The Who, What, How, and Why of Value

Clearly and concisely communicating how you add value is a cornerstone of success.  No matter the situation – looking for a new job, growing your business, or volunteering for an organization – the ability to denominate your value is important.  But this is one of the weakest skills I’ve observed in my talent development career.  When asked what value they bring to an organization the typical types of answers I’ve heard are:

  • The Personality Trait Answer: “I am a people person, a team-player, a leader.”
  • The Vision Answer: “I want to make a difference, be inspired by colleagues, and work directly with customers.”
  • The Cover All Bases Answer: “My consulting practice serves everyone from the frontline worker to the C-Suite. I work with start-ups and Fortune 500 companies.”
  • The Vague / Jargon Answer: “I help organizations maximize their value proposition by offering customer-centric, differentiated business solutions.”

Don’t fall into any of the above traps.  Understand and communicate your value to get ahead.  Don’t exaggerate, just tell it like it is.  To get you started, know your who, what, how and why…

  1. Who + Situation = Target Audience

Think about your work over the past 24 months.  Ask, “Who uses my products and services?”  Although many people or departments may benefit from your work, focus on no more than two big buckets.  Use the 80/20 Principle – who are the 20% of your clients or customers that generate 80% of the revenue, profit, or impact of your work.  This is your “Who”.  Then choose one other audience that aggregates other audiences you wish to communicate.

Next, combine your who with the situation that best describes the environment in which you work.  Typical factors include a) size of organization; b) industry; or c) life stage.  Examples of clear who statements:

  • I help mid-level managers working in Fortune 500 companies.
  • I serve human resource departments in the transportation industry.
  • I provide financing for start-up companies during initial expansion.

It is important not to exaggerate.  When I worked for a Fortune 10 company and hired vendors, I would ask about their target audience.  If they said everyone, or they served multiple levels equally, I did not hire them.

  1. What = Outcomes

Next translate the value you deliver into the language of business outcomes.  Which performance levers best describe how your work leads to results:

  • Money: your work drives up revenue and profit, or drives down costs
  • Market: your work increases market share for your organization, or reduces the time it takes to go to market
  • Exposure: your work fosters customer retention, or mitigates operational risks

Combining the Who and the What people understand the kinds of results your deliver for a specific audience.  There are two more areas you can share to paint a complete picture of your value – How and Why.

  1. How = Expertise

Describe the repeatable process and/or skills you use to consistently deliver value.  In my experience, this is the easiest for people to articulate.  They recognize their core strengths like leadership, teamwork, analytical ability, or industry expertise to name a few examples.  Also share the process you use.  What are the three to five major steps or phases a client would see.  If clients are aware of the process, it reduces their anxiety and builds trust.

  1. Why = Motivation

Leadership expert Simon Sinek famously said, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.  When you can, share your motivation, values, and why you do what you do.  It helps create a bond with others.

Putting It All Together

Combine the four components into short value statements.  Then be prepared to offer two or three examples in the form of 90-second stories.  Below are a couple of examples to get you started.

  • I help mid-level managers working in Fortune 500 companies increase the revenue and profits of their business unit. I share proven sales techniques that drive up revenue, and analytical tools to judiciously identify cost savings.  I’m passionate about helping leaders reach their full potential.
  • I support non-profit organizations that serve women in the New England region. I raise money and provide grants to solutions that elevate the collective power of women.  I’m dedicated to becoming a national leader for gender equity and building safe and healthy communities where all women can thrive.

Bottom Line

Clearly and concisely communicate how you add value to an organization by sharing your Who, What, How and Why.   Doing this effectively will accelerate your development and success.

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