The inside game and your unique selling proposition

I have a question for you. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and I’m sure you will hear it again. It’s a simple question to ask, and surprisingly difficult for many people to answer. But, if you can answer it in a clear, concise and memorable manner, it will dramatically increase your chances of success with prospective clients.

My question is this: “Why should I do business with you?” Or, better yet, “What makes you different from the competition?” What I’m really asking is, what’s your unique selling proposition?

I recently asked that question to an executive at a global translation company.  After some thought, he responded, “You should do business with us because we provide good prices and good service.”

Well, guess what? You’d be hard pressed — I mean very hard pressed — to find a language service provider (LSP) that didn’t include “competitive pricing and great service” as part of their sales pitch.

Likewise, if you think your “special” two-step quality assurance process along with the use of native speakers and industry specialists as linguists differentiates you from the rest of the pack, you are mistaken. True differentiation comes from providing something that other service providers can’t or don’t provide.

All LSPs provide translation, so that really shouldn’t be part of your unique selling proposition. It’s a given. So offer it some thought. What can your company do that no other — or at least not all the others — can do?

For example, do you offer application programming interface integrations with your client’s content management system? Can you provide 24-hour service? Do you have a secure translation platform that doesn’t allow linguists to copy and paste content or that can detect potential security violations?

Some selling points are quite simple, such as extended office hours or weekend coverage. When I was acting as CEO Asia Pacific for CLS Communication, we were able to win a significant amount of business from the competition because we could provide on-site linguists during all hours of the day in several cities across Asia. This was part of our unique selling point.

Our clients in the finance sector were willing to a pay premium for this service and our translators and copywriters enjoyed the opportunity to work on-site at some of the world’s most famous companies. I mean, they definitely had nicer offices than ours!

You may also want to consider tailoring your selling points to your prospect’s needs. For example, our contact at a large Japanese multinational corporation mentioned that one of the challenges they faced with their existing translation vendor was the use of manual paper-based invoicing. In response, we tailored our presentation to highlight all of the automated processes that we could provide, including reporting and invoicing. Translation was barely even discussed. The focus of both sides was on finding a solution to a problem.

Which brings me to the final and ultimate selling point: the strongest salespeople don’t sell words. They sell solutions or solve problems.

If you want to be a top performing salesperson in the localization industry, then don’t sell localization or translation. Sell solutions! Your prospects and clients will respect and appreciate you more if you help them to solve problems.

Anybody can get a document translated. But very few people have the knowledge, ability and patience to help prospective clients solve workflow, IT and budgetary issues, or other problems that may arise along the way. If you are the person who does, you will be the one who, more often than not, gets invited back, wins the business and gets referrals.

Another reason you need a unique selling proposition is that having one will motivate you to sell more. Product knowledge and product belief are the foundations and propellants for our sales efforts.  If you don’t know or believe in your product, it will be very difficult for you to sell it.

On the other hand, if you clearly understand how your service is better than the competition, you will have much more enthusiasm when you are introducing it to prospects. People will sense this and want to work with you.

Thus, the path to increased sales starts with a clear, concise and memorable answer to the question, “What makes you different from the competition?”

Well, what’s your answer?