By Jon Horton
If you have worked in sales for at least a week, you have surely been exposed to the concepts of features/benefits. Exposure, of course, doesn't guarantee comprehensive understanding.
Every time I read an article about features/benefits (which I did last week), I have to pause long enough to mentally sort out the differences. I find that the distinctions between features and benefits are often subtle and, because using them correctly is critical to effective selling, they merit my careful attention. If you agree, join me in the exercise I use to get my thinking on track.
Review the following statements and determine which ones are actually benefits.
-- Our prices are lower than our competition.
-- We have the most experienced service team in the industry.
-- We are ranked #1.
-- This great offer is only good for a limited time.
-- Here is a list of businesses that already buy from my company.
You get an "A" if you answered, "None of the above." But if any of these have ever been included in your sales presentations (written or oral) without further qualification, the best you can hope for is an "Incomplete." If you think you are immune to making these mistakes, I challenge you to look at your most recent resume. I'm willing to bet it lists many of your best attributes (features) without explaining how they would benefit a potential employer.
Let's try one more.
-- With 8 gigabytes of RAM, our computer will run faster than the competition.
If you-re paying attention, you easily saw through my effort at subterfuge. Clearly, the amount of RAM is a feature of the computer. Perhaps less obvious, running faster is an "advantage" of the computer but it is not the benefit. People don't buy a computer because it has dual disc drives and a ton of RAM. They buy a computer because it will save them time or make their jobs easier or help them beat the competition and earn more profits. Those are benefits!
Not to put too fine a point on it but it's important to recognize that benefits are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The critical benefit will vary from customer to customer. In my previous example, the client may have little interest in saving time but must have a computer with the ability to run a new software package. A thorough Client Needs Analysis will point sellers to winning benefits.
Here's a simple way to test your sales presentations. Could a client respond to any of your statements with, "So what?" or "Who cares?" or "What will it do for me?" If so, you have failed to adequately describe a meaningful benefit.
Features are about you, your product or service. Benefits are about results. People don't buy features ? they buy benefits because they believe the product or service will improve their current situation.
Friends with benefits? If you're like me, you want all your clients to regard you as a friend but I didn't always understand the path to achieving that relationship status. Early in my sales career, I mistakenly believed I could turn customers into friends by taking them to lunch, remembering their birthdays and gushing over pictures of their children. Over time, I learned that the bond of friendship can only be cemented by fulfilling mutual needs (benefits).
For me at least, the foundations for my professional friendships were trust and respect. Correctly identifying the needs of my clients and providing appropriate solutions earned that trust and respect. Appreciating the nuances of features, advantages, and benefits is key to that happy result. To get there, you must first become very friendly with benefits.
Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon.com. For more of his blogs, please visit www.JonEHorton.com. Comments to Jon@JonEHorton.com.
(4/1/2015 2:32:57 PM)
One reason that today's sales reps struggle with naming client benefits in their pitch is that many have poor empathy.
Deep down, they really don't care if there are any benefits to the client..and I really mean that. All they want is to make a sale and get the client on the air to earn a commission or a smile from their boss.
Wondering what others' problems are or caring about those problems is not that important to many of today's salespeople.
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