Making the Pitch: The Value Proposition for Team Coaching
Published on Jul 8, 2015 by Phillip Sandahl
The handshake seals the deal. It represents more than agreement or contract, it represents a mutual benefit achieved: both parties, value for value exchanged. Getting to the handshake can be a winding road with many starts and stops. We especially want to avoid the stops. A clear, strong, value proposition will get you to the handshake more often and faster.
The value proposition describes a reason to buy. It matches a compelling need of the buyer with a valuable deliverable form the seller. When these two line up properly there is a resonance. Business moves forward. Until they line up the conversation wanders looking for alignment.
For team coaching, it seems that getting to that resonance should be easier than it is. The need is so obvious and compelling. The impact of team coaching couldn’t be clearer. Organizations put extraordinary emphasis on teams. The proliferation of teams is epidemic. The pressure to do more with less, and move teams as fast as possible from forming to high performing is relentless. In spite of that driving focus most teams are under-performing — drastically under-performing. In fact, our data shows that less than 10% of teams rate themselves high performing — leaving more than 90% struggling or outright dysfunctional. 1
And yet most organizations are wary, skeptical, even resistant to team coaching as an option. Why is that? In simplest terms, they don’t perceive the value.
In order to shift the buyer’s position, and move a step closer in the conversation, we need answers to two questions every buyer is asking:
- Why should I buy what you’re selling?
- Why should I buy from you?
When you have answers to those two questions you have a viable value proposition. There is no one, single, golden, resonant, all-purpose value proposition for team coaching. It will always be a unique match with your strengths and your clients and their unique needs. But there is a process for creating a value proposition and ways to make yours as robust and persuasive as possible.
What makes a strong value proposition?
The stronger the match between the client’s need and your offering, the more resonant your alignment and the more likely you will get the business. Imagine a meter for resonance. We want a value proposition that pushes the meter as far as possible. There are four elements that drive the needle on that meter.
Find a pressing concern
There is a more graphic version of this first recommendation: find the pain and press on it. Until you have found the issue causing the most pain for the buyer, you can’t describe the antidote you offer. It would be like prescribing aspirin for a bleeding cut. It doesn’t match.
There are typically two (or more) versions of the value proposition. The high level view is the one you create for your professional services business. You can think of that as your marketing version of the value proposition. For each client and each proposal you will do a similar process to find a value proposition specific to that organization and team engagement. The structure is the same; the end result is more detailed and more targeted.
1 Data from Team Coaching International, review of Team Diagnostic™ assessments database
Zero in on benefit
The benefit addresses the pressing concern. No matter how brilliant, if what you offer doesn’t make an obvious difference to the need, it is irrelevant. For example, every product has a variety of features. Only some of those features matter to the buyer because they address the compelling need. Benefits generate heat and attention. Features are cold.
One of the most common mistakes in creating a value proposition, is speaking in generalities. Especially for the corporate buyer, broad, general, subjective benefits are not persuasive. In fact it can result in a loss of credibility because you do not speak the local language, which is about specific, measurable, results.
Think about the result this client wants and in your response, remember, the more tangible, the better. Some specific benefits possible from team coaching:
- Increase revenue
- Faster to market
- Reduce turnover
- Improve efficiency
- More satisfied customers/stakeholders
Jim Collins, in “Good to Great” makes the point that in today’s marketplace good enough is no longer good enough. Often buyers will be evaluating the cost of the investment, wondering if the proposal will create the results they want and if there will be a value return. Urgency comes from questions like these: “What’s the cost if nothing changes?” “How long is this organization willing to tolerate the current situation?” Note that until you have found the pain, a clear benefit and an outcome that matters, it will be difficult to generate much fire for urgency. When the first three line up urgency comes rushing in.
A strong value proposition keeps the focus on results. When the outcome and benefit are not clear and relevant, the value equation is reduced to price. Is it worth the money? A strong value proposition is just that — it’s about value delivered. You want to avoid price as the value measure—you want impact to be the measure.
How to create a value proposition
The structure for creating the value proposition is the same whether your goal is a marketing version for your business or a specific application intended for a proposal.
Who are your customers?
Sounds simple enough but is often treated superficially. The best answer to this question comes when you step into the shoes of your client, and imagine inhabiting their world, their everyday workplace. This is not an abstract exercise; the more personal it feels to you as you think about your clients the better. You are more likely to empathize with the pain when you experience the world of work they are in.
What are you selling?
Here’s the tip: you are not selling services; you are not selling products; you are selling solutions. You are solving problems. You are helping teams and organizations produce better results. Look at the tools and services in your toolkit and be clear about what you are selling.
What is the customer buying?
This is often where the misalignment shows up. Again, by stepping into the shoes of your client you will get a clearer picture of what is important — what the client is actually willing to spend money on and trust your ability to deliver. The customer is buying an antidote to an underlying pain and the result will be a healthier, more productive team. The customer is buying results — not process. Your process is only important to the customer if it is relevant to producing the outcome that matters, or if it differentiates you from competitors in a way that matters to the client and what they want.
What difference does it make?
The shorter version of this question is, “So what?” If you have done the work to understand the compelling concern and focused on clear benefit, it will be much easier for you to answer this question. In fact you may have multiple answers to the question. Remember as you work with this question to be as specific as possible.
What differentiates you?
The market is bulging with individual coaches, consultants, small boutique operations, all pitching their expertise, their experience and satisfied client lists. Unfortunately, from the buyer’s point of view they can all look pretty much the same; they say pretty much the same things, and offer the same sorts of services. Part of your job with the value proposition is to find a way to separate yourself from the masses. Even so you won’t win every proposal but your odds improve dramatically when you can point to a clear difference that makes a difference. What differentiates you also makes you memorable.
What you can do
The next step is to start drafting, answering the questions and throwing ideas on the table. This should be a free flowing creative process, allowing plenty of room for thinking outside the box, and often asking the question, “So what?” Those two words will serve you well. Consider asking colleagues or even better, friends who don’t know your business very well. They won’t have the assumptions and biases you do about your business and what you offer and will often ask the straight to the point sorts of questions that potential clients will ask.
Also consider asking clients for their feedback. These “voice of the customer” interviews can be very informal, 15 minutes or less, and can provide excellent insight into what client’s consider important and how they perceive team coaching in general and your offering in particular.
The value of value
Even in prosperous economic times (remember those?), the available budget for team building, or training in general was limited. The correlation between training, coaching, or team development and actual business results has always been more premise than a promise that organizations could count on — at least not count on literally, in dollars and cents, or pounds and pence. In today’s pressurized economy all development looks like a rare luxury for most companies.
And yet the need is there. The goal of course is to be in a position to speak with customers about the need in a way that draws them into a conversation where you can show you can make a difference. The value proposition is a reason to buy, but more than that is the win-win alignment that makes a difference. You speak their language, understand their issues and have a proposition that delivers value. That’s when clients say, “Now you’re talking.” That’s resonance. Now you’re in business.
Value Proposition for Team Coaching International
Measurable Impact. We can show you the numbers. 2
Phillip Sandahl MCC, CPCC
Chief Coaching Officer
Team Coaching International
Co-Founder of Team Coaching International (TCI), Phil is an international coach, trainer, writer and speaker and co-developer of the Team Diagnostic™ assessment (TDA). The TDA is now in 22 languages with representative facilitator/coaches in over 35 countries. Phil has worked with teams in North America, Europe and Asia, including Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Cisco, ING Bank, the U.S. State Department and U.S. Navy. He is co-author of the book, Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life, considered the leading textbook on coaching.
2 20% increase in the Team Performance Indicators™ contributing to team productivity and team culture, based on a sample of “before” and “after” Team Diagnostic™ assessments.