How to Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

November 30th, 2009

Discover Your Unique Selling PropositionBy guest blogger Sam Horn

In a tough economy, it’s more important than ever to have a creative approach to help your business stand out from its crowd.

If you’re just competing on price, location, service or convenience, you’ll get lost in your crowd because competitors are doing the same thing.

What’s the secret to POPing out of your pack? Identify your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

How do you come up with your USP?

Ask yourself, “How can our company zig where our competitors zag? How can we do the opposite, not the obvious? Give your USP a clever name and people will flock to your door, website or product. Plus, you’ll attract media attention because TV, radio and print reporters are always looking for the next new thing.

For example, a restaurant was losing money because no one was coming to their happy hour. Why? Well, there were dozens of restaurants in their area offering happy hours. That’s a prescription for blending in; and blending in is for Cuisinarts, not companies.

The restaurant manager kept looking for a competitive advantage, something customers wanted, but couldn’t find elsewhere (another way to identify your USP).

One evening, he saw a customer tie his dog up outside and then come in to join friends for a cold one.

Light bulb moment. Why not offer a special happy hour for dog-owners so they could bring their four-legged friend who had been cooped up all day? The restaurant could put out water bowls, hand out dog biscuits and offer a special discount for dog-owners who brought their canine pal. It was a win for everyone.

What to call this “petworking” opportunity?

Use a POP! technique called “Alphabetizing” in which you talk your key word through the alphabet to coin a brand new word that gets people’s attention. “Appy Hour, Bappy Hour, Cappy Hour, Dappy Hour” and eventually you get to “Yappy Hour!”

You may be thinking, “Big deal, so it’s a clever name.” You bet it’s a big deal. The Washington Post wrote an article about the throngs of people showing up for the Alexandria, VA Holiday Inn’s wildly popular (and profitable) “Yappy Hour.”

That article was picked up by hundreds of newspapers across the country. Now, millions of people know about their “Yappy Hour.” This nation-wide publicity generated a dramatic increase in name recognition and revenue . . . all for a few minutes of strategic brainstorming that helped them come up with a USP that made them one-of-a-kind vs. one-of-many.

If your business isn’t making as much money as it could or should, chances are you’re offering the same products/services as everyone else. As a creativity/communication consultant who’s studied the art and science of intrigue for 20 years, I’ve developed a step-by-step process for identifying a USP that gives you a competitive edge and gets your organization, idea, product or service noticed . . . for all the right reasons. For more ideas and examples of how to POP! your business and brand with a creative USP, click here to check out my blog.

Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert, helps people POP! What does that mean? She helps individuals and organizations develop one-of-a-kind ideas, identities, niches and pitches that help their business or brand break out. She does this through her books, one-on-one consulting, weekend camps, media interviews and presentations. For more information, visit or call Sam at 1-800-726-3455.

Being Thankful in Tough Times

November 26th, 2009

Thankful for sales in tough timesIt’s easy to be grateful when things are good: when sales come easily, money is flowing in at a healthy pace and the future looks bright. It’s more difficult to be thankful when sales are down, the bank account is hovering near zero and the immediate outlook is uncertain at best.

Yet it’s at times like these that gratitude is most important. When you acknowledge what you’re thankful for, you change your mental state, reducing stress and spurring creativity. When you express your gratitude to others, you create opportunities for further cooperation, kindnesses and sales.

So my question to you—whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S. or this is just another day to you where you live—is this: What are you thankful for?

Want some more ideas on the subject of gratitude? Check out:

Giving Thanks for Your Sales

The Night Before Thanksgiving

Sensitivity Training and Your Sales

November 24th, 2009

Sensitivity Training and Your SalesMy aikido instructor—Edgar Johansson Sensei—made an interesting comment in class the other day. He said we spend the first five years of our aikido training learning sensitivity. Specifically, learning to be sensitive to how we need to train with our partners.

For example, the way you train with a 250-pound man is different from the way you train with a 110-pound woman. You work with a tall person differently than you do with a short person. You interact with a black belt differently than with a beginner. The principles and techniques remain the same, but you need to subtly adapt to the unique characteristics of the person you’re working with.

He’s absolutely right. (As he typically is. That’s why he’s the sensei.) What’s more, his insight also applies to sales.

Prospects are not all the same. Female buyers are different from male buyers. Older buyers are different from younger buyers. European buyers are different from Asian buyers. Further, individuals are unique. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. You need to be sensitive to your prospect’s needs, desires, concerns, values and priorities, then adapt appropriately.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to do this: Ask good questions and plenty of them. If you ask enough of the right questions, your prospect will tell you everything you need to know. That will make it easier for you to adjust your approach to how they want—and/or need—to buy.

The more sensitive you are to your prospect’s personality, culture and situation, the better your sales will be.

Live in the Denver area and interested in aikido? Check out Denver Aikikai.

Breakfast of Sales Champions

November 19th, 2009

Breakfast of Sales Champions

This past weekend, several members of my family and I were in Orange, Texas (a small town about 110 miles east of Houston) to attend my brother’s wedding. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express just off I-10. While the property is a budget hotel designed primarily for business travelers, you would have thought we were VIP’s staying at a Ritz-Carlton based on the way we were treated.

When we checked in, Anna—the front desk clerk—upgraded us to suites. Wow! Talk about creating a great first impression! During our stay, every request was met quickly and courteously. Every person we encountered was helpful and friendly, with a big smile on their faces.

The highlight, though, came as we were leaving. At breakfast the day before our departure, I asked Pat—the woman who oversees the hotel’s food service—what time the breakfast buffet would open the following morning. She told me that since it was a Sunday, the buffet would be open by 6:30. I mentioned we’d have to miss it because we had to leave by 6 in order to get to Houston in time for our flights.

When our family assembled downstairs at the 6 the next morning, we were greeted by the sight of Pat standing by the breakfast buffet with a triumphant smile on her face. She had opened the buffet a half-hour early just for us! She wanted to make sure we had something to eat for our long drive. After loading ourselves up with breakfast sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, muffins, fruit and coffee, we thanked Pat profusely and headed out, happy and grateful.

As a professional speaker, I travel a lot. Which means I stay in a lot of hotels. Over the years, I’ve rarely experienced such tremendous service at hotels charging three times what this property does. Service like this creates an indelible memory. It creates word-of-mouth buzz. And it causes customers to return. (You can bet the next time any of us visit my brother and his new wife, we’re staying at the Holiday Inn Express.)

Like many industries, the hotel business has grown increasingly commoditized over the years. Nearly every chain promises the same things: clean rooms, comfortable beds, hot breakfasts, wireless internet access, etc. What distinguishes one company from another is not the features it offers, but the people it employs. Their skills, knowledge and attitudes make more of an impact on your customers than any features you advertise. So it’s critical that you hire people with great attitudes, provide them with frequent training and reward their efforts to serve customers.

Just as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, people are the most important element of a company. And not just salespeople, but everyone: receptionists, technicians, customer service agents, drivers, security guards, and yes, breakfast buffet managers.

The Hardest Person to Sell To

November 10th, 2009

Hardest Person to Sell ToWho’s the hardest, most frustrating, most aggravating person to sell to?

The person without a need? Nope. It’s easy for most salespeople to walk away from someone once you realize they have no need for what you sell. And a person without a need may very well be able to refer you to someone who does have a need.

The person without a budget? Nope. If they’re motivated enough, they can often find the money. If they can’t, again, it’s pretty easy to walk away.

The person without buying authority? Nope. They can direct you to the appropriate person and typically endorse you to them as well.

No, the person who is the most difficult to sell to is the person without motivation. They have a need, a budget and the authority to make a decision, but they either don’t perceive the need or they don’t care. This is the most frustrating person, because you know you can help them or their organization, but they aren’t interested.

In a sense, a prospect is like an alcoholic, a drug addict, a kleptomaniac—the first step to getting better is acknowledging there’s a problem and desiring to do something about it. If the prospect doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong, you’re not going to make the sale. Period. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

What can you do in situations like this? Two things:

1. Walk away.
It’s tough to do, but it’s the smart move. You’re not going to sell anything to a person who isn’t motivated. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Invest your time and energy instead looking for prospects who are motivated to improve their situation.

2. Keep in touch.
Don’t invest serious time and effort, but don’t completely ignore an unmotivated prospect either. Send articles, call occasionally to see what’s going on, cultivate other relationships in the organization. People die, retire and change jobs. The person with blinders on could be replaced by someone who sees the problem clearly and wants to do something about it immediately.

That’s someone you can sell to.

More Great Thoughts on Sales, Business and Success

November 6th, 2009

Great Thoughts on Sales 2A few months ago, I listed some of my all-time favorite quotations. There are plenty more, however. Here are a few:

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey.” —John Ruskin

“Too many people think only of their own profit. But business opportunity seldom knocks on the door of self-centered people. No customer ever goes to a store merely to please the storekeeper.” —Kazuo Inamori

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” —Truman Capote

“Live up to your potential instead of imitating someone else’s.” —Martha Burgess

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” —Steve Jobs

“Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” —George Bernard Shaw

When you have accomplished 95% of your goal, you are halfway there.
—Japanese Proverb

“If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average.” —M.H. Alderson

“So long as new ideas are created, sales will continue to reach new highs.”
—Dorthea Brande

“Whenever I hear, ‘It can’t be done,’ I know I’m close to success.” —Michael Flatley

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” —Herm Albright

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” —Indira Gandhi

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game’s winning shot…and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why…I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

“Remember that a kick in the ass is a step forward.” —Anonymous

Selling Your Uniqueness

November 3rd, 2009

Luggage and SalesSouthwest Airlines is running an advertising campaign that I love. It’s not particularly entertaining, it’s not groundbreaking in any way, and it’s not going to win any awards. But it’s powerfully effective.

The campaign consists of a series of commercials all pushing the same message: Bags fly free. The beauty of this message is two-fold: its uniqueness and its simplicity.

Southwest’s message is unique. No other major American airline can make the same claim. Not United, not Delta, not Northwest, not US Airways, not Frontier, not even Jet Blue. Granted, Southwest is unique in other ways as well, but in this campaign, they’re stressing just this one.

By focusing on only this one message, Southwest also keeps it simple. One idea. Three words. Easy to communicate, easy to understand, easy to remember. In the cacophony of modern life, when your prospect is bombarded by thousands of sales and marketing messages every day, your message needs to be simple to be effective.

So what’s your uniqueness? Why should your prospect choose you over your competition? What claim can you make (and back up) that your competitors can’t?

And can you say it simply and clearly? Can you say it in seven words or less?

If you can do that, you may not win any advertising awards, but you will win more sales.