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How to Develop a Unique Sales Proposition That Sells?

Have you ever felt like your product or service gets lost in the sea of competition? Do your prospects end up going with similar options even when you know you can solve their problems?

Crafting a unique sales proposition (USP) can be the difference between blending into the background noise or standing out in a meaningful way. But coming up with a compelling USP isn’t always easy, especially in a crowded marketplace.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for developing a USP that sells. You’ll learn how to:

  • Deeply understand your target customer
  • Research what else is out there (and what’s missing)
  • Identify your real differentiation
  • Craft a value-focused message
  • Bring it all together into a clear unique value proposition

With the right strategy, you can showcase the specific value you provide to your ideal customer. This will help you rise above the competition and attract the perfect prospects for your business.

So whether you offer consulting services, make software products, sell handmade items, or something else entirely, read on to learn how to develop a winning unique sales proposition.

Understanding Your Target Customer is Key

The first step in crafting a strong unique sales proposition? Truly understanding your target customer.

You can’t possibly differentiate your offering if you don’t intimately know your ideal buyer persona inside and out.

Start by getting clear on demographics:

  • Where are they located?
  • How old are they?
  • What level of income and education do they have?

Then dig into details around their role and responsibilities:

  • What industry and company size do they work for?
  • What’s their specific job title and function?
  • What does a typical day look like? What tasks and challenges consume them?

And finally, the psychology:

  • What matters most to them? Are they motivated by achievement? Saving time? Reducing risk?
  • What problems do they need to solve?
  • What outcomes are they hiring you for?

Tools like buyer persona templates, user interviews, and customer advisory boards can uncover these valuable insights.

The more clarity you have around who your ideal customers are and what they care about, the better you’ll be able to tailor your messaging specifically for them.

So do the work upfront to intimately understand your target customer before developing your unique proposition.

Research the Competition (and Gaps)

Now that you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, it’s time to analyze the competitive landscape.

The goal here is to identify existing alternatives your potential customers might consider alongside your offering. This includes both direct competitors as well as indirect substitutes.

For example, an appointment scheduling software platform would research other software tools in the category as well as non-software options like hiring an admin professional.

As you uncover the various options your target customer could choose from, make note of:

  • Key players: Which competitors hold significant market share or mindshare? These are the ones to focus on.
  • Messaging: What claims and messaging are competitors using to sell their offerings? Look for patterns here.
  • Features: What capabilities and functionality do they provide? Are there any key features unique to certain competitors?
  • Pricing: How do competitors price and monetize their offerings? Where do they seem to be positioned on a good-better-best scale?
  • Gaps: Most importantly, are there any important problems that remain unsolved? Needs unmet? Desires unsatisfied? Dig for the gaps.

Online reviews and community forums can provide especially useful insight here into where competitors are falling short and what customers wish for but can’t find.

Uncovering unsatisfied needs is gold because it reveals opportunities to differentiate. The key is whether you’ll be able to close the most important gaps better than anyone else.

Identify Your Real Differentiation

Now comes the fun part: identifying what makes you different.

With your target customer and competitive landscape in mind, reflect on how your offering stands apart.

To pinpoint your differentiation, complete this sentence:

For [target customer description], no other [product/service] provides [key benefit]

That key benefit is what you can start building your unique proposition around.

Some examples:

For busy managers who need to track team projects, no other software offers the ease of use and automation of Project Captain.

For mountain bikers who want all-day comfort, no other bike seat cushioning absorbs shock like the TrailFlo bike seat insert.

Dig into how you deliver that special benefit in a way no one else does.

And don’t just rely on your assumptions here – validate them through customer research. Surveys, beta user feedback, reviews, and case studies can back up whether your believed differentiation is real or not.

Uncovering your “unfair advantage” over the competition is what this is all about. So push past the generic claims like “high quality” or “great service” to find your uniquely better solution.

Craft a Value-Focused Message

So you’ve identified the special way you help your target customer. Now it’s time to turn that into a compelling message.

The key to an effective unique proposition is keeping the focus on your customer – not yourself.

Don’t just claim you have the “best software” or “most experienced team”. Show the value your customer gets through improved productivity, saved time, reduced costs, etc.

Tie every claim back to tangible outcomes for the buyer.

Some examples:

Weak message: “Our product has the most advanced automation.”

Stronger message: “Do more in less time with automated workflows inside Project Captain software.”

Weak message: “Our bike seat insert uses patented comfort foam.”

Stronger message: “Ride longer without soreness using the shock-absorbing TrailFlo bike seat cushion.”

See how the better messages talk directly about the customer’s experience and needs? This value-first approach is vital.

When crafting your unique proposition wording itself, a good formula is:

If [customer need], then [your solution] because [reason to believe].

The “reason to believe” part covers whatever backs up your ability to deliver on the promised solution better than anyone else. This might be special expertise, technology, processes, or other advantages — just make sure it’s meaningful to the customer.

Using this template along with value-focused language helps you convey a compelling and credible unique selling proposition your audience can connect with.

Bringing it All Together

Now we’ve covered the key ingredients, how do you bring it all together into one tight unique value proposition?

I recommend a 3-step approach:

1. Lead with the key customer need or desire.

Opening by calling out your audience’s major pain point grabs attention because it’s about them. Plus, it shows you truly understand what they’re looking for.

2. Follow with your special solution or outcome.

Next, spotlight how you uniquely meet that need better than the alternatives. Remember to focus on the customer benefit.

3. End with your unfair advantage.

Close by addressing “why you” – what makes you distinctly capable of delivering this value. Boil it down to your simplest differentiator.

Here are some USP examples that follow this format:

Want to scale your e-commerce sales globally without added overhead? ShipFar provides automated multi-channel shipping optimized for worldwide demand because our technology seamlessly integrates over 200 carriers worldwide.

Notice how it leads with the customer growth obstacle, then the special solution, closing with the core advantage.

Here’s another:

Feel held back by workout injuries? FitCamp designs customized training programs catered to your unique recovery needs because our patented algorithm provides personalized healing insights no trainer can.

The pattern remains the same, while tailored to these different audiences.

Following a tight structure like this helps ensure your unique proposition calls out the key elements clearly and compellingly so your audience “gets it”.

Turning Your USP into Compelling Marketing

Now that you’ve honed your unique value proposition, it’s time to work it into your overall marketing.

Your USP shouldn’t just live in your elevator pitch or About page. Weave it throughout the customer journey to reinforce your differentiated promise at every touch.

Website: Feature your concise USP prominently on your homepage. Sprinkle supporting details on solution and product pages.

Sales conversations: Lead with your USP early in sales calls or demos before diving into specifics.

Advertising: Incorporate your USP into ad copy and imagery across channels like paid search and social.

Collateral: Include value-focused claims derived from your core USP on all sales sheets, brochures, presentations, etc.

The more consistent exposure your audience has to your differentiated positioning, the more likely your USP is to stick and sway decisions.

Treat your USP like a mantra everyone in your company knows and expresses clearly at all times. Alignment is powerful.

Then track conversion rates, win rates, customer retention, and other key metrics to see if leading with your USP moves the needle.

If the data shows certain channels, touchpoints or pieces of collateral outperform when emphasizing your unique proposition, double down on what works.

Measuring Results and Optimizing

Speaking of optimization…to keep your USP compelling amidst marketplace change, you’ve got to stay on top of it.

Set reminders to revisit your positioning every 6-12 months or after major product launches or customer segment expansions.

When you review, ask these key questions:

  • Is our target customer still accurate? If expanding to new segments, your differentiation may need to flex.
  • Have competitive offerings changed? Any new alternatives or shifted landscapes?
  • Does our special advantage still resonate? Evolve if customer preferences or needs have changed.

Tweak outdated or underperforming messaging in favor of language better reflecting current uniqueness and value.

Surveys, win/loss analysis, and support calls also provide regular input into changing buyer needs. Continually incorporate insights to strengthen your proposition’s relevance.

Ongoing refinement is crucial to countering shifting market dynamics over time. Don’t let your USP go stale!

Quiz: Is Your USP Standing Out?

To apply what you learned, rate how well your current or planned USP stacks up on these key criteria:

Focused on target customer needs
Clear articulation of special value
Direct comparison to competition
Language centered around outcomes
Hard proof points of advantage
Tight, memorable statement
Integrated across marketing
Optimized over time
Unique Sales Proposition Quiz


For each criteria row, select one of the options (Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent) that you feel best represents how well your current or planned unique value proposition meets that criteria.

Once you’ve self-assessed all 8 rows, tally up your total points based on the following:

  • Poor = 0 points
  • Fair = 1 point
  • Good = 2 points
  • Excellent = 3 points

So if you rated yourself “Good” on 5 criteria, “Excellent” on 2 criteria, and “Fair” on 1 criteria, your total score would be:

Good (2 points x 5 criteria) = 10 points
Excellent (3 points x 2 criteria) = 6 points Fair (1 point x 1 criteria) = 1 point

Total = 17 points

Tally your scores

  • 0-8 points: Opportunity to improve cut-through for your differentiation
  • 9-16 points: Good start with room to enhance competitive separation
  • 17-24 points: Strong unique proposition driving real customer connection

Recap and Key Takeaways

Here’s a quick recap of the key steps covered for crafting a compelling unique sales proposition:

  • Deeply understand your target customer
  • Research competitor offerings and unsolved pain points
  • Identify your special differentiation and value
  • Craft a customer-centered message
  • Distill into a tight USP statement
  • Integrate across your marketing
  • Measure impact on conversion and retention
  • Continually optimize your positioning

Following this game plan will help you develop an authentic, value-based USP tailored to your niche. This drives a real connection with your perfect-fit audience in a crowded space.

The companies most adept at clearly conveying why they’re the best choice for a given customer reap the rewards. So whether you’re a startup seeking your first patrons or a scale-up pursuing new segments, a differentiated unique proposition is key.

Hopefully, this guide has provided tactical guidance to help you find your positioning sweet spot and compellingly express it. Just remember – maintain an outward focus on conveying value over self-focused claims.

Now that you’re armed with a process for building a winning, customer-centric USP, the real impact comes from putting it out there.

So take the insights here and make some magic happen for your business and clients through an unmatched unique selling proposition. Wishing you success standing out with positioning that sells!

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