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Selling Benefits Rather Than Features….Good, But Not Good Enough

Not all that long ago, most salespersons built their presentations around the features of their product or service—  the positive attributes and characteristics that comprise the “what” of the offering.  (Examples of a chair’s features:  armrests, adjustable height, stackable, etc.)  This is a safe, straight forward and comfortable arena for the salesperson, because features are tangible, unequivocal, fixed and easy to learn and describe.  All that makes it especially unfortunate that a features-oriented presentation rarely makes the sale.

For many, this isn’t a new awareness; it’s now widely accepted that the consultative salesperson must focus on benefits— the value that the product features provide and the client needs that they fulfill.  If features are the “what,” benefits are the “so what?” of the product offering.   (An example:  the chair’s stackability feature has the benefit of requiring very little storage area, thus saving space and money.)

A benefits orientation is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough to greatly increase sales success.  Unlike features, benefits are usually intangible, variable and subjective.  Something that’s “simple,” “practical,” or “cost-effective” to one client may not seem that way at all to another.  Worse, some clients may find absolutely no value in one or more of your product’s benefits;  for example, that chair’s stackability provides no benefit to a client who never intends to remove or store the chairs.

A “generic” benefits sales presentation therefore carries many of the same hazards as a features presentation:  since it is not targeted toward this particular client, it risks:

  •  boring him/her, if the benefits offered are perceived as irrelevant to this client’s needs.  (Also, research has shown that if the salesperson presents unneeded features and benefits, the client is more likely to raise cost objections.)
  •  alienating him/her, if the benefits offered are perceived as contrary  to this client’s needs.

Either way, you don’t make the sale.

We refer to those benefits which meet the needs of this particular client as his/her “Specific Benefits.” It takes a thoughtful, needs-oriented situation analysis to be able to recognize which elements of your recommendation will become meaningful benefits to this particular client.  (The features of your product will be presented as the “reason why” it can actually deliver the Specific Benefits.)  Make sure you get to the Specific Benefits early in the presentation— before the client tunes out, gets bored, or gets scared that you won’t be able to meet his/her needs.

In summary, the consultative salesperson should never be satisfied with selling generic benefits;  focus your presentation on Specific Benefits, which directly address this particular client’s needs—  and the more personalized, the better.