Sales and Marketing 101: Benefits, Not Features

This article is a refresher on some basics of sales and marketing that often get forgotten in the hustle and bustle of actually making sales. Though these may seem basic, taking a step back and looking at the core elements of the sales and marketing processes might be just the thing to expose a trap in a salesperson’s thinking or lead to a more creative approach to marketing

Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference?

The core idea, of course, is simple: customers buy benefits, not features. It can be hard, however, for some salespeople or marketing personnel to internalize the difference between features and benefits, especially when they are intimately familiar with a product due to the frequency with which they deal with its nuts and bolts. For a salesperson who routinely has to explain the features of a piece of software, it can be easy to just start talking about its compatibility with specific devices or its bookkeeping features.

These features, however, have no real meaning for the customer. What does it matter that the program runs on Apple devices as well as computers? Why do these bookkeeping features matter? That’s the real question a salesperson or a marketer has to answer, and it’s that question that actually drives sales.

What’s the Upside Here?

Benefits, unlike features, make a tangible and immediate change in the life of the user of the product. Though some users may buy solely for the satisfaction of having a specific new gadget or program, most are looking for a change in their lives that will result from buying it. People aren’t looking for compatibility with mobile devices for its own sake; rather, they’re interested in having access to their programs from any location at any time. Likewise, they aren’t interested in bookkeeping features; they’re interested in keeping track of their business more easily.

Sales is about building mutually beneficial relationships based on a product or service. If customers don’t see a tangible benefit in the product they’re being offered, they won’t buy it. Accordingly, salespeople need to do the work of presenting benefits, rather than leaving customers adrift in a sea of features, looking for the one that will carry them back to dry land

Do the Work for Them: Make Benefits Clear!

Beyond presenting benefits salespeople also need to work to present the right benefits to the right customers.

By building rapport with customers, salespeople can figure out what benefits their customers would need to take their business or their personal lives to the next level and ultimately move more products.

Sometimes a vague benefit isn’t enough, and customers instead need the benefits spelled out clearly in terms that apply directly to their lives. If a client travels regularly, for example, the benefit of mobile access is likely to be “the ability to work even when away from the office.” This sort of specificity requires sales skills that go beyond merely being able to push a product, and extend into the realm of creating a relationship. Learn what customers value, and show them how the products you offer can provide benefits in those fields.

How to Show Benefits: Measurements

While it’s one thing to tell customers that something will make their lives easier or more convenient, it’s another thing entirely to have them believe, and solid statistics can help with that. Being able to illustrate clearly to a customer not just that a product can do something, but that it has done that thing for other customers before and can do so again, will increase confidence in the product and lead to a more convincing sales pitch.

What do you think?

Although you’ll need more than this to sell effectively, these basic building blocks of selling and marketing will help you keep your mind on the customer while selling. Are there other basic sales and marketing concepts you’d like to see us take a look at? Have you had a hard time translating features into benefits? Let us know in the comments.

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