Something I hear over and over from LSP owners, project managers and business development managers is how difficult it is to differentiate their services, capture customer interest and deal with downward pricing pressures.
One of the reasons for this is that we are not articulating the value we provide to customers. As a result, we end up with less interest in our services or in pricing discussions that nearly inevitably end in price reductions. We can’t just “say no” however because it seems someone will invariably do it for less. This problem is particularly acute in our industry since the barriers to entry are low and there seems to be a willingness by some companies’ to operate with little or no profit.
What is needed is a solid foundation on which your entire organization can clearly articulate benefits your clients derive from using your services. That foundation is a compelling value proposition.
Developing a value proposition
So what is a strong value proposition?
According to Jill Konrath, a world-renowned sales consultant, – “it is a clear statement of the tangible business results your customer derives from using your products or services.” Said another way, it is the business outcomes and the benefits you deliver rather than the services you provide. It should answer your customer’s question “Why should I buy from you rather than someone else?”
To find that value, you need to understand your customer’s business objectives from their perspective. What are they trying to achieve and how does translation help them do it?
This requires an understanding of the customer’s industry and their role in the company. This exercise is nearly impossible to do for all the industries and customers you serve, so I strongly suggest you start by identifying your ‘ideal client’ or clients.
Think about the industries and customers (by title) you serve best, the projects you do best, the projects you enjoy doing and the projects that generate the highest profits. This should help you narrow down the field and show where you can add the most value. Remember this is for pro-actively finding new, non-transactional customers. These concepts generally do not apply to “accidental business” that just happens to arrive at your door or for the price-only buyer.
If you still can’t answer the question “why should they buy from us” then I would approach your best customers and ask them what business benefits they derive from your services.
Find out what drives them, what their annual objectives are, what market or industry trends are impacting their business. Ask your customers directly about how your service helps them do things better, how you save them money (through process improvements, not price reductions), how you help them improve time-to-market, win a legal case, file a new patent, release a software product, market a new drug, communicate financial information, conduct market research, etc.
Also, ask your customers what would happen if they didn’t translate. Would they lose market share, revenue, credibility or customers, or eliminate international markets, lose a legal case, have employees who violate company policies because they don’t understand them?
Answers to these questions will help you uncover what business problems your services solve and suggest the true value you provide to your customers. You might even come away from customer chats with new service offerings that could help your customers do their jobs better. Customer feedback can help you articulate your value proposition.
Once defined, you’ll need to start communicating your value proposition. It should permeate all communications, marketing materials and customer conversations so that your prospective customers can remember you and differentiate you in their minds, as opposed to lumping you in with the other nondescript companies vying for their business. You may need to develop new marketing materials such as case studies, that focus on how customers use and benefit from your services rather than brochures that list languages, services and quality standards.
Remember, it’s the results you deliver, not the services you provide that communicates your value.
Selling value rather than price
Leading a sale with value is very different from leading a sale with services, so your staff needs to develop the right skills to keep the discussion on value instead of price. Give them the tools to achieve this. Provide them with a strong value proposition and make sure they develop a deep understanding of it. Give them training so they can communicate your value at the right place, at the right time, in the right context to any number of people in the customer’s organization.
According to the authors of The Challenger Sale, the primary factor that influences customer loyalty is the customer’s experience with sales. 53% of companies said this was more important than the product or service their suppliers provided and suggests that your staff are one of your key differentiators, but only if they can articulate your value.
Karen Netto of freelance agency Anglicity, summed it up nicely in her blog where she states:
“Clients will not pay more for the current average product and service available across the industry. They don’t want to pay more for a nondescript product accompanied by an inflexible service. They will pay for a more personalized, tailored, specialized translation service. They will pay for translations that can, for example, sell their products.”
What an excellent value proposition she suggests – “I provide translations that can help you sell your products!” In this simple statement, she focuses on what she can do for the customer and what benefits they will derive from her service. Isn’t that more compelling than “I provide high-quality translations?”
Lay a strong foundation for your business by developing a compelling value proposition. You’ll win more and more profitable projects that will sustain your business.
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