The Sales Simplicity Series: Are You a Feature Preacher?

 

features-advantages-benefitsYou want to sell more.

Regardless of who you are or what business you’re in – sales is the bottom line.

You can strive to help other people and change the world all day long, but if you don’t feed the bottom line with sales, you’ll soon find yourself unable to help anyone.

Like it or not – you are in sales.

 

You may not consider yourself a “real” salesperson – and that’s fine. You don’t have to be a sales ninja. But no matter what you do, you’ll need to understand the basics of sales to make your business fly.

The ‘Green’ Is In The Basics

This post is the first in a three-post series that will teach even the most sales-impaired to effectively use three basic fundamentals of sales. These three basic skills (if properly executed) will impact your bottom line more dramatically than  any expensive “secrets of” internet sales program.

In any field, the basics are your foundation. You don’t have to be the best in the world at something to get results. What you need is a firm grasp on the basics – and the discipline to execute them over and over again. Take any sport for example.

How rudimentary and basic are…

Passing the ball in soccer.
Dribbling in basketball.
Blocking in football.
Holding a club in golf.

It doesn’t get any more basic… and it doesn’t get any more important either. That’s why your 7 year-old who’s just learning, the high school kids, the college teams, and the millionaire professional athletes all work on those same basic things every single day. They all understand how important the basics are, so they spend time on them daily regardless of what level they’re at.

If you don’t have the basics right, you have no business trying to get fancy.  <– Click to tweet this

And yet so many people spend so much time in pursuit of elaborate tools and processes that in the grand scheme of things are only moderately useful. It’s a great example of putting the cart before the horse.

 

One Simple Shift That Will Boost Your Sales

So that’s what we’re talking about today – a small, simple change that will help you sell better.

If you read Reboot Authentic regularly, you know I detest the whole instant fix/magic pill tripe that’s widely available on and offline. This isn’t that. This is a real, small shift in the way you sell that will help you better serve your prospects and make more sales while doing so.

But before you can understand the solution, you need to fully understand the problem.

 

The Fictitious Sales Excursion Begins

Let’s set a scene and paint a picture.

Imagine a married couple walking into a car dealership with their three children who range in age from 2 to 8.

They have the diaper bag over the shoulder, the smallest kid is squirming around in Moms arms, and Dad’s telling the one kid to stop doing something horrible to the other kid… you get the idea. They’re busy parents.

As they walk in to the car dealership, 73 salesmen trample each other to get to the family first. When the skirmish is over, the wounded are dragged off the battlefield, and the victor emerges from the pile – the family explains their purpose for visiting the dealership. They’re looking for a new vehicle for Mom.

She tends to have the kids with her more often than Dad does, and her sedan just isn’t cutting it. She’d like to look at something bigger.

Mom tells the salesman, “I drive the kids around a lot… and as you can see they’re, well… energetic. My car is just too cramped. The kids are smooshed together back there – which makes them argue… which makes me tense… it’s just awful. And there’s no place to carry groceries or anything with all of us in there. I need something roomier.”

Take note of what we know about this family so far – it’s important.

The salesman immediately knows what he wants to show her. He leads the family over to a nice looking minivan, slaps his hand down on the hood and says…

This van is a 6 cylinder, seats 7, gets 18mpg city – 27 highway. It also has airbags all around and front wheel drive. This model comes with cruise control, it has a DVD player with a screen in the back, a large cargo area, and it has a 5-speaker sound system and an auxiliary MP3 audio input.

How does that pitch sit with you?

Does it excite you? Does it leave you cold? Why?

I’d say it’s a terrible pitch. Let’s discuss why.

 

The Sweet Spots: Alleviation or Attainment

In general – what is our fictional salesman doing wrong?

Well, several things, actually – but we’re going to focus on the big one. The one that perhaps kills more sales before they start than any other mistake… Being a Feature Preacher.

Features are… well, features. They’re things like…
It’s red.
It’s tall.
It weighs 100 pounds.
It’s made of steel.
It’s sugar free.

Features are important, but they’re not very efficient in influencing us to buy.

What does influence us to buy is either the alleviation of pain – or the attainment of some kind of pleasure.

 

Feature, Meet Benefit.  Benefit , This Is Feature.

Features aren’t bad things. They’re good. But all by themselves they’re dry, boring, and tasteless. They lack depth and emotion.

A feature has to be accompanied by a benefit to make it personally meaningful to a potential buyer.

Features answer the question, “What is it?”
Benefits answer the question, “What does the buyer get out of it?”

Knowing that, what could our car salesman have done to more effectively show that minivan to our family?

 

Alleviation or Attainment

Think about our family of van-shoppers. What’s their pain? Primarily, their pain is a crowded car full of kids who tend to fight and wiggle when they’re packed in like sardines. If you could fix that problem, you’d have a real chance to make a sale.

What might Mom and Dad like to attain that would feel wonderful to them? More room in the car, the kids co-existing peacefully, and maybe plenty of space for all the people or things that need to be hauled. Imagine the peace and comfort!

Now if you could combine an attractive feature (what is it) with a pleasing benefit (what the buyer gets from the feature) you might just make a sale.

So what could our salesman have done to sell more effectively? He could have paid better attention to the family situation that was right in front of his face – and sold to them more empathetically.

Instead of, “This van seats 7 and has a DVD player”, he could have said…

“You’re going to love this! This van seats five in the back – everyone will have plenty of their own space so there’s no squabbling over who’s touching who or who’s on whose side. It should make for a much more relaxing ride for Mom and Dad. Oh – and the DVD player tends to keep the kids entertained during those longer trips, too. I think you’ll find traveling in this much more peaceful and enjoyable for the whole family”

Do you see the difference?

“Seats 7 and has a DVD player.”
Meh.

“Provides peace, comfort, and more pleasant travel.”
Hooray!

 

Bridging The Gap

As a non-professional salesperson, here is an easy way you can make sure you’re selling benefits and not just being a feature preacher.

I call it The Benefit Bridge and it’s super simple. The benefit bridge takes those important (but dry/dull) features – and makes them personally meaningful to your prospect by either alleviating pain or allowing the buyer to attain something they want.

Just add any of the phrases below after the feature to force yourself to use a benefit.

so that…
in order to…
which allows you to…
which makes it…

feature-benefit

As you can see, you could easily come up with countless numbers of your own benefit bridges in addition to the ones above. As long as they attach a personal meaning to the feature. Let’s look at a few more examples…

Let’s say you’re telling your friend about WordPress. You could say…

It has a really intuitive user interface.

Or you could say…

It has a really intuitive user interface so that you can start publishing right away without having to learn HMTL or CSS.

Which one would be more likely to influence you to take action? What about…

Pizza Shack uses a thick thermal delivery bag.

vs.

Pizza Shack uses a thermal delivery bag in order to insure that your pizza arrives at your home just as hot and fresh as when we pulled it out of the oven.

And lastly…

Subscribe now to receive updates.

vs.

Subscribe now to learn how to build a loyal audience and get noticed in a sea of look-alikes.

The Roles of What and Why

Remember that in selling, the feature answers the question, “What is it?” The benefit answers the question, “What does the buyer get out of it?” – and to make them work together, you use a benefit bridge.

Go visit some of your online heroes sales pages – or go examine some of your offline heroes’ sales materials. You’ll find that the ones who are successful spend more time selling benefits than they do listing features.

This doesn’t mean they don’t talk about features – they do. But they spend their time driving home the benefits much more.

When you’re buying a car with anti-lock brakes, you’re not buying brakes – you’re buying safety.

When you buy a $200 concert ticket, you’re not buying two hours worth of music – you’re buying an unforgettable group experience.

And when you’re buying a meal in a five-star restaurant, you’re not buying a full belly – you’re buying status, or atmosphere, or an experience.

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Next Up: All About Need

Join us again next Monday for the next post in this series which will teach you how to increase sales and boost your business while saving yourself time, money, and frustration. In the meantime, if I can be of assistance to you with your sales and marketing efforts, please feel free to contact me.

Your Turn

Share an experience where you witnessed benefits being used well (or not so well) in a sales situation. Do you have any tips for the group? Let’s discuss it in the comments!

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The Sales Simplicity Series: Are You a Feature Preacher?
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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

12 Replies

  1. Gary, Great post. I especially like the last section where you talk about experience. I heard something recently about how information is becoming more and more readily available on the Internet – many cases free. Many higher education institutions are becoming increasingly worried about the growth of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are offered free sometimes by some of our most prestigious Universities. This dynamic is moving the education field away from a giver of knowledge to that of experience. Students will go to the place that offers the best experience.

    Same way with business. You can get the same thing (information, product, service, etc) from a ton of businesses out on the Internet. The ones with that offer the best “status, or atmosphere, or an experience” will be ones that succeed.

    Thanks again for the very useful post.

    1. Great points Michael. Especially about the internet businesses. I find the ones I am most attracted to are the ones that feel hands-on, friendly, and real – not inaccessible, elite, or cold. And there are many of both kinds out there as you know. But you know what I mean. We’re both in at least one of the same groups of the “friendly and real.”

      Thanks again!

  2. Jim Bessey

    You do a wonderful job conjuring helpful phrases to help us learn things, Gary.

    I love “feature preacher” and “benefits bridge,” in this post. I’ve been in sales since I was 18, and had never heard either of these phrases. Of course, I learned “sell benefits, not features” early on, but knowing WHY and HOW is crucial. It’s far too easy to get over-enthused about things like “dual overhead cam” without ever understanding “what’s in it for me, or for my customer?”. (I have no idea, by the way.)

    Danny sold me on his very complicated and feature-ridden training at ABM when he promised “by the end of the year, you will learn how to earn $3,000 or more a month if you do the work (or your money back, plus!)”. That’s what I needed to know: Can I do this? Can I earn a living doing it? Or will it be yet another hobby? And really, who cares how many videos or PDFs are included in the course (features)?

    I learned how important Benefits were when I first began to sell ski equipment packages back in 1982. There’s a mystique (as well as fear of injury) in skiing, and figuring out what each skier wanted from his purchase could be tricky. Faster? Smoother? Safer? Fancier? Price and features had very little to do with each customer’s eventual choice. When I could say “You’ll have far more control at much higher speeds” to that gutsy twenty-something, I knew I had the key to the sale.

    You nailed it, Gary. Love your bridge graphic, by the way. Did you “build” that one yourself?

    1. Thanks, Jim. I find that memorable titles or phrases of key concepts make them more easy to remember – and fun to talk about 🙂 I’m glad I could give a new angle on benefits to an experienced sales guy!

      And the graphic – yes. I threw that one together in-house.

      Always a pleasure, Jim!

  3. Gary, this is the best written explanation of selling benefits I have ever heard. Seriously. I mean I have heard about pain points and all that, but I guess I just hadn’t thought of it in the way you explained it, with perfect examples! I love this article and it couldn’t have come at a better time as I put the finishing touches on my own blog.

    1. That’s very nice of you to say Marianne… and I’m glad to hear that you found it both clear and useful. Best of luck with the launch. Do you have a date set?

      1. Almost there Gary! Just adding a few posts and it’s good to go! I’d say another week or two at most. 🙂

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