Lead With Value, Not Qualifications

William Osgood talking with 2 attendees at the AFCEA conference

One of the fundamental pieces of advice we give small business owners and company leadership is to always lead with your value, not your qualifications. We deal with a lot of small businesses trying to do business with larger corporations. Sometimes they are trying to sell a product or service directly to the larger companies. Other times they are trying to sell themselves as subcontractors for larger projects. We also help small businesses looking for government contracts.

Government agencies will often require contractors to meet certain diversity, equity, and inclusion criteria on a project. They will most often allow contractors to meet the criteria by either partnering with other contractors or by hiring subcontractors that meet the criteria.

We encourage small businesses to position themselves properly by seeking applicable certifications that may give them some preference on a job. But this is more of an added bonus to working with you, not the main selling point. Certifications can give you the slight edge you need when decision-makers have already narrowed down their decision.

Remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing the decision-maker wants to know is, can the small business they go into business with, accomplish the tasks that need to be done. Can they do a good job, in a timely manner, within the allowable budget? In other words, does the bidding business provide a good value or can they find a better value elsewhere?

Get to Know the Decision-Maker

We recommend getting to know the person you are talking to so you can properly communicate your expertise in the field they are looking for. If, for example, you are a residential and commercial roofer but the person you are talking to is only interested in commercial roofing, your experience in residential is mostly irrelevant. In the short time you may have with this person, you should try to convey that you have the ability to work on the roofs that he or she would need you to work on.

The Power of a Compelling Capability Statement

In the business landscape, each company possesses unique strengths and specialized capabilities known as core competencies. The concept of leading with value revolves around putting these core strengths at the forefront of all your interactions. It’s about confidently articulating what you bring to the table, the solutions you provide, and the challenges you can resolve for your clients.

Picture this: You’re seeking a business partner, agency, or contractor. What catches your attention? It’s their value proposition. An impactful capability statement succinctly communicates what clients can anticipate when they choose to engage with you. It’s akin to a pledge of excellence, guiding the way to the advantages and solutions you deliver.

Your business should have a powerful capability statement that communicates the advantages and solutions you offer. You may want to have it ready like a resume or have it easily accessible on your website. Anyone representing your company to other businesses should be well aware of the capabilities and should be able to convey that to others.

Establishing Trust and Expertise

People prefer to collaborate with individuals they know, like, and trust. When you lead with value, you’re establishing a foundation of trust. But trust is earned through more than just value – it’s built on a foundation of expertise. Clients want assurance that you can deliver on your promises. After all, their own reputation and job security may be at risk if they engage with the wrong person or entity. Leading with certifications, qualifications, degrees, etc., can be valuable, but it’s essential to complement these credentials with a demonstration of practical experience.

For more practical guidance, read our article Ways to Position Your Business for Success.

A Parallel in other areas of life

This is true in other areas of life as well. Imagine a guy walking up to a girl and immediately pointing to a Ferrari or bragging about his finances. Or a person going to a job interview and the first words out of their mouth is, “I graduated from Yale”. These tactics may occasionally work but the batting average would be low. If instead, the applicant gave the hiring manager the feeling that they could get the job done, then said, “Oh, by the way, I graduated from Yale”, then that person could have an advantage over other well-liked candidates. 

Building Bridges of Trust and Excellence

In a competitive landscape, establishing your value and expertise is paramount. Leading with value isn’t just a strategy; it’s a mindset that guides your decisions, interactions, and growth trajectory. By highlighting your core competencies, crafting impactful value statements, and showcasing practical experience, you’re laying the groundwork for fruitful partnerships and sustainable business growth. Remember, people want to work with individuals who they know can deliver, and leading with value and expertise demonstrates that you’re the right partner for the journey ahead. Are you ready to lead with value and forge a path of trust, excellence, and success?

CFR & Associates has been helping small and veteran-owned businesses to increase their success in government contracting and other areas since 2004. We provide coaching to help you show your value, experience to overcome hurdles, and a network of people in various industries.