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What is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

A good USP always wins

A Unique Selling Proposition is a statement that helps you stand out from the competition.

A Unique Selling Proposition is a statement that helps you stand out from the competition. They can be designed for any product, company or person.  Defining your USP is helpful in selling situations for two major reasons. First, if you don’t know what makes your product or company unique and better than its competitors, you’ll have a tough time giving your customers a reason to buy it over those competitors. And second, a USP gives your prospects a clear-cut rationale for doing business with you.

The best USP for your specific situation isn’t always obvious. Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, created one of the best unique selling propositions for cosmetics when he famously said that “We sell hope, not makeup.” When deciding on your USP you must think about what your customers stand to gain from your product or service and base your USP around that. The whole point of a USP is to give a benefit, not describe a feature.

Many companies use a UPS as their slogan. For example, take Milky Way’s slogan, “The sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite.” The slogan clearly lays out how Milky Way bars are unique in their industry: unlike their competitors’ candy bars, they won’t fill you up and spoil your dinner. It’s a benefit phrase that resonates strongly with Milky Way’s potential customers.

Some companies have a tough time finding a good USP because they know their product isn’t necessarily the best in the marketplace. Smart salespeople can turn this challenge into an opportunity by pointing out how a perceived disadvantage is actually an advantage. A classic example is the car rental company Avis, who was originally far behind its powerful competitor Hertz in market share. Avis launched a new ad campaign based around the slogan “We’re number two. We try harder,” and tripled that market share in just four years.

There are many different types of unique selling propositions. Here are a few more unique selling proposition examples.

As a salesperson, a Unique Selling Proposition is a statement that helps you stand out from the competition so you get the opportunity to sell. We can easily fall into the trap of illusionary superiority and get comfortable and lazy as happens often with companies who have a monopoly in a niche.  When a new, agile and hungry company challenges their market, they dismiss them as insignificant. They feel they are too big to fail and as Enron, GM and Kodak have shown us, no one is too big to fail.  Having an excellent hook or USP is extremely valuable but remember people buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic. Unless you are selling Ferrari’s and yachts, your product/service isn’t likely to be able to demand enough emotion on it’s own.  So let your USP be the logic that confirms their decision.

About the author

My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.