“What is your USP?”
All of a sudden, it felt like sub-zero temperature on the Skype call. The sales prospect had said it with a childlike curiosity. But, I imagined him mocking me while blowing smoke circles in the air after taking a big puff from his cigar.
It’s not anything new. I’ve been in front of the sales prospects for more than a decade now and this is the question that I get asked more often than not.
I should know how to handle it by now but it always hits me in the face. My reaction has been the same over the years — my forehead furrows in consternation, my lips curl to a benign frown, my tongue develops knots and I feel a cold chill running down my spine.
But like any other self-respecting person who doesn’t indulge in things that make them uncomfortable, I said — “Sure, with pleasure. Let me explain.”.
Ahh, I lie. I didn’t say that. How could I?
You see, I fail to understand what’s a Unique Selling Proposition anyway? And how can a product design and development services company have a USP? Is it even technically possible to research the global technology market and claim — here is what makes us unique.
Ahh…the spins that we sell in Sales.
Let me share with you some of the most ‘Frequently Used’ phrases in people’s definition of USP –
Our USP is our people
“Our people make our company unique and you can’t get the service they provide, in the way they provide it, anywhere else.”
Like other service companies are hiring designers and engineers aliens from Andromeda. What kind of company would line up their recruiting group and say — “Hey John, change in strategy — we are going to hire the most mediocre talent out there. We have got loads of customers lined up for our service and I don’t want to disappoint them by hiring great talent”.
Think about it — every company tries to hire great talent. Shouldn’t you enunciate more about what makes your people different from others?
Our USP is that we are leaders in <stuff your hyperbole here, like R&D>
I have no friggin’ idea what that means. Leaders? How? By the number of technology solutions built? By the number of customers? By geographic locations that you serve? By revenue? By the number of GitHub projects? By the number of dribbble followers?
Often it’s so vague that it becomes laughable.
If you think you are a leader, share some data. Show the difference you have made. Otherwise, it’s best to hold your silence. Because, you know, true leaders never need to announce themselves.
Our USP is lowest rates with the best quality
I bet you have heard this a lot many times- “We are Cheap and Best. You won’t get a price lower than that in the market.” Every time I hear that as a USP from a company, it makes me want to say in Al Pacino style from Scarface — Say that again. One more time. Slowly.
Let that thought of ‘Best Quality with Lowest Rates’ sink in your head. If it hasn’t then I would encourage you to eat at McDonald’s every night. It’s a high-quality dining restaurant with low rates. And did I share that it chokes your arteries for free?
Our USP is our deep expertise in <throw that elusive buzzword you just learnt from internet>
And everybody out there is faking it? The rest of the world is just there for the lark of it, voluntarily making a S.M.A.R.T goal to stay mediocre and not develop any expertise?
Firstly, using the word ‘deep’ with expertise is superfluous because by definition, expertise means deep knowledge. Secondly, which company would not develop expertise in their core area? That’s akin to professional harakiri.
Do you get my drift?
I’m not sure about you but my logical brain generally doesn’t have honest to God answers for ‘What is your USP?’ question. Not because our company isn’t great but I’ve not researched all the technology service companies around the Globe to share the answer. Truthfully.
The sad truth is that the USP question gets asked so much while selecting the right technology services partner, especially by bigger companies, that after a while it looks like you are incomplete without having an over the top response to that.
What is even more sad, and makes me feel like a terrible terrible hypocritical douchebag, is that sometimes I succumb to pressure. I cave-in and share “how we are different” points decorated with shiny well-aligned bullet points on a slide, while not having a friggin’ clue if I’m telling the truth.
That said — what if the USP, in context of technology services company, really stood for (Our) Undying Services Proposition.
Now, I can get behind that. Truthfully.
I can say that we would work with you like partners. We would try to be seemingly transparent. We would put our best work out there. And, you know what, I don’t doubt that we wouldn’t have our share of fuck ups but we would deal with those failures openly. Bottom line — we would make sure that our success is truly tied to yours and we wouldn’t stop short of anything to make that true, come hell or high water.
I’m not sure how appealing my services proposition would appear to prospects as it doesn’t have the buzzwords — ‘Leaders in this’, ‘Experts at that’ kind of perfunctory shit. But I think that it might give them an idea about our focus, how we would treat them and our core values.
Does it work? I don’t know. If it did then we would have been the Leaders in product design and development by now, *wink*
Thus, my predicament is how does one change the age-old sales traditions that don’t make sense anymore? I seriously don’t have a clue. But I would definitely be interested to know your side of the story.
How do you define your USP to your clients as a product design and development agency?