The value proposition is a foundational component for any successful sales department.
It tells salespeople like you which demographics to target. It clues you into your buyer’s biggest hopes and fears. And it guides your strategy for closing deals and earning that oh-so-sweet “yes.”
But what happens if your value proposition is wrong? What if the ideal buyer that marketing has told you to focus on isn’t a fit for your product? What if all those unclosed leads who said your product “just isn’t right” for them… were actually right?
This guide takes you through how to develop, refine, and verify your value proposition. Along the way, you’ll learn our proven four-step value proposition design framework. And with it, you can determine your product or service value (The Value Diagram), find your ideal buyer (The Buyer Breakdown), and develop the value proposition you need to close more sales.
*How to Use This Guide – Despite how much business is done these days digitally, some things are still done better with your bare hands. That’s why we recommend printing out both The Value Diagram and The Buyer Breakdown and filling them in with sticky notes.
There is going to be quite a bit of shifting ideas up and down in terms of priority. And if you’re trying to type ideas in or even writing them directly onto the sections, you’ll be doing a lot of Ctrl+Xing and erasing along the way.
Also, be sure to progress linearly throughout and not skip ahead for the best results with creating your unique value proposition.
What Is a Value Proposition & Value Proposition Design?
Before we get started on the value proposition design framework, let’s first define what a value proposition is.
Simply put, a value proposition is a promise to your buyer about what you have to offer. It should be free of jargon and painstakingly clear. It should communicate the benefits of choosing you over the competition. And it should identify who your ideal buyer is.
Value proposition design, then, is the methodology used to create your value proposition.
Plenty of respected business thinkers have covered value proposition design—namely, Alexander Osterwalder, who penned a book of the same name. In the Value Proposition Canvas, Osterwalder outlines how to develop a effective value proposition that gets to the heart of your product’s value and shows how it solves your buyer’s problem.
Our four-step value proposition design framework is built on the principles outlined in Osterwalder’s book. But instead of focusing on developing a new product based on a buyer’s needs, our framework is for salespeople with an existing product that want to find their ideal target customer.
Why Is a Value Proposition So Important?
A value proposition (when constructed correctly) should drive nearly every action of a business. It could very become your competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Your value prop should:
- Inform your product development
- Guide your marketing
- Instruct your sales team
- Govern your growth strategy
Think of a value proposition as the seed from which the rest of the business grows. A bad seed, no matter how great the conditions around it, still won’t sprout. And a healthy one can withstand even the worst environments.
What’s more, the process of strategic value proposition design lets you test and validate market needs. According to CB Insights, a whopping 35% of new businesses fail due to there being no market need for their products. This is a problem of “fit” (more on that later) between what the product offers and what the ideal buyer wants.
With so much resting on a well-made value proposition, it’s no wonder nearly 7 out of 10 B2B businesses have theirs clearly defined, according to Quick Sprout. Over half (52%) of those companies have different value propositions for other products or services.
Use the following four-step value proposition design framework to identify your product value, determine your ideal buyer, and develop your value proposition statement.
Step 1: Identify Your Value (The Value Diagram)
While Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Design focuses on creating a new customer from buyer characteristics, your product as a B2B salesman is already defined. As such, we need to work backward by starting with the product.
This framework step asks you to determine what your products bring to the table by filling out The Value Diagram. You’ll be defining:
- Your Products
- Perk Producers
- Strain Reducer
You’ll likely already be well versed in what your products bring to the table. You probably already have oodles of product specs, use cases, and benefits lists ready for buyers at a moment’s notice.
Even still, you must go through the steps of filling out these sections from the ground up. If your “ideal buyer” is saying they don’t need your product, the problem could be as deep-rooted as improperly defined product value.
A) Your Products
This section is a list of all the products or services you offer. After finishing this section, you’ll be building out all the perk producers and strain reducers of these products—so try to be thorough.
You can take two approaches here—you can stick to products that only apply to a specific customer segment, or you can create an exhaustive list of everything your company offers.
After listing out your products, rank them in order of importance. Your flagship products will likely be at the top, with upsells and supplementary offerings closer to the bottom.
B) Perk Producers
Next up is the section on perk producers. Again, building from your product list section, what benefits or value adds do those products offer? How do they help move the needle in a positive direction for the buyer?
You’ll likely have plenty of sales collateral on hand to help you fill out this section. Be sure to include the benefits outlined by marketing in this section. But along the way, weed out the corporate-supplied perks that don’t make much sense.
You’ll also want to build on the stated benefits of the products. How else does it add value to the buyer’s day? Let yourself brainstorm a bit.
Here are a few questions to get you started. Does your product…
- Outperform similar products?
- Offer cost savings?
- Make your buyer’s job easier?
- Create positive social consequences (e.g., boosting reputation at work, giving them more power)
Be sure to rank the perk producers you come up with in order of importance, too.
C) Strain Reducers
The last section in The Value Diagram is on strain reducers. How do your products eliminate hardships in the day-to-day of your buyer? What do they do to make their jobs less frustrating?
Again, you’ll probably have plenty of in-house material to build on. But as with the perk producers section, be sure you’re reexamining that material as you add those strain reducers to the diagram. Again, not all marketing material is going to be spot on. And if you can pick out a strain reducer that doesn’t quite fit, you’ll be left with an even more dead-on ideal buyer at the end of the process.
And once more, don’t forget to rank the strain reducers in importance and brainstorm new ones along the way.
Some questions to get you started:
- Does the product fix frustrating solutions by introducing new features or usability options?
- Does it eliminate financial, social, or technical risks?
- Does it limit or eradicate common mistakes buyers make?
- Does it overcome obstacles that keep buyers from achieving greater social power or status?
- Be Strategic – Try to only list out products that apply to a specific audience at first. If you start broad, your ideal buyer isn’t going to be clearly defined. And it won’t help you narrow down who’s a good fit for your product.
- Be Comprehensive – Be sure you’re listing all products within your segment. Products can be physical (e.g., manufactured goods), intangible (e.g., copyrights, services), digital (e.g., downloads, Saas products), or financial (e.g., investments, insurance).
- Differentiate Between Perks & Strains – Strain reducers are ways your product eliminates annoyances. They’re things that impede buyers from completing their jobs. Perks, on the other hand, are ways your product lets buyers do their job better. You’ll be comparing strains and perks across both your product and your ideal buyer. So if you misclassify, it may show a misalignment when the two are actually well aligned.
Step 2: Find Your Ideal Buyers (The Buyer Breakdown)
Once you’ve thoroughly defined your products’ perks producers and stress reducers, it’s time to focus on the buyer.
This step of the value proposition framework is all about describing your buyer using The Buyer Breakdown. You’ll be detailing:
- Your Buyer’s Jobs
Like in The Value Diagram, you’ll want to begin with the sales collateral you’re using now, but only as a jumping-off point. There are three reasons for this:
- Your current jobs, perks, and strains may align with your ideal buyer, but they may be off in order of importance.
- You’ll weed through these perks and strains to see which ones actually match up with your product values.
- You’ll brainstorm new perks and strains along the way, too.
A) Buyer Jobs
The first section of The Buyer Breakdown is all about buyer jobs. What are your buyers trying to get done? What are the tasks they are performing? And what are their goals?
Don’t just think of this section as simple work duties. Instead, buyer jobs break down into three unique categories:
- Functional Jobs – These are the typical things that come to mind when you think of jobs. They’re the individual tasks they have to get done at work (e.g., input information into their CRM, update accounting information, fill out timesheets).
- Social Jobs – These jobs are focused on looking good, gaining power, or rising in status. In the workplace, that translates into goals like looking professional, proving competence to the higher-ups, and expanding the team you manage.
- Personal/Emotional Jobs – These jobs concern a buyer feeling good. Peace of mind, elimination of risk, feeling accomplished and eliminating risk fall under this category.
Take a moment to list out jobs that relate to your product segment identified earlier. Then, again, use the customer profile provided by your company and try to come up with your own, too. Then, rank them in order of importance to the buyer.
These are the benefits your buyer wants to see from your product. They’re the concrete outcomes of working with you or buying your product. These benefits can apply to any of the jobs listed out previously. The more exact and definite you are here, the better.
While brainstorming these perks, try to think about:
- What precise quality levels do they expect?
- What would make your buyer’s job easier?
- What kinds of positive social consequences would make them eager to buy?
- How do they measure success and failure?
Perks can come in four different categories. Try to come up with some for each and then rank them in order of importance to the buyer.
- Required Perks – These are the bare necessities. The basics. They’re what the buyer absolutely needs to see from your product, or else it’s a dealbreaker. Think of a running engine in a new car.
- Expected Perks – These are a step lower in necessity but are still expected to be included in the product. Solid design and safety standards for your car might be an expected perk.
- Desired Perks – These are perks that go beyond what your buyers anticipate in your solution. Sticking with the car metaphor, this type of perk might be connecting seamlessly with your devices.
- Unexpected Perks – These perks go above and beyond customer expectations. They’re the blow-away qualities that buyers don’t even imagine having. Being able to run on electricity (think Tesla Model S) might be an unexpected perk of a new car.
Last up is buyer strains. What annoys your buyer before, during, and after they’re trying to get a job done? What prevents them from even starting? What are the risks that keep them from working as efficiently as they could?
These are the pain points of your existing customer profile. And as with other sections, you should include them in the list, but remember to brainstorm new ones as well.
Some questions you might ask yourself while brainstorming strains might include:
- What takes too much time, costs too much money, or requires too much effort?
- What are the most significant difficulties facing your buyer when performing a job?
- What keeps them up at night when it comes to their job?
- What risks outweigh the benefits of performing a certain task?
List out whatever you can come up with, add them to the strains of your current segment profile, and rank them in order of importance to the buyer.
- Forget Your Product – Try not to cater to your buyer’s perks and strains specifically to your product while brainstorming. Instead, you’ll want to get as many varied ideas on the board as possible. You’re going to go through them later to determine if they’re a fit for your product. So, for now, let the ideas flow!
- Stick With a Single Buyer Segment – Different segments will likely have different needs, wants, and pain points. So be sure you’re only using the segment that lines up with your chosen product line and stick with it.
- Make Perks & Strains Concrete – There’s value in specificity when it comes to listing these two categories out. Don’t just write down “it’s too slow” as a strain. Instead, try to put down how much faster they want to get the job done. That way, you can parse out precisely what their standards of success and failure are.
Step 3: Find the Fit
Now that you’ve filled out The Value Diagram and The Buyer Breakdown, it’s time to determine “fit.” Fit is how well your product values line up with what the buyer needs. The better it aligns, the more successful your value proposition will be.
In terms of the value proposition design framework, fit is determined by whether your product’s gains:
- Address the most critical buyer jobs
- Reduce the biggest strains
- Provide the most sought-after perks
So, how do you determine fit?
Simple—determine which jobs, strains, and perks in The Buyer Breakdown the strain reducers and perk producers on The Value Diagram address. Go through each job, strain, and perk one by one, placing a checkmark next to the ones that fit. At the end, simply remove the ones that don’t have a checkmark.
After that, all that’s left is crafting your value proposition statement based on which elements are highest on the list of importance.
Step 4: Create Your Value Proposition Statement
Once you’ve whittled down your Value Diagram and Buyer Breakdown to include only items that fit, it’s time to craft your value proposition statement.
Your value proposition statement will be the basis of your sales process (once properly designed and tested, of course). It’ll inform how you build rapport, which points to hit when nurturing leads, and what strategies to use when closing the sale.
Generally, the best value propositions fulfill a number of guiding principles.
- They target only a few jobs, strains, and perks (make peace with not solving everything).
- Align with how the buyer measures success.
- Don’t just target functional jobs (be sure to address social and emotional jobs too).
- Focus on unsatisfied jobs, lingering strains, and essential perks.
- Differentiate your product from the competition (why you and not them?).
Value Proposition Statement Template
A value proposition statement should be clear, to the point, and touch on the most critical issues from The Value Diagram and The Buyer Breakdown.
You can use the template below to craft yours.
Remember though—this template is simply a rough sketch of what a value proposition should look like. As long as it hits all of the following points clearly, your value proposition is going to stand out to buyers.
- Your products
- Buyer segment
- Buyer job
- Reduction of specific customer strain
- Increase of specific perk
- Differentiate from competition
Step 5: Verify Your Value Proposition
Last but certainly not least, there’s verifying your value proposition. And unfortunately, this one is likely going to take the most time out of all the steps.
To settle on a compelling value proposition, you’ll need to test whether it resonates with your buyers.
- Generate a hypothesis about your ideal buyer and what they value
- Create a value proposition based on that hypothesis
- Design experiments to verify the effectiveness of your value proposition
- Run and collect results from your experiments
- Reevaluate and tweak the components of your value proposition based on the results
- Repeat the cycle
There are plenty of ways you can test your value proposition, including:
- Ad and link tracking
- Split testing emails
- Split testing landing pages
- Buyer interviews
- Buyer behavior data analysis
Exactly which method is within your means will depend on your unique organization.
In the end, just be sure you’re continually reevaluating and iterating on what you learned along the way. Remember, this is a process, not a one-time effort!
Great Value Proposition Examples
Below are just a few solid value propositions examples that target an ideal customer, have a strong value proposition and answer the customer’s main problem.
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Value proposition design is an essential component for any success-minded salesperson. With the right value proposition design, you’ll be able to:
- Define your ideal buyer
- Identify which leads to qualify and which to spend less time on
- Nurture potential buyers faster
- Strategize the most effective ways to close more deals
And with this five-step value proposition design framework, and the included value proposition examples you’ll have all the tools you need to get started today.
But having the right value proposition is only one aspect of being a successful sales superstar. And there’s plenty more to learn about winning sales tactics, proven pitch strategies, and more.