Using a USP to Get More and Better Contracts

Herman Holtz and Peter Meyer for the Independent

As we prepare for your workshop at the St. Louis conference, we often get this question from technology consultants:

"How can I get my prospective clients see me as being different and better than other consultants? Should I even bother?"

A short answer for you would be:

There are lots of consultants who look the same to your clients. However, an 'I am different' consultant has a better situation: The client cannot compare you to competitors because you are unique. But it is up to you to be unique and thus able to name your own price. You must come up with a Unique Service Position (USP) so that you are indeed different and special. What is a USP and how do you get one?

The concept of USP comes from scientific marketing. The top experts began to realize that it was important to do more than position a service. They had to make it seem unique as well. They started to create materials that would show that the supplier (consultant in this case) is unique and valuable. This started to become simple phrases and even tag lines like "30 minutes or your money back." A good USP is short, but it shows the client what they will get.

The USP is one of your most important tools. Unfortunately, most tag lines and USPs focus on what the product or service does for the producer, not for the customer. You see many USPs that say "We are the best" but too few that promise anything of value for the client.

In conversations (both live and on-line) potential clients are impatient. Why? Because on line your potential customer is glancing over a long list of messages, skimming 50 E-mail messages or "surfing" from Web site to Web site. Internet users quickly get in the habit of skipping over megabytes of information in seconds. Even in live conversations you only have a few minutes to hold someone's attention. To sell to that prospect, you must help him or her want to stop and look at or listen to your message. Creating an image or USP by talking about you or your product is not as attractive or powerful as talking about your customer and his or her problems.

To create a USP that really works, start with the problem that the client will identify with. Then provide the solution. A natural way to start would be to say "You know how . . . ." and then describe the problem in a few words. This is your problem statement.

Now resolve it with "Well, I help you to . . . ." and describe what your prospect gets. Not what he or she does, or what you do. Describe what value he or she will get from your service.

Now write it out so that you could say the whole thing to a stranger in an elevator between floors. If it sounds good, and takes less than 3 seconds, see if you can get the essence to fit into an E-mail subject line.

Now, whenever someone asks you what you do, instead of saying that you consult or develop software or audit systems, use your USP. Your clients will immediately notice that you are talking about their problems, not yours.

In a competitive situation, this puts you ahead of almost anyone else. In a discussion of fees, this allows you to talk in terms of value they get instead of the hours or dollars. You can use this to better understand what they need, and deliver it. Using a USP will help you to increase your fees as you increase your client's satisfaction.

This is an important enough issue that we will dedicate about an hour to it in St. Louis.

3Com Corporation is proud to make Herman and Peter available to you at ICCA's 20th anniversary conference.

This column is similar to the one printed by the Independent, the newspaper of the ICCA. It is copyright 1996 by the Meyer Group, all rights reserved.