Success in sales? Know thy brand – Revisiting the basics: Company vision, core values and USP

It still amazes me when I speak to some salespeople—particularly those who represent a huge brand their company has spent tons of money to develop—that they can’t articulate brand basics: vision, core values, and unique selling proposition. So, let’s revisit the basics of your sales success.

Company vision. Unlike a mission statement which states what a business wants to be in the here and now, a company vision statement is all about what it aspires to be in the future. Its about purpose and values. How does the brand view its role in the world, or within the industry it serves? What does the brand want to achieve? And how will these achievements benefit their customers?

Core values. A company’s vision is typically built upon its core values, the things that shape its culture and its character. To be successful, what commitments does your brand demand? Core values can include such things as social responsibility, honesty and integrity, family ideals, quality, and/or the most advanced technology. And they’re also a highly practical business tool as they provide benchmarks and guidance when making decisions.

Unique selling proposition (USP). I speak about the importance of USPs constantly because too many companies still fail to take them seriously. The bottom line is this: if you can’t define why your product or service provides a unique competitive advantage, how can you expect your prospects to? As Theodore Levitt, professor at Harvard Business School remarked, “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”

The infamous “elevator speech” provides the quintessential opportunity for you to succinctly articulate a USP. You’re inside an elevator and standing next to you is one of your biggest prospects. You’ve got two minutes at most to converse. What to say? Many of us offer a polite hello, ask what type of business they’re in, and then communicate something familiar like, “That’s what I do. Perhaps I can get an appointment with you so we can talk further.”

How does this top prospect respond? “Why don’t you talk with my assistant who makes my appointments?” More importantly, what does the top prospect remember? That he or she was just (poorly) pitched by yet another non-descript vendor.

Which is why your elevator speech must include your USP. Here’s mine: “Hi. My name is Anthony, and I’m with the Q Group. We provide business development services that guarantee results. In other words, if our recommendations don’t work, you don’t pay.” Now, I have the prospect’s full attention.

Granted, it’s never easy to identify a truly unique differentiator. But it is tremendously important for you to be able to tell prospects why you stand out above your competition, and why they should do business with you. Try creating an opportunity, or a compelling argument that says what you deliver offers an advantage that they’re not getting from their current supplier. But remember that a USP is not an opinion. It’s a fact. For instance, “Our product is made out of the finest steel of any product in the industry.” Or, “We have guaranteed replacement service for the lifetime of the product.”

Keep in mind that the USP does not have to pertain to the product or service. It might be about you. “I bring 30 years industry experience to your company. So not only will you benefit from my company’s product and service, but from my insights and track record when it comes to issues that your business is facing.” Or your company may be the USP. “We’ve been in business 40 years, more than any other company in the field.” Or, “We have the most experience.” Or, “We offer the largest service team.”

Lastly, it’s extremely effective to come equipped “in the elevator” with some customer testimonials. You don’t have to have them written down, but success stories that are industry-specific are not only highly relevant, but highly compelling.

As always, successful selling comes back to brand basics: vision, core values, and unique selling proposition. And, naturally, all need to be articulated consistently to the right target. How many times do we have to tell our salespeople they’re spending too much of their time talking to folks who are either not their clients, or not decision-makers. (How do you determine targets? That’s a topic for another day!) So identify your targets and clearly communicate your brand basics. And start selling.

That’s Q from the street.

Anthony Quaranta is the president of Q Group, Hauppauge, N.Y.

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