Can You Pinpoint the Benefits of Your Product or Service?

Sales training often teaches us that customers make buying decisions based on (1) their emotions (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”) and (2) the value the product or service brings to them.  Marketing specialists capitalize on customers’ emotion-based buying habits.  Customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features.  The features are simply the bare-bones facts–the elements or significant parts–of the product or service.  The benefits are its value to the customer–how it will solve their problems, eliminate their pain, and make life glorious.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To understand the difference between features and benefits, let’s think about a car:

Features of a car

  • V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof, significant interior legroom, heated seats, heated glass

Benefits of those features

  • V-6 engine–ability to pull onto the highway without hesitation (and to impress your friends)
  • Dual exhausts–higher fuel efficiency and more power (and it sounds groovy and also impresses your friends)
  • Front-wheel drive–more interior room because of the lack of a driveshaft tunnel
  • Sunroof–the open feel of a convertible with the safety and security of a sedan
  • Legroom–greater comfort while driving long distances and more room for your growing family
  • Heated seats–cozy motoring on frigid days and nights; greater back comfort on long-distance trips
  • Heated glass–the convenience of not having to scrape icy windows in the winter

The more perceived value a benefit offers, the higher it gets ranked in your decision to purchase.  Objectively, a sunroof is not a significant feature, but if it makes you feel a bit like a race car driver, perhaps that benefit raises its value for you.  Heated seats are nice too, but they might not rank high in value for to people who live in a warm climate and wouldn’t strongly influence their buying decision.  The benefits of dual exhausts, however, might have perceived value for all buyers–better fuel efficiency, more power, and a sound like your beloved but departed ’57 Chevy.

What does all this have to do with your referral marketing message?  Simply this:  Most businesspeople, without thinking about it, talk in terms of features.  As professional experts and salespeople, that’s what they’re most familiar with.  They’re not accustomed to looking at their products or services from a customer’s perspective.

In formulating the message you want your networking partners to convey, your challenge is to put yourself in the customer’s place.  What are the benefits of your product or service?  How will it make the customer’s life or business easier, more comfortable, more satisfying, more profitable?  How can you shorten and simplify your message so that others can communicate these benefits more clearly and surely?

Now that you have a good understanding of the difference between features and benefits, I hope you’ll come back next week to read the follow-up blog post I’ll be doing which will teach show you exactly how to zero in on the benefits of your business.  Until then, if you have any questions about features vs. benefits or any thoughts you’d like to share regarding this post, please leave a comment in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Sales: The Buyer’s Perspective

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport waiting for my plane to arrive and I struck up a conversation with the young man sitting next to me.  He was wearing a nice suit, carrying a laptop, and appeared to be traveling on business so I asked him if he happened to be traveling to the same business event that I was.  It turned out he wasn’t headed to the same place but we ended up having a very interesting conversation about sales.

He explained that he’s somewhat new to the sales industry and that he has found it a bit difficult to achieve the level of success he had envisioned when he entered the field.  I offered him some advice about what I believe is one of the most important keys to selling and I’d like to share it with you here as well . . . it’s understanding the buyer’s perspective.

The way I see it, selling has everything to do with finding out what the customer wants, is able to pay for, and then making the deal (assuming you can provide the product/service).  If it were really that simple, however, there wouldn’t be a demand for salespeople; buyers could get all they need from a machine.  But, in fact, many buyers head off to go shopping for a product or service with only a vague sense of what might satisfy their needs.  Turning a buyers vagueness into clear solutions is the job of the salesperson.  Always remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

Buyers are multifaceted, and when they shop, they weigh the many pros and cons of a potential purchase.  Some of these they will share with the seller, while many other thoughts they will keep to themselves.  Learning and adapting to the issues and whims of the buyer while moving the sale forward to a conclusion is a complex and intricate task . . . and it’s the responsibility of the sales professional to ensure it happens.

Brian Roach, a friend of mine who sells computer technology told me about a great concept he calls the sales clock.  He describes it this way:

It’s a great day.  You answered a call from a new prospect, met with their team to discuss your product, and . . . they asked you for a proposal.  Soon after delivering your proposal you started your wait for their decision.  The sales clock ticks as you wait on the fate of your proposal.  It may tick a long time before hearing back from the customer, and as the seller, you don’t know if you are being ‘stiffed’ or if the customer is swamped with other pressing priorities.  Whatever the reason, waiting out the sales clock can be stressful.  The last thing you want is for your own stress to create a negative impact on your prospect.

Brian reminds us that ‘it’s all about the customer,’ in the sense that the customer is the ultimate buyer, but the seller also has to earn a commission, meet monthly targets, and ensure proper work scheduling.  Brian’s sales clock reminds us to always look at both the customer’s perspective as well as the seller’s demands with each sales scenario.

I have some tactics for helping you, the seller, determine if the buyer is putting you off or merely attending to pressing internal demands and also some techniques for effective communication which will help you tap into the customer’s perspective and I’ll be sharing them with you next Monday so be sure to come back then and check them out. 

In the meantime, I’d love to get your take on some other ideas that you believe are important keys to selling so please share your thoughts in the comment forum below. Thanks!

 

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