Sharing our insights and experiences on a broad range of business and organisation challenges
The building blocks of a successful Value Proposition
Maybe it’s a coincidence but we have seen a lot of references recently to the old adage that ‘people buy people first’. This may be true but people also buy ‘value’ and this applies whether you are buying as a consumer or as a business. All of this reminds us of the Warren Buffet quotation that “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get”
If value is key, then you need to be able to demonstrate and articulate this to your customers. Quite often, this is done through a Value Proposition.
If you type ‘what is a value proposition?’ into your search engine, you will find around 167 million responses. It’s clear that there are a lot of different opinions about what a value proposition is and what they look like. We have been in situations where Account Managers explain that their value proposition to their key customer is that “we have good relationships”, “we have capacity” and “we have good people”. In our experience, all of these examples don’t address the four critical building blocks of a Value Proposition.
Customer Needs. Most importantly, you need to uncover and understand your customer’s needs. A strong value proposition will directly address your customer’s needs and demonstrate that you understand them. Open ended questions will help you uncover the customer’s needs and their pain points. Don’t hesitate to be inquisitive and understand what your customer’s needs are. It’s also helpful to try and uncover your customer’s personal needs that may drive their decision making.
Your capabilities - what capabilities do you have that meets the customer’s needs? It’s important not just to list out all of your capabilities and potentially demonstrate to the customer that you have applied a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to their needs. A strong value proposition will clearly demonstrate how your products and services meet and even exceed the customer’s needs and expectations.
Benefits. Now that you have demonstrated that you understand the customer’s needs and how your capabilities can meet their needs, you need to be able to explain the benefits that the customer will receive from your products or services. The benefits should address all of the customer’s needs, including the ease of doing business, personal needs, higher level needs….
Why you? To reinforce your value proposition you need to be able to demonstrate why you or your company can deliver your capabilities better than any other supplier. Is it your past experience, industry and market knowledge, your manufacturing expertise, quality focus, your intellectual property and know-how, location footprint, past client work, etc. Many people forget this building block so it is important to differentiate yourself and your capabilities to complete your value proposition.
And one more thing from our experience, your customer’s value proposition is all about your customer and what you can do for them. It should not be an explanation of your needs. As the saying goes, ‘It’s not about you!’
Don’t just meet, facilitate
Tired of meeting after meeting? Don't just meet - use facilitation techniques to get all of the pieces to connect and work together.
In our experience, facilitation is very different from running or managing a meeting in that it involves you using your process skills to guide the meeting or working session through a problem and to decide a course of action. A skilled facilitator understands that they don’t have to have all of the answers themselves (remember the saying “we don’t know what we don’t know”), stay neutral, focus the group on problem solving, draw out ideas and solutions, and get everyone involved and keep the group moving forward.
A good facilitator will focus not just on the meeting itself but they will also focus on the process prior to the meeting. They will pay particular attention to things such as choosing the right room and location for the meeting, ensuring the right tools are in the room, planned the layout and breakout / working areas of the room, and planned their techniques for setting the right ‘climate’ for participation both before and during the meeting.
Once you get to your facilitation session, one of the models that we find useful is the G.R.O.W. model (Landsberg 2003). The is a great conversational model for facilitating problem solving and consists of four distinct steps:
Goal - What is the goal of the workshop / group working session Realities - What is working? What is not working?
Obstacles and Options - What obstacles do we face? What options do we have? What ideas and recommendations do you have?
Way forward - agree priorities and next steps, agree what will happen, who will do it and when
This may sound simple but give it a go next time you need to facilitate a group problem solving session. Like us, you will hopefully find that the model is an effective tool to keep the group focused, aligned and looking forward.
Finally, an expert facilitator will also develop their ability to deal with disruptive people in the room, run brainstorming and prioritisation sessions, set a common understanding of the problem, challenge the group, and effectively use ‘energisers’ to keep the momentum in the room.
If you would like to know more about Wasabi Consulting and what we can do to help you and your teams with your facilitation skills, we’d love to hear from you.
Need to have a difficult discussion? Avoidance is not a strategy
In business and life, one of the things that we all fear (or at least feel very uneasy about) is having a difficult discussion. Before any difficult discussion we may feel uneasy in our stomachs, we may rehearse and rehearse, we may try and practice for every possible response or we may just decide not to have the discussion at all. From our experience, avoiding a difficult discussion is not a sound strategy as you are either reinforcing the behaviour you need to address or creating an even larger issue to deal with later. If you are prone to delaying or avoiding difficult discussions, here are our top four tips to help you have a difficult discussion.
1. Think of the longer term benefits
Quite often we expect a difficult discussion to be a negative experience and it may well be a challenging experience. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable we have found it helpful to focus on the longer term benefits such as a deeper personal connection and your ability to make more informed decisions. And if that doesn’t work, you may have to remind yourself that the most important work is done when you are feeling most uncomfortable.
2. Be curious
Bring curiosity and respect to your difficult discussions. Find our what the other person thinks, find out what is behind their behaviour or the issue, and ask lots of open-ended questions to help you be curious, solicit more information and to be better informed. For example, during the discussion you can ask questions such as “how does this make you feel?” or “what impact is this having on you?” to help you uncover more information.
Open ended questions - who, what, when, where, how and why - will also help you guide the discussion through to discussing and planning the next steps. For example, a simple “what steps could we take?” or “what options do we have to help fix this?” will help you move the discussion forward and help you both to focus on future solutions.
3. Manage the space
Think about and plan for your discussion to be held in an environment that is comfortable for both you and your counterpart, is free of distractions and creates a psychological ‘safety zone’ for you both to talk openly and actively listen.
4. Actively listen
You may be thinking about your next question, still hung up on a previous comment, or even planning your next meeting when you are in the middle of your difficult discussion. If you are prone to doing any of these things, you are not actively listening and you are certainly not hearing everything that is being said, and you are certainly not hearing anything that is being unsaid. Park those other thoughts, stay in the moment and really listen to what is being said and the non-verbal cues that you are observing.
* And the significance of the picture? Give yourself time to breathe, think and create space for your counterpart to talk during your discussion. Taking a sip of your drink will help you do that.
Having difficult discussions - What happens when things go wrong?
We recently wrote about how to have difficult discussions and our top 4 tips to help you have difficult discussions - think of the long term benefits, be curious, manage the space and actively listen.
One of the questions that we are commonly asked is what happens when things go wrong in a difficult discussion; what do I do? Despite our best intentions and efforts, difficult conversations can go wrong or become even more difficult as the conversation progresses when you either become distracted, or frustration, resentment, and even a sense of wasted time and effort finds it’s way into the discussion and your mind.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that things can and will go off the track at some point in your difficult discussion. Acknowledge it and acknowledge it out loud. Once you have begun to acknowledge and accept this, there are a few things that we have found helpful in getting your conversation back on track.
Physically reposition yourself. You can even do this by moving where you are sitting to sit alongside the other person which also demonstrates that you are adopting more of a partnership approach.
If this doesn’t work, take a break from the discussion or change the location altogether. A ‘walk and talk’ is a great way to change the location of the discussion and to re-set the discussion.
You can also reposition yourself mentally by putting your views on hold, at least temporarily. Your conversation may have gone off the tracks because you are focused on getting someone else to adopt your approach or accept your point of view. It’s important to explore and understand how the other person sees a problem before you can solve it, so putting your views on hold, at least temporarily, allows some space for the other person to share their thoughts and for you to be curious as to the other person’s position. By moving into a learning mode you might find some common ground or some common ideas that allow you to move forward.
Re-focus the discussion on the future. Rather than dwelling on the current realities for too long or even just digging into the past, switch the discussion to be a forward looking one. Focus on the options that you both have or ask your counterpart for their help in problem solving. Asking questions such as “how can we move this forward?” or directly asking them for their suggestions such as “what are some of your suggestions for addressing this?” will help you direct the discussion to be forward looking.
By their nature, difficult discussions are exactly that, difficult. Your discussion may go off the track at some point and if that happens, acknowledge it and try one or all of these techniques to get your discussion back on track.