Career Connection

'Value propositions' and 'set-up statements' are persuasion tools

Whether you’re promoting your expertise to a potential client, marketing a product to a possible customer or pitching an idea to your manager (or your spouse), you should first pique their curiosity before moving forward. You do that with a value proposition or positioning statement. (Business types once called it a unique selling proposition, but most have set it aside for this term that promotes value instead.)

We use value propositions every day for a variety of situations. They’re statements that anticipate the tangible, functional questions (or reasons) any decision-makers might have for buying from you, hiring you or simply considering your proposed solution to a problem.

Such questions might include:

  • What does your service/product/expertise mean for me?
  • Why should I buy this product/service or hire you over all others we’re considering?
  • How is your expertise/product/service different from others we’re considering?

A value proposition is a “30-second elevator pitch”: You have the undivided attention of a decision-maker in an elevator who’s just asked you, “What do you do?” and you have half a minute to explain your value and expertise.

Or some liken the value proposition to what you can write on the back of your business card. That brief statement must testify that you or your organization has the problem-solving, solutions-providing, game-changing right stuff that decision-makers have been looking for.

However, most people aren’t thinking of cramped elevators or business cards when they write value propositions. Instead they encase them in convoluted, formal-sounding language or write them so they don’t invite dialogue. And that’s bad because that’s what you’re after: establishing dialogue to continue a conversation. All too often, value propositions sound like dead-end streets that fail to encourage continuing the conversation, or they sound too self serving rather than other serving.


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