USP’s, Unmistakable Sales Pitfalls

April 27, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

Today, I saw an advertisement for some kind of a fitness apparatus. So what? Well, it struck me all of a sudden that many sales people use techniques that are being used successfully in the advertisement business but totally fail in one-on-one sales. I am talking about the good old USP’s; Unique Selling Points or Unique Selling Propositions.

It made me think back at the time when I was a rookie in sales and when the marketing department – in all its wisdom – came up with a list of Unique Selling Points. We had to learn those by heart and spill our guts about them in every meeting with a prospect.

It didn’t really work back then, it certainly doesn’t work anymore in this day and age.

Some examples:

  • Over 50.000 sold already!
  • Best service in the business!
  • The highest quality!
  • Unparalleled customer support!

Sounds familiar? Maybe you are throwing similar ‘benefits’ at your prospects?

Most USP’s are ambiguous (‘Unparalleled customer support’ what does that say? The best? The worst?) and nebulous (‘The highest quality’ compared to what and for whom?). Why do these ‘benefits ‘work’ in advertisements and commercials? Because there is a huge audience and you cannot ask that audience all kinds of questions before you come up with tailor-made benefits. Advertisement IS a numbers game. You reach a lot of people at once and there are always a few that ‘fall’ for the mentioned USP’s

Using the above mentioned USP’s might be OK in an ad but it is bad practice to use them in a sales conversation. Still, a lot of salespeople use them or similar ones. It can be worse though. How about these jaw dropping ‘benefits’:

  • Our product will increase efficiency;
  • You will save money in the long run;
  • It will make your life easier;
  • It will change the way you work completely.

Not only are these ‘benefits’ too vague to have any real value, the competition probably throws the same statements at your prospects or customers.

There are just a few companies or products that have real USP’s. Sure, every product has something that no other product has. It can be a certain shape, size, color, etc., but that doesn’t make it a USP. The uniqueness has to give your product or service an added value for the buyer that he cannot find anywhere else. And let’s face it; by far most features of your products can be replaced by something the competitor has without losing value in the perception of the buyer.

There is one USP though that every sales person has and that WILL add value to the product or service he is selling, if used correctly: YOU!

You are unique. There is nobody on this planet who is exactly the same as you (OK, some people have a different point of view on that, but that is besides the issue). A marketing manager told me once that he designed his marketing strategies with this golden rule in mind: “What is unique, you have to sell first.”

There you have it. In most cases you are the only really unique ‘item’ in the package. Start selling yourself first. The moment the customer has ‘bought’ you, where else can he go if he needs your kind of product or service? Exactly, nowhere! He HAS to buy from you!

So, how do you sell yourself? It is Sales 101 but I’ll summarize it for your convenience anyway:

  • Ask questions, lots of questions. Find out what your customer wants – not what he needs (selling to ‘needs’ is not  as effective as selling to desires.)
  • Show a genuine interest in your customer as a person. Try to see him as a human being instead of a pot of gold for you to grab.
  • Find out what your customer’s buying motives are and what your product or service will mean for him.
  • Translate the features that matter to your customer into specific benefits for him and don’t forget to incorporate his buying motives into your pitch.
  • Make sure that your customer agrees with every step before you take the next one.

Selling yourself is selling trust. A customer that trusts you will buy from you. And I can assure you that you will never gain a prospect’s trust by spewing vague USP’s as if you are a live advertisement.

Are USP’s worthless? No, they are not. In advertisements, direct mail campaigns and all other marketing strategies where you want to reach a large audience, you need your USP’s. In direct sales you don’t. By asking the right questions and listening carefully, you will be able to sell features that are real benefits in the buyer’s perception.

In other words, together with your customer you have to build a set of  personal USP’s. And you are the first and foremost important one.

Happy selling!

Succinct Inc. is an Ontario based organization specialized in tailor-made training programs for sales and management. Succinct also provides Online Assessments that can be a tremendous help for all HR practitioners while hiring new employees or making the right choices in an employee’s development.

For more information:

Kees Scheffel.

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