I’m often asked “Which is better: an elevator speech, a unique selling proposition or a value proposition?” And the answer to this question is of paramount importance—if you stumble over this initial hurdle, the race is all but lost.

Each of these ways of pitching your product or service is effective in its place and time, but when it comes to piquing your prospects’ interest in your offering, there is one clear winner.

  • Elevator speech. This brief pitch is great for casual meetings, networking events or any other time you want to strike up a conversation with a stranger. It can be explanatory or even funny.
  • Unique selling proposition. This is also known as your competitive differentiator and is about how you’re different from your competitors. It might include your specialty, your strengths or what makes you stand out. Basically, it’s helpful to prospects who are trying to decide among a variety of options.
  • Value proposition. The overall winner. Use this when prospects aren’t ready to change from the status quo. Value propositions are designed to create a potential need by describing the outcomes a prospect can expect by using your product, service or solution. It’s business-focused and uses terms such as “improve operational efficiency” or “reduce turnover.”

Good value propositions get prospects to think “Wow, that’s really interesting. I need to learn more about that.”And since 95 percent of your prospects are not thinking about making a decision, you should be using the value proposition almost all the time. Why? Because it does something the other two don’t: help your prospect see how changing from the status quo will benefit him.

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Jill Konrath is the author of SNAP Selling, Selling to Big Companies and Agile Selling. If you’re struggling to set up meetings, click here to get a free Prospecting Tool Kit.