Monday, October 12, 2009

Can Value Propositions be Generic?

Was the subject of a debate I recently followed on LinkedIn. The person asking the question was of the opinion that value propositions work best if they are customer specific.

However a well known expert of the subject was of the opinion, that they need not necessarily be customer specific to be effective. They must though be concrete. Statements like “our solution reduces cost” do not work. However “Customers using our solutions have reduced their operating expenses by 10%” should work.

I teach the concept of the Unique Value Proposition, which must answer the questions:

  • What do you deliver?

  • What is the business outcome ?

  • What makes it unique?

  • What assurance can you give that you can deliver?

There is also no doubt in my mind that it should be customer specific, actually to be exact, it should be expressed from the customer's view point.

So here is a much better known expert than I stating that a Value Proposition need not necessarily be customer specific to be effective. Was it time for me to revise my opinion on the subject? The short answer is no. Here is why:

The sales world is full of experts contradicting each other. The search for the silver bullet to success is still a very common trend for people working in sales. Such differences of opinions lead thus to heated debates about who is right or wrong. In my experience this is most often the wrong question. The answer depends on the context.

For this question about the value proposition, the context to consider is the customer buying cycle.

This lead me to the concept of the dynamic value proposition In this concept there is room for generic and customer specific value propositions. Using both of them at the appropriate moment while facilitating the customer's buying process will increase your chance to success.

II have explained my thinking in a recent masterclass If you scroll down on the blog you can find a copy of the slides used therein. VIP members of Top Sales Experts can listen to the replay here.


  1. If you read Richard Harshaw's book "Monoploize Your Marketplace" which I consider the authority on unique selling propositions(USP) (I am assuming that this is what you are discussing.) I believe you will come to the conclusion that they have nothing to do with the sales process or cycle, nor do they really fit into a discussion of being customer specific or generic.

    A unique selling proposition is just that -- it is a statment that cannot be made by ANYONE else about what your product, service, or company provides the prospect.

    It's purpose is to get the prospect to believe that "I would have to be crazy to do business with anyone other than you, regardless of price." To the extent that very large goal is achieved you have a powerful USP.

    I would submit that the most important thing about a USP is that it is not something the prospect would expect in the normal corse of things (We do it right the first time. Duh!) and that it is totally unique to you. If you competition can make the very same claim it IS NOT a USP.

    Just my two cents

  2. I would agree with Flynn. Differentiating yourself from the competition is about being unique or having a unique selling proposition. Hopefully your company has several key core competences which make you unique and your competition can't imitate.


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