Consultants grab the unique sales proposition (USP) concept hoping to differentiate their offer. It might work in marketing but is a poor tool for sales.
The USP grates with me. It presupposes clients want an answer to the question “why us?” It guesses buyers value “different” above say “least risky”, or some other criteria. It encourages an egocentric consulting bragalogue.
USPs are best kept for product marketing … not consultancy sales.
So, if you’re not going to engage prospects by telling them how great you are, what do you say? This is how you can lead the dialogue without resorting to a USP.
- Research, prepare, introduce, and focus on trends. Chose contextual changes – political, technological, economic, legislative, market needs and pressures.
- Ask about issues and opportunities the client is noticing as a result of these trends. Be sure to reference your research and discussions with other people.
- Explore the client’s strategy and objectives. You want to see how these relate to your capabilities and the results you deliver.
- For their key objectives, ask about the challenges, risks and constraints they perceive. Find out which of these are vital to address.
- Have a point-of-view and map this onto what they’ve told you. The aim is to add to and influence their thinking. Point out the know-how and skills they’ll need if they want to succeed.
- Don’t get carried away by proposing new, fresh, exciting solutions. You’re not at that stage in the process yet.
- Remember it’s a conversation, not a pitch or interrogation.
When you lead a conversation this way you don’t have to talk about your USP. Why? Because you’re demonstrating your attitude, knowledge, and skills as a consultant. You’ll show the client how you’ll work, that you listen, ask questions, and bring a fresh perspective.
And, once you’ve done that, you’ll have won permission to ask them if they’d like to take things further.
To be clear, there are times when clients ask “why you?”. Answer that question in the context of their issues and perception of value, not with a USP.
That’s how you sell consultancy. Not the USP way.
Next up: Show don’t tell … or go to hell.
[Originally from a brief I published in Jan 2021.]