You've been there. At a networking function someone asks you what your company does, and you freeze like a deer in the headlights. You haven't thought it through so what might roll off your tongue is a lengthy speech that says absolutely nothing. Worse yet, you might default to spitting out a feature/benefit dump that also does nothing, except perhaps turn off your potential client! Later, you cringe at the memory and beat yourself up for not doing better.

Learn to tell your story.

The art of great storytelling has existed for thousands of years and recently it's been gaining in popularity in the business world. In "Made to Stick" , authors Chip and Dan Heath talk about creating stories and messages that are "sticky". There is a lot of competition for the average person's attention these days, so what you do must stand out.

Mike Wittenstein of "Storyminers" takes the concept of a unique selling proposition and recommends presenting what you offer as a story. The best experiences we have are when we are hooked by the story, he says. It's that way for your customers and prospects also.

It starts with understanding your uniqueness, the value of what YOU offer to others. Here are 3 tips for building a strong unique selling proposition:

Know why people buy the type of product or service you offer.

Surprisingly a lot of people just don't think this through. You may be one of them. Remember, a great USP showcases your uniqueness and tells people what's in it for them if they buy from you. It focuses on results, not on product features or business processes.

You've got to do your homework! Do some digging to really uncover what's different about you and what you have to offer. Do you know how people describe you to others? What do you want to be known for? What do your current clients like about working with you? Why do people buy what you have to offer? Why will they choose you over some other company? Dig for the answers and you might be surprised by what you discover!

Mine the gaps between your business and your competition.

Unless you make a widget that no one else makes, you HAVE competition. To know your competition, you've got to study them. Check out their website. Study their ads. Find out how they promote themselves. Look for things you offer that they do not. Find out why people buy from them. Ask a prospect who may be using a service similar to what you offer, what they wish their current provider would offer. Use every opportunity to gather information by asking questions. When you understand the gap, creating your USP becomes much easier.

Fill the void.

In every industry there is a business need going unresolved. You have to discover what that is and meet the need or "fix the pain", as professional coaches and trainers say. The void for your prospects may be caused by lack of time, competing priorities, lack of balance in their lives or a myriad of other issues. Whatever it is, find that void and then talk about how your product or service fills the gap. Read blogs, ask your clients what challenges they face or what they believe are the obstacles down the road, watch for trends in business publications, look at what isn't being offered, but whatever you do, be sure to conduct thoroughresearch before assuming that what you plan to offer is something people want.

Regardless of who you are - CEO, Coach, Consultant, Sales Professional - you have products and services that you need to tell people about in ways that engage them and entice them to buy from you. Remember that being able to tell your story -- to articulate your unique sales proposition quickly, effortlessly and with conviction will help you sell more, more often!

Author's Bio: 

Talent Builders CEO Barbara Giamanco capped a corporate sales career at Microsoft, where she led and trained sales teams and coached sales executives, before establishing Talent Builders, Inc. in 2002. She has more than 25 years of experience in selling to enterprise, mid-market and retail accounts and knows what it’s like to walk in the shoes of the sales person. During her career, her accounts have included American Express Worldwide, Motorola, Best Buy, Circuit City, Anheuser-Busch, Target, and Honeywell. Visit us on the web at www.talentbuildersinc.com