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December 2017
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Sales Trends: The incredible power of an elevator speech
By Dave Kahle

“Why should someone spend time with you?” That was the question I asked the six sales people who were the subjects of an intense week-long training session.

Their response?  Blank stares, some uncomfortable fidgeting and nothing anywhere close to a coherent, persuasive response.

That experience made me realize the need for what I call a “value-added proposition,” and what many people refer to as an “elevator speech.” It is a well-thought-out, meticulously prepared, and memorized set of ideas that ultimately answer the question above. It should exist in several different versions:

1. There should be a one-page (250 words or so) description of who you are, what you do and why your customers and prospects should care.

2. That should be reduced to a 30 word version that should be memorized by everyone who has contact with the customer.

3. Finally, that should be further reduced to a four-to-eight word version that can accompany every communication, from web site advertising to face-to-face interactions.

Why this is important

“Five minutes or it’s free.” That was the banner hanging over the fast food restaurant near my house. I noticed it as I drove past one day. Interesting. In a mini-environment of intense competition (there must be a dozen fast-food options within a mile of this road) they chose to focus on one aspect of their offering – speed – and turn it into a “value-added proposition.” In a world of other options for the customer, they chose to take their strength, turn it into a benefit for the customer, and boil that down to say to the customer, “Buy it from us. We’ll guarantee quick service. “

It had its desired impact. I noticed the banner, and decided to stop in for breakfast. The waitress took my order, noted the time on the order pad, and handed me a stop watch!  I took up the challenge, clicked it on, and waited to see if they would perform. The order arrived within five minutes. I noticed the waitress look at her watch and note the delivery time on the order pad.

Let’s consider what we can learn from this experience. First, the value-added proposition consolidates some of the strengths of the organization, and turns them into benefits for the customer base. Then, it translates those benefits into a “proposition” which challenges the customer to become involved. It reaches out into the world and says “Consider me. Here’s why.” It serves, then, as a proactive way to interest and attract potential customers.

Just as importantly, it helps refine who you are as an organization. You will become who you tell people that you are. For example, I suspect that the restaurant did not have a quantity of stop watches in their inventory prior to deciding to toss “Five minutes or it’s free” into the world. I suspect the order forms were modified to accommodate the claim, the wait staff was trained in the processes to implement it, some items came off the menu and others were added, and there were some cooks who don’t work there anymore because of their inability to be who the restaurant said they were.

Once you say you provide “outstanding customer service” or “the highest quality products” for example, you have to back that up. You must become who you say you are, and actually do what you claim you do.

The value-added proposition, then, brings with it tremendous power to focus your image to your customer base and, at the same time, organize your internal operations to deliver what you say you will.

From the point of view of the sales force, the value-added proposition gives them a focal point – a place to hang their claim for uniqueness. But it also gives them a wedge into the doors of the prospect, and an appropriate topic of conversation with every contact.


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