Big News! We won Ad Age Small Agency of the Year.

January 22, 2018

5 Common Terms Killing Your Sales Proposition

David Brashears

Every company wants to make the best impression with their prospective clients and customers. Whether you work in a service or product sector, you still need to be sure you are effectively communicating what your company provides. Unfortunately, many sales and marketing teams have been using some terms that are having no impact, or even a negative impact, to the selling proposition. Many of these terms will sound familiar to you, as they seem positive at first consideration. However, we need to evaluate what part they play in the selling process and what better options might help us differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market.

For the sake of this article, we will be employing the mighty “widget.” Our widget will represent whatever service, software, hardware, or dynamic doodad you want to sell. So, let’s take a look at 5 common points that may be killing your sale.

1. Customer Service is Our Top Priority!

We know you are proud of the work your team does to provide great customer service to your clients. You should be proud! However, we need to consider what that may be implying to your prospective buyer.

To do this, we need to consider what you are defining as “customer service.” This could be a lot of different things: new product development support, industry consultation, market research support, problem solving, end-user issue resolutions … on and on.

In most cases, when we are on the “buying” side of a sales proposition and hear “customer service,” we think of some form of issue resolution. This can have a negative impact on a buyer’s confidence in your company. I’ve actually even heard some brand advertising use statements like, “When you have an issue, our customer service team will quickly help you find a solution.” Wait, what?! “When” I have an issue?! It’s probably not a great idea to suggest to someone who hasn’t bought a widget yet that they are going to have an issue—even if you’ll be there to fix it. Unless you offer a lifetime no-hassle warranty on your widget, it’s probably best to leave this kind of customer service out of the preliminary dialogue.

So, how do you positively talk about your customer service? First, consider what aspect of your team’s service to a customer or client is truly and significantly better than the competition. What do you, as a company, do better than the competition for your customers? Then build a unique and specific statement that communicates your capabilities. An example might be: “Thanks to our in-house research and development team, and our lean manufacturing process, we are able to quickly and accurately provide a great deal of customization for our widgets—rather than pressuring our customers into accepting a common product from existing designs and inventory.”

2. Our Widget is the Premium Option

You may very well have the nicest, best-designed, most-effective versions of a widget available on the market. Unfortunately, when a prospective buyer hears “we’re the premium option,” what they actually hear is, “I’d like your permission to charge you more for my widget.”

This also applies to the old selling habit of comparing a product to a well-known luxury brand like Rolex, Cadillac, or Armani. You’ve probably heard statements like, “You would love our product—it’s the Rolex of toaster ovens!” What does that mean? This sales proposition is making a comparison that has nothing to do with reality; it only suggests that this toaster oven is probably really expensive.

The better option is to consider what premium actually means in your market. Does it mean that you’ve spared no expense to ensure your widget meets every need of the customer? Does it mean that your widget provides features or functionality that no other competitor can? Work out what specifically makes your widget the “premium” option and then speak directly about those points in the selling conversation. In many cases, a good explanation of the quality and features of a product can lead a buyer to brace for a higher pricetag than your offer will be, then the close becomes much easier.

If you know your widget is on the higher range of the market, you need to spend some time crafting a really effective story that explains the decisions that were made to solve known customer needs in a way that is unique to your brand. No buyer wants to pay more just because you feel like your widget is worth it.

3. We are the One-Stop-Shop for Everything Widget

There is nothing wrong with providing a wide suite of services to your customers and clients. It can, in many ways, present your company as an authority or leader in the industry. However, there’s an inherent danger in suggesting that your company is an “all-in-one” solution for the widget market.

Using terms like one-stop-shop, all-in-one, complete-package solution, etc. can relegate your brand to the likes of amphibious cars and all-in-one printers. Sure, that’s a car that becomes a boat on the water—but it’s not a great car and it’s not a great boat. Being an industry “generalist” gives the connotation that you can do a lot of things pretty well, but you can’t do any one thing very well.

Market analysts will tell you that the next generation buyers do not respond well to the “we can do it all” proposition. The new customer wants a specialist—or even better, an artisan. They want the absolute best partner or product for their specific needs, not someone that can offer a lot of different solutions at a general level. There is also the suggestion that the customer may end up paying for support or services they don’t need when you present your company as the all-in-one option.

It should be stated that having a large range of solutions and support services for your widget isn’t wrong. It can be useful for your clients or customers. However, during the preliminary conversations you should shy away from this idea. Focus on the specific expertise and authority your team and your widget bring to the problem your customer has that you want to solve today. As the conversation evolves, you can organically open up the different departments and experts you have to help them. Rather than being perceived as a generalist, your company will be seen as the specialist on all the specific needs of that customer.

4. We Were the Original Creator of the Widget

It is a big deal to be able to say that you are the original creator of a new product/service. That pioneering position can pay great dividends in the growth and success of a company. However, it can also work against you if it isn’t followed with a continued history of leadership and innovation. Leaning completely on your company’s position as the original maker of widgets, without continuing to research market trends and customer behavior to improve and grow, can leave your brand with diminishing returns and eventual irrelevance.

As an example, consider industries like aircraft, personal computing, or wireless communication. In all of these fields, the original creator of the technology is no longer very relevant to the current market. This is for many different reasons, but they all have one critical thing in common—they didn’t remain the thought-leader in their own industry. Making a statement about your origination of a technology part of your sales proposition makes one powerful statement, “We were the leaders of the widget.” This only remains impactful for your prospective buyers if you can show that you have CONTINUED to be a leader in the widget market.

The solution is to re-craft your story to show consistent innovation, growth, and leadership in the industry you’ve created. Demonstrate that the same pioneering and intrepid spirit is still driving your company to lead.

5. We Have Over XXXX Years of Experience Making Widgets

I’m not really sure when the habit of stating the accumulated years of experience of a company’s entire staff as a sales point began, but it needs to stop. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We understand that it’s important to show the level of competence and expertise your team brings to the development of widgets. However, providing an accumulated number of years of experience can confuse your point. In fact, it can come across as inaccurate or even deceitful.

Think about it, does saying, “Our team has over 50 years of experience building mobile apps” make any sense? If you were in the market to hire an application developer, would a statement like this fill you with confidence or questions? Sure, you may have 10 staff members with 5 years of experience building mobile apps, but that’s not the same thing! Don’t let one quick “throw away” statement place you in a bad light before you’ve even gotten to the offer.

So, what do you really want to communicate? You want to assure the prospective buyer that your team has experience in the area and that your company is very capable of meeting the buyer’s need and/or solve their issue. A better option would probably be to give some examples of past projects with a similar level of complication as the buyer’s project might have and how your team solved it. Talk about awards or recognitions your team/company has received for their work in the area. Don’t disregard the years your company has been working on widgets, but—like the prior point about being the original creator of a product—be sure you are more focused on your continued growth, innovation, and leadership.

I hope this gives you some points to consider as you review your own sales proposition. If you’d like to schedule some time to go over your sales messaging and develop a better plan, feel free to give me a call at 423-926-9494 ext. 111 or email me at Remember, the focus should always on creating a clear path of solution for your buyer that can best be acquired by partnering with your company. That’s our goal in marketing and advertising at Creative Energy, and we’re confident we can make a positive impact on your company’s goals.