Is Your Elevator Speech Hurting Your Business? Replace it with Your Authentic Value PropositionTM

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This blog article is excerpted from Bill Cates’ newest book, Beyond Referrals.

Fundamental to your business success is your ability to discover, articulate, and communicate your value. For many years, I’ve been helping financial professionals with a process to help them discover and maximize their Authentic Value Proposition (AVP) to win new clients and get more introductions. My experience has taught me that most people (and businesses) are not particularly good at communicating their full and true value. Perhaps they’ve never really done the work it takes. Or they’ve gotten bad advice and put together cute or tricky “elevator speeches” – thinking that’s the same as an Authentic Value Proposition.

I hope you find this brief glimpse into my process helpful.


The first step in the process is to fully understand your value. There are two ways to go about this. Putting them together, you get the full picture of your AVP.

  1. Go through your entire offering – from when you first reach out to your prospects, to bringing them on as a client, to continuing to serve them. What are all the Points of Value? What do you teach them about how to buy what you sell? What questions do you ask that get them thinking in ways they haven’t thought before? What big problems do you solve? What little problems do you solve? What small and big opportunities do you present to them? Make an exhaustive list. Now you’re ready for Step 2.
  2. Armed with the results from the first step, go ask your clients for their perspective. Please don’t make the mistake in thinking that you know everything about the value you provide. You don’t. You know what your product or service is designed to do, but that can often be quite different than how your clients’ perceive your value.

For example: One of my clients, a financial advisor, is a recovering perfectionist. When I asked him what he thought his clients valued about him, he said that he was “really good at explaining things clearly.” We put it to the test. He asked some of his clients where they believed he brought value. They had many good things to say about him, but none of them said, “You’re good at explaining things.” This doesn’t mean his ability to explain things wasn’t valued. It just means that it wasn’t on the top of his clients’ list of things.

Start the conversation without your list. “Bob, I’m doing some work on my business’ value proposition. I certainly have a pretty good idea where and how we bring value to our clients. However, I know what I think isn’t of ultimate importance; it’s what my clients think. It would be extremely helpful for me to hear how you perceive our business. What’s working? What’s not? Everything you can think of. I even have a list that I may refer to from time to time to get your thoughts.”


Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and put it in a form that you’ll be able to communicate to prospects, clients, and centers of influence. This applies to all forms of communication – oral, written, and social media (the new communication).

Take what you’ve learned and slowly, but surely mold it to fit into these six primary AVP questions:

  1. Who/What are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. How do you do it?
  4. Who do you do it for? (Types of clients – niche, target market, etc.)
  5. Why do you do what you do?
  6. What makes you different?

As you craft your answers to these questions, use the following as a guideline for your answers. These are not “laws,” but my 20 years of experience has taught me that they probably should be.

The 5 C’s of Your Authentic Value Proposition

  • Concise

Brevity is paramount. One to three sentences for all of the questions above – except, “Why do you do what you do?” This often comes in the form of a story. Keep in mind that you might be answering a couple of these questions together, so keep these succinct.

  • Clear

Ditch your industry jargon. Keep it as simple and direct as possible. Avoid trying to be too cute or too clever. A little is okay, but you don’t want that to get in the way of people understanding your value. Test it out with some friends NOT in your industry. Do they cock their heads like my dog when I say something he doesn’t understand? Ask them to be brutally honest.

  • Conversational

Be yourself. Be authentic. Since you’ll be writing these out, the tendency will be to make them read like a school paper. Picture a person in front of you and just have a conversation with them. If you have a sense of humor, use it – appropriately.

  • Client Benefit Centric

It’s so powerful when the person you’re sharing this with (whether in writing or orally) can see themselves (or others they know) in your message. So whenever possible, try to include words such as people, our clients, you, folks, etc. “We help our clients_____.” “We work with folks who ______.”

  • Convey Emotion

Trust comes from the level of “feeling.” So you have to incorporate words that evoke an emotional response inside of your prospect or client. A few such words are: protect, dreams, safe, save, peace of mind, stress, and success. This has to be genuine – not just going through the motions.

  • Communicate

Once you’ve discovered your full value and you’ve articulated it with the process I outlined above, you’ll be able to communicate your AVP with fluency and confidence. Here’s how to execute this process so that you can talk about your value with clarity and confidence at a moment’s notice.

  1. Type up your AVP.
  2. Read it aloud and share it with a colleague and friends.
  3. Refine your AVP based on feedback and reflection.
  4. Practice delivering it with confidence and clarity.

Doing this kind of strategic work will automatically set you apart from the crowd. Using your AVP to keep yourself and/or your team focused will help you bring in more new clients and generate many more high-quality introductions.

Bill Cates is an author, highly sought-after keynote speaker and founder of the popular Referral Coach Academy, an online learning and coaching program. Learn more at Bill can be reached at

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