ _ _ _!)”.

Credibility . . . prospects are not clients (yet) because they’re already doing some thing else!  Think about it.  They are already doing some-thing by simply doing no-thing . . . with you or anyone else in your field!  A decision to do nothing is still a decision to do something . . . to maintain their status quo.  Why do people do this?

Life coaches Walt Hampton and Ann Sheybani teach that the desire to avoid possible pain is, for most of us, more powerful than the desire to make changes that may lead to greater gain.  We may want to ‘steal 2nd base’ but we know keeping our foot on first base won’t get us tossed out of the game.

Never mind that doing no-thing may be more costly than some-thing you may be suggesting.  We don’t make changes easily until we believe the cost of doing nothing (different) poses a greater risk of loss than the benefit we may gain by doing something new, different, and . . . possibly better.

Your value proposition must address these three issues — interest, position and credibility. How?  Often with client testimonials that your prospect can relate to as credible parties whose situation was similar to what their’s is now and whose outcomes were more promising to seek than maintain the status quo they’re living with now.

Your Elevator Pitch can start the game, but a solid Value Proposition can close the sale for you

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Given the proliferation of information — and access to it — is today’s consumer better prepared than ever before to buy a car, choose a restaurant or find a new dentist?  In fact, with the availability of social rating services — e.g. Angie’s list, Yelp, etc. — is there truly any need (or, an opportunity) to ‘sell’ anymore?

The Background
I have a friend who’s been in sales all his life.  Recently, due to some changes in his industry and company he found himself ‘out looking’ for a ‘new thing in a new ring’ as he put it.

That lead him to work with an old friend who owns several auto dealerships.  Yes, my friend decided to add ‘sold cars’ to his long and fairly successful resume.  But, based on his recent experience, I’m not sure how long that’s going to be. 

“Bill, it’s Hell. We get people coming in (the dealership) who know what they want and what it costs us to put their dream vehicle on the road as well as I do.  They even know what the ‘car mats’ or ‘upgrade package’ costs the dealership.  Even worse, when they come in they view a salesperson as an ‘order taker’ whom they ‘negotiate’ with by saying if I don’t give them the price they want, they’ll walk and talk to a competitor who will.  It’s terrible.”

Does It Have To Be That Way?
I agree that today’s consumer has more information about most things they’re seeking buy than ever before.  And, I believe that’s a good thing. But that does NOT make selling irrelevant.  Far from it

Perhaps . . .
If whatever you do or offer is considered a ‘commodity’ by your prospect, then God help you because the ONLY basis for differentiation becomes ‘price’. And because information is so prolific,  you may not need to ‘sell’ as much as ‘tell’ someone what your fee or price is and hope (which is always a poor strategy) that you win the bidding war more often than not.

Perhaps, NOT . . .
It’s difficult to differentiate a tangible product outside of price. If you’re looking for a new car or TV or PC or . . . then it’s true that you can do much, on your own, to assess your needs, learn your options and find a price for a solution that you’ll want.

But if you’re providing a service, selling more than telling . . . is a very viable strategy.  Especially if you know how to reframe the conversation.

“Find The Flaw . . . Start The Thaw”
When a prospect, armed with knowledge and a certain ‘coolness’ (or, hubris — you choose!) begins the buyer-seller ‘dance’, you want to ask a question that helps your prospect discover that maybe they don’t know everything about the purchase they intended to make.  You don’t need to do anything more than plant the seed of doubt that what someone thinks they want may not be what they truly need.

The sooner you can plant a seed of doubt, the sooner you’ll find a basis — other than price — to get your prospect to have a ‘real’ conversation with you.

An insurance agent may hear, “What’s it cost to insure a new _________?”.  That question suggests a buyer who appears to believe that ‘all policies are the same’ and she’s ‘shopping’ for the best price to get one.  That’s the moment-of-truth.

One agent I know asks, “Before I give you a quote, may I ask if you own a giraffe?”  That interrupts the pattern of her prospect!  It also forces the prospect to ask, ‘Why?”.  That invites a conversation about how many factors other than the car help her determine the best alignment of company, coverage and cost for her clients.

That also creates an experience that demonstrates how she is both different from and better to work with than all the other agents who don’t know how or care to get out of the ‘commodity’ mentality.  See how that works?

That’s how you can move the conversation from, “What’s your price?” to one that’s better at helping both you and your prospect explore what’s driving them to want some ‘thing’ you offer and what, in spite of any previous research they’ve done, is really the best option (from you) to satisfy their need.

Asking questions, sooner vs. later, engages your prospect in a real conversation and avoids the ‘commodity-penalty-box’.

In a recent post (3/22/2012) I discussed the need to be sure you get a response from any marketing you do to promote your services. But getting a response depends on WHAT you’re offering and . . . HOW you’re inviting a response from your prospective client.

Which is More Potent . . . Needs or Wants?
No doubt about it, marketing what people want is relatively easier than marketing what they need.  If that seems odd, consider this:

Most people will agree that ‘being healthy’ is something they ‘want’ to be.  At the same time, they may ‘need’ something to achieve that goal — i.e. a colonoscopy after age 50.

Of these two, which one is easier to sell?  Which one is easier for someone to ‘buy’ into getting?

You may want a new sports car, but you may need some sales training to help you get it. Wanting the sports car is obvious and desirable. Needing sales training that can help you get it is neither!

Needs or Wants — There’s a Different Approach for Each!
If  your prospect wants what you offer, then you can invite a response in the form of an immediate buying decision.  For example, if you’re offering a wonderful Caribbean cruise, that’s highly desirable.  And a good Call-To-Action would invite someone to book with you.

However, if your prospect needs what you offer, then you should use a different approach. Typically, ‘wants’ are associated with ‘soft’ services like ‘business consulting’ more than ‘hard’ products or goods like a ‘getaway weekend’ cruise. Remember, we want to be healthy but we need a colonoscopy.  The former is obvious and desirable.  The later is not.

The Two-Step Call-To-Action
I’m assuming you’re offering a service more than a product.  So what you’re offering is really the (needed) MEANS to some (wanted) END that your prospect would like to enjoy.   This requires an offer to get something — usually information — that would help someone get what they want.

A CPA might therefore ‘offer’ an e-book on:
“The Five Biggest Tax Deductions Business Owners Always Seem To Miss”

Inviting people to download that e-book would certainly identify people who might logically need other services that a CPA can render.  But, absent an opportunity to engage prospective clients in the first place, those subsequent conversations may never have a chance to occur!

When appealing to ‘wants’, always offer an item-of-value that is low-risk / no-cost to accept and suggests high-value if it is.  Once you have the ‘first’ step out of the way, you can make follow-up actions appropriate to the person’s ‘need-to-know’ and ‘readiness-to-go’ ahead with later offers to engage your services.

Converting imageThe fourth function in your client development process is . . . CONVERTING.

Some call it ‘Selling’ or ‘Closing’.   It’s critical to the ultimate outcome you’re seeking — i.e. to go to your bank with a lot more more money than you’re putting in there now.

I just returned from a business trip from the west coast.  It was a long flight – over 4 hours.  Apart from occasional turbulence, nothing exceptional.  Now we’re on ‘final approach’ to land.  Seatbelts fastened.  Check.  Tray tables in their upright and locked position.  Check.

About 50 feet off the runway, a gust of wind hit the aircraft and almost put one wingtip into the runway.  Fortunately, the pilot recovered (Thank God!) control and the landing continued ‘as planned’.  But what if, in the last 10 seconds of the flight, the pilot ‘lost control’ of the landing?  The entire flight would have been deemed a ‘disaster’.

Selling is a ‘Mission Critical’ Function
Converting qualified opportunities into realized revenues is what really brings closure (no pun intended!) to your Client Development System.  It’s the last ‘key piece’ of the puzzle that makes it possible for you to go to your bank.  So you must do it as effectively as each of the three (3) previous elements — Fueling, Qualifying and Cultivating.

If you have a business function that is needed repeatedly, done routinely and produces results that are critical to your success . . . please . . . don’t ‘wing it’.  Do it by design, not accident.  Otherwise, you’ll get the results you want sporadically and erratically instead of consistently and conscientiously.

If you’re seeking to gain the skills and attitudes needed to be effective at converting opportunities into revenues, I highly recommend you find a good sales training organization or coach and work on building the skills and attitudes you need to be effective in this key function.  (Psst — if you need a good recommendation . . . call me!  860-798-6964)


This week, I’ve suggested 3 ways to grow your revenues.  First, see more people.  Second, sell more effectively.  Third, improve your ACT (Average Client Transaction).

If you want to increase your revenues, consider this:  “Doubling ANY one of these three factors will double your revenues”. Consider therefore, the following:

Row ‘A’ . . . shows the relationship of the 3 factors that drive the revenues you’ll generate.
Row ‘B’ . . . shows that doubling the number of  ‘prospects seen’ will double revenues.
Row ‘C’ . . . shows that doubling the level of ‘selling skills’ will double revenues.
Row ‘D’. . . shows that doubling the size of your A.C.T. will double revenues.
Row ‘E’ . . . shows that increasing each factor by only 25% will . . . DOUBLE your revenues

The problem is . . . it may be unrealistic to ‘double’ your seen, skills or case size.  But realistic improvement across-the-board is likely to produce magnificent results.

A modest improvement in key factors can significantly boost your revenues.

Here are three strategies to grow your revenues:

1.  Increase Your Opportunities
2.  Improve Your Selling Skills
3.  Increase Your Average Client Transaction

Today, let’s consider the Second strategy:

Option 2: Improve Your Selling Skills
Marketing involves creating opportunities for you to speak with prospects. Selling involves helping them to make a decision (Yes or No) about using your services.

As a client of Sandler Training, I know for a fact that most people who are responsible for selling do not know how to do so effectively.  As a result, they waste time on people who cannot buy and spend more time than necessary with people who can.

Learning to sell, effectively and efficiently, means you spend less time with people who won’t make you money and of those who can, you’ll close the business that much sooner.

Learn how to sell effectively — you’ll save time and make a lot more money!

Good topic, right?  Here are three strategies to do this:

1.  Increase Your Opportunities
2.  Improve Your Selling Skills
3.  Increase Your Average Client Transaction

Today, let’s consider the first strategy:

Option 1: Increase Your Opportunities
Years ago I was in a workshop where an attorney in the Advanced Underwriting department of an insurance company (Connecticut Mutual Life) shared a brilliant insight with the group.

He asked the producers assembled, “How many of you came here to learn new ideas?” Then he asked, “How many of you came here to learn how to make more money?” Next he asked, “How many of you believe that learning new ideas will, by itself, cause you to make more money?” The answer was obvious.  Finally he said this, “Folks, if you took the next few days and learned NOTHING NEW . . . except how to see twice as many people as you do now . . . you’d double your income, wouldn’t you?”. That hit home with me.  I hope it hits home with you, too.

If you are competent to do what you do, increasing your ‘new seens’ will increase your income.

If you’ve ever faced a meaningful problem — e.g. you’re about to spend a significant sum on landscaping, a new furnace, tutoring for your child, braces, a senior living center for your folks, etc. you probably asked yourself: “Is this the best provider to use?”

Create Your Own Credentials and Credibility
Facing a challenge in my own life recently, I found one provider offered a ‘Special Report’: Six Key Questions To Ask Before You Hire a ___________”. It wasn’t about their solution. It was about my question.  WOW!  It blew me away.

Buying a Professional Service
You really need to know two things to make a decision on a professional service, don’t you?  “What will fix my problem?” and “Who is the best person (or, firm) to do it?”

Information Raises The Bar and Sets You Apart
As consumers, we want to know WHAT we need, WHERE to find it, and WHO to use to get it.

Helping a prospective client learn what they must know to make an ‘informed decision’ is not only extremely useful, it also differentiates you from your competitors who don’t provide such information in the ‘initial’ phase of a prospect’s decision-making process.

Help people make good decisions . . . by educating them not only on WHAT they need but on HOW TO IDENTIFY which provider is the best one to use.  THAT . . . is a ‘best practice’ that helps prospects make the right decision . . . more likely and more often . . . in favor of you and your firm.



“What does a good advisor do?”


“Ask better questions . . . than the client knows to ask”

It’s become painfully obvious to me that I, myself, need a good advisor to help me with a challenge I’m having with something.

Why so ‘obvious’?  Simple.  I’m running out of time to live with the situation ‘as is’ and I’m all out of insights as to why I’ve got the problem in the first place.

When your clients experience a similar situation . . . where something ‘isn’t right’ in their world . . . and they’re clueless about both WHY that’s happening and HOW to correct the situation, you become the knight on the white horse . . . riding in with your insightful questions to shed light on the cause that calls for a cure.


Many times, you won’t even need to have the answers.  If you do, that’s a double bonus. But even if you’re only able to ask your client the questions that reveal the underlying cause or causes for the distressing symptoms (what clients call ‘the problem’) . . . then you’re providing significant value to your clue-less client.

As the surgeon told her patient who asked her to breakdown her bill, “Ok” she said.  “For the incision, surgery and suturing . . . 1% . . . knowing where to operate and why . . . 99%”.

And THAT . . . is why asking insightful, revealing questions . . . that are the first step in getting your clients what they want . . . is PRICELESS!