Before & After: The Essence of Value

Back in September we talked about the importance of engaging your prospective clients or employers more effectively (“Show…Don’t Tell”). I recalled the musings of a colleague in the tax, accounting and payroll service as he pondered, “How can I show people what I do, as opposed to just telling them?”

You might think that this question is answered more easily than others. For example, a graphic designer can show a portfolio of work; a writer can show what she has written and where it’s been published. As a sales professional (yes, that includes YOU whether you think so or not!), you are charged with engaging your prospects by showing them what you offer. If you are an accounting and tax professional, an insurance professional, or an IT consultant, this question is: How do you show?

It’s a question that we have addressed here before–and it comes down to your value proposition to be precise. When I speak about The Wedge, (an eight step strategy to getting your foot in the door where you don’t otherwise have a connection), the first step is to “Identify your market and value proposition.” I also stress that for some, it can be one of the most challenging steps. However, that needn’t be the case.

If you are having trouble identifying your value proposition, then stop trying. Instead, I want you to think in two simple terms: “before” and “after.”

Start with a blank piece of paper. Lay it in front of you horizontally. Across the top, write down the name of just ONE previous (or current) client or employment relationship.

Divide the page into two columns, by drawing a line down the middle. The left column will be labeled “Before;” the right “After.”  By now you are starting to figure this out…?

Under “Before,” list between two and four conditions that were in place before your involvement. These could be profound problems or simple inefficiencies. It may be a simple status quo—conditions that were in place and never questioned or challenged simply because no one ever thought to do otherwise. For example, before my work as a creative director at a fund-raising consulting firm, marketing programs (the campaign message and the corresponding print and video tools) often required six months to assemble and get distributed to their users. It was costly and time consuming, but that was how it was always done at that point.

In the right column, indicate the condition “After.” Here it is very simple: how much did you reduce expenses? How much time did you save? How did you increase revenues and/or profits? How many people benefited from your work? If you don’t know the measurable answers to these questions, ask the person who would. In my example, after my involvement as a creative director, I was able to leverage my diverse media background and expertise in then-emerging technologies to reduce production schedules from six months to as little as six weeks—and slash budgets accordingly. This saved the company money, the clients money, and helped them raise more money much faster. Did it happen overnight? No—but by the time of my departure, procedures were far different and more efficient than when I began.

Keep it simple and brief. Use bullet points. Are you a job seeker? Create a “before & after” version of your résumé in this fashion—that will make it stand out. Simply indicate: “Here is what conditions were like before my involvement…and here is what they were after.”

“Really?!” your prospect will respond. “How did you do that?”

Your response: “Great question! Let’s set up a meeting and I’ll tell you!”

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