5 Steps to Developing a Compelling Project Value Proposition

Duncan Haughey

Focus on Adding Value

Times are tough! Money is tight, people are being laid off and we're deep into an economic recession. In times like these, customers focus on value propositions. "Let's suck it and see," is not a phrase you hear a lot in a recession.

Customers look at the value proposition of projects and ask, "How does the spend on this project benefit us?"

Strong value propositions include: ¹

"A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. The more specific your value proposition is, the better." Jill Konrath, Author of Selling to Big Companies.

• Increased revenues.
• Faster time to market.
• Decreased costs.
• Improved operational efficiency.
• Increased market share.
• Decreased employee turnover.
• Improved customer retention levels.

Projects with the best value proposition will win. So how can you emphasise the value proposition of your project.

Here are a few pointers...

#1: Address Real Needs

Address the customers' needs, which may be different to what they have told you. This may seem obvious, but people are not always clear about their requirements. It's your responsibility to tease out the full requirements for the project.

To do so, listen hard, and check your understanding as you go.

A common mistake is thinking of, or worse still, developing a solution before the requirements are known. The customer will tell you a lot, some will be relevant to the project, some not. Ensure you record all the requirements, use open questions to delve deeper, and test your understanding by playing back to the customer what you understand their requirements are.

They will like the fact you show interest in them and their problems. It will make your eventual solution sound more considered and tailor-made.

Make sure you are addressing a genuine business need, otherwise your relationship with them is likely to be short and a casualty of the recession.

#2: Go Beyond the Basics

Look for ways to improve your offering. Look to address a genuine business need. For example, a customer may wish to implement a Web Content Management System (WCMS). They may want to publish video content regularly on their website, but haven't got a way of storing and classifying it effectively. You could improve your offering by including a Digital Asset Management element to your project, reasoning that it dovetails nicely with the WCMS, thus killing two birds with one stone.

This can also get you ongoing work, if pitched right, and may involve little more than implementing extra software modules.


#3: Establish Feedback Mechanisms

Feedback is an important part of every project. The more you talk with the customer, the more you will find out. Constant contact will give you a valuable insight into what the customer is thinking.

Feedback is an important gauge of how satisfied customers are with the delivery of a service or the quality of goods received. When feedback is offered and you respond by taking appropriate action, customers feel cared about. This helps build trust.

Building trust and establishing feedback mechanisms can give you more ideas on how to "Go Beyond the Basics ", and how to best address the genuine business need.

Don't be afraid to engage in open, free and frank conversations with your customers.

#4: Look at Projects as Partnerships

Supplier selection can be a pain. It's time-consuming and risky. A poor choice can lead to wasted time, cost and the hurt of having to carry out the process again.

Customers don't just want suppliers, they want trusted partners. They want somebody who is on their side. Look at your customer as a business partner. If they like you, they are unlikely to go back to the market to find somebody else. So make their business, your business.

Take this approach and create a win-win situation for you and your customers.

#5. Learn About the Business

Let's say your customer is in the Logistics business, learn everything you can about that industry. Research and understand the industry in a broad sense, not just the part your project covers.

One of the interesting parts of being a project manager is that you get to look in detail at people's businesses. You learn about the people, processes, issues, risks and opportunities.

This makes you a valuable asset as you've become a "Logistics Guy". You can talk to the customer about their business in their language, understand their problems and you've got industry knowledge.

In conclusion...

These tips won't make your project recession proof, but they will help you emphasise its value proposition, and help you standout from the crowd.

Reprinted with permission from Project Smart, a project management resource that helps managers at all levels to improve their performance.