Features vs. Benefits

by Jacques Werth, Founder of High Probability Selling.  © 2007

Here is a question that we've heard hundreds of times.  I heard it again this week, when Shawn called and said, “I have always been told that you should talk about benefits, not features.  Why do you teach salespeople to do the opposite?”

My response was, “Suppose you are sitting in your office, and a salesperson calls you to say, ‘My Company can increase your profits without any out-of-pocket costs.  Let's get together and I'll show you how we do that.  Which is better for you, Tuesday at 10:00 or Thursday at 2:30?’  How would you react?”

Shawn answered, “Well, it is obvious that he is trying to get an appointment without revealing what he is selling.  My prospecting pitch is not so obvious.”

So I asked him to tell me what he says.  Here it is:

“My name is Shawn.  I'm with the Process Technology division of RMC.  We can lower your machine maintenance costs while increasing your profits.  How much is machine maintenance and downtime costing you now?”

My reply was “Shawn, if that is working for you, why did you call us?”

“Well, it isn't working very well,” he said, “that's why I called.  Almost everyone refuses to answer the question.  Once in a while, someone will ask me to explain how we do that.  Then, I try to set an appointment to show them, and they refuse.”

“Why do you think you have been getting those results?” I asked.

“I think that people are so sick and tired of getting sales calls, that they treat all salespeople badly.”

I replied, “Top salespeople seldom get those kinds of reactions.  Have you considered that you might be creating those results?”

“Why would anyone not want to save money and increase profits?” he asked.

“Perhaps your ‘pitch’ makes them feel like a fish that is being offered a worm, with a great big hook sticking out of it,” I said.  “Most intelligent people react that way when presented with benefits that are intended to entice them.”

“Most people who have a need for your products or services already know that they have the need.  Those prospects want a clear, very brief description of what you are selling, and they want to know a couple of important features.  If they can perceive the benefit of at least one of those features, you will usually get a positive response.”

“So, why does our sales manager tell us to only use benefits in our pitches?” Shawn asked.

“It's probably because he believes that it is the right way to sell.  But, he does not remember how ineffective it was when he was selling before he became a manager and trainer.”

“Well, if I don't do it his way, I'll probably lose my job,” he said.

“If you continue to do it his way, and your sales do not improve, do you think that you will keep your job?” I asked.

Shawn said he would have to think about that.

What do you think?