OK. Before you read my blog, you gotta read yesterday’s (Sunday, December 6, 2009) Dilbert comic strip. Or rather Dogbert The CEO. No further explanation needed.
If I asked you “what do you do” could you tell me in about 45 words or less (Dilbert took 49)? What would you tell me? Would I understand the services you could deliver to me and the benefits I might anticipate from working with you?
I’m not talking about what you sell or the technical aspects of what it does. Features and benefits are irrelevant – even for highly engineering services. I am talking about what YOU are all about and what your delivery of your skill set brings to the table. Because that’s what the communication interface is all about, be it sales or engineering. People aren’t buying standardized products or services. If they were, they should be dealing with robots or worse yet, customer service reps. Instead, they are making decisions about whether incorporating you and your company’s skill set will make a difference to the competitive viability of their company.
I have spent countless hours asking engineers what their value proposition is. And they have talked in circles because they haven’t ever been challenged to define it. Instead, perhaps engineers have felt I would be wowed by their technical skills, how many certificate names and numbers they could rattle off, and their experience, and post graduate degrees. They have attempted to distract me from my original question by spinning the discussion all over the place. Guess again. I didn’t forget my question. And I would ask, and re-ask the dreaded question again and again. Evading the answer is not an option.
The majority of CEOs and business owners/decision makers want to understand how well your service quality delivery integrates into their company. They care about how well you can anticipate, even project, their needs. The more you talk in circles, rattling off your resume instead of providing a value proposition, the more you become stereotyped, “dilbertized” and commoditized as, well, an “engineer.”
How can you inspire your clients? How can you describe your deliverables in a nontechnical manner that they understand? I am not talking rah-rah. I am talking your ability to simply and succinctly put into 45 words what working with you will deliver to them. Or do you talk in circles, going in one direction and then the other? Trying to cover all bases. Trying to say what you think folks want to hear?
Jill Konrath, award-winning author of Selling To Big Companies (I book I strongly recommend) defines a selling value proposition as: “A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. It is focused on outcomes and stresses the business value of your offering.”
If you are impeccable with your word, you will arrive at your value proposition. And once you arrive at your value proposition, it will be your constant, the fulcrum of everything you do. Because it is WHO YOU ARE. And your clients will know this. Innately. That they are dealing with the real thing. Because of your passionate commitment to who you are and what you are prepared to do for your clients.
Yet how many of us are able to take this self-introspective look at ourselves and define ourselves? Most of us talk in circles. And I’ve got news to you. Talking in circles is incredibly frustrating to clients and makes them ill at ease. Because if you don’t know who you are or what you can deliver, how can they entrust their company business to you?
Any of you who are freelance consulting engineers need to pay attention to this blog message. If you have been displaced, you more than likely have hung out your shingle as a freelance engineer. If you become part of the engineering outsourcing groups, they will place you in temporary employment.
Are you prepared to determine whether this is the type of company you may want to work for on a permanent basis? If so, you need to be interviewing them. If you are waiting for them to “discover” you, and offer you a permanent position, you are leaving your fate in the hands of someone..
If you wish to make your own opportunities, you need to stop talking in circles. Take the time to develop a value proposition that is articulate, succinct and a strong statement about who you are, the value you bring to the table and how this value translates into a competitive advantage for customers, peers and future employers.
Start thinking about it.
Babette N. Ten Haken brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013 – 2019. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. Image source: Dilbert comic, Sunday, December 6, 2009