"Five minutes or it's free.” That was the banner hanging over the fast food restaurant near my house. I noticed it as I drove past one day. Interesting. In a mini-environment of intense competition (there must be a dozen fast-food options within a mile of this road) they chose to focus on one aspect of their offering — speed — and turn it into a "value-added proposition,” aka “elevator pitch.”

In a world of other options for the customer, they chose to take their strength, turn it into a benefit for the customer, and boil that down to say to the customer, "Buy it from us. We'll guarantee quick service. "

It had its desired impact. I noticed the banner, and decided to stop in for breakfast. The waitress took my order, noted the time on the order pad, and handed me a stopwatch! I took up the challenge, clicked it on, and waited to see if they would perform. The order arrived within five minutes. I noticed the waitress look at her watch and note the delivery time on the order pad.

Let's consider what we can learn from this experience. First, the value-added proposition consolidates some of the strengths of the organization, and turns them into benefits for the customer base. Then, it translates those benefits into a "proposition” which challenges the customer to become involved. It reaches out into the world and says "Consider me. Here's why.” It serves, then, as a proactive way to interest and attract potential customers.

Just as importantly, it helps refine who you are as an organization. You will become who you tell people that you are. For example, I suspect that the restaurant did not have a quantity of stopwatches in their inventory prior to deciding to toss "Five minutes or it's free” into the world. I suspect that the order forms were modified to accommodate the claim, that the wait staff was trained in the processes to implement it, that some items came off the menu and others were added, and that there were some cooks who don't work there any more because of their inability to be who the restaurant said they were.

Once you say that you provide "outstanding customer service,” or "the highest quality products” for example, you have to back that up. You must become who you say you are, and actually do what you claim you do.

The value-added proposition, then, brings with it tremendous power to focus your image to your customer base and, at the same time, organize your internal operations to deliver what you say you will.

From the point of view of the sales force, the value-added proposition gives them a focal point — a place to hang their claim for uniqueness. But it also gives them a wedge into the doors of the prospect, and an appropriate topic of conversation with every contact.

Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales authorities. He's written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as "one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.” For more information, visit www.davekahle.com