Do you know the difference between selling features and selling benefits? This lesson is simple to learn, but can be hard to master. However, mastery of this sales skill can mean the difference between success and failure for you and your business, so it’s definitely worth perfecting.
Features selling is just that: selling the features of your product or service. A feature is the descriptive stuff –what something looks like, what it does. For instance, a new car’s features might be that is has a GPS or a fuel efficient hybrid engine or red leather seats. So, you would sell your new car (product) based on those features. You might seek out potential buyers based on that and let them know you have a car with those features available. And, if you features are unique and there’s a strong demand for them, that could work.
However, most people do not buy features. They may state that they are looking for features, but most of us buy benefits. We say we want a GPS, but we really want to feel safe and secure and not get lost on the road. Those are examples of the benefits that people are looking for and do actually buy. They may say they want a hybrid, but they really want the good feelings that come with making choices that are more environmentally friendly or from being one of the first to have a hybrid car, or from saving money on fuel. And, as to red leather seats, someone who buys those is really looking for the luxurious or powerful or sexy feelings that having a car with that type of interior means to them. It's the "why" behind these features that people are really buying, and those are benefits.
Benefits selling is far more persuasive and personal and yes, effective. The auto industry is a prime example of this—very, very few people who buy new cars actually need them. So, anyone selling cars by promoting its basic feature, transportation, is never going to be heard, even by the few people who do “need” a car. Auto manufacturers have invested huge amounts of money in perfecting (and adding to) their features as well as in selling benefits; some better than others, but so have many other industries.
Soap, in its various incarnations, can be quite a study in both features and benefits selling. Soap no longer just cleans. No matter what you want to clean, your body, face, grout, dishes, clothes, etc., you have to wade through a lengthy list of features and benefits to make a choice. And, odds are that it’s the soap’s benefits that sway you to make your purchase. Sometimes, the perceived benefits of soap make people spend outrageous sums of money for it. At those prices, it’s not about just cleaning anymore.
You should know both the features and the benefits of your product or service. After all, before we buy the car we love, we will probably check for some of the “features” we think we need. So, it’s nice to have those available for your customers. But, you must also know and focus on your benefits.
Benefits help your customers solve problems, or they help them feel good about themselves. The feature of the car is the GPS; the problem it solves is getting lost, not knowing one’s location, being all alone on the road. So, the benefits of this feature are that it helps people feel safe & secure, arrive on time, feel more confident when traveling. See the difference? A feature of a facial soap may be that it contains benzoyl peroxide. The benefit? It gets rid of pimples.
A good exercise is to list all your features, and then make sure you can list at least one benefit for each feature. That might be kind of hard and it can challenge you to think creatively, which is always fun. You can also ask for input from others, who can often see what we miss. It’s also a brilliant idea to ask your current customers. They may help you uncover benefits you never would have guessed. And, you may find out that what you're seling is not what people are buying after all.
Here’s an example of this: For many years, users of Avon’s Skin-so-Soft bath oil have used it as a bug repellant. Avon knew that’s why many people bought this product, but they did not still do not promote the anti-bug benefit of the bath oil. However, Avon has recently added separate bug repellant products under the Skin-so-Soft brand. So, they were able to add to their product line by finding a benefit their customers pointed out to them.
Once you have a good list of your benefits, you can then start pointing them out to your customers. This becomes the basis of your marketing plan. This is the message you want to get out to people. You can choose many vehicles to carry that message—websites, articles, flyers, t-shirts, etc. But, you will know your core sales and marketing message, and that can not only save you lots of time and energy, it can make your actual sales grow, too.
Action Step: Create a features/benefits list for all your products and services. Ask “why” someone would buy this and keep asking until you get a great list of the problems your business solves and the good feelings your business generates.
Zig Ziglar is still one of the best sales teachers. This book is a must-have for business owners: